2017: a Love Story

Project Healthy Holly

2017 was a tough year. We marched in political protest, suffered catastrophic natural disasters, and lost loved ones. We cast a spotlight on gun control, feminism, and sexual harassment – and i think there were more messages of “don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out” in my Facebook feed last night, than photos of celebration and revelry. In light of how challenging 2017 was for so many, it feels strange to say that it was a personal best. For the first time in my life, I stopped letting myself down. For the first time in my life, I resolved to improve my health, and then buckled down and actually did it. For the first time in my life, I didn’t throw my hands up and quit when the going got tough – and the going definitely did get tough. For the first time in my life, I found a program that gave me long-lasting (life-long) results. And for the first time in my life, I am making self-care and self-love a non-negotiable priority. Personally speaking, it was a very good year.

2017 wasn’t the first year that I resolved to lose weight and regain my health. My New Years resolution has been the same for decades. Some years were more successful than other years. In 2016, I committed to one year of running. From January through October, I ran across the Facebook campus – but I couldn’t outrun my unhealthy lifestyle. One year, I gave up carbs entirely – but I couldn’t out-carb my weight problem. I treated every December like a last meal on death row, and I treated every January like a new beginning. What I know now that I didn’t know then, is that I was doomed to fail because with each attempt, I was addressing just one or two symptoms instead of the root cause. 2017 was the year I tackled the root cause of my obesity. It was the year I found Jennifer, who helped me unravel the decades of unworthiness that were dragging me down, pound-by-pound. It was the year that I chipped away at my weight by adding in one healthy habit at a time, instead of taking things away. It was the year that I gave up perfectionism instead of carbs, or fat, or calories. It was the year that I gave up being a “yes-woman” to others needs, and became a “yes-woman” to myself.  2017 was the year that I discovered my voice, my inner strength, and my waist!

The changes that I have made and the success that I have had this year didn’t happen overnight. Long-lasting results are a progression, not a quick fix.  That is dieters mentality.  Every time I started a diet, I should have been asking myself how much weight I wanted to gain, because that was the end-result every single time. Planning a permanent move from Obe-City to Healthyville takes time. It’s a jungle cruise, not a rocket-ship – and that shift from fast and short-lived results to slow and long-lasting changes is what made the difference for me.

January through April

Me – March, 2017

The first few months were kind of a breeze. I was filled with the kind of motivation and energy that is only tapped at the very beginning of a new routine. Motivation led to good choices, good choices led to weight-loss, and weight-loss kept me motivated. Repeat. Jennifer started our group out by laying a foundation that was different than other programs. Instead of focusing on all of the things I couldn’t have, I focused on all of the things that I could have. I learned to think about food as fuel, and not as an endless party. I said goodbye to DoorDash, and hello to home cooking. Instead of looking at grocery shopping as a necessary evil, I saw it as an expression of love and gratitude – for myself, and for my family. I stopped mindlessly walking down aisles in search of non-food items, and started perusing the outer rims in search of vibrant, whole, and nutrient-dense food. I paid attention to portion sizes. At home, I ate dinner on a salad plate. In restaurants, Craig and I split entrees. Everything I was adding into my routine made a difference – and not just to me. Craig and the kids were soaking in the vocabulary and habits, too. We were becoming a plant-based, movement-heavy, gratitude-filled family, which was a far cry from the pizza-based, movement-sometimes, somewhat-delusional family of 2016.

Just last night, Wrenn handed me her emptied bowl of spinach, riced cauliflower, and ground chicken – and then pulled whole red pepper out of the jar on our kitchen counter and asked, “mummy, I finished all of my dinner, so can I have this?” What she meant was, I finished my dinner, can I have dessert? And for dessert, she chose a bright and beautiful red pepper! She also had three freezies later that night, but that is a beautiful balance I can live with!

Even though I was losing weight pretty effortlessly, the first four months weren’t without challenges. Project Healthy Body isn’t a diet. It is crowding out bad habits with good ones, and diving into the why of my fatness. The food part is the easy bit, and that’s why we all start out successful on food plans. Jennifer always tells us to examine the areas where we are resistant, because that’s where the change is – and the inner work is the hard work. We all have a negative voice that lives within us. Mine is Felicia. She is the one who tells me I look fat. She is the one who encourages me to ditch the vegetables and get back on the F-it diet of burritos and margaritas. She is the voice behind every time I thought I was unworthy, or unlovable, or gross to look at. One of our first group assignments was to name and describe our negative roommate; a few weeks later, we wrote them goodbye letters. The food and sleep and meditation and books and exercise were all important factors in my success – but it was the act of bold and shameless self discovery that ensured that my success would last.

May through October

This was when the going got tough, and the tough didn’t give up. From January through April, I lost 40lbs; from May through October, I lost about 5lbs. I was strangled by my own self-limiting beliefs, when our group committed a month long autoimmune protocol diet. Felicia came back with a vengeance. She fed me excuses and told me that I was a failure. Historically, this would have been the point where I throw in the towel and order Taco Bell for a few weeks. But this time was different. The thought of quitting didn’t even enter my mind. Instead of going back to the eff-it plan, I chose self love. I rode out the plateau by taking care of myself. I ate whole, vibrant foods. I slept well. I did my homework and stayed in close contact with my coach.

I started and ended this five month period on the AIP diet. Only, the second time around, I totally rocked it. Then, just when I was feeling like my train was back on the track, I was hit with another challenge. A sudden nation-wide shortage of my thyroid medication, meant going back to the synthetic brand. Switching medications isn’t as simple as it sounds. It means long periods of waiting to see if the dosage is correct. And when we don’t get it right, I don’t lose weight – so while October was a huge success in terms of breaking through my self-doubt, it was a disappointment in the weight-loss department. Still, I persisted.

LuluEven though I wasn’t dropping huge amounts of weight, my body was changing. My waist was getting smaller. Items in my closet that I never thought I would wear again suddenly fit. I wore two Lululemon jackets that sat in my closet new with tags for 7 years because they were too small. I felt good in my skin, and I was steadily losing inches. My medication issues were getting sorted out, and I was confident that the needle would start moving again.  And it did.

In hindsight, my plateau months were the ones where I learned the most about myself. I silenced my negative roommate, and I proved to myself that I could do anything – even things that I thought I was incapable of. I cemented the notion that I will never give up on myself. Fall down 8 times, get up 9. These lessons were perfectly timed, considering we were heading into the holiday season – which typically signals the beginning of a two month long “send-off” before committing to whatever diet is currently the most popular.

November and December

Of all the holiday seasons in my life, this was by far the best! I spent it being present with my family, and good to my body. Instead of the season revolving around thousands of calories and stretchy pants, it was about making memories and simplifying our celebrations. holly wrennThanksgiving was a deconstructed cobb salad and fresh Tahoe mountain air, not plates piled high with stuffing and gravy followed by long periods holding down the couch. In fact, it wasn’t about food at all. I stayed AIP compliant (except for maintaining a light and festive vodka/soda buzz throughout), which meant that I wasn’t spending my days looking forward to my next meal. I spent my days hiking, swimming, and going on gondola rides with my family. I spent my days connecting with my husband and my sister. We laughed and celebrated the blessing of time spent in the spirit of togetherness.

I lost four pounds over the Thanksgiving holiday. Who does that?  I do! I zipped up my ski jacket that was at least half a foot away from zipping up back in January. And the only stretchy pants I wore were the Wunder-unders that I purchased at Lululemon, because they fit and looked awesome! I didn’t waste one second lamenting my wardrobe and fretting about how I looked, like I did year after year. Just like the food, my clothing was a non-issue. I didn’t spend hours trying on every outfit in my closet because nothing looked good. I pulled out the items I wanted to wear, they fit perfectly, and then I went on with my life.  How novel! I didn’t have to spend 30mins “cooling down” after blow-drying my hair, only to put it in a pony tail because my fat sweaty body frizzed it up. I wasn’t absent from family photos because I looked too fat. I stood proudly in my body and present with my family.

November was also the month that I went back to school to become a certified health coach. Healthy living has become a passion, and something I want to share with other women who, like me, struggle with self-love and use food to medicate. For the first time in my life, I am enjoying school. The information that I am learning will not only help me as a health coach, but also helps me with my own health journey and goals.

Today show
Filming for the Today Show

December kicked off in a majorly exciting way with Jennifer and I filming a segment about being healthy in the new year, for the Today show. It was a fascinating experience, and such a fun way to celebrate all that we have accomplished this year. And one of the highlights was wearing a J Crew blazer, which I couldn’t have dreamed about wearing any time in the last decade. It’s funny how my milestones are all marked by specific items of clothing, but it’s true. Ski jackets, linen pants, beach dresses, and blazers all have significance. Each are meaningful, and each an achievement.

I have wanted to lose weight for a very long time. Every December, I take all of my wantiness and pour it into a particular handbag or piece of jewelry – like somehow it will magically make me feel better. What’s worse is that I completely pressure Craig into buying the item for me. I can’t remember the last time Craig gave me a gift that he selected for me. Maybe this Goyard tote will make up for the fact that I gained another 30lbs this year. Perhaps this Louis Vuitton bag will hide the fact that I am 300lbs.  Everything is fine, nothing’s wrong, don’t worry, because I have a Gucci fanny pack!  Never mind that I can’t actually clip it around my waist, it’s much cooler to throw it over my shoulder.

Jungle Cruise @ Disneyland

This year, we didn’t even exchange gifts. We didn’t need to, because I already had everything I needed right in front of me. I had the gift of my health. I had the gift of time. And I had the gift of being truly present and grateful for every moment with my family. Even the children embraced the change. Instead of gifts, we had experiences. We took the kids to Disneyland, and the zoo, and the movies. We went on walks after dinner, and we had whole-family hot tubs together. We were lighter in every sense. It was the greatest Christmas of my life.

Last night, we gathered with friends to celebrate the end of 2017 and the beginning of a new year. We drank, and we danced, and we kept our neighbors awake until just before the sun came up. It was a celebration worthy of all that was accomplished this year. I wore something in my closet that still had tags on it, and the tag read “spring 2010.” I bought it in 2010, and it didn’t fit until the last day of the year 2017. It’s a far cry from how I looked and felt last New Years Eve. If I still owned that nude onesie, I would take an after photo to commemorate the difference that one year can make.

Lip-sync contest, NYE 2016

January, 2018

Today marked the beginning of a brand new year. My health journey, like 2018, has only just begun. I started 2017 feeling and looking the worst I have ever looked.

I looked sick.

I was sick.

By the grace of god, a little luck finding Jennifer, and a lot of effort and hard work, I ended 2017feeling the best I have ever felt. My insides match my outsides in a different way than I am used to.  NYE 2017

I look healthy.

I am healthy.

I look beautiful.

I am beautiful.

I don’t know exactly what 2018 will bring, but I know it will be healthy. I know that I will stay present in my life, and continue to show up for myself every day. I know that I will be chasing progress, not perfection. And I know that I will be grateful for every moment.



  1. You’re so amazing and such an inspiration, Holly! You are healthy and beautiful inside and out. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m looking forward to watching your continued journey as well as being on my own path to kicking butt in 2018!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: