Name: Leigh Anne MacDonald Costa
Location: Ontario, Canada
Before: 310 lbs.
After: 165 lbs.
What was the “turning point” that prompted you to lose weight? In July 2011, I was on vacation with my family in Williamsburg, Virginia, and my son (who was 3 at the time) wanted me to go on rides with him at Busch Gardens. I couldn’t because I was too big. And he was too young to understand that. It hurt me deeply because I know he must have felt rejected by me. That was my lowest point because all I could think was that he didn’t sign up for this. It wasn’t fair to him that I was so over weight that I couldn’t be a part of his life. I vowed to get in shape at that moment because I didn’t want to miss out on anymore of his childhood and he deserved to have a mother who participated, not one who just watched from the sidelines. I also wanted to lead by example. I was terrified that he’d end up with the same weight issues as me because he’d adopt my eating habits.
When did you start trying to lose weight? When I got back from vacation, I made an appointment to see my family doctor. I was at high risk for some very serious medical issues. I was already on two blood pressure medications and had type 2 diabetes in my family. I went to see him in August 2011 and we talked (for about the hundredth time) about my options. We decided to look at bariatric surgery, medication (Xenical), as well as a referral to a weight-loss clinic in the Greater Toronto area (Dr. Poon’s Metabolic Diet Clinic www.poondiet.com). I started the medication, and waited on the referrals for Dr. Poon’s and the bariatric surgery. I got into Dr. Poon’s clinic on September 17, 2011. The day I started Dr. Poon’s diet, I stopped taking the Xenical.
How did you get started? Dr. Poon’s diet is a high protein, low carb, low sugar and low sodium. I was very apprehensive about giving up all my favorite foods, but figured I had nothing to lose. I decided to give the diet two weeks of strict eating and then I would see what happened. After the first two weeks, I lost more than 11 pounds. That was quite a motivator. I went to get weighed in every two weeks so after the first two weeks, I made another two week goal, then another, then another. Before I knew it 14 months had passed and I was down 125 pounds.
Ironically, my information session for bariatric surgery came at the beginning of December 2011 and I never went. I had already dropped 35 pounds and decided that the surgery was no longer an option for me. I’m so glad I gave Dr. Poon’s diet a try. It has changed my life and I now understand what I have to do for the rest of my life in regards to having a healthy relationship with food.
What was your biggest challenge? Doing very low carb was difficult at first. Low carb meant I ate only lean meat, leafy greens (ie: lettuce, spinach, cabbage, kale), and 4 cups of veggies that grow above ground (ie: mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus) a day. The protein and leafy greens were unlimited. I did this for six months. I had to give up everything I loved. Pasta, bread and rice were staple foods for me. I also had a wicked sweet tooth and loved anything chocolate. When I first began the diet, I went through carb and sugar withdrawal which was unpleasant. Within a week, any cravings I had for those foods were gone.
Were there any times when you wanted to quit or give up? How did you stay motivated? I can proudly say that I never cheated or ate off plan while I was actively losing weight. I also never had a gain for the 14 months of being on Phase 1 and 2 of the diet. I was extremely motivated to just get my health under control once and for all and refused to go backwards. I yo-yo dieted my entire life and was just fed up with losing the same 30 pounds over and over again. I also couldn’t go back on the promise I made my son. I promised him that the following summer I would go on rides with him (which I did).
Another way I kept myself accountable was by starting a blog. I recorded my entire weight-loss journey through blogging 3 -4 times per week. My blog is called Poonapalooza and was named for the doctor whose diet I followed. You can read about my journey from the beginning.
If you reached a weight loss plateau, how did you break out of the rut? I plateaued six months into my journey. I had already lost 60 pounds but needed to incorporate exercise into my regime. I had always liked the idea of running, so at 230 pounds, I joined a local running club and took a learn to run clinic. The first week that we met, we were supposed to walk for 2 minutes, then run for 1 minute and repeat 7 times. I could barely run for the full minute because my cardio was so bad. It was hard, but I promised myself I would attend every clinic (once per week) and every practice run (twice per week) for the ten week duration and if I really didn’t like running after that, I’d try something different.
Every week, we would add a minute of running. So the second week was 1 minute walking, 1 minute running, then 1 minute walking, 2 minutes running, all the way till we were walking for 1 minute and running for 10 minutes. There were many times during the clinic that I wanted to quit, but I found that once I got to the point where my breathing was regulated, it became easier. I added another practice day myself and ran my first 5K race six weeks into the clinic. I did six minutes running, 1 minute walking intervals, and ran pretty slow, but was proud of the fact that I did it. By the time my 10 week clinic was up, I was hooked on running. I ran my first half marathon this past March 3, one week shy of my one year running anniversary!
What’s your current exercise routine? Currently, I am a pretty avid runner. I run five times a week. I am training for my second half marathon which will take place this June 2nd in Niagara Falls, Ontario. This fall I will run my first full marathon. I run between 40 and 50 kilometers a week (25 – 31 miles), depending on my training schedule. I also do core strengthening exercises in the form of Pilates and Yoga when I can find the time. I’m toying with doing some cross training and may take up cycling this spring. I also co-instruct a 10K clinic through my local running club.
