small tweaks, big changes (weight loss update) + inside a Japanese vegetable market

One of the greatest things about living on this lush, semi-tropical island is this:

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The people here seriously love their yasai (vegetables)!

But first.

Sometimes facing reality is…the pits.

It’s hard. And it’s easier (in the moment), to turn a blind eye & just accept the status quo.

I am of course talking generally, but this also applies to me specifically right now.

In my last post I shared how after the miscarriage I hadn’t lost any weight. And I was trying, sorta.

Emma, a veteran bring joy reader (who also is author of this great guest post on exercising after an eating disorder) left a really great comment on that post.

She says:

Hi Janae,

After reading this post, I was wondering WHY exactly you need to lose weight. You mention health, but there is evidence that suggests that health behaviours are far more predictive of health outcomes than weight or BMI. ie. what you do matters more than how much you weigh.

So it might pay more to focus on that instead. And it sounds like you’re pretty sorted in that respect anyway! (Although there’s obviously more to health than just what you’re eating and how much you’re exercising, like sleep and stress etc.)

Of course there is often an aesthetic aspect to weight loss as well, and I don’t blame you if you feel pressure because of that. It is so, so, so hard to ignore those messages.

Anyway, I hope you have a great week. Just thought I’d offer that other perspective.  I’d be keen to hear your thoughts.

Thanks!

My response:

Emma, what a great comment.

In truth, I have struggled with this myself. Does an extra 15-20 lbs. matter, especially with someone my height (I am 5’9″)?

I think this is part of the reason why I haven’t lost any weight. Part of me thinks that I should (so I can get down to my “normal” weight or an “average” BMI) & part of me just doesn’t care–I have so many things to worry about & this at times seems like the least of my worries. But, I do want to get pregnant again soon & I think it would be ideal to start out that pregnancy at a lower weight especially in light of all the weight gain that occurs with my pregnancies (especially the last one with the G.D.). The doctor I just consulted with said that at my current weight I shouldn’t gain more than 15-25 lbs. with a future pregnancy. I can’t imagine that as I have gained 40-50+ lbs. with each of my pregnancies (believe me, I would love for it to be less). Honestly, I wish I didn’t have to even think about it. But, I do. I do want to get pregnant again & I do want to do my best to be in a good place–both physically, mentally, & emotionally.

I have read a lot of conflicting stuff about BMI. Currently I’m at 25. 6 months ago I was at 21. Anything lower than that & I am quite skinny to the point of looking malnourished. In fact, according to the charts I could get down to 19 & still be “healthy” but I know I would be skin & bones at the point & know that would not be a healthy place. So, how much of it really matters when it comes to health?? Who knows. I mean, we do have quite a bit of research that can give us insight into risk factors, ect., but beyond that, it seems to be everyone’s interpretation of the data.

So to answer your question, as to WHY–I don’t know if I can give a definitive answer beyond, hey, they say this BMI is on the edge & so I should lose 10 pounds to be in a healthier place. Also, this weight is quite a bit above my normal, non-pregnant weight. Regardless, you’ve given me something to think about for sure, perhaps I’ll delve into it more in a future post, with more insights & hopefully more answers.

Emma asks a great question & brings up some valid points.

Broadening this question to apply not just to me, but to everyone, let’s ask–WHY should anyone lose weight if they are practicing healthy habits–exercising daily + living an active lifestyle, eating a mostly whole foods, varied plant-based diet, & doing the other things like adequate sleep & stress management that lend to a balanced & healthy life?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I can say for me, the question of why lose the weight, is when it really comes down to it–it’s because I want to!

Yes, I have talked about accepting my curves, & getting beyond size & scale, but this doesn’t mean I don’t have a weight range* I want to be at. There’s nothing wrong with this. I’m not shooting for some “perfect” number on the scale, or some unrealistic, unhealthy size. For me, somewhere between 150-160 lbs. (at 5’9″) is a place I’d like to be, & it’s place I’m not currently at. It’s a healthy place that I know I can be at without resorting to anything unbalanced or unsustainable.

*In my FSL ebook, I talk at greater length as to why a weight range, rather than a specific weight is the thing to shoot for.

Is there anything wrong with saying I feel better, not just about myself, but about life, when I am 10 or 15 pounds lighter than I currently am?

Nope.

I’ll tell you why.

You can want to lose weight & actually lose the weight, you can exercise, all without resorting to disordered eating or creating an unhealthy relationship with fitness. There is no rule book on exactly how to do this, & it really is a very personal, individual matter to know where that line is. That line that separates obsessive/extreme/unhealthy & balanced/sustainable/healthy.

I think I know my line & for me, restricting food or food groups that go beyond my ethical stance (not eating animals because, hey! I don’t have to & don’t want to cause an unnecessary suffering also, the health implications, also the WOW) & avoiding those foods that don’t agree with me (gluten & dairy), crosses that line.

