Was My Job Killing Me? I Know it Made Me Look Fat in It.

This was originally written in January 2014.

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That's me on the right at the 50th birthday of a dear friend named Millie. The photo was taken in January 2014. I was disgusted with myself and my weight.

My weight has been an endless source of frustration for many years. It’s been my nemesis, if you will. I lose; I gain. I gain; I lose. I lose; I gain. As an adult I have fluctuated between 150 and as much as 210 pounds three times in my life. Rarely has it taken me more than six months to drop 40 pounds...until now. Although I am not at my heaviest at the moment, now that I am 47, for the first time in my life, no matter what I eat or how I modify my husband’s and my eating habits, I can no longer drop the weight with the snap of my fingers.

When my husband and I left corporate America in 2008, I weighed 160 pounds. This may sound exceedingly heavy to some people. However, at 5 feet nearly 9 inches tall, it’s not all that heavy. A size 10, I was very happy with this weight. Mind you, even at my lightest, I am not thin like my mother was. Standing 5 feet 7 inches tall, two things allowed my mother to weigh under 125 pounds well into her 50s: smoking four packs of cigarettes a day and being half Japanese (the other half was African American). Although tall for most Asians, her weight was very typical. Indeed she modeled for many years before she met my father.

Taken in the summer of 2006. I was a healthy 160 pounds.

Unfortunately for me, my build takes after more of my father’s German and Dutch side than it does the Japanese. Like my father, I am tall and I have a big frame. Anything less than 150 pounds and I start to get the questions from people that suggest they’re concerned about my failing health.

When I first started freelance writing in 2009, I approached it the same way I did all my previous jobs. It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me well that after one year I was able to make a living, and by the end of year two I was well on my way to replacing my salary at Amgen. Here I am about to start my fifth year as a freelance writer and not only have I easily doubled my Amgen salary, but I have made quite a success of my business, Coquí Prose Content Marketing. I am able to support 19 people (some are part time, however most are full time). Things are going great! We have wonderful clients and hang around me for five minutes and you’ll hear me brag about my incredible teammates. I continually say I’d fall flat on my face if it weren’t for them. Apropos of this blog, I will amend that statement. I’d fall flat on my ever-widening ass if it weren’t for my incredible teammates!

It seems that for all the success my team and I have seen, the one place that sees the brunt of that success is my body. As I alluded to earlier, when we left corporate America and moved to Puerto Rico, I was 160 pounds. Today I am a whopping 195 pounds—and a size 16!—and if I don’t watch it, I’ll get heavier. Why is this?

I sit for many hours of the day. I estimate that I sit somewhere north of seven hours a day. Although not in one 7-hour stretch—I do after all own a farm with my husband, so I get up to feed goats, collect leaves for them and hike with the dogs at least once a day. If I can drag myself out of bed early enough (assuming I haven’t stayed up late writing, like I am doing tonight), I can get in two hikes a day. I imagine I get up at least a hundred times a day to let a dog or two or three in the house. Of course I no sooner sit down and I have to let another one in or out. I am hardly what one might refer to as lazy. The problem is that between age and just the number of hours I am on my butt, it’s a losing battle. I guess I’d probably be heavier, if I sat all day long without any breaks.

When I was in my 30s and similarly active, I was able to maintain my weight more easily. Unfortunately now in my late 40s and with a metabolism that’s slowing—thanks to menopause, I am not maintaining the weight as easily as I used to and I am not able to lose it nearly as fast. From a size 10 to a size 16 in three years, I am genuinely worried about my weight. It’s unhealthy and I don’t love how I look. My face is fleshy and I just don’t like myself at this weight. It doesn’t fit with the person who bought a farm to rid herself of the stresses of corporate America. In short, we didn’t buy a farm to eat better and stay active for me to get, and please forgive the expression, fat.

Although I don’t consider myself sedentary, and I balance all this sitting with being active, because I sit so many hours of the day, I am apparently just as prone to type 2 diabetes, obesity (yeah, no shit) and cardiovascular disease as someone who gets zero exercise and eats McDonald’s all day. Part of why this all freaks me out is two-fold: I went into type 2 diabetes remission nearly 16 years ago. I blame the diabetes mellitus on having gained 45 pounds immediately after I quit smoking when I was 26, which I did in what I feel is the nick of time. My mother died of an aneurysm only six months after I quit smoking—not surprising, of course, given that she smoked four packs a day.

So I gave up smoking, gained a ton of weight, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and went into remission and now I am at risk for all those health issues again because things are going well for me professionally. Come on, really? What a double-edged sword! Back in the days when I was hoping for a client to take notice of my writing, I was spending more time outside working or playing with the dogs. I was not only slimmer but also very active and not worried a bit about elevendy million chronic conditions. Are you really trying to tell me that my very lifestyle, the fact that things are going so well for Coquí Prose, I am actually digging an early grave for myself?

Well, I’m Definitely not Taking This Lying or Even Sitting Down!

I strongly considered making major modifications to my desk so I could work standing up, and while this could solve part of my problem, I wasn’t convinced it could address all of my issues. For one thing the floors in our house are made of solid concrete and cement with reinforced steel rebar. If the house can withstand a category 5 hurricane, it’s not going to do my feet any favors, regardless what kind of inserts I put in my shoes and how much money I spend on sneakers with excellent arch supports.

I was at my wit’s end with all of this. I started Googling all sorts of things, including modified workstations, and then I came across a photo of a woman who built a computer desk on top of her treadmill. Oh, me likey! I started to visualize me writing and walking simultaneously and if you know anything about me, you know that as soon as I get an idea fixated in my head and I am visualizing it, I won’t stop until it happens.

That's me on the treadmill, taken in November 2014.

That's me on the treadmill, taken in November 2014.

I don’t have any illusions I will be able to run while I am writing or doing other tasks online that involve operating the business. But I do think I should be able to walk somewhere between 1 and 2 miles per hour, which sure as hell beats sitting on my butt, my derrière, my booty, okay, my ass, which ain’t gettin’ smaller, and it beats continuing to put myself at risk for a whole host of chronic illnesses.

I bought a treadmill in March 2014 and I started walking while working. I'd love to tell you that I got the hang of it right away. I fell off a few times and got dizzy frequently, at first. Eventually I was able to figure out how to "walk and chew gum at the same time," and now I walk and work at least three days a week.

How are Things with My Weight Today?

I originally wrote this in late January 2014. Here we are 11 months later and I am pleased to report to that I have lost 30 pounds! It’s possible that it’s more, but my scale broke and so all I can go off is how I fit into my old clothes. I am back to being a size 10 and I feel fantastic! I feel amazing. However, I’d be remiss if I led you to believe all the weight loss was the result of walking while working.

I am pretty good at getting on the treadmill at least three times a week. The problem is that I just couldn’t get passed the first ten pounds—no matter what I did. I was depressed and I hated the way I looked.

And then something amazing happened.

Over the summer Paul and I went to a party at the home of some friends. We’re all organic farmers and at this party was a couple who’ve owned their organic farm for almost 30 years. They’re in their mid- to late 50s. They look absolutely fantastic. I asked what their secret is—apart from eating only organic food.

He tells me he’s a natural healer. His process is simple, and perhaps as you read this you may already know the technique natural healers use to diagnose someone with something. First he asked if I had any issues I wanted to report.

I named:

  • Typical menopausal symptoms—pain in the reproductive area and breasts, hot flashes and daily migraines
  • Digestive issues—similar to IBS symptoms—that plague me almost daily
  • I have an extra thirty pounds on me I need to take off
  • My joints hurt
  • I get winded more easily than I used to
  • I have zero energy

I was instructed to close my eyes and bring my right arm straight out, such that it created a right angle with my torso.

From there Hector began putting pressure on my arm. Next he placed various food items under my nose. Still with my eyes closed, I could guess what each one was, but I was actually not allowed to speak. How this works is that with pressure on my arm the entire time, if my arm dropped it meant I had an intolerance to that item that was under my nose once the arm dropped.

When he was done he said to open my eyes. To my right were foods I had an intolerance to and to my left were foods I could continue eating.

