Tighten the Ship! Making Changes to OptaVia After a Weight Loss Plateau

I am slowly slogging my way out of the second puberty that came with my early forties. This is an OptaVia update post but the reality is so much larger than that.

It would be unfair to claim my way out of the foggy forrest of mood swings, hot flashes, sloggy brain, involuntary weight gain and my body’s refusal to lose it, migraine and thyroid conditions, ETCETERA was due to any one thing. It’s taken a whole list of things. Trial and error. Blood, sweat, and tears. Excellent female doctors. An IUD and a uterine ablation. Time. Consistency. And yes, the best eating re-programming program I’ve ever seen for boosting a stalled metabolism.

The parallel to when I was a pimple faced, pudgy, pubescent pre-teen with permed hair and a rotation of Garfield T-shirts and jeans is unmistakable. By the time my first four years in my forties were done with me I didn’t know how to dress or do my hair. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. Make-up wasn’t enough…now we’re supposed to contour?! Just like I did when I went from a tree climbing, adventurous kid to a fleshy, confused slug gnoshing daily on french fries and The Guiding Light after school, I felt again that my body had betrayed me. It was a puzzle I couldn’t solve. I was not going to age gracefully and vibrantly as I’d planned; I was going glob-like into that dark night.

Time for an overhaul. I have my shit together on the inside; I want my outside to reflect the same.

For the first four weeks on OptaVia I blogged weekly. Then I hit a true test: a birthday party at a restaurant with NO lean and green options. I ended up with a double gin and tonic. A wood oven pizza covered in goat cheese and drunken figs. Lemon pound cake with marscapone cheese and champagne and raspberries. That’s all code for Humble Pie ala mode with a dwallop of creamy fear on top. Fear that I ruined it. Fear that I’d pay for it. Fear that nothing would happen at all.

I’ve got a long history with diets that didn’t work at all. I’ve also got a long history of throwing my back into whatever project I’m pursuing because progress is my drug of choice. When progress doesn’t result from intense effort, I really, really, really hit the skids.

I did pick myself back up from that splurge. My coach even said she would have done the same thing. We have to still live our lives! Celebrations happen! And a healthy body can handle that and bounce back. I didn’t even gain a pound from that deep dive into pizza perfection. In the weeks that followed I uncovered truths about myself– like how often I turn to food or a glass of something fermented whenever I’m stressed/tired/discouraged. My energy super-surged at the same time I learned some new strategies for my work flow (Deep Work and reverse engineered goals in Girl, Wash Your Face). I started running 20 miles a week. I lost inches. I bought a few new clothes and started the Get Your Pretty On capsule wardrobe training.

But I have not lost any more weight.

They say a true plateau is when you are stuck for 2 weeks or longer. It’s been 6 at the same number now. This is despite clean weeks of on-plan snacks and salads and weeks full of drafty cheating: bites from my kid’s fast food bags, sips of hubby’s beer, a love affair with bread that included clandestine meetings with brie. I’m doing ok when it comes to cravings and sugar. Not so much when it comes to salt and fat. Those, “It’s Just One Bites,” add up faster than impulse buying in a Target cart. And it’s TAILGATING season, people!

Another draft is portion size. The “lean and green” involves a 4 oz. serving of meat and the rest of the plate covered in veggies. No white carbs or starches. No sushi rice with that tuna. Not a 12 oz. ribeye. Definitely not the greek salad from Zoe’s that’s lies upon a bed of grilled potato salad and drizzled with 4 tablespoons of herbed olive oil.

The support from OptaVia is incredible. My coach has a group of our friends that are on it and the shared journey has been what’s kept me on track. Plus, I’m paying for it! It’s not cheap! It has totally meshed with my grocery budget though (without alcohol or my portion, we aren’t over budget). But darn it all if I’m not more than ready to see those numbers drop again.

It works if you work it, not if you don’t. I know what things I can tighten up. Hopefully, the size of my arse will follow. Tight is good, right? I mean, unless it’s like bad plastic surgery that results in a permanent expression of, “Help! My ponytail is too tight!”

The specific ropes I’m tightening:

  • Adhering to the 5 + 1 like a beginner
  • No alcohol
  • Measuring and weighing my lean and green
  • No exercise during the tightest phase

Last month I simplified my box to just bars, shakes, sticks, and brownies. There’s a ton of other things available, from mashed potatoes to breakfast cereals and a ton more hashtag hacks on Instagram. But all that variety was landing me back into the quagmire of, “Just tell me what to eat!” I don’t need too many choices. I need simplicity. Within those self-restrictions, I still have plenty of options for flavors.

My favorite benefit of OptaVia is that my insulin spikes are gone. So, no more bloated, swollen red face. No ten pound weight fluctuations due to fluid. My energy is still incredible and my sleep is too.

There are several other things I’ve used to pull out of the second puberty of the forties and I can finally see the other side. I’m thinking about a writing project to capture them all. If you’d be interested in reading that story, let me know. Oh, and if you’re interested in OptaVia, my favorite referral is my coach Donna, a science-teaching former Marine who guides with healthy love and wisdom. Comment and I’ll match you up.

In other news, I had my first podcast interview last week for the Not Nosy Podcast. Should be released in a few weeks! I’ll share here and on Instagram when it is.

Real Things That Happened to Me On OptaVia

I snuck fruit one day and it tasted like nectar of the gods.

My body has so fully adjusted to being fed every 2.5 hours that if I’m late, my cells can be heard screaming for food and water fuel.

I found low-carb pizza called Real Good Pizza in the freezer section and on days when I can’t cook and hello– want pizza with my family– I can tear it into like the guiltless happy beast that I am.

I found my face again. Feels like time travel.

I miss mindless eating that kept my hands and mouth busy. Apparently, I used to do a lot of this. Quantities in the form of popcorn with butter and lots of salt. There have been moments when I want a giant ball pit of popcorn. A bubble bath of popcorn.

I do regularly sneak a few fries from my kids on the regular because I am not trying to live a potato-free life. Some deep Viking spirit within me reminds me of this daily.

But mostly, lean and green is simply that and I love it. Just about the time I get sick of bagged snack food, it’s time to eat the real meal and damn, does that ever feel indulgent and good.

When I got sick and couldn’t eat plan food, I ate plan-friendly food on the same time schedule and didn’t gain.

Meals really are fuelings in my mind now. I can feel the difference they make to my entire system and if I want that good stuff, I gotta eat that good stuff on time.

I’m starting to lose my second butt. You know the dangly bit that starts to sag after 40?

My tastebuds have adjusted to the fuelings.

My coach, who started OptaVia in January and who had the same health and weight profile as I did, posted a photo on her anniversary in a teeny bikini. She has notable abs. She’s older than me by a little but looks younger than me by a lot.

Since I’m not eating or drinking my feelings anymore, I’ve had to actually deal with them again. This is helping me set better boundaries because I’m more aware of the toll it takes to put myself last.

I impulse buy in the grocery store a lot less now because most of it is not for me and my hunger is regulated so I’m not craving any of it. That helps pay for my monthly box as well.

This was last week’s update. The photo on the left was in May and I looked that same way in June. I started OptaVia June 28. The photo on the right was taken July 26.

If you’d like to read more about why I started OptaVia, everything else I tried before this last ditch effort before giving up and just letting myself get as big as my body seemed to want to be, and what the first month was like,  click on the category and it will load those posts. If you’d like to get updates as I go, click subscribe below. I post about once a week.



How to Reduce Stress and Lose Weight- Not Even Kidding.

And it’s hard to write about being happy
‘Cause all that I get
I find that happiness is an extremely uneventful subject

– Florence + The Machine, No Choir


My days have settled into a new kind of clockwork, a healthy rhythm that feels calm. In fact, what follows may be boring to those conditioned to conflict and drama, or at least tension in writing. I’ve had to save that for my fiction writing and my therapist because otherwise, things feel very balanced. If you want to skip the happy part and go straight to the challenges, scroll to the end. But you’ll be missing part of the point.

A typical day on OptaVia 5+1: 

When I wake up in the morning, earlier and without an alarm clock now, I chew my thyroid pill and drink my first glass of water. I check my phone until my body feels like standing up. I use the bathroom and brush my teeth. I stand on the scale and smile– every day it’s less or the same but never higher. From there I go to the kitchen, start the kettle and add coffee to the press. I stare outside the window and watch for otters and turtles to break the surface of the water in the lake behind my house. When the kettle boils, I pour the hot water into the press and almond milk into my mug, then press the coffee. I pour it into my mug and enjoy the scent. I am awake and not groggy. I feel rested.

I walk to my studio and sit on the sofa. If it’s the first part of the week, I work on the Sunday paper. If it’s the second half, I read from whatever book I have in progress. Most recently this was The Folded Clock, by Heidi Julavits, a memoir I found centering, and a comforting reminder to focus on days being my unit of time– not months or years. Somewhere in those words I feel hungry so I walk to my OptaVia box and choose a fueling. This is usually a bar. I have it with my coffee and sometimes pour a little more. When I am done, I go to my meditation table. I think about my day ahead. I pray. I stretch and go through some yoga cycles. The dog licks my face.

My husband is awake now. I greet him and we talk about the day. Sometimes I sit at the table with him while he eats. We make the bed. I start laundry or sweep the floor or load the dishwasher but only do a little of whatever it is. He goes to work. I put on a little make up and do my hair, even if I’m not going out. This is part of self care now, not letting myself feel a hag just because I work from home. I get dressed. I return to the studio.

If it’s Monday, we have a staff call, a meeting that is unfailingly edifying and encouraging because of who I work for and with. On the other days, I check email and social media and my project list. In a little bit, it’s time for another fueling and I choose one from the box, most often this is a shake and then I drink more water. I work some more or learn something– I’m currently exploring some new training. My desk is full of merged initiatives that often blend into each other– I homeschool and work for a homeschool writing company, I write and am working on a novel, I schedule appointments and pay bills and work some more to make all that happen.

Sometimes I go to lunch. If I do, this will be my “lean and green” meal for the day but more often than not, I fuel from the box. This is because I prefer to have my lean and green for dinner with the family and I’m trying to maximize time out with girlfriends longer than a working lunch. I usually eat at my desk; this is often a flavor of the savory sticks and sometimes, some sparkling water with it.

The afternoon is a version of the same, except now my sons are both awake. They come and chat, ask for things, have ideas– and in between I work. A new school year approaches and there’s planning to do, hockey starts soon and there’s equipment to buy, our scout group is on hiatus and I can wait to buy new gear. Some days there are appointments or odd errands to run. It storms. I have another fueling: another yummy bar. I drink more water. The dogs wrestle. Someone asks me what’s for dinner.

I’m less interested in cooking than I used to be. In fact, on Facebook this week I quipped that while 10 years ago I made three meals a day from scratch, even their gosh danged ketchup, these days the cooktop is where the take out is set. I guess I cook 3 nights out of seven, we order in 2, one of them is a date, and the others my husband grills. I have my lean and green and they have a starch. I drink more water.

After dinner there’s a debate as to who’s turn it is to clean. The laundry gets cycled. All the things the dogs chewed today are swept up. The floors are vacuumed. For 45 minutes I walk and sometimes run and lift as well. I shower. Our house shuts down for the night at 9, when the boys go to their rooms and we go to ours. I make an OptaVia brownie first and sometimes spread it with cream cheese. I drink more water. We watch one show and then we fall asleep. This never takes us long.

These days rinse and repeat.

I miss wine and bourbon. I miss big bowls of buttery salty popcorn most.

I sometimes feel fat and sometimes feel svelte and both of these are sometimes true.

There is still plenty of drama and upset to deal with– just not when it comes to inexplicable health problems and stress. I feel equipped. My therapist still has a job.

I’m a great groove with work, a great groove with writing, and I’m adjusting to my older children having moved. I’m not spending half of my day in a fog. I’ve learned to make space for rest and this means when my tank is half-empty. No more running on fumes.

I get warm a lot. It feels like I have an oven burning within because, oh yeah, I do. It’s called an active metabolism.

I’m completing my third week with OptaVia and have ordered my new box. I loaded up on the chocolate cherry chia bars. I’m down 8 home pounds, 10 at the doctor’s.

If this all sounds too good to be true, don’t be a cynic. It is what it is and what it is is better. I’m better right now than I’ve been in five years, better than I was when I turned 40 and I’ll take my dose of boredom with gratitude. It means I have life points to do other things.

P.S– if you want to give this a try, contact me in the comments or on social media and I’ll connect you to my coach. And if you want to read what led me to this point, click that.

Just Freaking Tell me What to Eat!

It’s nice that restaurants, when one orders sparkling water, bring a bottle of Perrier and lime in a wine glass. The presentation is as sensory as the splurge on a nice vintage for the table. It helps.

But man, I miss drinking.

I’m far from the first writer who likes a good bourbon. I’m far from the first housewife who enjoys chilled Chardonnay. I’m also far from the first fat girl who needed to lay off the bottle in order to lose weight. As well as the fries and chocolate and bread.

The news on that front tho, is good:

I’m down 8 pounds in the first two weeks.

I can’t wait to tell my doctor. I fantasize about walking in for my next appointment, stunningly trim. Or, maybe I should email her quick with the exciting news of what I found that FINALLY WORKED.

I always had a hunch my metabolism was the problem. (This is because even though it was funny to write, my actual intake of booze and chocolate and fries and bread was actually moderate and my diet low-cal and mostly plant-based.)

When someone with a “high metabolism” can eat what they want and not gain weight, with hyper-active energy levels for 39 years, including ten of those years spent growing and feeding human bodies– and then suddenly can’t pick their head off the desk for fatigue and gains 50 pounds over five years despite sincere efforts to the contrary, the problem just might be her metabolism.

As in, my internal fire had died into embers. As in, I could eat-one-meal-a-day-and-not-get-hungry. As in, it doesn’t matter what I eat or don’t eat, how much or how little; my body turns all food into fat and it stays there. Give it 5 more years and I’ll be 100 pounds overweight, one bite at a time.

My doctor, whom kindly listens well and I love her for it, threw her hands up last year and said, “I’ve watched you try everything I know to suggest. You are in a group with a few of my female patients over 40 who is inexplicably gaining weight and I can’t do anything but empathize and that makes me crazy.” She’s as dissatisfied with that status as I am because she knows the blood pressure medication she’s been about to put me on will probably be permanent. She knows I’m motivated to get better. She knows I view uncontrollable weight gain as a health problem, not an acceptable part of aging in America.

A softer, changing shape to my aging mother-body is normal. Weight gain at this rate is not. I don’t have a brain tumor or a rare disease. My endocrinologist grabbed a thyroid diagnosis as a suggestion– “I think it might be Hashimoto’s, even though your blood work looks pretty good. Let’s try thyroid meds just in case. It will help you lose weight.”  It did not. Now I can’t get off of them.

Most “diets” are built around telling followers what not to eat and what to eat. Most don’t focus on when and how often to eat. When I did Weight Watchers I gained 8 pounds even though I always came in under points. When and How Often and What have turned out to be much, much more important than What Not.

When and How Often and What helps one with What Not. That, and that some of the bars have chocolate and there’s Perrier with lime in a wine glass on the table.

It’s pretty neat to feel one’s internal stove ignite and build into a roaring fire. It’s how eating a low calorie diet can result in the energetic urge to go for a run. I can feel my body burning fat, nice and slow. The first part is water weight, which I was grateful for because bloat is a real problem (and none of the other diets touched it). Now I’m in Fat Burn and the loss is slow and steady. My kids are saying they can see it in my face and my husband says he can see it in my torso. I see it in my collar bone and cheek bones– the recognition of my real, true countenance.

I needed eating food-as-medicine to be simple.

My favorite part is actually the part that I thought I’d like the least: the boxed food. Turns out, when one has to eat every 2.5 hours, it’s just easiest to grab something already prepped and ready. How many moms get that without doing it themselves? I like being able to just reach for an interchangeable item, based on if I’m in a sweet or savory mood, and not have to think about anything else. Honestly, eating that often a day would just not happen without the box: I’d be skipping meals. This way, “they” tell me what to eat, relieving my mental energies for more important things and eliminating the blank stare into the fridge as I debate what’s best and then grab what’s worst.

And if you read that and immediately argued, “what happens when you go off the food?” the answer is:  there’s a transition to fewer boxed snack meals with more self-made meals. I am not planning on “being done” because my body is over 40 and maintenance as we age is simply the deal. I’d like my maintenance to involve keeping my system burning and healthy than scheduling appointments for prescription refills. So there’s that. Once in awhile I’ll have my favorites again– the fries and chocolate and bourbon and bread– but all things in moderation, including moderation, and not during Phase One.

This was Week 3 of OptaVia. If you’d like to read about what led me to the decision to try it and what that revealed about my self-care habits, try those links.

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My Enlightening Lightening First Week of Weight Loss with Optavia

One week into Optavia, I’m forced to realize this weight isn’t going to actually slide off.

I used to imagine that gelatinous cellulite could be metabolically heated into a biosilky oil that progressively liquified into sweaty salt secreted through the glands in all the sweaty crotchy spots. In other words, I’d sweat this shit off and wash it all down the shower drain. Since Florida’s humidity means we sweat just walking from the front door to the car, this should be pretty easy.

