Spokane Selfie

Those of you who have spoken to me any time in the past month or so know that I have hit another big bout of monitoring my health.  I wrote an accountability post back in August, shortly after we moved to Seattle.  From August until November, I had a great few months of working hard and losing weight.  I started at 214lbs in July and by November, I had lost 20lbs!  I had an average loss of about 5lbs per month.  I was weighing about 195 and fitting into some of my old clothes, and weighing less than I had in over a year.  It felt great!  The winter, however, was a plateau for me.  Thank goodness – I didn’t gain anything back.  From November to February, I stayed right between 195-190, never gaining above that, but not losing less than that either.  I wasn’t walking as much, I wasn’t calorie counting – I was just living my life.  I was doing what felt normal, and I maintained.

Lemon Water

Then, I’m not sure why – but something clicked in February.  Basketball pep band and winter concert season both ended, and I decided I was done with maintaining, and I decided to get serious about getting extra weight off of my body.  I started logging calories again, I started walking Harvey more regularly, and I started drinking more water.  I started eating 1200 calories or less every day, and after a week, I still hadn’t lost anything.  And I was starting to get discouraged and fed up (after only a week – I know).  Then, two things happened – a co-worker told me to try drinking lemon water first thing in the morning.  And I started sleeping more – about 8 or 9 hours per night.  (And I continued to eat 1100 – 1200 calories per day).  And I started seeing dramatic results:

MFP Graph 3-14-15

This graph is pulled from MyFitnessPal, which is the app that I use to track my weight, caloric intake, and exercise.  This is tracking from September 16th, 2014 until this morning, March 14th, 2015.  You can see in mid-late February how things started dropping off and have been fairly steady ever since!  For those of you seeking to pursue wellness for your own life, here’s what’s been working for me lately:

  • Don’t sit down when you get home from work until you’ve changed into your workout clothes and you’ve gone for a walk (or whatever).  Even just a short, 10-20 minute walk every day helps boost your metabolism and promote general wellness.   But once you sit on the couch – you’re done for!
  • First thing in the morning, freshly juice a lemon (or half a lemon, if a whole lemon is too much) into an 8oz glass and fill the rest with warm water.  It’s best if you drink it 30 minutes before breakfast.
  • Drink lots of water – I drink at least 2 liters every day.
  • If you’re looking to lose weight, track your calories carefully – and reduce caloric intake.  As long as you eat lots of vegetables and fruits and a multivitamin every day, you can definitely meet all your nutritional needs within 1200 calories – and it’s not as hard as you might think!
  • Sleep more.  Sleep metabolizes the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrin better than anything else, preventing you from putting on extra weight when you are stressed.

Whatever you’re going for – I wish you well in your pursuit of health!  Thank you all for your love and support.  I can’t wait to find the healthy body I’ve never ever had.  I hope to see a better glimpse of it this summer!

Earlier this week I posted about my recent revelation of what I actually want my body to look like.  And I mentioned that even though I know it is physically impossible to live up to the industry standard of beauty, I know that my weight is simply too high for the life that I want to live.  So to start, I thought I would state the reasons that I am choosing to lose weight this year:

1.  To live a long and healthy life with my husband.

    This is by far the most important reason I am choosing to lose weight.  While I know that I am capable of being healthy in an overweight body, I also know that weighing less will contribute to my overall health (with continued healthy lifestyle habits).  I want to live to be over 100, and I want my husband to be there with me.  We love each other so much, we don’t want extra weight and unhealthiness in our lives to cut us short on time we could spend together.


2.  To prepare my body for having children.

     Okay, nobody panic here.  Seriously.  It has always been in our plan to have at least one child by the time I turn 30 (I’m barely 25 – not getting pregnant tomorrow, people).  And I always have known that I will not be an obese pregnant woman.  Because my mom is a labor and delivery nurse, she has told me all about health risks to both the mother and the child in utero (when the time comes) when the woman is significantly overweight.  That knowledge has always made age 30 my “drop dead deadline” for when I had to actually, really lose weight.  But Tyler and I agreed recently that this wasn’t a close enough goal.  Why wouldn’t I want to enjoy more years of feeling good and looking great?  So this year, there is a third reason.

Ellie and Me!

3.  To finally, finally be able to fit into my “skinny” clothes.  

    Clothes that I purchased when I weighed less, and in particular, several items of clothing that I bought years ago as a “motivation” to lose weight so that I could fit into them.  I have literally never worn 5-10% of the clothes in my closet, and this is the year that I will wear them.  How you say?  The Hanger Flip.


With my new gigantic closet in our Seattle apartment, I have room for every single shirt, pant, skirt, tank top, sweater, and dress to be hung up for me to see.  A couple of weeks ago, I flipped every hanger so that they were hung “backwards.”  As soon as I wear that item of clothing (in public, not just to try it on), it gets hung back up the closet “normally.”  Any item of clothing that has not been worn by August 15, 2015 goes straight to Goodwill.


I encourage any of you with lots of “skinny” clothes hanging in your closets to try this!  There are so many items in there that I have either never worn or that I have really missed being able to wear and the thought of them disappearing forever is great motivation for me to keep going!  In fact, Tyler and I have even thought about “This dress will probably work again when I’m 195” or “This one will probably have to wait until I’m in the 170’s” so that I have lots of check-in points with clothes along the way.  I am so excited for this first year of ours in Seattle and to see some positive change in my body and in my wardrobe!

The other thing that I’ve done is set up “Wellness Check In” appointments in my calendar.


I absolutely live my LIFE by my Google Calendars.  If it doesn’t go on a to-do list or as an event in my calendar, it doesn’t happen.  I think this has been my biggest downfall in sticking with the goals I’ve set for myself in the past.  So, I set myself a once a month appointment in our shared family calendar (translation:  Tyler can see when those are coming and be a part of the conversation) with a target to work towards. If I make the target weight, I get the reward!  If I don’t make the target that month, then I adjust the rest of my targets according to what I actually weighed that month so I don’t get stuck in the “I’m so far behind, I may as well give up” mentality.


My favorite part of my wellness check-in sheet is that I earn a non food or drink related reward for each step of the way!  For example, in September, if I drop below 200lbs I will reward myself with a massage!  In October, I get a mani/pedi.  November, I have a set appointment to try on all the dresses in my closet to see which ones now fit GREAT and which ones I have shrunken out of.  When I reach my goal weight (ideally in May) then I will get to go on a weekend away with Tyler, just us (which I’m pretty sure we’ve never done before).  My basic philosophy throughout this whole process is this:

  • Celebrate successes
  • Forgive failures
  • Start each day anew

Forgiving failures is a hard one for me.  If I feel like I had a rock star day for nutrition and exercise, I get angry when the scale doesn’t reflect that the next day.  That makes me want to throw in the towel altogether, eat a big pile of baked goods and take a nap.  But having reasonable goals (aim for losing 1.5lbs per week) and room to adjust if needed will help me find success this year.  The goal is always forward motion, and not to get bogged down when a week inevitably goes awry.

I know many people get sick of hearing weight-loss talk and stories, and if I lose a few followers, that’s fine.  But I also know that many of us make choices to carry extra weight and need the boost to choose health every day.  So if you’re feeling discouraged – send me a message!  If you are celebrating success for health in your life, let me know!   I am always willing to share and collaborate and help others be accountable.  We all want the same thing – to live long, happy lives – and we can help each other get there!

Body image is such a hot topic right now.  If you haven’t seen any of the videos floating around the Internet that show how absolutely insane photoshopping models has gotten, I highly recommend this one, which shows a photograph of a real model transformed into a “magazine-ready” photo:

And also this video, which is done on a music video of this woman singing and being adjusted in video software as she sings.

And one of my favorites, four average women made to look like “cover-ready” models:

In all of these, the final part of the video shows the normal human next to the fully edited version.  In nearly every single one, you look at the photoshopped version of the woman and she looks like an alien next to a normal human.  It looks so foreign, and so far from what the woman actually looks like.  Even though I don’t buy magazines, I do go to clothing stores.  I’m active on pinterest occasionally.  And I watch movies and TV.  In all of these situations, the women being portrayed are not what women really look like.  Even the models and actresses don’t really look that good in real life.  And even though their real-life, non-edited bodies still look phenomenal next to the average woman, we forget that looking toned and thin is their full time job.  That is literally their only income is to be beautiful, so they can spend their time and their money on excellent quality food, hours on end at the gym with trainers, and paid staff to make their hair, makeup and wardrobe look flawless.

I’ve been reflecting on this a great deal lately.  While I have been working exceptionally hard to eat excellent food and exercise as much as I can, I have been holding in my head a standard for what I want myself to look like that is unrealistic.   This last weekend I spent the day at a resort in Chelan, WA for a bachelorette party.  Because it was a resort with a pool next to a lake, pretty much everyone there was walking around in just a bathing suit.   I knew this would be the case, and I was panicked about it. I don’t wear bathing suits. Like ever. Especially when I’m north of 200lbs, I feel like I’m doing a detriment to society when I wear a bathing suit in public.  This particular picture was taken on our honeymoon in July of 2011 where I was just shy of 200lbs and even in a country where nobody knew me, it was a “take a deep breath, Sarah, it’s going to be okay” moment.  We took this picture, but I didn’t even post it to Facebook.  I had to dig through old photos on an external hard drive to find it.  I’m pretty sure I’ve worn a bathing suit once since this picture was taken.


But this was the agenda for the weekend – go swimming, go boating, have fun!  And I wasn’t going to be the girl in jeans and a T-Shirt saying “I don’t wear bathing suits” and making everyone feel uncomfortable.  So I decided to don this very suit and, armed with a swimsuit cover-up scarf, I just went for it.  I wore a bathing suit for hours on end, in public, and it wasn’t a big deal.  Nobody said “OH MY GOD, put your clothes on!  You are SO fat!”  Nobody laughed at me.  Nobody probably even thought those things.  In fact, I got a few compliments on my suit cover-up.  People looked at me in that suit and thought “She looks cute!”  They did not think “Ew, gross.”  And even if they did, they kept it to themselves.  Here’s the kicker for me – I really don’t think very many women go around harshly judging every outfit and makeup and strand of fuzzy hair on every single woman they see.  Sure, sometimes we see someone in an outrageous outfit and think “Wow, I would never wear that!”  But who cares?  That person obviously is comfortable wearing it and that is their absolute right.

My other mind-blowing moment of the weekend was this – watching everyone else in their suits.  Sure, you could say this contradicts what  I just said about women not judging each other, but I don’t think so.  What I observed was – almost NO ONE had a truly flat stomach.  That always seemed like my very biggest flaw in life is that I have never had a flat stomach and that somehow I was supposed to.  But I looked around at these women in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s and I had a revelation.  Even the girls who are at healthy weights, the girls who are in great shape – nearly all of them still have a little bit of a belly.  And it’s not a bad thing.  It is normal for women to carry a little bit of extra body fat on their torso.  It doesn’t make them fat.  It doesn’t make them ugly.  It makes them normal.  There were women at the resort who probably wear a size 14 who were in two piece bathing suits.  And nobody made fun of them.  They were comfortable in their own skin, they were confident, and it shone through.  They looked good!  This blew my mind.

10609675_10152638477640135_3566532787541288608_n It gave me the confidence to wear a tank dress without a shrug again.  I haven’t done that in years.  It’s not even that big of a deal – just this small piece of fabric that helps me feel more secure.  But it was SO HOT that night, and I realized, “I don’t want to wear this.  And I don’t need to wear this.”  So I didn’t.

This isn’t to say that I don’t need to weigh less.  I really believe I do.  And I will continue to work on that every minute of every day.  But it will not be because I think I look fat and it’s a detriment to society for people to have to look at fat people.  I’ll post later this week about my motivations for my own personal weight-loss (and how it’s going!) but you can guarantee that “to have a flat stomach so people don’t judge me” is not on my list.  And it shouldn’t be on yours either!  Be the best you that you can be, and don’t try to live up to the “industry standard” of beauty.  Because nobody looks like that.  Today, I will choose to be happy with how I look, and know that I am doing what I do best – being me!


Fat and Healthy

How is it possible?  I mean, really.  These two things do not go together in our heads.  If you are fat, you are most certainly not healthy.  If you are healthy, you aren’t fat.  We have massive government programs to reduce obesity and increase health.  It is certainly proven that being overweight/obese can absolutely contribute to a multitude of diseases and health problems – I am not contesting that.  But I am contesting the idea that someone’s waist size is the primary indicator of their wellbeing.  All my life, I have seen overweight people eat vegetables or riding a bike and think “Good for them, they really need it.”  And I have seen thin people eating junk food and not thought twice.  This week, I was challenged to think differently.

End of All Things

May 2009 Sunrise with friends in Spokane

I remember the first time someone implied that I weighed more than I should.  When I was eleven and getting fitted for a dance costume at some fancy parlor, the woman at the store looked down at my stomach and said “You’ve got a little pooch there, don’t you?”  I felt so uncomfortable, and I didn’t know what to say.  My mom had a tummy, my dad is overweight, I figured that’s what “normal” people looked like.  I’ve always been a “big” girl, and therefore always believed I was unhealthy.  Health wasn’t ever a big priority for me, it was just one of the things that defined me.  In fact, never once in my twelve years in grade school did I ever have a PE teacher force me to run an entire mile.  I always walked part of it, and they never bothered me about it.  Running a mile seemed like something fat people couldn’t do and apparently my teachers agreed.  I didn’t understand nutrition.  I didn’t do sports.  I assumed I would continue to live like the majority of Americans:  drinking soda, eating fast food, sedentary, and overweight.  For all eternity.

Butte Challenge

May 2012 Butte Challenge: My first 5k

Then, in January of 2012, I ran my first mile of my life.  I weighed about 190lbs and my BMI classified me as obese.  It was such a major accomplishment for me.  I lost some weight that year, but mostly I learned that I am so much more capable than I ever thought I was.  That year I did my first 5k and I ran the whole thing (number 66, in case you hadn’t worked that out).  As Tyler and I got settled into our married life, we intentionally but very naturally incorporated scratch cooking into our lifestyle.  We bought BPA free water bottles and started drinking more and more water.  Still only ever barely dipped into the “overweight” category of my BMI, but we were taking care of our bodies.

The past year or so has been challenging for weight for both Tyler and I.  Tyler had just started a job that took him away from always being on his feet at a retail store and put him primarily sedentary behind a desk.  I worked at a few camps over the summer and got incredibly carried away with camp food and very little activity at home during my teacher summer.  Our scale broke in our move to Kennewick and it took us about three months to replace it.  Lack of monitoring meant that when we did eventually weigh in again, we both ended up surprised and alarmed.  We started going to the gym, adding more vegetables into our diet, increasing water intake again – all the things you do when you want to be healthy.  Here’s the infuriating thing, though:  My weight has not gone down dramatically.  Not at all.  Only seven pounds since the beginning of the year.  Every time I stepped on a scale or looked in a mirror I feltlike an utter and complete failure.  Nothing has truly changed.  My “thin” clothes still don’t fit.  And I don’t want to buy more “fat” clothes.  So I was unhappy with myself every single day, and working out to punish myself for every poor food choice I ever made to make myself look like this.


