Project Healthy Holly
Three and a half years is a long time to practice good health. If someone had told me right before I started working with Jennifer that I would lose 136 pounds and 63 inches (A FIVE FOOT THREE INCH PERSON) but it would take me this long, I think there is a good chance that I would have been disappointed. Instant gratification combined with excessive consumerism is the world we live in – at least, it was before the pandemic hit. The jury is still out on how this experience will shape the future in terms of what is most valued and revered. When my last round of PHB calls wrapped up Jennifer announced to our group that I was no longer obese. My eyes welled up with tears when I heard it. Not because it meant that I was that much closer to being “skinny”, which was the goal post that I chased for decades – but because of what it says about my state of health and my chances of living long and well.
The medical definition of obesity vs overweight hinges on the BMI calculation. To be considered obese, one must have a BMI of 30.0 or greater. The likelihood of suffering a health outcome like cardiovascular disease, stroke, sleep apnea, diabetes, or high blood pressure increases as BMI increases. A BMI of 40.0 or greater is considered morbidly obese. What these numbers mean for me in going from morbid obesity (at a BMI of almost 50) to overweight is that I am at a much lower risk of developing any of the conditions noted above. Basically, I have cut my chances of dying from a weight-related disease by a heck of a lot. Basically, I have almost certainly saved my own life.
This process has changed me in every way possible. Not just physically, but also how I think about my health. As I have gotten healthier, the thought of wearing the dress or being noticed because I look “skinny” (a word which should be obliterated) and “gorgeous” are no longer top of my because my values have fundamentally shifted. Don’t get me wrong, playing in my closet is a perk that I am thoroughly enjoying – but it isn’t what drives me. For decades, I fantasized about being thin and what it would look like. I remember Jennifer promising that the reality would exceed any fantasy we held – and she was right. The life that I am living now is better than the one that I had imagined. Which is a strange thing to feel when the world is suffering through a pandemic and our country is a dumpster fire. The difference between my fantasy life and my actual life is that I moved my goal post from “skinny” to “healthy.”
My actions now match my values, and that has made all of the difference. Feeling good in my body, getting long restful sleep at night, fueling for energy instead of fueling to cover up pain and hurt are my “why” now. I am doing this for me, and only me. Not for my mother or my friends or that bathing suit or that airplane seat-belt, or that designer outfit, but for ME!
This shift in my values didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it didn’t truly happen until late 2019, which was almost three years after I started working with Jennifer. Something in me changed last fall. Something clicked. Until that point, every pound was a hard-won battle. I would go through long stretches of time where I didn’t lose any weight at all, followed by another couple of pounds, and then another long plateau. I even had a patch last summer where I gained some weight back and wondered if this was it for me. I asked myself, “is this the best that I can do?” At the end of August, feeling lost and uncertain about the future of my health, I came across an Insta-story from Amandaasking if anyone would like to join her in a September Whole 30. I told myself that I was mainly doing it to support a fellow PHB client – and who knows, maybe it will help me get back on track.
I had done a few Whole 30’s prior to this one, but I always made them “my-30’s” by following the protocol exactly except for the occasional cocktail or ten. But something was different about this time; I was different. My why finally shifted from doing this for me, but also for my health coach, my husband, my children, that outfit, Instagram, or my mum, to doing this for me ONLY. My confidence and authenticity had tipped such that my people pleasing tendencies had all but vanished, which freed me up for any pressure at all. I sailed through that Whole 30 without cheating or making it my own. The result was weight-loss and continued confidence building. I believe I lost about eight more pounds through that period and continued the protocol (for the most part) through winter.
One of the last vestiges of my issues with food was surrounding dinner. Until that point, I was still hanging on to old behavior patterns and scripts that went something like this: dinner needs to be something really yummy and I need a big portion to feel satisfied and good. This was an area where I was, to my detriment, still gaming the system. My dinners were technically healthy, but probably enough calories for two people. The PHB formula is protein, fiber, and healthy fat at every meal and snack. A typical compliant but too-big dinner for me would be something like an entire rib-eye steak, plus roasted veggies, and my fat would be the olive oil that I roasted the veggies in. Nobody needs to eat an entire 1.5-inch-thick rib-eye at a meal. The steak alone is about one thousand calories! We frequently barbequed chicken thighs for dinner (I don’t care for chicken breast) with a gorgeous salad. In theory, it sounds healthy, but I would have three or four chicken thighs which is approaching 600 calories. The food is all whole, real, vibrant, healthy food; it’s just TOO MUCH!
