Monday, December 12, 2011


The story of all the fluctuations in my weight could go on for the 30-some years it took to write it, but I want to take this time to reflect on the last 16 months of the journey, my time spent with Lean Eating. I had looked at the program before--each time a new one was posted. My worlds were not aligned, though. I was not fully ready for the program until the August, 2010 one started. As that sign up period hit, I had been beating my head against the same weight loss wall for years. Slowly, I had made progress, dropping a little weight here and a little there, sometimes gaining a little, but with an overall downward trend over the previous 7 years or so. Previously in my life, as I had really tried to lose weight, I could, but age and years of stress and who knows what else must have finally caught up with me because at 36 I found myself unable to drop more than a pound every few weeks, and any period of successive excess would lead to multiple pounds gained. Einstein is known to have said that the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Finally, during the summer of 2010, I was ready to stop the insanity. I was ready to turn the reigns over to someone else in hopes that they could guide me down the path more effectively. Truly, though, I had little hope that they could. Something in me believed that I was broken, that I couldn't lose weight any more, that I was destined to be chubby for the rest of my days. As I look back I can recall this feeling, but I feel disconnected from it. It seems so different from the person I am now.

I started that first program promising myself that I would follow it religiously for those six months, that I wouldn't give up for that six months. The first few weeks were exciting and as hopeful as I had been in a while. But the weeks continued to pass and the other women began to consistently lose weight. They were feeling the change and being (justifiably) happy about it. Six weeks passed. Eight weeks. And almost nothing. I still weighed more than I did the week before the program started. With each passing week of little or no change, I became more and more convinced that I was broken, that I was destined to be fat. But I had promised myself that I would stick with it. Six months, I would give it six months. Around this point in the program, I contacted Krista, my coach, for further guidance. One of the things she asked was whether or not I was weighing myself daily. Of course I had been, I had been weighing every morning since long before LE. It was my way of making sure my weight wasn't creeping up, so turning loose of that was a difficult-difficult for me. She also asked that I "check" my attitude and work aggressively on being positive and thinking about and visualizing progress. "I am getting lighter and leaner with every step. Today I am lighter and leaner than yesterday. Tomorrow I will be lighter and leaner still... " became my mantra. When I woke up every morning, instead of weighing, I would repeat my mantra. Any time I started thinking negatively, I would repeat my mantra. It was ever-present. And the weight started to slowly move. By the end of the first round, I had lost 16 pounds, but as I looked at myself and the pictures after peak week, I was disgusted and disappointed. I had made progress, the first progress of any extent that I had made in a long, long time but I wasn't where I wanted to be, and I was left with a dilemma.
By the end of that round, I felt like I was living the habits. I was doing them. I understood them. They were my way of life. But I was afraid. The idea of being away from the structure and support of the program scared the hell out of me. Although in retrospect the answer seems clear, at the time I was unsure if my best course of action would be signing up for the alumni program or starting another complete round of Lean Eating. That decision was a painful one for me (as are most life decisions). Finally, though, I decided that I still had quite a ways to go, and participating in another round really had few drawbacks, so as much as I would miss my fellow Barbelles with whom I had bonded so well, I would move ahead with another group.
My bonding with the new group was slow--mostly from my own hesitancy--but I told myself to give the great ladies a chance, and as I did I, came to love them. Again, I wanted to give the program my full effort and was happy to see as I did that the lessons were not just a repeat of the previous round's lessons. Again, my progress was slow but was slightly more steady than during the first round. Then came the opportunity to go to the LE Gathering in Niagara. I had promised myself and Marc that I wouldn't go anywhere other than TN without him in 2011. (I had made too many trips without him in the previous couple of years.) May, however, was a painful month for me. Losing Daddy suddenly and almost losing my mom after she fell a week later, I was taxed physically, mentally and emotionally and needed something out of the ordinary to look forward to. The gathering became that something.
The gathering also provided the change that I needed to propel my progress forward. Not only did I get the boost of being around my Iron Phoenix teammates, but I also got to sit with one of my coaches for a while and do a workout with her then sit with Krista, my LE coach, for a while, too. This time was critical for me, a connection I needed like a fresh breath. My biosignature profile was also critical. For the first time since starting the program, after implementing the biosig recommendations, I started making steady progress. Emotionally this steady progress was earth shattering. Staying positive became easier which then made the progress more steady which made the positivity easier. Part of the biosig recommendations was an intermittent fasting protocol. This protocol was comfortable for me, a nice change and something that helped make things "click."
Somewhere along the way this year, I have experienced a shift in my world. The way I feel about food is different. The way I feel about myself is different. The way I feel about life is different. Food is my fuel. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy it, and there are still times I feel like I'm missing out. But then I think about how sexy I feel and how nice it is to be able to shop and feel like I have endless options for how I want to dress and not have to dress to minimize my chubbiness. Thinking about that makes it much easier to turn down something I really don't need to begin with. Describing how differently I feel about myself is a bit more difficult. Sure, I am more confident, and I feel attractive for probably the first time in my life, but there is more to it than that. I am coming to truly know myself from the inside out, and by coming to know myself, I am for the first time giving myself permission for genuine self-love. For how can I love a self I do not really know or understand? With this new self-appreciation, I am finding a new sense of hope and anticipation about life. I feel more of a sense of control over my own destiny. I feel hopeful that I will find what it is that I am supposed to be doing. I feel like I have a mechanism for finding what it is that I am supposed to be doing and for finding a way to do it. And perhaps most importantly, I feel like I am not alone in the quest.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What Is "Lean Eating"?

August 1, 2010, the day before I started my first round of Lean Eating and November 20, 2011, as the end of the second round approaches.

No, Precision Nutrition's Lean Eating Coaching program has no late night infomercial. You're not going to see Dr. John Berardi, PhD on the boob tube at 3 am lauding the virtues of the program and begging you to buy his DVD and supplements and workout gear. No packages of quick fix dinners or DVD wonder workouts will start appearing on your doorstep. You're not going to drop "10 pounds in the first 10 days." As a matter of fact, the beginning of the Lean Eating program (LE) is a bit anticlimactic--by design.

The LE program stems from years of research and professional growth in the fields of nutrition, medicine, psychology, sports performance and any other field the PN team thinks might advance their knowledge. Using the latest information from those fields, Dr. Berardi and his team at Precision Nutrition took their basic nutritional information and developed what has become a one year course to help people live their healthiest lives. Not only is the program scientifically sound, it is brilliant. Each person who signs up for Lean Eating Coaching is assigned to a small group of men or women with their own coach. Over the twelve months, the coach is that person's guide to all things Lean Eating and that group becomes the other pillar on which to lean by way of a team forum. Each day brings three things: a workout, an assignment to read, and a habit to complete. Every two weeks, lean eaters get a new habit to build on top of the previous one. Individually, the habits seem quite simple, but when joined together they become the key to unlocking the door to a new life. LE breaks up the task of learning how to eat well into small, easily-digested bits that allow one to slowly and fully incorporate them into everyday life--for life. By focusing more on the daily habits and less on the constant and foreboding idea of "I must do this now to lose 5 pounds by Saturday," eating healthfully becomes second nature and weight loss is a natural progression of that change. This slow introduction of small habits is one of the many research-proven methods used by the LE team.

The LE assignments are another product of their research. Some days the assignments are quick and easy, and they never take longer than 5 minutes or so to read. Some days, though, the assignments contain a task. Sometimes it is things like checking out the local farmer's market. Others it's turning the focus inward to discover something about oneself. Occasionally, the assignments seem silly or annoying, but when taken to heart and completed with a commitment to giving 100%, they always lead to growth sometimes in surprising ways. Strangely enough, most of us overeat for a reason, and it's not just because we like food. LE doesn't ignore this fact but embraces it then helps us to find that reason so that we can move past it. Examining what makes us the way we are, inside and out, is part of what the daily assignments are all about. They are also about teaching us about the individual habits as they come along. Each new habit has a set of lessons teaching one why that habit is important and how to best incorporate it. Everything in Lean Eating has its place and purpose.

While the program is called "Lean Eating," it also has a workout component. The workouts shouldn't scare people away, though, because they are well-planned and offer alternatives for all fitness levels. The workouts can be as easy or as hard as a client wants to make them by varying weights and using alternative movements that are provided in the instructional videos, and the coaches are there to provide even more individualization if needed. Prospective clients often ask if joining a gym is a necessity. While it is not absolutely necessary, it might make things easier in many ways if you don't have a bit of equipment at home. I did the last round of the program that was a six month round and did it all with 6 kettlebells, a set of bands, a pull up bar, a TRX and a sandbag, but I had been using these tools for years and knew how to make the movements that they wanted me to get out of them. After joining up for my second round (yes, I thought it was that good), I bought a set of bumper plates, a bar, a squat rack, adjustable dumbells and a bench. I also have an 0.8 mile trail on my property. I don't anticipate needing any more equipment, but I might get a little something just for fun. Occasionally, though, I head to a regular gym when I'm traveling just to shake things up. The bottom line is that the workouts help make the body function better, don't take up too much time out of one's day, and there are ways to get them done.

The habits, the assignments and the workouts comprise the three tasks LE requires of the participants daily, and participation in the forums is optional. Each day, lean eaters receive a email, that one can actually opt out of getting, reminding them to check in to the home page, their guide to their daily tasks where they can find a link to their lesson, their habit, their workout and the forum as well as a link to contact their coach and the PN crew. While it's not mandatory to check in every day, PN has found that doing so increases one's chances of success. (They track numbers like neurotic gamblers in an effort to give their clients the best chances as reaching their goals.) As participants complete a workout, assignment or habit each day, they click a circle on the home page to get credit for its completion. By doing so, clients track their compliance to the program. At the end of each week, measurements and weights are taken and entered to track progress in a similar way. By going to the progress page, lean eaters can get multiple different visuals including graphs and charts showing progress and compliance, and coaches can see where a client needs to buckle down to find better results. Only the coaches and individual clients can see individual progress pages, though. At the end of the year, if a person's progress is 90% or better, the compliance percentage that research has proven has no choice but to bring results, and he or she isn't satisfied with their results, Precision Nutrition has a money back guarantee. I can't imagine that anyone has ever taken them up on that, though, and honestly, I think most people see quite impressive results with compliance that is even lower than 90%

I believe in this program. It is the most scientifically sound approach to nutrition I have ever seen. It is the most well designed program I have ever seen. The coaches and staff are some of the most helpful, positive, uplifting people with whom I have ever been in contact, and they care. Their whole approach to life is one of kindness and happiness, and they believe in making the world a kinder and happier place. They understand that weight loss is not easy and that it is not just about food but about why we eat the way we eat. Because the program addresses weight loss in such a comprehensive way, often clients have the experience that I have had, one of a transformation from the inside out. I've been a lean eater for about sixteen months now. Not only am I leaner, I am a better person, and I am looking at life differently. I am approaching life differently. And after sixteen months, the greatest thing is that my journey is just beginning.

Oh, and in case this has made you want to look into it a little bit more, the next LE program starts in January, and here's the link for more info: