I’ve got some stubborn poundage that refuses to come off despite working out anywhere from five to seven days a week. Two years ago, I was fit and ready to run my first 100-mile trail race; my weight, though a bit on the high side, was 139 pounds (while I’m short at 5’4”, I’m not a little woman; I’m always a chunk, no matter what I weigh). This was 4 pounds above my Ironman weight and 10 pounds over my marathon PR weight. Though neither of those weights reflects my very thinnest days, they reflect times when I had my best athletic performances and felt strongest; I try very hard to look at food as something to fuel my healthy lifestyle and my weight as simply a reflection of my peak performance. No problem—I figured I’d dump those few extra pounds when I got back to short and fast running as I recovered from Rocky Raccoon.
Great plan…except I fell on an icy patch six miles into that race, breaking my ankle, which required surgery and a long recovery. Over the months of inactivity that followed, my weight slowly crept upwards, despite my best intentions to eat right and exercise in whatever ways I could. When I was able to really run again, I weighed the most ever since I’d become a runner back in the ‘90s. The load was making my comeback even harder. When I hit the trail this February for the 50 miler at Rocky Raccoon, I weighed 150 pounds—and that was after working hard on my diet and, yes, losing a few pounds. Clearly I was healthy—I could run for 50 miles—but just as clearly, I was overweight. Ouch.
So when a flyer came into my AFM inbox promoting the Can’t Fake Fit 21 Day Challenge by My Fit Foods, I thought, “Huh. Aren’t I their demographic? Should I do a review?” I reached out to their media director Catherine Stiles; we came to an agreement that I would participate in the Challenge right along with everyone else, though I would be ineligible for any prizes, and My Fit Foods would provide the food I needed to participate. In turn, I would write about my experience, honestly and objectively.
First hump: The Challenge started on February 17. My birthday is February 18. Really? I was going to have to do some restricted diet on my special day? My idea of happiness on my birthday is fajitas, Tecate, and Amy’s Ice Cream served with a big helping of friends to celebrate. Second hump: We were in the middle of magazine production and I had to schedule a consultation with nutrition consultant Lauren Baxter before I could start. Where would I find time?
We finally found a time that I could come in to meet with Lauren, who went over every step of the program. It’s pretty simple: My Fit Foods provides you with all your food. We spent about 40 minutes going through a Q&A session on everything from food allergies to likes/dislikes to exercise, and a host of other topics. When Lauren asked me to rate my “dedication to the program” on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most dedicated), I thought hard and honestly replied, “8.” She followed up by asking me what it would take for me to be a 10. That’s when I trotted out the birthday thing, and she smiled and explained that there are “cheat days,” a day once a week where you can eat something else. Well, then, I was 100% in. We also had to work around my food sensitivities (wheat, peanuts, soy, and oranges) and none of those things were a problem. Of the meal plan portions, she put me on the smallest one, about 1,200 calories a day. I’d be eating five times a day on a fairly rigid schedule of breakfast (6 a.m.), snack #1 (9 a.m.), lunch (noon), snack #2 (3 p.m.), and dinner (6 p.m.). No alcohol, no caffeine. In addition, I’d have the liver cleanse tonic—a combination of cranberry juice, apple cider vinegar, and half a lemon—15 minutes before breakfast. I also opted to pay for the vitamin package, since Lauren said that many people choose to add in these twice-daily supplements. My goal was to do what most people do. I left the shop with a schedule for the full 21 days and food for my first two days. After that, I would be coming in on Mondays and Thursdays to pick up the rest of my food. Payment would be handled via a preloaded debit card and, at the North Lamar location, I found out I could call ahead and they would bring the food out to me because of limited parking (ironically, it’s Uchiko that shares the parking lot, which causes a glut of traffic when it opens in the evening). I was all set.
It was all I could do to get down the liver cleanse tonic, which Lauren had warned me about (“It takes most people about four days to get used to it.”); since then, I’ve learned to slam it all down in two big gulps and it’s not all that bad. Because I don’t drink coffee regularly, it wasn’t hard for me to give up that morning routine, though my husband, who very graciously offered to go along on this adventure with me (on his own dollar and on the medium-sized meal portions), opted out of this restriction. Surprisingly, the hardest thing for the first few days was eating so often; I felt like I was CONSTANTLY putting food in my mouth. I was never hungry because I went from one meal to another, it seemed, without break. It made me realize that I had been skipping a lot of food during the day at work; I’d get busy and not eat my lunch, even though I’d carefully prepared it and brought it from home. Then, about 3 o’clock, I’d opt for part of my lunch or a protein cookie we’d have at the office. As a result, I’d come home starving for dinner. The other thing I noted was just how much we’d begun to eat out. As empty nesters, my husband and I have the complete freedom to do/eat whatever we want and, often, after a tiring and sometimes stressful day at work, we don’t want to cook or neither of us wants to make a trip to the grocery store. Even though I drink very little alcohol, order small plates, and usually divide my restaurant food in half to take home, I was still getting WAY too much food too often thanks to this bad habit.
After a few days on the plan, my husband began to complain about not cooking. He likes to cook and views it as a relaxing pastime. He missed the smells and putting together a meal. I missed raw greens. I’d become a huge salad and veggie eater, thanks in large part to our CSA box from Johnson’s Backyard Gardens. While there were on occasion raw veggies in my containers, there were no sautéed greens, no roasted beets, no kale chips. What there was was a ton of meat protein. Over the years, I’d cut way back on my meat consumption, maybe having something two times a week, with eggs on a more regular basis. A couple of times, I actually thought, “If I put another bite of meat product into my mouth, I’ll gag.” I left a few snacks unfinished because I couldn’t stomach the meat. I asked Lauren about this and she responded that it’s hard to get used to but that getting results meant having more protein, which was what was keeping me full between snacks and meals. I also asked about the veggies and she said we could have them as long as nothing was added in the preparation. One day, I broke down and sautéed a bunch of spinach in one teaspoon of olive oil and garlic; it was heaven, though I felt guilty for cheating with that olive oil.
The other thing that I was having a hard time stomaching was the amount of plastic waste. Yes, the meal containers can be recycled but still…when you look at five or more (sometimes there’s a little sauce in another small container) plastic boxes with lids in one day, that’s a lot of energy and resources used. Carrying home four days of five meals all in plastic containers was really taxing my “less waste” mentally. Again, I talked to Lauren; she explained that health codes keep them from reusing these containers and that they’re exploring options as My Fit Foods recognizes the problem. At the larger stores in Austin, they have recycling bins our front so that clients can drop off containers as they come in to pick up foods. While I washed and saved some for my own personal use, I still had a hard time every time I dumped another bit of plastic into the recycling can (Tanya Streeter, I am so sorry!). And that’s just in one week….
While I wasn’t hungry, I found that I often craved something after my meal. I wasn’t really sure what it was but, while I could recognize that I was full, I still wanted something more. My husband and I analyzed this, as he often felt the same way (though he was often hungry, too), and we came down to this: texture. We needed something that felt different in our mouths—maybe creamy, maybe crispy, something—well—not microwaved. Other than adding in some more raw veggies, I’m not sure what options we have here.
I was curious to see how my first run of any length would go. Because I was under strict orders from my coach to take it easy and recover from the 50 miler, I’d had light workouts at the gym, some walks, and short road runs. At the end of the week, I took a run with friends out at Walnut Creek and wound up on my feet for 1:30 at an easy pace. My energy didn’t seem to flag and I felt good back on my feet.
Week 1 Weigh-In Results
February 17 150.6
February 18 151.0
February 19 150.6
February 20 150.4
February 21 148.2
February 22 149.2
February 23 148.4
February 24 149.0