That Weight Loss Method, Post Baby #2

I said I wouldn’t join the rat race, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to celebrate my accomplishments or share what has been so effective for me. :)

Clarifications have been added to the bottom of this post. Please see below. 

For so long I thought there was something deeply flawed about my body or psyche. I felt gross and inadequate. I couldn’t understand why others could do what felt impossible for me. I wanted to believe those who told me that it was a matter of willpower, and that I just needed to conquer mine. That it would be possible to keep a freezer stocked with ice cream and a cupboard full of crackers and still lose/maintain my weight. I would fixate on the junk food in the house, and think about it all day long. It was crazy to me that my husband didn’t have the same experience, because I thought it was normal to be in the shower right after breakfast and think about when I could eat the cheesecake leftovers in the fridge.

Sounds crazy, right? Out of control? Living that way was exhausting. Now that I look back I really believe that I was addicted to sugar, and based on my love of Fat Chance you can probably guess that I believe conquering my sugar addiction has been the key to my weight loss.  I do have some good news who feel bad about their exercise record – I think weight loss comes through what you eat, not exercise. Sweat it out at the gym to boost you mood and build your muscles, but the “I can just exercise it off mentality” is harmful. I can’t be the only one who used to eat donuts and figure I’d go for a run to make up for it? Weight loss (of excess adipose tissue) comes through what you eat. Although I do think that excess sweetener (of any kind) is a very bad thing, I don’t think there is one right way for everyone. I’ll tell you what’s been working for me, and you can develop your own program from there.

The Rules

Only eat when hungry. I’ll skip breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all in a row, if that’s what I think my body is telling me to do. David Levitsky, professor at Cornell, recently put out a study about breakfast eating and said ““There’s a fundamental belief that if you don’t eat breakfast, you will compensate for the lost calories at lunch or later in the day. We’ve found that there is no caloric compensation in a normal group of eaters.” I pay attention to how I’m feeling, look ahead to the rest of my day to make sure I’m not going to get in a bad spot and make poor choices, and make my choice to eat or not eat accordingly.
Don’t eat to feel full. Hara hachi bu is a Confucian teaching advising people to eat until they are 80 percent full. I work hard to do this every day, at every meal. I have the means and opportunity to eat almost anything I want at any meal, there is no reason to clean my plate and feel unpleasant.
(Almost) No cheating. I’m not perfect. This weight loss experience is long, and I’m going to have tough days. But I used to cheat on an almost-daily basis, telling myself that I’d start over the next day. Now I use Health Month, which keeps me accountable and has helped me develop a set of rules that I can actually stick to. I’ll talk about that a little bit more below.

The Tools

DietBet. The idea is really simple, and it’s been a great motivator for me. Put down $25 (or so), lose 4%, get the extras from everyone who didn’t meet their goal. Those who have been around me in real life the past few months have heard me say “I’ve got a DietBet, I’m going to skip on the dessert this time around.”

Health Month. A reader mentioned HealthMonth back in March, and I took to it instantly as I’m a big fan of gamification. I set rules for myself, check in on a daily basis, and try not to lose all of my “life points” by the end. I like it so much that I’ve even started using it to modify negative practices I have in non-health related areas of my life (for example, in the month of August I’m not allowed to mindlessly browse social media before I go to bed, and if I do I lose a life point. Oh, and I have to floss too. I lost a life point on the first day for that one!) If this is going to work, I think it is crucial to set up a bad outcome if you lose all of your life points. Not just a bad outcome, something so horrific that you could never allow yourself to let it happen (obviously nothing illegal or that harms anyone else!). I learned about this principle on an episode of Radio Lab, which detailed the story of a woman who was only able to quit smoking after she decided that she would have to give money to the KKK if she ever smoked again. I have a reward each month too, usually some new clothes at the thrift stores in Menlo Park. As the months go by I’ve added and eliminated rules. I want to clean up different areas of my life, and also wean myself off of my dependency on the website so I can see which things have become lasting habits.

To try to help you understand how this works, I thought I’d show you the rules I used for April – August.

