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How I lost 100 lbs in … in 5 life-changing steps
Hey everyone! In case you don’t already know me, I’m Annabelle Waugh, a Toronto-based recipe developer, food stylist, writer and consultant. I’ve worked in the food industry for over 20 years (click here to learn more) making… and eating high-quality, homemade, delicious, real foods.
Despite my “healthy,” balanced diet of natural foods, I managed to fall into the obese category for most of my adult life. I always thought, deep down, that it was because I lacked self-control and my portion sizes were all wrong. But it turns out I was mistaken. It was not how much I was eating, it was what I was eating.
A series of scary events in my life caused me to turn things around. I discovered I had high LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides and borderline high blood sugar. My blood pressure, which had always been rather low, was creeping up to high-normal. I had a couple of suspicious breast lumps (which, thankfully, ended up being benign), but since my family history is riddled with cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke, it shook me. I had low vitamin B12 levels, sleep apnea, low energy, aching joints, rosacea and frequent acne. I also went through a period of hormonally instigated depression and anxiety that I couldn’t seem to kick, even after repeatedly changing birth control medications. It was time for a change.
And let’s be real. Changing your health after you hit the big 4-0 is daunting.
I get asked how I lost the weight quite often. It’s understandable. I’ve gone through quite the transformation! I used to weigh 230 lbs. Today, I’m over 100 lbs lighter, full of energy, and all of the above health issues have completely resolved. How did I do it? Read on.
My Five Not-So-Easy Steps for Re-gaining Your Health
Why do I say “not-so-easy”? Weight loss, and the concepts behind it, are surprisingly simple to understand. But simple doesn’t mean easy. They can be difficult to implement, especially in a world designed to make and keep you sick and addicted to processed foods. Eating and drinking are interwoven into our very culture, as expressions of love, of social bonding, of comfort. The way we celebrate, mourn, connect with others and entertain ourselves all involve food. To be done correctly, and in a lasting way, transforming your body and health means doing a complete overhaul of your diet, your environment and your mindset, and retooling the way you socialize with others. This is no quick fix.
Don’t worry, though. This is about your health and longevity, and you have time to figure it out. It took me nearly two years to lose 100 pounds, at the rate of about a pound per week. However, because I took it slow, I was able to make solid changes that are now part of the foundation of my life and how I live it. Small changes add up. They make a huge difference in the long run, especially when you practise consistency. If you use temporary methods to lose weight, your weight loss will be temporary. I have no fear of regaining the weight because there was nothing temporary about the way I lost it. Go at your own pace, make each step a habit — truly make it part of your lifestyle — and you will have lifelong success.
Step 1: Make 90 to 95% of your diet whole, intact plant foods
I can get into all of the little scientific details of why plant foods are the most health-promoting choice and the best option for losing weight. The first place I would direct you to is nutritionfacts.org, where you will find hundreds of videos exploring cohort studies and peer-reviewed, double-blind, randomized clinical trials showing the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet. But for the sake of being concise, let’s stick to the actual steps!
What does “whole plant foods” mean? If it grew out of the ground, was picked from a tree, or grew in the ocean that way, you’re good. Enjoy it in abundance! Vegetables (including starchy ones, like potatoes), sea vegetables, mushrooms (ok, not a plant, but a fungus), fresh whole fruits, whole intact grains and legumes fall under this category. So do nuts and seeds, although I eat those in smaller quantities, due to their caloric density.
Step 2: eliminate refined sugar AND refined fat
We all understand refined sugar isn’t a health food. But a conversation that is really neglected is about refined fat and oils and their effect on health and weight management.
When you make a refined sugar, you take a whole food — something that is naturally sweet, like sugar cane or sugar beets — and you strip away all of the water, fibre and micronutrients, leaving behind the pure, crystalline carbohydrate. When you make oil, you take a whole fatty food — like olives, coconuts, seeds or nuts — and do the exact same thing. You strip away the water, the fibre and all or most of the micronutrients, leaving behind pure liquid or solid fat. You can refine these products more (white sugar, taste-free, refined oils), or less (turbinado sugar, cold-pressed virgin oils), but essentially, they’re the same… and their effect on your body is very similar. These foods are engineered, made in a factory, and are not natural or whole foods.
You might be thinking, “But how do I cook my food without oil? What do I put on my salad?” You have been conditioned to cook with oil, but you can easily train yourself to cook and eat without it. Steaming, boiling, stewing, roasting, broiling, grilling, even sauteing can all be done without oil, especially when you use a silicone baking sheet, parchment paper or a non-toxic nonstick pan. Full-flavoured dressings and sauces can be made without oil.