  • Speed bump #1: Fat loss doesn’t work that way.
  • Speed bump #2: Neither does my metabolism.
  • Speed bump #3: There are plenty of sweaty fat people in Florida. Climate doesn’t override lifestyle habits.

(Read about how my forties have become a second puberty and what led to me giving Optavia a try after every other diet failed here.)

Insights from my first week on Optavia:

Eating every 2.5 hours on a schedule is lot like being a newborn. Caring for your adult body as if it were an infant needing regular food and rest will get under your skin and into your brain and will confront every demon that’s talked you into shame and self-abuse. This isn’t “taking care of yourself” like scheduling a hair cut or a yoga class. I’m realizing it’s more like revolutionary self-awareness, a rebirthing into habits of worth and value apart from the emotional baggage I’d been medicating with food and booze. 

It’s been a rocky week of self-discovery. Turns out I’m still incredibly entrenched in the futile hope that a magic diet will change my life in quick order.

I also fell flat on my face and metaphorically skinned my knees and chin on the psychologically-heavy-laden phrase, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

And, temptation haunts. Thanks to the habits I’ve modeled and then allowed, my teenagers bring golden hot salty waffle fries into the house every single day. Or when I take them out for fresh-fast-Mex (the easiest way to get teen boys to spill their thoughts and open up a little) there sits an entire basket of thin and crispy tortilla chips with salsa and guac. A few bites don’t hurt? Well, they do in week one when all those tiny bites add up and extend the march towards, “FAT BURN.”

Here’s a little glimpse of my week one journal:

  • Day 1: It’s hard to eat this many times a day. This is way too much food. The smoothies taste like pond slime. The crunch sticks taste like sawdust. How the hell am I going to make it through dinner at Carrabba’s? Italian? On a diet? Ask Donna. Grilled fish, grilled asparagus, salad, got it. Perrier with lime makes a decent substitute to avoid happy hour. (Donna is my coach, always just a text lifeline away.)
  • Day 2: WTF? Down a pound a half OVERNIGHT? After all that food and water? Okay Optavia, you officially have my attention. The scale hasn’t moved down in years, not even for “water weight” and believe-you-me, I’m very happy to look less bloated. By the way, the chocolate brownie in a waffle iron is the friggin’ bomb dot com.
  • Day 3: Down another pound. MIGRAINE. Mild headache was expected but since I’m migraine prone, of course I’m triggered into a paralyzing doozy. On top of this: a road trip to Orlando to pick up my son, driving in the pouring rain, remembering to pack one snack but not two, and bottomless chips and salsa on the table. A few fries here, several chips there, a stolen sip of beer… a missed fueling altogether = today has been the hardest so far.
  • Day 4: Back up a pound, thanks to the cheating and the salt. The migraine has spread to my stomach. I want to puke– not eat every 2.5 and count glasses of water. Soldier on, girlfriend. I wonder if they give you chits for so many days of food sobriety? Donna says that when going through hell, keep on going. I think most of these foods are doable with enough water to get them down.
  • Day 5: Listened to my body and slept in an hour. Newborn-Me appreciates screen free breaks too. Migraine gone mid-morning. Weight down two more pounds. The green shake is good with an extra shot of lemon juice and partially frozen. The Chocolate Cherry Chia bar is something I could eat every day. Made a bolognese sauce for dinner and put mine on top of roasted eggplant (lasagne for the family).
  • Day 6: Interesting how my sleep schedule regulated itself! Conk out at 10:30, wake up naturally at 6:45. Today’s challenge was the 4th of July cookout. I made fake potato salad with cauliflower instead of potatoes and had grilled chicken. Fell prey to hubby’s insanely good ribs and hoped they counted more like protein instead of cheats. Not even tempted to sneak beer or bread.
  • Day 7: Hungry for breakfast at 6:45?! Who am I even? And I feel like I could go running! Donna said a big energy boost was coming, she said Fat Burn stage was coming. I doubted her because I was afraid to hope for that. I had my bar set a lot lower– like, let’s have a day without a taste of the forbidden and let’s just get through this damn box of little pouches that are, admittedly, tasting better and better by the day.

This is way more than a diet.

