Keeping that in mind, I spent the next month getting "dialed in" as Mark would say. I went shopping at Costco and stocked up on so much chicken, fish and frozen produce it barely fit in my fridge. I started spending part of every Sunday planning and cooking meals I knew I would look forward to eating (turkey bacon, egg, and cheese wrap for breakfast? Yes, please!) And I began taking more time each morning to pack enough meals to get me through a workday. Once I got into the groove I was eating about seven meals a day. And you know what? A funny thing happened: The weight started coming off. First a pound. Then two.
By Thanksgiving I was down to 133.
But what really impressed me were all the unexpected benefits. My eyelashes grew, my face cleared up (I no longer needed the two prescriptions I had been using to keep breakouts at bay), my muscles rebounded quicker between workouts, my bloating disappeared (in fact my stomach was now always completely flat) and, most miraculously, my chronic migraines all but vanished. I even did a routine VO2 max test, which gauges aerobic capacity, and found that not only was I getting fitter, but my calorie and fat burning levels had skyrocketed compared to earlier in the year.
I was content with my results and heading into the holidays didn’t expect to lose any more weight. After all, I weighed around 133 in college when I was in the best shape of my life. So I unwound a bit and let myself eat whatever I wanted during my weeklong Christmas vacation. The food was delicious, but I have to admit, I felt like total crap. My stomach hurt, my head hurt and my face was a splotchy mess. I returned to New York eager to get back on track and hopped on the scale to see how much damage I had done. Curiously it read 132—the same weight I was before I left.
Realizing that I could go completely overboard for a week and still maintain my weight gave me permission to loosen the reins a bit. Even Mark recommends one "cheat meal" a week, so I told myself that if I could eat on plan 80 percent of the time, I would be fine. Although I hadn't really been feeling deprived on this diet—or like I was on a diet at all—this allowed me to dine out, eat ice cream or grab a drink with friends whenever I wanted to without feeling guilty. Best of all, the diet still worked.
Over the next month I continued to watch my body change—my butt shrank, my arms gained definition and my abs returned. My coach commented on the transformation and three of my teammates were inspired to join Venice Nutrition. When I went to get my body fat measured again, the results amazed even me. After less than three months on the Venice Nutrition plan, I had lost 10 pounds and shed 7.1 percent of my body fat. I was down to 14.7 percent.
I've been thinking a lot about what made the difference for me. Yes my diet has changed—I still eat the same foods I used to but in different ratios (lots more protein, less carbs) and different quantities (bigger snacks, smaller meals)—but lots of people make dietary changes that don't stick. The bigger factors, I think, were motivation, support and accountability. Once I realized that my diet may be holding me back athletically, I wanted to get it right. Having a patient boyfriend who wouldn't get mad when I'd spend a half hour trying to figure out what take-out I wanted to order (only to decide that I'd rather go buy food at the supermarket and cook instead) made it easy not to cheat. And having Mark regularly check my food log kept me on track.
I frequently write about how food can transform your health, but it's really amazing to experience it first hand. If you've been thinking about making a change, do it. If you start today, who knows where you'll be when your next health assessment rolls around.
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