Spring Break 2014 in Boise with girlfriends

This week, I got some additional insight into my health.  In the past 12 months I have had a full metabolic panel taken three times. Nothing big, just checking in.  A year ago, my labs looked pretty good.  This week my labs looked AMAZING.  My doctor raved for five full minutes about how much she loved my labs.  My cholesterol is phenomenal.  She said it looked like I was on medication to lower it, it was so good.  “Better than mine!” she said with a grin.  Did I mention what a petite human my doctor is?  She said my kidney and liver functions look like I’m a teenager.  And while I’m not that far past my teenage years, I feel like  that is still an accomplishment. I beamed widely for a moment, but then I was puzzled.  I looked at my doctor and said “You know, technically, I am obese according to my BMI.  I am really quite overweight still.”  She looked right back and said, “But your labs show that you are doing everything right to take care of your body.  Everybody’s built differently.  You are healthy.  Your body is working on the inside exactly how it is supposed to.  Keep up the great work!”  It was by far the best doctor’s appointment of my life.  What could be better than your doctor looking at you square in the face and giving you a complete and total approval of all the choices you are making?  I was over the moon.  And my paradigm was busted.

There are many thin people who are unhealthy.  Lots of thin people eat terrible foods, drink only beverages packed with high fructose corn syrup and never work out.  And plenty of overweight people eat great food, hydrate like crazy, and exercise several times a week.  Everyone is on a journey.  Some people are on a journey from thick to thin, others from thin to thick.  Some people will stay the same size their whole lives.  Here’s my headline here:  it doesn’t matter.  How much you weigh does not impact the fact that eating vegetables is good for you and eating processed junk food is bad for you.  Whether an obese person is on a walk or a body builder is doing dead lifts, both of them are making positive choices for their bodies and their lives.  If I see someone on the street, the fact that I can see what their body looks like and guess at how much they weigh gives me a teeny tiny little piece of the puzzle of what that person’s health is, not to mention what their story is.  I know just as much about the inner workings of their body as they know about mine.  We are all humans making the best of our situations, and what we see is truly skin deep.

Palm Selfie

March 2014: Palm tree selfie with my mom in SoCal

So I’ve decided to see myself differently.  Even now, looking at these recent pictures, I don’t see an obese girl.  I see a happy girl.  Just this week, the girl in those pictures ran a 5k on Monday, biked 10 miles on Tuesday and is hiking Badger Mountain over the weekend.  I may not be the most thin girl you’ve ever met.  And you know something?  I never will be the thinnest thing on two legs.  But that doesn’t keep me from being healthy.  And I certainly won’t let it keep me from being happy.


Can I be real for a second?  I talk a big talk.  I really do wholeheartedly believe that the more things we eat that grow in the ground, the longer we live.  And I really do eat tons more vegetables now than I have at any other point in my life.  We have gone to the gym more in 2013 than we did in 2012 and 2011.  And I now weigh almost as much as I ever have in my entire life.  WHAT.  THE.  HECK.

Except, not really.  I do know why.  Adding in some green beans to a meal that includes 2 cups of pasta and 7 pieces of garlic bread followed up by snaking on more empty carbs throughout the evening doesn’t make for a healthy lifestyle.  But I ate some green beans!  And a few baby carrots!  And then, handfuls of cereal and some Christmas cookies and a piece of toast slathered in Nutella.  It’s not a complete equation.  There is no reason for me to be surprised that my weight continues to climb.

Husband and I talked extensively about this on the way home from our Christmas trip to the San Juans.  He was so burned out from all the sugar consumption of the holidays.  Disappointingly, it seems that I never really get burned out on sugar.  But both of us were indeed craving vegetables.  We also both just felt like we haven’t been doing our part in taking care of our bodies.  Especially the last few months with Lucy, we have not wanted to go to the gym – we wanted to be home with her.  And there is boatloads of research that supports that stress absolutely contributes to weight gain, for a variety of reasons.  Now just seems like the perfect time to get back on the horse and try to live a healthier life again.  We’re going to pretend like it’s not just a New Year’s resolution since we’re really re-booting on December 30th, but there really is something perfect about New Year’s coming immediately after all of the sugar, fats and gluttony that the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas brings out in Americans like us.

New Year 2014

We got home last night and made a boatload of vegetable juice.  We drank some then, and the rest we will drink today.  Disappointingly, it was the first time our juicer had had a workout since we moved to Kennewick in July.  It’s just one important step.  Here’s what we’re going to try to do better in 2014 (and the last two days of 2013).

 –  Eat more veggies.  Neither of us minds eating vegetables, it just simply isn’t an integral part of every meal that we eat and it has to be.  There is nothing better we can do for our health, except possibly

 –  Drink more water.  Also something we have been good at in the past and it’s time to re-boot that.  We both own water bottles and keep them with us at all times.  Part of what will help us is doing water challenges – seeing which one of us can drink more water in a day and keeping in touch throughout the day on how our water intake is doing.