There are diverse perspectives on a plant-based diet, & I respect diversity.

I am absolutely a believer that one size does not fit all, particularly when it comes to food.

For me, I have been in that place where I was only eating raw food (raw food diet–only lasted about 2 months), or when I was eating a lowfat vegan diet (no oils, very little nuts, or seeds) or that time when I was eating a strict Furhman-style approach (restricting grains but eating nuts & seeds & lots of fruit–admittedly this one was the hardest for me).

And then there was that long streak where I ate strict Jeff Novick style (essentially a McDougall MWL approach, but longterm).

Now that is a DIET for you, as in highly restrictive and prescriptive.

Here’s a little list of the don’ts on this diet:

No popcorn, cereals (unless they’re puffed grains), granola bars or any form of meal bars (including Lara bars or any other “bar”); No nuts (no nut butters! no cashew or coconut or almond ice cream!), seeds (a little flax seed is permitted), tofu (oye vey, don’t come to Japan!!), oils of any kind (liquid fat/heart attack makers, obviously), coconut products (no coconut milk!–HUGE sad face) & be careful about the avocados or olives (they’re “fattening”);  No flour products of any kind (except as I recall, corn tortillas & rice cakes), which means breads, cakes, pancakes, waffles, crepes, muffins are out; No smoothies & juices (too calorie dense & you should chew all your food not drink, unless it’s pureed soup which is somehow much more admissible).

I’m sure there are more foods to be avoided, but those are the ones that come to mind. It has been over 4 years since I was entrenched in eating this way, so maybe his approach has changed, or maybe I’m missing some key details, but this was how I recall it.

(You might also want to check out my post, Why John McDougall & Dave Ramsey are alike & Is Dr. John McDougall right?.)

I realize some people have found a sense of freedom from food eating this way (& his devotees are quite devout–as I once was), and really mean them no disrespect (truly!), but for me, this was the most intense & restrictive way of eating I had experimented with (next to a raw food diet) & while I ate this way for a long period of time, after a while I realized it gave me a constant anxiety about food that was NOT healthy.

It was extremely difficult to eat anywhere outside of my home & I became afraid of any of the calorie-dense foods (ie. all of the foods listed above).

Not to mention I was unnecessarily avoiding nutritious foods!

Furthermore, I have kids, & particularly two daughters, whom I absolutely don’t want to set the example of intense & unwarranted food restriction & avoidance.

For the record, I learned a lot about food when I ate this way, & appreciate some of the stuff that Mr. Novick has brought to the table, especially introducing me to Barbara Rolls work (which is fantastic! & which really inspires my current way of eating) & focusing on keeping things simple even if it means using frozen vegetables (which are often better anyway) or boil-in-a-bag white rice.

I know he has helped thousands of people with their health journey, but for me this particular way eating led me down a path of restriction that I just never want to go back to. Also, I don’t think he speaks well to the specific nutritional needs of women, or relates to people with children, but I digress.

So after all this (about 6 years into being plant-based, or nearly 4 years ago) I came to a place where I was like, forget this!

Why am I eating the way others tell me to eat?

(Especially when all of those “others” all contradict each other!)

How do they know MY body better than ME? Of course I can learn from the expertise & research of others, but the bottom line is, it’s my body, I need to have the intuition & courage to follow what I deem best for it.

So my FSL approach really was born of all this experience.

Real life experience as a busy mom of a large family (sometimes it just grates on me that some of these diet/foodie gurus think you have hours a day to spend prepping, preparing, & eating food!). I still spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen, especially perhaps compared to the average American fast-food eater, but I’ve discovered ways to keep things simple & sustainable (really these two feed off each other).

My 28-day Simple meal plan

And regarding my current weight loss journey, post pregnancy #6, after the last post I realized I needed to get serious about the weight loss if that’s what I wanted or just move on with my life. I was sitting on the fence & doing things half way, which wasn’t producing the results I wanted.

I made a few tweaks, namely:

  1. Started tracking my food intake. I had been using my FitBit app to track calories but it was mostly inconsitent at best (not only that I hate tracking calories–something about seeing those high numbers just messes with my brain). I found an app called ProTracker (only $3.99) that tracks WW points using the old Points Plus system (one that I really love & used after I had Tyndale, my #5). I go into more detail about why I like that system, & why tracking can be a really, really helpful tool when weight loss is your goal & is particularly helpful in getting results by helping you stay aware of what you’re putting in your mouth, in my FSL ebook.
  2. Upped my fresh produce intake, namely greens & other low-starch vegetables, like cauliflower, celery, zucchini. I had gotten out of my smoothie habit, but for the last week & half I have a daily green smoothie (only one piece of fruit & usually lots of lemon & ginger, similar to this one). I also make sure to have a HUGE raw salad with at least one of my meals. Check out my post 11 foods to focus on when weight loss stalls for more of what I’ve been eating lately. Oh, & roasted cauliflower soup--I definitely need to share that recipe with you.
  3. Making sure to never let myself get too hungry (no skipping meals), but also trusting that I’ve eaten enough for the day after dinner & allowing myself to go to bed just slightly hungry. This really is key for me. I have gone through periods where I would only eat one or two times a day–it was easier this way, at least in terms of prep & having to think about food–but I’ve found this leads me to imbalanced eating & I end up craving calorie dense food when I do this. Better for me to just pace myself throughout the day–eating this way also helps me to get more veggies in, which is key in displacing those higher calorie foods.
  4. Eating grains (other than rice)–which are nutritious & filling. Being on the island I have neglected things like quinoa, millet, buckwheat, & amaranth (I know quinoa & buckwheat aren’t technically grains, but that act & look like ’em, so humor me here). I ordered all three at the beginning of the month & finally got them (thanks Amazon Prime! (aff link)). White & brown rice are the big grains here, but I think diversifying my grains makes things more interesting & nutritious. (Buckwheat berry porridge–yeees!)

So I didn’t cut carbs (never!). I didn’t cut fats. I didn’t fast. I didn’t take any supplements or drink special weight loss shakes. I still had desserts like this (just not as often).

I simply made a few small tweaks, & in a weeks time these changes were enough to really get the ball rolling.

As of last Friday (7 days in), I lost over 5 pounds.

I realize much of the initial weight is water weight, but I’m now a week & half into this & I have already notice my clothes are fitting better–I am losing weight!

It’s empowering to know that I can lose weight without starving myself, without supplements, without cutting any particular food from my diet.

I eat the same foods as I normally do, I have just shifted the ratios–less calorie dense foods, a lot more calorie poor foods.

And all this brings me to one of my biggest inspirations–a new vegetable market I found that is amazing!

Check this thing out*:

JA-4

So many greens!! I was in heaven. This market is just one big open space with pallets of fresh, in season produce. GMO foods aren’t allowed in Japan, so one nice thing about all the produce, is it’s non-GMO (as long as it’s from Japan).

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Lots of kobacha & other squash, along with daikon, sweet potato greens, & various forms of sweet potatoes–yummy!

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The katakana (Japanese writing) above the word celery reads: serori, or in other words–celery!

I have never seen celery so luxuriously big as the ones here. I love using the leaves in smoothies, soups, & salads. A little over a buck for one of those bad boys–not bad.

JA-1

This photo gives you an idea of just how big the celery is, & just how small most of the Japanese people are.

In fact, I have never seen smaller or more petite & thin people than I have here!

*I know you all want more pics of the people here, but you know how weird it is to just take pictures of random people? The Japanese are a very polite culture, & taking pictures of people who you don’t know is kinda rude. But I tried to be as non-conspicuous as possible, hopefully these photos give you a better idea of what you might find at a market.

 

Other bring joy posts to read:


Comments


  1. Carly
    on February 9, 2016 at 12:51 pm said:

    Hey! Long-time lurker here. I wanted to say thank you so much for how personal and frank your writing is. The intersection of conceiving/early pregnancy and weight/health in these last posts really resonates with me right now.
    I never thought I would become pregnant, until I met the love of my life. When he told me he felt pulled to become a parent, that I would become a parent with him felt obvious — though not simple. I lost 40 lbs at one point, and have stalled for years at 165 (which is 15-25 lbs heavier than I think may be right for me at 5’6″). The idea of conceiving has galvanized me. Life is so much easier when you are healthy, and there’s something tender in me that wants to take care of myself for him and a possible child. I am tracking my calories and exercising more dedicatedly. It’s almost unbelievable how those simple actions can actually alter your body, and so empowering when you start noticing it.
    You rock for taking charge of the ways you can change your health! You’ve always got a cheerleader in me, rooting you and your family on from way over here in New Mexico. Good luck to the both of us! I hope life is sweet in the upcoming weeks!

  2. Cara
    on January 28, 2016 at 11:50 pm said:

    HEY! This post was great and I am similarly trying to get back down to what I call a “happy weight”, which is about 10-15 pounds. I do feel like we know our bodies best and that if you are more comfortable and are of healthy mind that striving for your “happy weight” is a healthy goal. I am 5’2 and for me extra weight feels really….uncomfortable, to say the least.

    I am sorry to hear that you had a bad experience with dr. mcdougall and his mwl program. I am a mcdougall fan and found that, for me, it is the most liberating way to eat. I love starches and find that I can comfortably lose weight without a constant hunger or feeling like I need to eat every few hours.