April: Drink at least 88 glasses of water a week – Do weight training at least 3 days a week – Run 3 days a  week – Track your spending at least 1 day a week – No wheat every day

May: Drink at least 65 glasses of water a week – Do weight training at least 2 days a week – Run 3 days a  week – Track your spending at least 1 day a week – No wheat every day – No fried food – No HFCS – No corn chips – Track meals every day using Eatery – No new unnecessary clothing items

June: Do weight training at least 2 days a week – Run 3 days a  week – Track your spending at least 1 day a week – No wheat every day – No fried food – No HFCS – No corn chips – Allow added sugar 1 day/week – No gluten free junk food – No new unnecessary clothing items

July: Do weight training at least 2 days a week – Run 3 days a  week – Track your spending at least 1 day a week – No wheat every day – No fried food – No HFCS – No corn chips – Allow added sugar 1 day/week – Can buy unnecessary clothes/accessories for me/kids 1x/week

August:  Track spending at least 1 day a week – No wheat every day – No fried food – No HFCS – No corn chips – Allow added sugar 1 day/week - Can buy unnecessary clothes/accessories for me/kids 1x/week – Floss every day – No social media while laying in bed

As you can see, some rules have stayed the same since I started, others have been introduced, and others have been eliminated. I try to pay attention to trigger situations or areas for me, and create rules to target those areas. After a month I reevaluate how I’m doing to decide if I need to continue checking in regarding that thing. First the first two months I didn’t allow myself to have anything with any added sweetener of any kind. Since June I’ve allowed myself added sweetener 1x/week and it’s been really wonderful. I don’t feel deprived, I’m in control, and I’m meeting my weight loss goals. And the beauty of the Health Month game is that I have my life points for some wiggle room. If I’m in a situation where I’ve already had my sugar once that week, but really want some more, I have to weigh whether or not I want to lose a point.

This has helped me navigate all sorts of situations where I normally emerage flaying myself for my inadequacies. I went on a weekend trip with TH to Portland and planned my meals and splurges strategically around my life points. I ate at fantastic restaurants, enjoyed myself, and didn’t for a moment feel deprived. And I won my DietBet that month! At my grandma’s house in Washington they made ice cream by hand, using a crank on an old wooden machine, and I passed it up with no problem. Yes it would have been good, but I would have lost two life points, one for the sugar and one for the high fructose corn syrup, and I didn’t think it would be that good. I laughed and joked with my cousins as they at their ice cream and marveled at how in control I felt. Normally I would sit off to the side, fighting an internal battle, likely eventually giving in and feeling guilty and angry with myself for being a big (fat) failure. Now my indulgences feel like strategic moves, and I know that sometimes I’m going to lose the battle, but I can win the war.

GymPact. Another service that pays you for meeting your goals using the money from those who didn’t reach theirs. GymPact asks you how much money you want to pledge, how many times you want to work out/week, and then takes money from you if you fail to check in and work out as long as you pledged. I like that you can change your workout goals, amount pledged, or freeze your membership altogether on a weekly basis. The app was having issues so I stopped using it for awhile, but I renewed my membership at 24 Hour Fitness this past week so I think I’ll start up again. It feels like you’re getting paid (very small amounts) to work out!

Eatery. I wrote about Eatery previously, and it freaked a lot of people out so I’m not going to get into that again. You can read my previous post to understand how it works. I haven’t used it for a few months and don’t plan to go back to it, as I think it’s served its purpose for me. Eatery acted as a food journal, helping me understand exactly what I was eating. At the end of the week I would sit down with That Husband and we would talk about what my log said, and brainstorm ways I could make positive changes. I saw that I had cut out wheat, but was using rice and potatoes to meet those “carb cravings”. After a few months of using the app I had a firm understanding of my tendencies and negative patterns, and was able to conquer/lessen those by replacing them with other positive behaviors. When I want something crunchy now, I eat a carrot dipped in hummus and goat cheese (that’s what I had for lunch today, it was very satisfying).
TWLC4 Facebook group. A terrific support group full of women with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and opinions. Love you ladies.
Weight loss rewards for every 5 lbs. At the beginning of my weight loss journey I set reward for myself for each 5 lbs lost. They started out small (new mascara) and grow more elaborate and enticing as I get closer to my goal weight (a family photo session!). One of my favorites is “Buy myself fresh flowers 1x/week for 3 months”. In the summer I can get flowers for $3/week, so it’s not a huge hit to our budget, but those flower brighten up our kitchen and are a daily reminder of how far I’ve come.

Speaking of how far I’ve come, let’s talk about the results of the last 5 months. I’ve been measuring myself along the way, between March and July I lost:

Upper Arm – 1 inch
Bust- 4 inches
Waist – 3.5 inches
Belly – 4.5 inches
Hips – 4 inches
Butt – 4 inches
Thigh – 2 inches
Calves – .5 inches

But I think pictures are the way to go! These are the same jeans, but a different white tank.

pinterestfail064 pinterestfail065


It’s late as I finish typing this, but I wanted to address a few things that have already come up in an attempt to try to cut down on questions in the comments that I intend to get to but never do (ooops).