 –  Make the gym a regular routine.  We joined Gold’s Gym in October and our attendance in October and November was actually pretty great, until Lucy started going downhill.  Now that that chapter in our lives is closed, it’s time to get back in that habit.  Bring a gym bag in the car every day so that you always have the option.  It seems like once we meet up at home to go to the gym together it is so much easier to just stay home.  So we will work much harder at meeting there to work out together.  Also, having a FitBit is making me want to go out and move more to get more points and blinking dots on my wrist, so I am looking forward to that being an additional motivator.

 –  Continue to cook for ourselves.  This is something we actually rock at.  We pretty much never go out to dinner, especially just the two of us.  The times we eat out are when we are meeting up with friends in a city we don’t live in, but when we’re home, we make our own food.  Granted, those meals almost always start life as a frozen chicken breast, but still, we save ourselves a ton of money by eating this way.  Our job now is to incorporate more veggies into these, and less starches.

 –  Meatless Mondays. This is a thing that many people already do and I’m sure isn’t a foreign concept to many of you.  The main motivator behind Meatless Mondays is that Americans eat way too much meat.  I mean way way way way too much – about 7 times as much as the recommended allowance. And that contributes to our fast-food way of life, commercial production of cows, hogs, and chickens, etc.  If all Americans just ate vegetarian one day per week it would greatly reduce our carbon footprint as well as a million health benefits for that individual, and for the planet.  We have always believed in it, but never made it a part of our lives.  So we are going to try that (starting today!) and see if we like the results.  If you have any favorite vegetarian dishes, we could really use some help on those!

 – Continue to support each other in our health pursuits.   Again, we actually rock at this one already.  We love each other so much and ultimately want both of us to live healthier so that we have more years to spend together.  Being on each other’s team is an integral part of our support system, and we will continue to do that for each other as long as we both shall live.  And that includes water intake and veggies!

So here we raise a glass to a happier, healthier 2014!  And we wish the same for you.

Tyler and Sarah


Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. Exercise for physical renewal, prayer (meditation, yoga, etc.) and read for mental renewal.  Provide service to society for spiritual renewal.

That’s a quote from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. For a while there, everyone was really into that book, it seemed like.  I think I read the one that was aimed at Highly Effective Teens.  I really liked a great deal of what the book was about – I work hard to be an effective and efficient person.  But sharpening the saw is a hard one for me.

The other night, after being sick for two and a half weeks and having been at work for a very long time that day, Tyler asked how I felt.  I said, “Empty.  I don’t have anything left.”  We had a long conversation about it.  Here’s my perspective:

I live hard.  I love hard.  I work hard.  I give everything I have to everyone and everything but me.  I think part of this came from growing up in the church.  This mentality is considered having “A Servant’s Heart.”  If you give away everything you have, then the Lord will fill you back up and renew you to give even more to the Kingdom.  I give and give and give, and take little to no time for myself.  Sometimes that means that I end up empty.  I have given it all away, and I am left without feeling, emotion, truly anything.  I’m not hungry or tired or thirsty.  I am nothing – I am empty.  Then I go to bed and wake up the next day and it’s like that feeling never happened.  I am amazed at my ability to wake up in the morning and start the new day fresh.  And because I can do that, it feels like there are little to no consequences for spending my resources until I am empty.  Why shouldn’t I be generous with everything that I have?  Why would I say “no” to performing with another ensemble, going to another conference, hanging out with that group of friends – ever?  Why would I ever say no to anything?

Here’s Tyler’s perspective:

Why?  Why would you spend until you are completely empty?  Why not reserve some time and resources into renewing yourself so that you can be more effective?  Who does it help when you are completely drained of everything and get sick for weeks at a time?  Is it worth it?

So, as I was going into my third week of being sick (and even resting whenever possible on weekends), I decided it was time to take some days off of work.  I have to emphasize – I never do this.  I try to avoid it at all possible costs.  I’m pretty sure I’ve taken a total of one or two sick days in the past two years that I’ve worked for Umatilla.  And that includes during the six weeks that I was sick at the beginning of last school year.  This week, I decided to take three days.  In a row.  I’ve never done that before, ever, at all.  It’s hard for me to think about my kids working with non-music subs while I’m at home trying to nurse myself back to health.  But I’m optimistic that if I truly take some time for just me, I have a prayer of getting better.  Hopefully, even by Monday.

Losing weight is a journey that many of us as Americans go through at various stages in life.  Looking at the person in the mirror and saying “Nope, not good enough (yet)” is a regular occurrence.  Even now, at least 10lbs lighter than I have ever been in my life, that morning pep talk still happens most days.  “Nope.  Not there yet.”  Occasionally someone will say “DANG girl!  You look good!”  And I honestly don’t believe them.  But I typically say “Thank you.  I don’t always feel like it, but thank you for saying so.”  Because the truth is I never feel like it. When you and those closest to you see you every day or even once a week, it’s much harder to notice the gradual change. You just smile, accept the compliment, and hope they’re not lying just to make you feel good.

What it took for me to notice actual change in my appearance was looking back at the photos that were taken during our trip to Seattle this weekend.  While I still don’t see the body I want to have, I did notice that my face really does look slimmer. It makes it easier to accept the compliments, because there is real change happening here, even if I don’t always see it.

I’m not going to pretend that these are before and after pictures, because they aren’t.  Consider them before and during photos, with after coming about 30lbs from now.  Here’s what I looked like in 2009, about 50lbs heavier than I am now.

Ignore the hair in the wind if you can.

The best part?  He genuinely loved me, even at a size 16-18.  That’s a real man.

Probably my favorite – making indoor s’mores in our college apartment.  A one time occurrence, but definitely contributing to this lifestyle.  Also, where did that necklace go?  I miss it.

That was me at 226lbs, Class I obesity.  I didn’t know how to exercise, I didn’t weigh myself, and I certainly wasn’t putting good fuel into my body (see above).  Here’s me today:

Me and a dear friend Felicity this past weekend in Seattle

Celebrating a friend’s birthday in Seattle this weekend with some of my closest Whitworth friends.  A joyous reunion indeed!

This is Sarah Butler today. I workout regularly, I weigh myself every week, and I try to be very intentional about what goes into my body. I often slip up. It’s hard to break 20 years of bad habits, behaviors, and attitudes about food. But certainly much better off than I was at 226lbs.

I’ll say it again – this is not the “Before and After” shoot.  I still look in the mirror everyday and say “Not quite.  Still room to grow (or shrink, as the case may be).  Not there yet.”  For those of you irritated with me for not celebrating the success, you’re allowed to be annoyed.  The only consolation you may take in my daily speech is that last word – yet.  It’s the same word I use with my students all the time.

Student:  “This music is too hard – I can’t play this!”
Mrs. Butler:  “Yet.”

Student:  “Mrs. Butler!  Why the heck would you give us this piece?  We speak ENGLISH!  We don’t know how to sing in Latin!”
Mrs. Butler:  “Yet.”

It implies that we are all a work in progress.  It’s not saying that I hate the body I am in, or that I want to give up.  It’s me saying that I am still on my way to finding what that body will look and feel like to live in.  It’s been rough the past few months –  I’ve been maintaining rather than losing weight lately.  It makes it much harder to accept the compliments when people claim that I look good.  But I try my best to forgive myself and remember that it’s all forward motion. As long as I’m not taking steps back (gaining weight) it’s all moving in the right direction.  I will not always be in “weight loss mode.” Once I reach what looks and feels like a healthy body, I will need to be able to maintain the way I am now.  So for today, I will attempt to celebrate what I consider to be minor successes in the big picture of things, but always keeping my eye on the prize – a healthier and (hopefully) happier me.

This may be uncomfortable for some of you to read.  You may walk away from this saying, “She’s such a hippie.  How can she expect everyone to make a change this drastic in their lives?”  This is a touchy subject, and one that most of us happily ignore – one that I ignored until recently.  I have written and re-written this post several times trying to condense it down to what I foundationally believe and what I think needs to be said by many more voices to the American public.  I know that this blog is not on the national scene, but I want the people who I care deeply for to know what I care deeply about, and what I want for their lives.

I’ve already posted about the start of my journey to healthier living, and won’t go in to all of it again.  But I do want to preface with this:  I have struggled with my weight my whole life, as have most of the people in my family who live in America.  I am still 20lbs away from being at a “Normal” weight according to my BMI, but more importantly, I have been working very hard to make healthier changes for me and my small little family (husband and dog count, right?).  The following is a condensed essay, essentially, of information I have gleaned from a variety of researchers, documentaries, books, and studies I’ve read or watched.  If this isn’t a conversation you’ve had recently or isn’t something you’ve ever seriously considered, I’m asking you to please take a minute and think about your personal impact on our national epidemic.

The bottom line:  We have a national epidemic of obesity.  We are sick, we are obese, and we are dying every day from the food that we put into our bodies.  The leading killer in the United States is Heart Disease – a 100% preventable disease.  Hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes are rampant.  We all know these things, this is not news.  In my opinion, we no longer have the luxury of ignoring what we know to be true.  Now is the time for all of us, every single one of us to take a close look at how we live, what we eat, and what future we create for the generations to come.  If you are not interested in these things, you will find the rest of this post quite tiresome, so please feel free to stop here.

I posted on Facebook a little while ago about this movie, Hungry for Change.  I doubt anybody else watched it during the free online premiere , but I really loved it.  It strongly promoted putting raw, fresh foods into our bodies – particularly vegetables. It has become a hobby of mine to watch a health documentary on Netflix Instant pretty much every weekend.  The content of the majority of this essay comes from the following films:
Food, INC
Food Matters
Forks Over Knives
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (starts slow, but gets better)
The Future of Food
TED Talks:  Chew on This
TED Talks:  Defying Disease
Book:  The Omnivore’s Dilemma 

Nearly every single one of those movies is about adding in more vegetables (and fruits) into our diets.  Dramatically more.  Everybody always said “Eat your vegetables – they’re good for you.”  But it never truly sunk in for me until I watched these movies and other research I’ve done to realize just how critical vegetables are for our health.

Remember the food pyramid my generation was taught in elementary school?  This was instated in 1992, so most of my friends and I all learned this one:

I’m pretty sure everybody already knows this, but just in case you didn’t – it is old and outdated.  They soon replaced it with MyPyramid in 2005 (which added an exercise component):

There are many things I disagree with in these diagrams (Dairy is an essential food group?  When 75% of the world’s adult population is lactose intolerant?).  But my biggest problem with both of these pyramids is that grains are at the bottom.  Again, this may be common knowledge by now, but there is absolutely no reason for processed grains to be the foundation of our diet.  The reason we are led to believe so?  That’s where the money is made in the food industry:  highly processed foods – typically involving grains.  Breakfast cereals, breads, cookies, crackers, granola bars, pastas, pizzas, frozen dinners, etc. are the big money makers for large food conglomerates (Food, INC).  There isn’t much money to be made in raw foods such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts (except by the farmers, most of whom are struggling to make a living).  Most recently, Michelle Obama started an initiative where – for the first time – vegetables begin to take the main stage as one of the most important parts of our diet.  MyPlate was launched in 2011:

Although I am grateful that this increase in vegetable intake is being taught in schools, placed on food labeling, and marketed across the country, I still don’t believe it’s the healthiest way for us to be eating.  Grains are simply not necessary for us to eat – they are often packed with bad stuff (high fructose corn syrup, fats, etc) and the good stuff we can get from them (carbohydrates, fiber) are found in abundance in plant foods. (More information on the effect of grain intake on the body can be found in Hungry For Change, several of the TED Talks:  Chew on This or in the book Wheat Belly).

Research has shown us that diets made up entirely of raw, plant-based foods and supplemental vitamins have the following benefits:
–  Mental clarity
–  Improved energy
–  Improved digestion
–  Weight loss
–  Balanced moods
(http://www.cleanprogram.com/ and Hungry for Change)
– Clear, bright skin
– Shiny hair
– Strong nails
–  White eyes
(http://www.davidwolfe.com/ and Hungry for Change)
– Can halt and even reverse the development of some cancers
(Andrew W Saul at http://www.doctoryourself.com/ and Food Matters)
– Reduce the likelihood of developing a multitude of diseases, including Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, Alzheimer’s, Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke, Cerebral Malaria, Peripheral Arterial Disease, Neuropathies and many, many more (William Li at www.angio.org and also on the TED Talks:  Defying Disease)

I wholeheartedly believe in that research.  The trouble I run into when I apply this to my life is the same as the trouble anybody trying to be healthy has – that’s not what we’re used to.  We don’t enjoy eating plants.  We don’t enjoy exercising.  And we’re really good at only seeking to do what we do enjoy and only eating what we enjoy eating.  So most people who are unhappy with how they look or feel go on diets and put themselves on strict exercise regimens.  And while they are dieting and exercising, a large majority of people talk about how much they hate dieting and how they can’t wait to meet their weight loss goal so they can eat “normal” food again.  But diets do not work.  They really don’t.  All of us know those people who go on and off of diets, who gain and lose weight like crazy.  As soon as they think they look good, they reward themselves by eating the same food they always have, go back to never going on a walk or bike ride, and enjoy how they look for the short time that it lasts.  (Hungry for Change)

The time for diets is over.  What we now need is an epidemic of health.  A wave of people that take the country by storm by refusing to live as our parents have lived, refuse to eat the food of the generation that immediately preceded us.  Am I saying that everybody in the world should become vegan?  Drop everything you’ve ever enjoyed and join the ranks of those of us who will live to be 100?  Not necessarily – although I do believe that many, many more of us would live to be over 100 if we never ate meat again.  But I am saying that we need to start to make small, life-long changes, one week at a time.  Rather than try to eliminate everything bad from our diet, let’s add the good stuff in.  Rather than say, “I’m never eating a pastry again” we need to say “I’m going to increase my vegetable intake by one serving a day every day this week” and then really, really do it.  Many Americans do not eat even one serving of raw vegetables every day.  If that’s you – commit to doing something about it.  It’s not always fun, and it’s not always easy.  But it is important.  And once you add more and more of the good stuff in, it will crowd the bad stuff out, and you’ll be left with a body that functions as it was designed to.

There are loads of excuses for why we don’t eat the food that will keep us healthy and ultimately keep us alive longer.  We can talk about the body’s natural affinity for sugar, fat, and salt.  We can talk about the evil food companies that use those affinities to make billions by marketing and feeding us the unhealthy foods that are killing us (Hungry for Change).  We can talk about the fact that we live in a culture that facilitates consuming bad foods (getting lattes with friends, getting offered soda, potato chips, pizza, and desserts at every social event, etc).  But here again, I will state the bottom line:  We have a national epidemic of obesity.  We are sick, we are obese, and we are dying every day from diseases that are 100% preventable, simply from the food that we put into our bodies.

Here’s my final plea to you:  Please take a look at what you are putting into your body, and the food you are feeding your children.  Really examine what your family eats, and realize that the food into our bodies is the future we are creating for yourselves.  And always remember, the age-old wisdom.

 You are what you eat.

Prior to 2012, I had never really run in my life. Every time we “ran the mile” in P.E. as a kid, the longest I ever ran was a half mile at a time and convinced myself that I was just an overweight girl that couldn’t run. Then, the first week that my friends Tammy, Charlene and I were working out on the treadmills, Tammy suggested that we try “Long Run Saturday.” We’d been doing interval training (walking and running in 3-5 minute intervals) but just to see if we could do it, Tammy suggested that we take a nice slow pace and try to run for 30 minutes straight. I thought she was insane, and was quite confident that I’d never be able to run for 30 minutes straight. But I gave it a shot anyway to see how long I could run for. That day, I ran my first mile in my life. And I still felt good, so then I ran my second mile in my life. I ran for a full thirty minutes – and blew myself away.

Since then, I’ve increased my running speed and frequency, but only on a treadmill. I always feel really good after I run, but when I finish a ten minute mile, the good feeling comes with feeling nasty and sweaty and wanting to get out of the gym and go home.  But the one time I tried running outside by myself, I wore myself out in less than a quarter mile.  I was so freaked out, so sure that I could only run inside in the gym with complete control over my speed.  This did not sound good to me knowing that I was planning on doing the Butte Challenge, a 5K here in Hermiston on May 12th, terrified on running outside.  Thankfully, a fellow teacher (Cindy) agreed to train with me for the Butte Challenge, and yesterday we ran two miles outside on a track – beautifully!  It was so liberating, I came home all bubbly and full of energy and ready to take on the world.  I am now confident that I will be able to run a 5K in seven weeks, no problem, and check it off my bucket list.  When I went to the store later that evening, I made several realizations about myself.

 – I am a runner.  I am someone who can run consecutive miles, inside or out, and feel good doing it.

 – I am no longer obese.  I have walked away from unhealthy living and am choosing a better life for myself and my future family than I practiced in high school or college.

 – I am a wife.  At the end of the day, I come home to a husband I love so much I can hardly stand it.  He is incredible, and I am so very lucky to have him.

 – I am a band and choir director.  I went through all the motions – got good grades in high school, worked hard in college, got my teaching credentials and now I am “living the dream” and teaching real kids how to play and sing in a group and make music.  That happened – and I am living it, right now.

Sure, I may not be The Ideal Sarah Butler  yet.  But I am getting there, one day at a time.

Before my junior year in college, I had very little regard for health and wellness, much less fitness. By most definitions, I would say that I have yet to be a “healthy” adult.

Growing up, fitness was not a priority in our house. Other than one season of flag football and one of soccer as an elementary school kid, I was never really pushed into doing sports. It was decided early on that sports were not “for me” and instead I became involved piano lessons, band, dance, singing, 4-H and youth group. My eating habits varied from pretty bad to horrible. My favorite foods were (and are) foods high in fat, calories, and starches – pastries, potatoes, cheese, chocolate, ice cream, pastas, etc. In fact, until 2010, I didn’t even really know how to work out. It’s no surprise that ever since high school, I have been classified as “Obese” according to my BMI.

My sophomore Biology teacher once said something that caught the attention of every single girl in the room. “Here is Potter’s secret to weight loss. It is 100% effective, guaranteed. Are you writing this down? Because here it is: Eat less. Move more.” What a letdown. But I never forgot it. And five years later, I ended up doing something about it.

In November of 2010, Tyler (just my boyfriend at the time) had gotten used to (and probably gotten tired of) my constant complaining about how I didn’t like the skin that I’m in, that I didn’t like being overweight. He took a risk and said “So, why don’t you do something about it? We’re friends with Laura and Jill (a nutritionist and a personal trainer), why don’t you talk to them about it? I love you no matter what, but if this bothers you, then at least talk to them and see what they say.” There’s pretty much never a safe time for a guy to mention to his girlfriend that it might be good for her to lose weight, but thankfully I didn’t throw a beverage in his face, and took his advice instead. Over the course of 6 months I lost 35 pounds and have managed to keep them off since then. Once I lowered my BMI from Obese to simply Overweight, I lost some momentum, but lately I have attempted to embark on another bout of weight loss in hopes that I will soon be “Normal.”

Several things coincided that began me on another journey towards a healthier life. One of the first was that a Laura (now in grad school for Nutrition and Exercise Physiology) posted this video, shown to her by a professor in class:

23 and 1/2 Hours from Dr Mike on Vimeo.

Even though I didn’t count calories every single day of my life (it’s exhausting, if you’ve never done it before) one of the best habits I got in from my first round of weight loss was weighing myself once a week every single week at the same time (Tuesday mornings as soon as I get up). I’d never even owned a scale before then, but now I monitor and record my weight every week. January 23rd was the day that I’d officially regained the 10lbs that I’d lost during the school year. That was also the same time that a friend of mine got cleared to exercise after having her daughter in December. So that week, me and my two friends got gym memberships to Club 24 in Hermiston, and I started eating 1300 calories a day. We go to BodyPump once or twice a week, and work out on treadmills the rest of the week.

It’s been a little over a month, and my BMI is about to drop from “Obese” to “Overweight” again, and I am optimistic that I will no longer be in this category ever again. Even though it’s a hassle not getting to eat whatever I want to, I think it really is worth it. I am constantly perplexed by what I will even look like “when I’m skinny” – I honestly have no clue. But I want a better, healthier life for me and my future children, including a healthy body for me to have children in when I want them. I’m still 35 pounds away from reaching a BMI of “Normal” for the first time in my life, but I can’t wait to see what life will look like when I get there!

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