    A post from Potato Strong came to mind as I was reading. It is titled “Should I do starch solution or maximum weight loss” … The starch solution actually does include breads and pastas and all sorts of comfort foods. Avocados and dried fruits and nuts are even on plan/lifestyle. I have come from a restrictive eating background and can EASILY slip back into that mindset if I am not careful. I have found that with steering clear of the MWL and going the slow and steady course that I am able to be of healthy mind and body…but actually for me, I look to more of maintaining a healthy mind and the rest will follow.

    Forgive my rambling, I seem to have gone off a little bit with my thoughts. Anyway, just thought I would specifically mention the post from Potato Strong as an alternative to the MWL.

    It is GREAT that you are aware enough of yourself to know what triggers unhealthy behaviors and/or thoughts…you know you best! 🙂

    Below are the links to the potato strong post, and the color book from dr. mcdougall that is not the mwl, and a video of how to make popcorn without oil (peaked my curiosity on that one and now I am wanting some popcorn!)

    http://potatostrong.com/should-i-do-starch-solution-or-maximum-weight-loss/

    https://www.drmcdougall.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/Dr-McDougalls-Color-Picture-Book1.pdf

    • Janae Wise
      on January 29, 2016 at 12:26 am said:

      Hi Cara, not rambling at all–thanks for your sharing your thoughts!

      Don’t get me wrong–there are a lot of things I love about Dr. McDougall’s program (he taught me the importance of starches, & I am definetly not afraid to eat them), but I am just not a fan of any particular approach that issues a huge list of DON’TS; which his approach actually isn’t as restrictive as Jeff Novick’s, though they are very similar, Jeff just take it a step further because of his passion for CRON (calorie restriction optimal nutrition). The focusing on the don’ts is not my style–I would rather focus on what I should eat, what makes me feel great, while also making compassionate food choices.

      I am a rational, intelligent thinking adult with the information I need to make positive lifestyle choices & I just don’t appreciate the often dogmatic, overzealous approach that many in the diet world take. My diet isn’t my religion, and if I choose to use olive oil I am not doomed to an eternal hell.

      I think for people who like security & predictability & don’t want to make much of an effort thinking about portion sizes or caloric intake, than absolutely–restrict your diet to only low/moderate caloric foods (which is the essence of MWL) & you’re set. But for me, I live in a more complex world where food isn’t just something I eat for calories & nutrients, but it is a part of my every day experiences with friends, part of how I nurture my children, part of social engagements & gatherings. So, I have chosen to eat in a way where ther are no “forbidden” foods, just choices–if I eat some of this, that means I will have less of that & more of this, if that makes sense.

      Anyway, bottom line is that there are more ways than one to eat healthfully, no matter how much diet gurus like to convince people otherwise.

      Side note, I am writing this from Fukuoka, Japan! Today my husband & I just enjoyed some delicious Japanese food–miso soup w/ seaweed, salad with Japanese dressing (which wasn’t oil free), white sticky rice, an assortment of pickled vegetables. It was all delicious & I enjoyed it very much–

      Thanks for sharing those links–I will check them out 🙂

      • Cara
        on January 29, 2016 at 8:33 am said:

        Thank you for your thoughtful response, I enjoyed reading it. I understand the turn off of the “dogmatic, overzealous approach” that we are often bombarded with and the freedom of just eating to eat and not putting yourself in a box. Your meals sound so YUMMY!

  3. Amanda K.
    on January 26, 2016 at 8:58 pm said:

    Quick question — why is popcorn an “avoid” food? I eat a lot of popcorn and make it often (on the stovetop!) for my kids, and I see it occasionally listed as a food to avoid on diets (like whole30, and I think the AIP) and I’ve never known why?

  4. Sara
    on January 26, 2016 at 7:50 am said:

    Congrats on your weight loss. You often have very insightful posts. I think for myself I want to lose weight to be easier on my joints.

    Being taller do you feel that you are a giant in Japan, it’s kind of a weird question, but being taller myself I often feel this way myself, and I wonder if the extra weight you are carrying around is more noticeable to you because of this?

    • Janae Wise
      on January 26, 2016 at 3:30 pm said:

      Easier on the joints–absolutely! I notice that even 10 pounds makes a difference, especially when running.

      About the height, the Japanese are Petite (with a capital P) people, & Americans are generally taller & bigger. I think the locals just expect me to taller/bigger because I am an American. I don’t “feel” overweight in comparison to them, though no matter our stature, we all stick out like sore thumbs here 🙂

  5. Anna-Lena
    on January 26, 2016 at 1:55 am said:

    Hi Janae,
    Congratulations on yout weight loss success! I’d love to go Shopping at that market , everything looks so fresh.