Breastfeeding. I stopped breastfeeding before I started all of this. Wasn’t working, I let it go.
Meat. I’m eating more of it, smoked salmon and sausage from the Mountain View farmer’s market multiple times/week. We just bought a grill and I think I’ll probably eat more chicken and beef as well (though I’m going to try to go all happy meat if I can make it work).  I don’t eat any wheat and try to limit all potatoes or rice, which leaves me with nuts, vegetables, fruit… and meat. I should probably read Eating Animals again, but I’m avoiding it because I know it will make me feel guilty for the In-N-Out I’ve been indulging in every so often (did you know you can get your burger protein style, with no bun?)

Wheat. I don’t eat wheat because it’s a trigger food for me. I’ve found that it’s easier for me to now allow it at all, rather than struggle and try to limit myself. Just the way my brain works. I have had wheat a few times (Beast in Portland) in the past 6 months, but over all I’m fine without it. I think eventually I’d like to introduce it back into my life and see if I can manage it without bingeing and shame. Or maybe I’ll be gluten-free 95% of the time from now on, and I think I could survive with something like that.

TH. He’s doing his own thing. He supports me (often by not complaining about the way I stock the house, or the lack thereof), and I make sure that I always have bread available so he can make himself a sandwich of some kind. Most of his meals are eaten out because he’s traveling Monday-Thursday.

Sugar. I wish I had documented this in-depth as it was happening, because now I toss it off like it’s so easy. “Just stop eating sugar!” But I was addicted, and I think a lot of other people are as well. There were real physical, emotional, and psychological issues that needed to be conquered. I went cold turkey, no added sweetener of any kind (sugar, honey, fruit juice) and the first few weeks were brutal. ME WANT SUGAR GIVE ME ALL THE SWEETS. That’s where Health Month became really important, because I knew that each choice had consequences, and I was terrified that I would lose all of my life points and have to enact my penalty. It got easier at the 3 week mark, and felt normal by the 6 week mark. If you’re going to do it, get rid of all the sweetener in your house. Even the honey if you have to. At some point in June I recognized that I had started using dried fruit as a replacement for other sweets, and so I set some rules for myself to try to curb that behavior as well. In the beginning I also assigned a reward for myself at the end of the day, and I didn’t get that reward if I indulged in sweeteners in any way. I think the key is finding a reward that is accessible, won’t damage your other health endeavors, and is more appealing to you than the thing you are being tempted by.

The last two times I’ve had dessert, I’ve stopped eating before I cleaned my plate. You guys, this is monumental for me. And even more important, I didn’t look longingly at my portion until it was out of sight. I told myself I would only keep eating as long as the current bite tasted as good as the first, and then I knew I was done. The next sugar Everest for me to climb will be keeping cheesecake in the fridge without thinking about it in obsessive ways throughout the day (and night). If I can do that, I’ll know I can do anything.

If I were to boil down my tips for conquering a sugar addiction they would be:

1. Eliminate all added sweeteners of any kind. This includes everything “natural”. Sugar, fruit juice, honey, etc. Teach yourself to eat fruit (in season), and enjoy the natural sweetness of foods that you might not have noticed before.

2. Create an environment free of temptation. If you can’t resist it, throw it out.

3. Have a system that keeps you accountable. For me this was Health Month.

4. Make it to the 6-week mark. It’s a lot easier after that.

5. Craft a plan for your long-term approach. I think I’d like to stick with my 1x/week system, it feels like a good long-term fit for me.


Today, August 6th 2013, I stepped on the scale and weighed 150 lbs. By the end of the month I’ll be at my wedding weight! I plan to keep going until I’ve eliminated my excess visceral (stomach) fat. After that I’ll move into maintenance mode and buy myself that perfect pair of jeans that I’ve been lusting after for so long.