What’s your daily diet look like? Right now I am following a pretty strict lean protein, low carb diet in order to get my weight down for running performance. Once I finish up with this diet over the next few weeks, I’ll return to my regular eating schedule. I normally eat lean protein (chicken, beef, pork, fish, seafood), all veggies (with the exception of white potatoes), fresh fruit, nuts (almonds, pistachios), and a couple glasses of red wine a week! I drink water and my morning coffee. I still don’t eat processed carbs, sugar, dairy or anything too high in fat. I mostly buy whole foods and eat a lot of dinner for breakfast.
I’ll eat some hard boiled eggs and natural peanut or almond butter before a run (I wake up at 5:30am to run), then have leftovers as a recovery meal. Leftovers are usually dinner from the night before. I normally eat grilled meats and veggies or salad for pretty much every meal I have.
What’s your favorite healthy snack/meal? My favorite meal is extra lean ground beef browned in a skillet with sliced mushrooms and sliced cabbage. I use cumin, garlic and some other spices to flavor it and cook it 30 – 45 minutes. It’s super filling and for some reason I never tire of it. My favorite snack is almonds and carrots with hummus. The biggest problem I have is eating too much of a good thing. I really have to limit my snacks. You can find several recipes I make fairly regularly through the recipe page on my blog.
Do you have specific suggestions for avoiding temptations? Out of sight, out of mind. That can be hard when you have a 5 year old whose diet can’t be limit the same way mine is. It takes definite willpower, but I’m also determined to never gain back the weight I lost. I don’t ever reward myself with food. Just because I complete a particularly long run, does not give me license to indulge in food I have deemed “restricted”. I will never be able to indulge in sweets and processed carbs. Those are the foods that made me morbidly obese in the first place. Since they have been out of my life for so long (18+ months), I don’t crave them or miss them any longer. I’m sure it would only take one time for me to slip up and eat foods from my past before I started wanting more and more. I refuse to ever let food control me again! Food is just the fuel my body needs so I can run.
What’s your life like after weight loss? Life after weight loss is surreal. If you had told me two years ago that I would ever weigh 165 pounds, be a runner and have a resting heart rate of 50, I’d have laughed so hard that I would have split my size 24W pants! Life is like a dream right now. Before I lost weight, I had a recurring dream about being thin and it would seem so real that I’d wake up at 290 pounds convinced I was actually thin. Today I feel exactly like I did in my dreams from 2 years ago. It was almost like a premonition.
Being in a new body takes a lot of getting used to. I am in the best shape I have ever been in. Although I feel great and everyone tells me that I look great, there is still a lot of self healing and self acceptance to work on. I still have my “inner fat girl” who rears her ugly head fairly frequently. I see myself at a bigger size than I really am and I am self conscious in many situations where my size could be in question. For example, I’d never sit in between two people on a bench because I would think that I couldn’t fit. I still tend to use the handicapped bathroom stall because it is bigger. There are some old habits that are just hard to break.
On a happier note, I’m having a ball with my little guy and am thrilled to have inspired many friends and (most notably) my husband to get in shape. My husband has lost about 20 pounds (with 10 more to go) and has also become a runner. He’s running his first half marathon this coming fall!
If you have any suggestions to others what would they be? Make mini goals for yourself and stick to them. I did two week increments of strict eating. You can do anything for two weeks. You’re not committing to a year, or lifetime, just two weeks at a time. This was especially helpful for me because I had such a large amount of weight to lose and it seemed overwhelming when I began.
Make yourself and your health a priority. I hear people complain all the time about being out of shape and overweight. They feel helpless to do anything about it because eating healthy is expensive and working out is too time consuming. I’ve been there and I feel your pain, I really do. I was probably the biggest complainer and excuse maker out there! Eating healthy is not expensive. I can guarantee you that since I have been eating whole foods, my food bill is half of what it used to be. No more trips to the corner store for junk food, no more take out or ordering in, and no more going to the drive thru daily to support my former food addiction. As for working out, if you want something bad enough, you’ll make the time. I wake up at 5:30am three days a week so that I can run before commuting 1.5 hours to work. I have to do this because I don’t have a choice. Well, that’s not completely true. I could choose not to run, but that’s just not an option for my health and well being.
There are no “quick fixes” to losing weight. Regardless of what weight-loss route you choose (ie: diet plan, bariatric surgery) you have to follow the program as designed. You have to commit to making changes for a lifetime, not just until you lose the weight. Going back to your old habits will put the weight right back on. Losing weight and getting fit is a lot of hard work. It’s painful (emotionally and physically) and it’s inconvenient. It requires planning, dedication and consistency. But it is so worth it. I finally stopped making excuses for being overweight and decided to do something about it. I took control of my life and there’s no looking back now. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a healthy relationship with food.
You also have to be mentally ready to lose weight. I thought that I was for years, but I always made a half effort which resulted in yo-yo dieting. It was because I wasn’t ready. It makes me a little sad that I didn’t have enough love for myself to do this years ago. Luckily my little guy came along and changed my life in more ways than one! He gave me the motivation and inspiration to finally get this done. I can’t ever go back to the way things were a year and a half ago. I could never do that to him, or myself. I love being an active part of his life, and not just someone watching his life pass by. Nothing I could ever eat would make it worth missing out on any of his childhood.
I am no one special. Just a working wife and mother. If I can do this, anyone can. All you need is a good sustainable diet and exercise plan and the motivation to see your goals through. It really is easier said than done. But if you can get your head in the right place, I promise you it’s worth it. You’re worth it! Don’t waste any more time if you can help it. It only took me 41 years to figure out that I was worth it too.
Source: Everyday Health