Jennifer is always reminding us that if we want to change, we need to “disrupt our process” – so, at the beginning of 2020, I made the decision to confront my entitlement issues with dinner and swap it for a PHB green smoothie, instead. My plan also included a focus on getting eight hours of sleep each night and moving my body more. In the past, I have had many examples where considerable work and personal stress led to horrible colds and sinus infections, so this was also an experiment to see if I could healthy-person my way out of illness. Since dinners were an issue for me, I thought that swapping out the 14oz rib-eye for a 12oz glass of blended spinach, blueberries, collagen, walnut butter, and almond milk would all but guarantee me continued good health. It was half experiment, half personal challenge. I didn’t put any parameters on how long I would commit to it, and I also wasn’t militant about it. If we were meeting friends for dinner on the weekend, I didn’t refuse the invitation or show up and not eat. I would just hop right back into my green drink dinner routine the night after.
Then COVID happened and it didn’t make sense to me to go back to regular dinners. If there was ever a time for me to double down on healthy habits, this was it. So, I kept going. At the end of February, Craig decided to give it a try. It has been six months and we are still going strong and feeling our best! At any other time in my 3 years as a Project Healthy Body client, I would not have been mentally capable of maintaining this change in my behavior. It would have been unthinkable, or like some kind of punishment – instead of being a gift of self-care that has led me through a pandemic and one of the most significant times of upheaval (personally speaking) in my lifetime. Instead of shutting down, giving in, and falling off my bike, I decided that this was the best time to be the best me. To say that it’s working would be an understatement. I have re-ignited my weight-loss, lost inches, and had to turn over my entire wardrobe because my clothing no longer fits. This weekend, I ordered a few new pants in a size 12. I never imagined that I would be wearing that size.
When I started working with Jennifer, I was a size 22/24 or a 3x. I remember in one of our first group calls, she had us write about something that we were currently unable to do because of our weight that we were most looking forward to as healthy people. For me, it was skiing. I have always loved to ski, but as I gained more and more weight, I skipped the slopes because I could no longer fit in my ski clothing. I was too embarrassed to buy new pants and a jacket in such a large size. We have been using this time at home to Marie Kondo the shit out of our house, so when I got to organizing our ski stuff, I was suddenly reunited with my old ski pants and jacket. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have lost a lot of weight and inches in the last three years, but looking at the before photo, I wasn’t positive that the pants and jacket would fully zip yet. What a full circle moment it was, when the pants not only zipped up but were too big! When I started PHB, the jacket wasn’t within 14 inches of closing; now it zips up effortlessly.
Effortless is a good word to describe how I feel about my health at the moment. Not in the way that means that I am not engaged, but in a way that I am so on my game and routine that it doesn’t feel hard. It just feels good. The strides that I have made over the past five months aren’t limited to green drinks, pounds, and inches. I am walking more, I am more present with my family than I have ever been, and I am also writing every morning and evening. I am a different person in every way. The things that I used to consider signature looks no longer serve me – like my hair style and the poppy red lipstick that I used to wear. For many years now, I have worn my hair in flipped up pigtails. I think it was some sort of signature accessory that I used as a smoke and mirrors tactic to mask my obesity. Suddenly, I linked that hairstyle to my fatness, and I haven’t worn it that way since. Now I wear it down, which takes time because I have to blow dry it. But I take the time now because I make the time for myself. It is important to me now. I am also whitening my teeth and have a bedtime routine that is packed with self-care. I look glowy every day now, and it’s not for anyone but me. Who knew that it would be during a pandemic that I would look and feel my absolute best? I think it is a perfect euphemism for true wholeheartedness, health, and vitality.
“What do you do when no one is watching?”
Jennifer has asked us this countless times. It never struck me as particularly profound or inspiring, until now. Because it means so much more to me now. When nobody is watching (socially, or on social media), I am taking great care of my health and wellness. I don’t need approval or recognition, because it’s not about that anymore. That no longer drives me because I am no longer a people pleaser. I am doing this for me, so that I can live as long and as well as possible with Craig and our children. And the chances that I will live long and well with them just became significantly more likely because I am officially no longer an obese person.
I am Holly, and I am a healthy person. Inside and out.