Clarification #1: As is sometimes (often?) the case, one of my previous posts was not well received and didn’t communicate the message I intended. For me, the post-baby weight-loss “rat race” is embodied by the magazine covers we are bombarded with in the grocery checkout line that talk about how every starlet has her pre-baby body back weeks or days after having a baby. It is not losing the weight that it is the problem, it is communicating to women that it is their responsibility to get a form of their body back as soon as possible after having a baby. Women recovering from the experience of childbirth do not need that kind of pressure on top of everything else. With my first baby, I didn’t start working hard to lose weight until about 8 months post-partum. That’s when I got serious about exercise, and took a good hard look at what I was eating. And our lifestyle/habits changed for the better because of it! This time around, I had a much harder time with the ways my body was altered due to pregnancy. I was ready to get to it very shortly after my daughter was born. What I want to communicate is that no way is better. Don’t lose the weight at all, take your time in doing it, have it off within weeks of having a baby (for some women like my friend Molly it’s a very different experience from my own). What we should stop doing is saying to each other “You look like you didn’t even have a baby!*” With that, we reinforce the idea that the way a woman changes with pregnancy is a negative thing, and that the goal is to have a pre-baby body at all times. I think talking about weight loss success is great, and I will continue to do so (both because it’s a nice way to pay myself on the back, and because I think it’s helpful to read what other people have found success in). Talking about weight loss in a manner that reinforces the idea that women should look like they never had a baby in the first place is what should be eliminated from our discourse.

Clarification #2: This post does not describe what or how I eat on a daily basis. In regard to the statements about what meals I do or do not eat, I will reiterate that in the paragraphs above I was attempting to illustrate the principle of only eating when hungry, not describe a typical day in my life. I am not advocating intermittent fasting (though I don’t have any issues with that approach to nutrition either), and haven’t actually gone any days without eating anything at all within the last 6 months. I do believe that you should not let outside cues dictate when you eat, and that eating intuitively means listening to your body. No exceptions. I have found that my hunger patterns are cyclical, ebbing and flowing with my menstrual cycle. In the 10 days before my period begins, I am ravenous and feel like I can eat everything in sight. After my period ends there is a week where I eat really small amounts of food and feel satisfied.  I understand that there are some nutritionists that advocate eating on a schedule. If there is firm science advocating that one should not listen to their body to determine when to eat, I would be interested in reading more and welcome links to that information. What has worked for me is eating when I’m hungry, which means I eat a lot one day and little another day. My body feels good when I do this (aside from any resulting weight loss). This is something I’ve already begun trying to teach T1, to eat nutritious foods when he is hungry, and stop when his tummy tells him that he has satisfied those signals. If there is research proving that this parenting approach will have negative repercussions I would be interested in reading that as well.

*I am guilty of this as well.

42 thoughts on “That Weight Loss Method, Post Baby #2

  1. Congratulations on making progress toward achieving your goal of a healthy weight! I’m wondering how you think your continued weight loss/maintenance will fit in with your goal of simplifying your life overall? Will you attempt to ultimately streamline your system and eliminate some/all of the Internet tools you are using at this point? I can’t personally imagine trying to keep up with all of the side goals (flossing? Just do it every day after brushing, right? Don’t understand why you need to set it up with a consequence attached to it?) for the long term. Again, congrats on your progress! Pulling on the perfect pair of skinny jeans is a great feeling!

  2. Jenna this is so inspiring! I know exactly what you mean when you say you were thinking about eating cheesecake while in the shower. I have that issue too. It is encouraging to me that by cutting out sugar you were able to overcome those urges to binge. Thank you for sharing this personal story and I wish you well on your continued journey!

  3. Holy crap that’s a lot of water to drink in a week. How big are your glasses? How do you avoid going to the bathroom every 30 minutes if you are drinking that much? I try to drink water at work, but I usually can only manage to drink about 2 water bottles/day.

  4. I totally agree with Kelly, Jenna. I, too, think it’s great that you are feeling good/better now but claiming to not following the rat race of postpartum weight loss and being so very proud of losing so much weight in such a short time just seems to be in contradiction of your claim.

  5. You and I must be on the same page! I just took front and side (tried to do back but it was too hard) pics of myself! Yesterday was a feel good day about my weight loss!

  6. Another question/thought I meant to add…at what point do you stop listening to your body and let common sense dictate your diet? Skipping breakfast, lunch and dinner because your body tells you to seems incredibly unhealthy and counterintuitive for someone who is trying to become more healthy. Surely you aren’t condoning starving oneself as a weight loss method, as your suggestion of only eating when your body tells you to would imply?

  7. Skipping meals will slow weight loss. It seems like it helps you drop weight quickly in the beginning, but all it’s doing is messing with your metabolism. Even something small is better than nothing at all. Also, your kids will start to notice at some point. It’s probably a good idea to model healthy eating habits while they’re still young.

    Colleen Reply:

    “Also, your kids will start to notice at some point. It’s probably a good idea to model healthy eating habits while they’re still young.”

    THIS. I have some major food issues that come from watching my mother as a child. Although she was on the slender side of average, she never stopped worrying about her weight. I can remember many family meals she skipped, or just had a quarter of a sandwich. You might think that the kids don’t pick up on it, but they do, and it really impacted me as a teenager and young adult. I found myself thinking that if I ate a whole sandwich or had breakfast, then I must be fat, or a glutton, because my beautiful mother didn’t. It has taken me years to relearn healthy, well-rounded eating plans.

    Jackie Reply:

    Absolutely agree with the thoughts above that skipping meals is not healthy. Jenna, “a carrot dipped in hummus and goat cheese (that’s what I had for lunch today, it was very satisfying).” is NOT lunch! That amount of food is less than 200 calories and is not a meal at all. It really rings alarm bells to me that you are skipping meals and eating so few calories. You are damaging your body physically and emotionally through your continuous patterns of disordered eating (over and under eating).

  8. Just wanted to say congratulations on finding a diet/lifestyle that works for you (and on the weight loss of course, but I think feeling good about yourself/your food habits is more important).

    I also think you are absolutely right about diet being the key (certainly all the research I’ve read on this subject agrees with you), though of course exercise is important for other reasons (just not weight loss). I am not so sure about sugar (though if it makes you feel gross, then certainly it makes sense to avoid it!); that might just be because I looove sugar and eat large quantities of it pretty much every single day though :)

    In any case you are beautiful and look great!!

  9. Congratulations on your weight loss, but I almost feel like I’m doing a disservice by congratulating you. This entire post is very alarming to me.

    Losing weight and being healthy is about creating healthy habits to sustain the weight loss. Low caloric intake (or lack of) and low activity will not sustain weight loss. All that happens is you confuse your body.

    Healthy weight is attributed to physical activity and good eating habits that spur your body into a rhythm that keeps your metabolism and your body working for you, instead of you working for your body.

    Diet is very important, yes, and making good choices with food is key to losing weight. But exercising keeps weight loss healthy and boosts your metabolism. So, for example, if someone works out in the morning, they kick start their metabolism, and actually use more energy/lose more weight throughout the day. Another example is when someone lifts weights, they’re essentially damaging their muscle tissue (where the soreness comes from) but our body repairs the muscle, and uses energy to repair the muscles. So, you lose weight using energy to lift the weights, and then lose weight using energy to repair your muscles.

    Skipping meals slows your metabolism down because your body doesn’t have energy to do it’s normal functions as quickly as could, which in turn, slows weight loss.

    All this brings me to my next point: your previous post. I read it as having an underlying message that you may be searching for something more? I don’t think you’re unsatisfied with your life, but it seems like you’re not entirely satisfied either? Or maybe you’re in limbo? I don’t know these things for certain, and these are just rhetorical questions, but if any of these ring true with you, it could be attributed to your eating habits/weight loss method. It just all seems really unbalanced to me and we, as humans, are interesting creatures, especially when it comes to our emotions and mental being. Our metabolic process rules all the chemical transformations in our body that regulate everything in our body, including our brain and therefore our emotions. And if that is out of sync, you can bet your money everything else is/may be unbalanced.

  10. Jenna,

    I honestly hope no one follows your weight loss advice. It sounds very destructive. I am kind of shocked your dh is supportive of this.. Skipping an entire day of food is an eating disorder not diet plan.

    Teach your children to floss every night before bed. T1 is not too young for kids flossers. You will help him to NOT need an app or goal sheet to do that in the future. You need to model good habits to your kids including eating habits. Rigorously denying foods and rules rules rules about food is not the way to do this.

    I hope you delete this post because it makes you and your dh look bad that you both advocate skinny over healthy.

    LifeonMulberry Reply:

    I am super confused. This whole comment just feels mean spirited and unjustified, based on the above post, which is about GOOD habits and goals.

    A) Jenna is espousing flossing as a goal for herself, thus modeling good behavior for her kids. What’s with the lecture?

    B) She’s also modeling good habits for her kids by getting rid of junk like corn chips. Where are you getting that she skips an entire day of food?

    C) “Rigorously denying foods” like ice cream is necessary to change one’s eating habits, if one had poor habits previously. If Jenna used to eat poorly and wants to change that, why are you suggesting that she should eat whatever pops into her head (given that we know that her history and childhood didn’t support healthy eating)? Are you saying that she’d be healthier if she gave into every craving?

    Betts Reply:

    “I’ll skip breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all in a row, if that’s what I think my body is telling me to do.” under the first rule.

    Jenna, I’m worried about you if you really are skipping whole days of food. You need something in your stomach, even if it’s just some carrot sticks or some yogurt or a piece of fruit. Sometimes our bodies tell us the wrong things.

    And I’m worried that your nighttime reward is wine. If you’re not eating all day and you’re putting a big glass of wine on an empty stomach… Well, I’ll just say that was my MO for a while and it did not go well. If I’m wrong, I will happily shut my mouth. If I’m not… please, just keep it in mind.

    Lisa Reply:

    Ok then feel free to follow her plan. If my post came across as “mean” I apologize I guess I was just shocked that Jenna feels this is a sensible way to live her life. I guess I had no idea that adults need reminders and goalsfor basic health and personal care like flossing.

    I don’t know Jenna’s entire life history. I came here after her pinterest fail appearance and maybe I need to mosey along. I tend to be a little direct and if someone is spewing ten shades of crazy about starving themselves to obtain weight loss goals I don’t feel comfortable saying ” way to go girlfriend”. Maybe that’s what is expected here??

    Good bye and bless you and yours.

  11. Oh for goodness sakes, give her a break. Ugh.

    If she didn’t lose the weight fast enough, she’d have people telling her to get off her ass (that happened with T1, if I recall correctly). Now that she’s lost it quickly, she’s accused of buying in to pressure to lose weight quickly.

    She’s sharing what worked for her and is giving herself a well-deserved pat on the back. She’s taken five months to lose the baby weight. It’s hardly ‘SIX WEEKS TO LOSE IT ALL’, here, which is what most people think of with the rat race.

    Hannah Reply:

    Honestly, that sounds like your ‘stuff’ and as though you’re projecting it onto Jenna.

    Losing 30 pounds in 5 months is not considered super or unhealthily rapid anyway. It is 1.3 pounds a week – something that is accepted as a healthy rate of loss. My doctor told me 1kg a week is healthy – that’s 2.3 pounds a week.

    There is a fundamental difference between the Kim K ‘OMG LOSE 30 POUNDS IN 3 WEEKS’ nonsense that defines the ‘rat race’ and someone saying they’ve lost quickly because it’s taken them half a year instead of three years. Big, big difference. And posting about it isn’t designed to make a new mother feel bad about her weight loss or lack thereof.

  12. I wanted to add that you should check out “what dannielle ate” on Facebook. She has lost tons of weight slowly over a few years and she shows on her page how she did it. She eats loads of healthy foods and smoothies and her before and after pics are amazing. Very inspiring.

  13. This is very worrisome. I hope you listen to some of the above comments. Take care of yourself.

  14. Wow you look great! Even at your heavier weight you have such a pretty face! — unfortunately for me the last place I lose weight is on my face. I haven’t weighed myself in months (years?) but since embracing weight lifting a year or so ago I’ve found great results.

  15. Please also be careful about excessive water consumption. A man my husband knew died from over-hydrating during a long kayak race, which sounds counterintuitive but definitely isn’t. I doubt you’re close to it with 88 glasses a week, but as someone who never knew about it until hearing about a death I just thought I’d pass it along.

    Jenna Reply:

    88 glasses/week is 100 ounces/day. I think it’s the phrasing that is throwing people off. It’s common to see recommendations that you should take what you weigh, divide that in half, and drink that much in ounces. So at the point that I started, I weighed about 185 pounds. Half of that would be 92.5 ounces, and so I was trying to drink one glass more per day.

    I dropped that rule pretty quickly. I don’t like trying to meet water goals determined by someone else. I’d rather just drink when I’m thirsty. Happily, I just heard Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times say that is what science of late is saying as well:

  16. *sigh* Now I know if need to kick this sugar addiction in the butt. Thanks for this post Jenna! I’m sure I’ll refer to it when I feel like I can’t continue without a sweet.

  17. Man alive! I wish people wouldn’t be so judgemental. Hope you let those rude comments roll off.

    Congrats on finding what works for you! You look great. Thanks for sharing this :D

  18. Oh man… I smell troll. I don’t understand why so many people get off on negativity toward others…!

    Anyway, good for you! For everything. I think you are really onto something with eliminating sugar. I did the same thing and now maintain a 90-10 sort of diet. It’s been monumental in curbing my appetite and cravings. I had a very similar experience in terms of previously feeling out of control around food – like, since teenagerhood – and now having an amazing sense of serenity around dessert and junk food.

    I honestly think it’s about dulling down those pathways in the brain and forming new ones. Those pathways associated with eating processed sugars and junk food just dig right down into those neurons in the sense of any addiction, and you have to weaken them. The book “The End of Overeating” really helped me to understand the physiological components of appetite and to stop conceiving of it as a “willpower” issue.

