Health + Fitness
Last week on Instagram I shared a little part of my health journey–something I don’t talk about on social media much. I shared about some big changes I’ve made over the last two years. The amount of messages I received was overwhelming. The post obviously struck a chord with many.
So I wanted to follow up here and write out some more thoughts with some links to direct you too and answers some of the questions on health that I got several times.
First though, here is my original post:
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Two years ago I weighed more than I ever have, felt worse than I ever have, and more imbalanced than I’ve ever been. I was on antidepressants, prescribed by a doctor who I had seen once and had never seen my medical history. She asked me a few questions and wrote the prescription. I’m not blaming her for my unhealthiness, she just did what most doctors do: treat the symptoms.
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I’ve always been a healthy eater, but I needed to look more meticulously at what I was eating.
I’ve always liked to exercise but I didn’t realize how cardio was actually adding more stress to my body.
I thought antidepressants were necessary for my health (and I’m not saying they’re never necessary; but they are way over prescribed), but I didn’t look into how they would cause severe imbalances in my moods, my periods, digestion, hormones, and more.
I weaned off the antidepressant almost 2 years ago. It was absolutely horrible and took about 4 months to get fully off of them. My weight continued to fluctuate because of more hormone imbalance, my body trying to find its homeostasis without synthetic help.
While I don’t feel comfortable sharing all of this journey on social media, I will say this: we have to own our health. It is very hard to be healthy today. If you feel ultra crappy like I did, dig in. Find the answers you need. You’re probably not going to find them by asking a doctor.
I lift (heavy) weights 6x a week and walk 6x a week. I follow a few people like @gmflorio and @korimeloy and @nursekatejohnson for support. My diet is very simple and I supplement for the micronutrients I can’t get in foods. It’s been a slow and somewhat agonizing journey to figure this all out and I have a long way to meet my goals, but I’m finally feeling good again.
This is your Friday pep talk, mama. God did not put us here to be complacent about how we nourish our temples. ❤️
Before We Begin:
This post may seem a little disjointed and not flow very well, but that is because I’ve been scrolling through your questions and am responding here. It’s more of a Q+A than an article or blog post. So please excuse the somewhat disconnected flow here 🙂
Also, this is my story. This is what has and hasn’t worked for me. Your health situation might look totally different. Just keep that in mind while you’re reading.
Alright now let’s follow that up with some more info, shall we?
Mental Health and Antidepressants
Our country has a huge mental health issue. I’m not going to go into the reasons why I think that is so, but it’s there. A huge amount of Americans are taking antidepressants. One article I found said that 1 in 6 Americans are on them.
Here is a chart on how it breaks down compared to other countries. Find the full data HERE.
My personal opinion: It is way too easy to get onto these hormone-altering drugs. I know this because I was able to walk into a doctor’s office for the very first time (for my yearly lady checkup), tell her I was feeling really stressed and overwhelmed, and I walked out with a prescription. I wasn’t referred to a mental health doctor or asked about my diet, exercise, vitamin-levels, or anything else.
And so, I proceeded with it for about three years. While it did help me feel like I had a bit more control of ups and downs throughout the week, I hated the way I felt when I would forget to take it. It was overwhelming dizziness and the room would spin. Plus I felt like my weight was harder to control while on it. Not to mention I just hated the idea of being on a synthetic anything.
My body has always been very sensitive to medications of all kinds and I hardly every take anything just as a personal rule.
Antidepressants, SSRI’s, birth control and the like all alter our hormones. I am no expert on this. But I am an expert on my own body and knowing what things make me feel more holistically healthy and what things do not.
Getting off the antidepressant was a huge piece of the puzzle in getting healthier for me. It was extremely difficult to get off of it and it took about three months to be fully weaned. It was very hard in many ways. I’ll leave it here.
I don’t believe I’d feel as good as I do now still being on it and I am BEYOND thrilled to be off of it for almost two years now.
I am not saying medication is never necessary, but what I am saying is being on an antidepressant is a way bigger deal than the professionals tell you it is when it’s prescribed. These drugs are extremely difficult to get off, and the really can reek havoc on your body in many ways.
When I was in the middle of weaning off of it and having multiple horrible symptoms, I called my doctor and she said she had literally never heard of anyone having any of the reactions I had. 1. A quick Google search of the product’s side effects on the product’s own site would tell you that the symptoms were common and 2. Maybe she’d never had a patient actually try to get off of an antidepressant. I no longer see this doctor.
Healthy Eating: How I Choose What to Eat Each Day
This was a big guessing game for a while. When I realized how much hormone damage my body had, I realized I needed to detox and really hone in on my nutrition. There are so many people out there saying so many different things, it makes it really hard to know what’s right.
The paleo diet had been really beneficial for me in years past, so I tried that. After just 7-10 days, my energy was extremely low, I had headaches, and just generally felt terrible. I realized then how much stress an elimination diet can add to a body that already had damage to the hormones, so I knew I needed to do something different.
Prometobolic eating: I don’t really know if I do this or not. I have read some about it, but not a ton of details.
Many of us are short on micronutrients and minerals due to the fact that our soil is more depleted of nutrients today, so for me, supplements are key.
Intermittent Fasting was another thing I had tried for months and realized it only put MORE stress on my body.
Here are things I avoid today:
- things made from white flour–except for a sourdough baked good of some sort once in a while
- anything processed or with more than just a few ingredients on the label
- any vegetable, canola, sunflower oils–basically I only eat olive or avocado oils
Here are things I try to eat every day or at least a few times a week:
- fermented (probiotic) foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha (this does have sugar, but I do have one a week or so), kimchi, Greek yogurt
- root vegetables
- low-calorie high-protein meats like turkey, chicken, fish
Beyond what I’m eating, I make sure I hit a calorie and protein goal every single day. I track everything on My Fitness Pal app. My goal is 1750 calories/day and 130 grams protein/day.
The calorie target took a lot of trial and error. It’s really easy for me to see now how too little calories makes me tired and sluggish and too many actually does the same.
To lose weight for most people, you have to be in a calorie deficit—eating less than you normally do, without deprivation. Too little calories and your body with hang on to every calorie because it feels it is starving.
A good way to start: track every single thing for a week and find your average calories per day. Start with just deducting 5% and try that for a few weeks and see how you feel. Each calorie that you eat should be nourishing! I am not perfect at this but I try.
There are also calorie calculators that can be helpful but I found that they suggested too many calories for me.
I track everything I eat. What makes this super easy is the night before, I type in to the app everything that I plan to eat the next day, leaving about 400-500 calories for wiggle room. This way, I make sure I’m hitting my calories and protein.
This is how I portion and prep out my lunches. I have a video to show how I food prep coming.
Exercise: Walking + Weight Training
I resisted lifting weights for the longest time because of what everyone says–I don’t want to look bulky. Well, being overweight is what makes one look bulky, so…
Lifting heavy weights builds muscle–surprise! And muscle burns fat. So when you start lifting, you may actually gain a few pounds–I did. This is your body starting to change its composition. This is a good thing.
My husband started lifting a few years before I did and he had learned a ton so he’s the person that really helped me get started. I started with a basic A/B workout. That means, full body workouts hitting different muscle groups, swapping off A and B. No muscle group was ever hit two days in a row.
From there, I’ve done different programming. The program I’ve done for about 9 months can be found HERE. I’ve also gone through a special leg program several times as well, found on the same site.
How heavy is heavy?
Lifting weights is different than lifting weights in a HIIT class. There is nothing wrong with HIIT classes (unless you have adrenal or other hormone damage, in which case, HIIT is too much of a stress-inducing workout in my opinion), but it’s very different than lifting weights.
Weight lifting is slow, deliberate, heavy movements whereas HIIT is fast, short, and lighter weights.
When I am lifting weights, I try to do a set of at least 10 reps until I fail–like I cannot do one more rep. If I can do 15, 20 or more, the weight that I’m lifting is way too light. If you’re looking to exercise for metabolic health, it’s better to lift 30 pounds x 6 times in a bicep curl and do 3 sets of those than lifting 6 pounds x 30 times. I say, start with whatever heaviest weight you can lift 6 times for 3 sets and build from there.
Can you lift weights at home? Sure! Covid restrictions happened after I’d been lifting for only a few months and we had to train at home. We bought a Bowflex set of adjustable dumbbells and a bench and could do a lot with that.
Weights might feel intimidating at first, but if you don’t have someone close to you that knows what they’re doing, I highly recommend hiring a trainer to teach you. Don’t be intimidated! I have made every mistake at the gym. I fell off the treadmill, did squats in the squat rack backwards one day, and one day I tried to lift too much in a squat and I had to ditch the bar and roll out from underneath it. Very embarrassing things happen at the gym–I would know! It’s ok.
The last thing I would say about workouts is that I learned that so many of the things that fitness people would tell me to do was not beneficial for me. Running, HIIT, jumping around–all of that put way too much stress on my body. I felt horrible afterward and saw zero results. Walking and lifting weights are wonderful for people with metabolic issues.
My routine now with working out: weight train 6x/week (Mon-Sat) and walk 7x/week for whatever I can fit in. Sometimes this is on the treadmill, sometimes outside. I will walk more as the days get warmer. My goal is to get 10,000 steps each day.
Supplements are super important to me because I usually cannot get everything I need from my food alone. I wish I could, but supplements make it so much easier!
I usually have 1 scoop of an Isotope Whey protein each day. Also, I take a fiber supplement because that was an area my diet was lacking.
Beyond that, I take a multivitamin with iron, vitamin D, Zinc, Magnesium Citrate, Zendocrine (a liver detox from Doterra), and a B complex.
Thyroid Issues, Hormones, and More
So much of this has taken me months and months to figure out. And I am still figuring things out and tweaking so I can reach my goals. The last 6 or 7 years have been really tough ones on my body, hormones, weight, and stress levels. It finally feels like I’m getting somewhere with feeling better and healthier.
My best advice is to listen to your body and not all the noise. The “body positivity” movement has tried to convince us all that being obese is ok. And the fitness world has made a trillllllion dollars off of a lot of false gimmicks. Both are wrong. We can and should strive to be our healthiest self. I still have a ton to work on and a long way to go, and I didn’t get going by either extreme message. A lot of digging for info, trial and error, and listening to my body.
Here are a few places I go if I want to find great info:
- Carrie Vitt is amazing. Her blog is a wealth of information!
- Rewild Course on Metabolic Health
- Gina on Instagram
- Kori on Instagram
- Nurse Kate on Instagram
I hope this post was helpful! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below 🙂
I’ve been following you for a while, and applaud you for persevering through those tumultuous years. Have you heard of the Weston A. Price Foundation? utk infrared heating pad It’s been our answer to health, and even though we don’t follow it to a T (my family hates liver), it’s back to the basics, ancestrally minded eating (raw milk, no refined sugar, soaked grains, clean meat, including red meat when on my period).
exxxxxxxxxcellent post, alicia!
thanks for putting all this info together!!!
can’t wait to see the vid on meal prep!
Thank you for the info!!
Have you heard of Biceps after Babies? She’s a macro and lifting coach that I recently started following and I am learning SO much in this area! She has several programs, a podcast, and recently ran a challenge with lots of helpful video trainings that are available until April 1. I love that you shared your journey in this and are feeling in a better place!
Thank you for sharing all of this!!! I am healing from thyroid disease and have been very nervous about exercising regularly again because of the stress issue! I spent about 2 years weight lifting (nothing fancy but similar to the program you talk about) regularly and loved it but I had to quit because of tremors, being too winded, and flat out exhausted.
Reading your post made me excited to start weight lifting again and made me more confident that it WILL be beneficial to me at this time!
I’ve been following you for a while, and applaud you for persevering through those tumultuous years. Have you heard of the Weston A. Price Foundation? It’s been our answer to health, and even though we don’t follow it to a T (my family hates liver), it’s back to the basics, ancestrally minded eating (raw milk, no refined sugar, soaked grains, clean meat, including red meat when on my period).
exxxxxxxxxcellent post, alicia!
thanks for putting all this info together!!!
can’t wait to see the vid on meal prep!