On the right were:

  • Whole wheat flour
  • Bread
  • Tomatoes
  • Oranges
  • Chicken and beef (both frozen)
  • Passion fruit
  • Fried plantains

On my left were:

  • Rice
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Papaya
  • Mango
  • Coconut
  • Root vegetables (sweet potatoes and others that are grown only in the tropics)

What Hector deduced is that I have an intolerance to gluten and to highly acidic foods. He suggested I first fast for 24 hours, drinking nothing but clear liquids—preferably apple, pear, papaya juices and of course plenty of water. After that, I immediately begin a new way of eating, which meant eliminating or drastically reducing acidic foods and no more eating bread and pasta. He also said to stop eating meat—forever. He suggested I consider the 80% alkaline/20% acid diet.

The meat part was no problem. I am a vegetarian and have been once since I was 12-years-old. Meat has always made me ill and given me what I refer to as intestinal distress.

At first I was in disbelief. I couldn’t imagine cutting out pizza dough (which, of course contains gluten), or the toppings on it, such as tomato sauce. Pasta has always been one of my favorite foods in life.

But I did what Hector advised, minus the fasting. The very next day I went to a very bland diet. For breakfast I ate gluten-free cereal and bread. For lunch/dinner I ate boiled eggs, rice and kale from our garden.

Within two days I felt better. I stopped having stomach pains both immediately following dinner and the next morning. By the end of the first week I felt more energetic.

I continued eating this bland diet and on days I thought I’d test to see if I could go back to my old eating habits, I woke up with knots in my stomach. I wanted to cry. I realized I had been living in constant stomach pain for at least three years—probably longer.

By the time two weeks had gone by, my face was looking younger; I had incredible energy, I was sleeping very soundly, my menopausal symptoms had all but dissipated, and I stepped no the scale and I’d lost five pounds!

Another remarkable thing happened: I realized I’d not had a migraine in that entire time.

Within a month I had lost 12 pounds, was wearing a size 14, and all of what I described above continued to improve. In that entire month I didn’t have a single hot flash and all my aches and pains that I’d lived with since I started menopause at the age of 43 were gone! I also hadn’t had a single migraine in that time period.

In October I saw Hector for the first time since he diagnosed me with all the intolerances. He was flabbergasted to see the change in me. I had lost over twenty pounds and I was feeling amazing! I hugged him and cried. He was also deeply emotional.

In late November I walked in a charity walk (one I walk in every year) and people who hadn't seen me in months were shocked at the difference in me. In previous years I walked it, but my time was closer to 1 hour and 20 minutes.

That's me with Peter, the husband of a good friend named Enid whom I used to work with at Amgen. Taken November 23, 2014. I was very close to goal weight.

That's me with Peter, the husband of a good friend named Enid whom I used to work with at Amgen. This was taken on November 23, 2014. I was very close to goal weight.

With Christmas, but more importantly (for me) my birthday, just around the corner, I am pleased to report that I have lost at least 30 pounds—as I say, I am not sure how much I’ve lost because our scale broke (probably from stepping on and off ten times a day!). At nearly 48, I look younger and feel better than I did six months and even five years ago.

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The photo on the left was taken on December 4, 2014 and the one on the right was taken in the summer of 2103 (we are with friends Annica, her husband Omar and Wendy and her husband Hector (not the same Hector as the natural healer). You can see the difference in my face.

When people ask me how I did it I almost have to let out a huge sigh because a) the notion of seeing a natural healer before consulting with a doctor is foreign to many folks and b) my new regimen isn’t for everyone.

For one thing the idea of giving up meat for many is unthinkable. For another I reckon many live with digestion problems and just think it’s the price to pay for the “typical American diet.” It’s not. I could get into all the reasons why more and more people are developing intolerances to foods we had no problem eating when we were growing up, but this causes a debate that not many want to have because it might mean facing some ugly truths about what’s being done to the foods we eat.

Ever since I lost the weight, I see my success, my health and my gratitude for both in a whole new light. It's as though I truly can, "have my cake and it, too!" If this blog has inspired you to change the way you eat and live, I would be happy to share more information with you. What are your thoughts about all this?