    Good for you for sharing this message that diet, especially eliminating sugar, is more important than exercise. I really think it could help a lot of people and needs to be shouted from the roof tops. There are so many unfortunate diet myths out there.

    Jenna Reply:

    Isn’t there a section in The End of Overeating where a colleague confesses an inability to think straight throughout the day because of m&ms in a candy bowl? That was me, all the time.

    Steph Reply:

    Yep – that story really struck me, too. I really thought my cravings were just lack of willpower. Maybe that’s a component to it but it’s a whole lot easier to have willpower if the cravings aren’t so strong! :)

  19. I struggle with the sugar addiction and wheat / rice / potatoes addiction. I have had great success with weight watchers + avoiding processed foods in the past, but I am 4 months post partum right now and still 20 pounds over my prepregnancy weight and I have not stuck to any healthy eating plan yet. It’s so hard to get the ball rolling. My husband works seven days a week, and I’m nursing (hungry) and my two year old is a bit of a tornado…. So many excuses. I know I will feel better once I start treating my body better.

  20. I stand by the motto that you can’t out exercise a bad diet, no amount of running will compensate for too many calories unless you’re some sort of super athlete (and even marathon runners will gain weight on their training diet).

    Personally I believe that unless change comes from within it becomes very hard to sustain. I easily lost almost fifteen kilograms three years ago and kept twelve off, simply because I wanted it and I was mentally and emotionally ready for the change.

    Programmes like DietBet, Weight Watchers etc might provide the tools and the initial motivation to get losing but won’t necessarily help in the long term.

  21. Thanks for sharing this! It made me think of Sarah Wilson and her blog, especially when she writes about quitting sugar ( I’ve enjoyed her journey discovering how sugar affects her and her steps to cut it out entirely. And she posts a lot of recipes for things that curb a sweet craving without sweeteners. She’s got another “I Quit Sugar” program starting up later this month, and I think I may give it a try.

    Anyway, keep up the good work! It sounds like you’ve made a lot of progress in your goals, but the biggest success really sounds like the way you’ve changed your thinking about food. Good for you!

    Hannah Reply:

    Please don’t do Sarah’s program. She’s not a doctor, she’s a charlatan. She is inconsistent, much of her approach is based in shaky science and she likes to censor her detractors. I am all for quitting added/processed sugar but Sarah basically suggests you largely restrict fruit from your diet which is proven to negatively impact the thyroid in the long term.

  22. Congratulations on your weight loss, Jenna! I know you can’t “measure” the changes in your face, but my goodness, when I looked at your before and after photos that was the first thing I noticed! Your jawline is so defined now and even your skin looks healthier! You look great!

    I also feel bad that people are being so critical. You have always been so clear in your posts that you are writing about your personal experience, and not necessarily recommending that anyone do exactly what you did. I read your posts and think, “Wow, that’s a remarkable change, and I’m so impressed” and things like that, but never do I think, “Oh wow, I need to do exactly what she did immediately!” Do people really think that others do that?

    In any case, congrats – you look great and I am SOOO impressed at your ability to give up sweets! I’m assuming you also don’t use any artificial sweeteners, right? I’m not sure what I would do without my Splenda in the morning (although I know it’s probably not good for me….)

  23. I hope you are ok. This combined with your last posts reads like a cry for help. Maybe you should talk to someone about your need for this kind of control and why you feel that you must have so many rules/rewards systems to live each day. I hope that you are able to find some peace soon.

    Jenna Reply:

    I am ok. Really. Minus the stress of moving and navigating a departure from Mormonism (who knew that would be so difficult to navigate?). Part of the stress and the buried feeling for me has been dealing with the mess and disorganization as we move in. I like walking into an organized room and knowing where I can find things when I need them. When things are in disarray it is hard for me not to feel overwhelmed. I became Movezilla for a few weeks (a take on Bridezilla, if you will).

    I realize that the rules and incentives would complicate a lot of people, but that structure has been good for me. I used to constantly operate on a “Last Supper” paradigm. I messed up today, tomorrow would be better. I messed up again,tomorrow will be better. It’s breakfast and I messed up, may as well give up today and start over tomorrow. Yet another Last Supper.

    Putting rules in place for myself has helped me to develop a lifestyle. It has eased me into saying to people “No thank you” where I used to say yes not only because I wanted it, but because I felt like a jerk eating healthy when other people are indulging (no one likes it when the person they are with chooses the apple when they have the chocolate cake!) But with my game in place (both the DietBet and Health Month) I had something to blame it on and now I’m better at saying no (though I still apologize, which is unnecessary).

    And because the game starts over each month I can adjust with changing situations and new insights. I went home for 6 weeks, and normally that means I eat gluten-free pretzels and cookies (there are two kinds my parents buy that are good and I can eat a whole package if I’m not careful) but I made a rule that I wouldn’t eat any gluten-free “junk” and it was a much better experience. Previously I thought I lacked willpower, but I think it was that I lacked structure. Each time I was confronted with a brownie before I would tell myself that this would be my last brownie and I could indulge, and then the next day there would be leftovers and I would tell myself I could just polish them off. But I set a rule that I wouldn’t eat the junk, because there are better things out there and I would rather have other things. And it was much easier to say no in the moment because I had already made up my mind ahead of time (this is actually a concept Mormonism stresses to youth when it comes to chastity and drugs). As I said in the post, sweets 1x/week seems to be a good fit for me. Eventually I’d like to eliminate the rule from health month and be able to naturally keep myself accountable but right now I need an outside source.

    I’m writing all of this to say that I am really happy with this system. It sounds like it makes a lot of people feel sad or worried for me, but it was before that I was crippled and overhwelmed. The structure is helpful, not harmful.

    And this was all typed from my own as my kids climb all over me so I’m not sure if it made any sense. You’ve been a great commenter for awhile and I wanted to respond because I think your expression was genuine.

  24. It completely makes sense that you would be stressed right now. This last year has had A LOT of upheavel for you, and having a husband who works out of town while you stay home with two small children in a new town must be very isolating. I just hope that you are able to see all those external forces as what they are– external– and that you don’t turn on yourself and start blaming yourself for not being good enough because you are stressed by these things. If you say you are ok though, I will trust that you are. Just be easy on yourself and your family as you adjust to all these hopefully in the longterm good changes. And don’t be afraid to look for help/support if you need it.

  25. Interesting post. For me, I finally (and once and for all) moved into a healthy life when I forever quit dieting. Dieting was always a short-term solution to a life-long health goal. It never worked for me and led to obsessive and unhappy feelings…

    Instead, I eliminated the idea of “controlling” myself and food from my mindset completely. For me, it was counterintuitive to always be THINKING about what foods NOT TO EAT when I could simply just eat healthily and exercise more. Eating healthy foods and exercising really are the answer to gradual, permanent weight loss. It’s so simple, but it is 100% true.

    The biggest break through for me came when I decided to ADD in healthy foods, rather than think about ELIMINATING foods. I started with an apple. Every day, I made sure I ate an apple. So simple that I knew I could handle it. After a while, it became ADD in an apple and a banana. Eventually, I was so FULL from healthy foods and providing NUTRITION to my body that I was healthy and no longer even worried about the occasional unhealthy foods that I might consume (in smaller portions, since I was so full from the nutritious stuff). Same thing for exercise. I ADDED in one walk a day, at first and then continued ADDING on from there.

    Just my own experience and opinions here, but this simple approach of ADDING healthy foods and exercise has been such a powerful and permanent lifestyle for me that I thought I’d share.

    Jenna Reply:

    Adding instead of eliminating. I like that approach.

    Mona Reply:

    Well, that sounds like a great way to get and stay healty. Good for you!!

  26. I love the 5lbs. reward system! I did that the first time I did my big weight loss and it was very effective. I’m wanting to do the same time this time around, but I’d love some ideas for inexpensive rewards. I really like the flowers idea. What a great way to make yourself feel better and encourage for all your hard work.

  27. Hi Jenna,
    You look fabulous! Congrats on your progress! I haven’t read that book but I agree sugar wreaks havoc on our systems. This really seems to be working for you and I’m go glad.

  28. How many times have you done that health month obligation thing, and how many times have you succeeded? I could see that quickly becoming a way for some of us to reward ourselves for maintaining habits instead of setting up challenges we could realistically fail and be held accountable for.

    Jenna Reply:

    Oh I have never failed a health month challenge. Once I ended with only 1 life point, but my penalty for losing is so horrific that I would never EVER EVER EVER allow myself to lose.

    I try to reassess on a regular basis, adding in things to make it harder, eliminating things to test out whether I’ve “mastered” them or not. Next month I might try eliminating my “no wheat” rule. That will be a big deal, because it will mean I’ve got to say no without any outside penalties. Or I’ll have to learn to eat a normal amount instead of bingeing like I used to. We’ll see how it works!

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