I don’t want to scare you off of fat entirely. Some fats are essential in the diet for good health and longevity. However, we get PLENTY of fat in our current diets. All whole foods contain fats in varying and naturally perfect amounts. The problem is, most have us have been pounding a lot of processed foods and oils that are very high in omega-6 fatty acids, throwing off our lipid balance and sending our systems into a state of inflammation and poor health.
The good news is that omega-3s aren’t as readily stored as body fat. They are mainly used to create cell membranes and other tissues (like the ones in your brain) and important hormones that are vital for your health and longevity. They’re also highly anti-inflammatory. Getting enough of them reduces stress hormones and actually helps your body release its stored water and fat.
Step 3: Focus on foods, not macros
But where will I get my protein? Aren’t all these carbs going to make me fat? We hear these questions about macronutrients (or macros) all the time.
First of all, protein is very, very important. So important, in fact, that it exists in all whole foods. Literally all of them. Plant foods are loaded with amino acids and when you get a variety of plant foods in your diet, you get all the amino acids you need in perfect proportion. Trust that nature has figured this out for you and that you don’t have to worry about it. Do you see elephants or gorillas counting macros or worrying about protein? No. You’ll also notice that they, some of the biggest, most powerful animals on the planet, are all plant-eaters. Just eat the plants in abundance, from a variety of sources, and you’ll be ok. I promise!
As far as carbs go, the misinformation in this category is very frustrating and confusing. As someone who has lost a gargantuan amount of weight on a very high carb diet, I can attest that no, carbs do not make you fat. Not even a little. But remember that what most people call “carbs,” like chips, cookies, pastries and fries often have not just carbs, but 3 major components added to them that make them highly addicting and fattening: salt, refined fat and sugar. It’s the salt, refined fat and sugar and the refining process that make them fattening, not the carbohydrates.
Think less about macronutrients and more about actual foods. Is it a whole, natural, intact plant food? Is it something your great-grandmother would recognize as food? Then rest assured that it has carbs, fat and protein all in fantastic ratios that support your health and help you stay lean. If you’re actively trying to lose fat, the exceptions are coconuts, nuts and nut butters, and seeds and seed butters (except flax, chia and hemp seeds), purely because of their high caloric density and high omega-6 and saturated fat content. Enjoy those less often if you find weight loss is slow.
Step 4: Make half your plate non-starchy veggies at every meal
One way to drastically lower the calorie density of your diet is to really load up on veggies. Non-starchy ones, to be specific. Examples of non-starchy veggies are basically anything you can eat raw or put in a salad – zucchini, peppers, carrots, snap peas, bok choy, cabbage, lettuces, chard, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, kale, mushrooms, onions, etc. There are many resources for this all over the internet, so if you’re not sure, just search your particular veggie online.
Step 5: Move your body every day
Does this mean you have to do some super-intense HIIT workout that leaves you dry heaving on your living room floor? No! I lost all of my weight doing very low-to-moderate intensity exercise, much of it brisk walking. Find something you love doing (or in the beginning, can tolerate doing) and do it for at least 30 minutes. Grit your teeth and just do it. Every single day. If that’s going for a leisurely bike ride, taking a Zumba class, going for a hike on a nature trail, running, doing calisthenics, trotting away on an elliptical machine, pumping iron in the gym, doing hot yoga, or a mix of all of those things, you’re doing great. Make it a habit. Quantity matters. It’s more important that you do it nearly every day than doing it perfectly. Just get up and dance, if that’s what makes you move! I love to do some serious kitchen dancing while I make dinner.
Eventually, you will start to notice how good it makes you feel and, next thing you know, you won’t feel good or right without it. If I don’t get some sort of exercise, I don’t concentrate as well, sleep as well or feel as good, emotionally. It’s become an integral ingredient in the recipe for my happiness and wellbeing.
Is it essential for weight loss? No. Most of these diet changes will do the job on their own. But it will make the weight loss quicker, help you bust through plateaus, and it will help you to live a long, healthy life. It also helps to prevent cognitive decline. It will add years to your life and life to your years.
I hope these tips help you.
To ask me specific questions, learn strategies to apply these tips and discover delicious food ideas (and more!), reach out to me for a free one-on-one consultation through the contact page above.
Eat well and be well,
Great story. Do you have a list of your services? I don’t have Twitter or Facebook.
I do! Please reach out to me through my contact page and I’ll email you back!
Ah, my old Keto friend. Was just thinking about you today. You look great! Congratulations on all your success! Love, Dustyboy
All those years I spent on ketogenic diets… If I’d only known!