I’ve been a consummate hypocrite when it comes to self-care. A more compassionate way to say it was that I’ve been doing as well as I could with self-care but had been approaching it all wrong. Self-care is not another something to fit into a jam-packed day. In teaching my body to eat a little something every 2.5 hours I’ve had to change a few things about how I live those jam-packed days. My human animal body is going to get ravenously hungry when it’s time to eat– so no more powering through the day, ignoring or overriding biological needs. Eating 6 times a day requires forethought– so no more addressing everything and everyone first so that I run out of time, energy, and attention to think about my needs. Just like I packed the diaper bag before leaving the house with an infant, so too must I now. My human animal body gets tired– a solid night of sleep is not indulgence, it’s essential. And if breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I’m worth the time, money, and energy it takes to experience the most important meal of the day.

I’ll say it again (because it almost feels silly to realize I ever doubted this): I’m worth it. I’m worth the effort of this. I’m worth the cost of this. It matters that I’m healthy and I’m worth whatever it takes to pursue that health.

At the end of week one, I feel like I’ve found the groove. I eat around 6:45, 10, 12:30, 3, 5:45 and 8:30. Five of those snack-meals come from the box and one I cook in my kitchen or eat out– the “lean and green” meal. In the first phase for weight loss, there’s a list of things to avoid, mostly everything that’s obvious– sugar, white carbs, alcohol, fried stuff. The composition of the packaged food helps with any feelings of deprivation (a key thing that has been missing from every other diet I’ve ever been on.) The focus is on what is going to help the metabolism reset and burn fat but there’s a lot that comes along for the ride.

  • regulated sleep cycle
  • hydration
  • energy
  • proper vitamin nutrition
  • psychological insights
  • a deep feeling of wellness

Last night while the fireworks were going on for the 4th of July, I noticed I was sweating in the humidity more than usual. I wondered if my fired up metabolism was actually liquifying and melting off fat. But then, I looked beyond the surface. I felt calm and was headed to bed on time. Newborn-Me wasn’t cranky or colicky, hungry, insecure or overwhelmed. Newborn-Me felt content. I showered her off and tucked her into bed and if she had sweet dreams, she slept too soundly to know.

If you’d like to follow my Optavia journey, click “Follow” at the bottom of this post. You’ll get an email with my weekly post. If you’d like to connect with my supercalifragilisticexpialidocious coach Donna, use my contact form to let me know and I’ll send you her email.

Putting My Inability to Lose Weight to the Optavia Test

At the moment, I’m noticing how the melted vegan butter spread swirls with warm strawberry jam in the crusty holes of my toasted baguette breakfast. I don’t usually eat in the morning other than coffee with almond milk but later today my first box of Optavia food comes in and there’s a call scheduled with my coach for tonight. I’m officially beginning an engineered diet with purchased, prescribed food tomorrow morning and enjoying a last supper of bread and jam today.

“I saw so-and-so today and I didn’t even recognize her!”

A controlled diet is both a surrender and a relief. Peri- and pre-menopause is a hellacious second puberty, complete with an unpredictable roller coaster of hormones, a yoyo of skin conditions, mood swings, food cravings, brain fog, fatigue, and a growing layer of post-baby phat chub. I always did wonder how some women go through early adulthood looking mostly like themselves but then somehow change into a life form nearly unrecognizable to who they used to look like. When my silhouette began to drape at the neck and my underbelly bulge joined the generous muffin top to round out my midsection, I realized I was no longer a pear, an apple, or an hourglass: I was a potato. You dress a potato in the only thing that fits: boxy t-shirts and house dresses. You store a potato in a cool dark place. A potato offers comfort and is a reliable side dish to almost any dynamic entree but she is no longer the marquee event. This versatile starch isn’t juicy, fruity, or sexy: she’s the thick skinned staple that’s best when enhanced with salt, grease, or zesty condiments.

Juicy red tomatoes don’t transform into pale amorphous tubers overnight. Nope, it took me 5 years to gain 50 pounds while actively trying to lose it. The weight came along with goodies like Hashimoto’s Disease, week long migraines, PTSD cortisol surges, anxiety attacks, vitamin B and D deficiencies, 5 uterine procedures to treat periods that would last a year at a time, asthma… and it came on during the most intense years of my life thus far, while I had four kids in four schools, then launching my older teens out into the big, bright world, working full time, writing seven whole drafts of a dysfunctional novel that won’t ever see the light of day, therapeutically addressing the causes of my PTSD, anxiety and depression, as well as dealing with the ongoing stress from an abusive ex-husband who thrives on drama and trauma.

My hairdresser recently said, “Your hair is nearly 100% white on top and it’s in the pattern that comes from stress.”

My doctor recently said, “I think the reason you can’t lose is weight is because cortisol dumps on pounds.”

I gained when I ate, gained when I didn’t eat. Gained on every elimination diet. I gained when running for 100 days straight. Gained while lifting weights and drinking protein shakes. Gained 25 pounds of it while on keto, trying to eat high fat, low carb. I gained while intermittently fasting. Gained during lent. I gained 8 pounds on Weight Watchers, even always coming in under points. I gained on My Fitness Pal. I gained on the Mayo Clinic Diet. I endured the perky cheer of Trim Healthy Mama and finished it as a Big Grouchy Mama. I gained when I stopped dieting and tried just calming the fuck down. I watched food documentaries and switched to a plant based diet and quit drinking and guess what? I gained again.

I don’t drink soda and don’t smoke, I take my vitamins, practice self-care, get enough rest, drink plenty of water, practice yoga and meditation, watch my sugar intake, love salads and green things, and I like to play outside. The REAL me is still inside, even though I totally just walked past a mirror the other day and saw a person I don’t recognize.

“Welcome to the club, sweetie.”

From what I understand, these growth spurts aren’t unusual among women my age. We all cry-bag about the same thing with very little variance in our stories. That’s what happened one day last summer as I sat on my friend Donna’s deck and we bitched about aging. Donna is a high school teacher and former Marine helicopter pilot who takes zero bullshit from anyone. I’m fortunate to call her one of my dearest friends. I decided to focus on “moving past trying to lose weight” and “embrace my new rubenesque form.” After all, I’m all about progress and sucking the marrow out of life. If I’m meant to live the second half of my life fat, so be it. It’s not as though my best efforts to change it were working anyway.

Donna teaches science. While I tried to live my best life sampling buttery Chardonnays and nut-stuffed olives, Donna kept looking for a way to solve the real problem. In January 2018 I got sick with the flu, which led to an upper respiratory infection, and then uncontrollable asthma attacks. I didn’t leave my house for two months, which was the entire duration of lent this year. I didn’t see Donna for a several weeks. And then when I did make it back to church, I totally just walked past this lady who seemed familiar but that I didn’t recognize.

Donna had lost 25 pounds using a program called Optavia. She was slender, glowing, athletic, strong, and vibrant. Her hair shone and her eyes sparkled. Understand, this is not only unusual because she’d lost weight; this was also the third quarter of the school year, when NO TEACHER is energetic and glowing. Whatever she’d done on the diet, she’d done it while living amid her own life stressors, while also navigating her own list of physical and hormonal challenges, and without saying no forever to all her favorite foods and drinks.

“It’s not a secret, it’s just science,” she said. “Well, it’s also finances,” I replied, and she agreed. Optavia has a cost involved and a commitment needed if it’s going to work. “And it never doesn’t work,” she added.

I resisted. I was just starting the plant based diet and no longer drinking. I was grouchy about it. I don’t like processed food and food that comes in a box, even if it’s short term. I felt burnt out on “diets”. Then my always-low blood pressure started spiking and the scale tipped a number that horrified me. Weeks passed. I went on vacation. My newly purchased clothes for the trip that were also larger than I’d ever bought before, felt tight. My wedding ring got stuck on my little fat finger. Going it on my own isn’t working. At my sunrise birthday party on the beach I told Donna I thought my ability to diet without shedding weight was actually a secret super power. She said she honestly just thought I needed to try Optavia. The pursuit of weight loss on my own had been a long road and this feels like the end of it.

I guess the timing is perfect. I’m at the dawn of a new year, we’re starting at the first of a new month, I’ve got no more ideas or excuses or reasons not to try. The money is going to even out with what I ordinarily spend on groceries + alcohol. There are ways to do it and stay plant based. She’s going to coach me every step of the way. She offered to help me pick out the contents of my first box. I gave her my credit card and read through the materials over the weekend. The box comes later today.

I promised to journal and write my story, which I’ll post here every Thursday. I’m nervous, mostly because I’m afraid this isn’t going to work. Even a metabolic jump start would be a win– any downward movement of the scale would be remarkable after 5 years of only going up. I’ve taken measurements as an added metric but I’d really love to fit comfortably in my clothes. I don’t know what’s on the other side but I keep thinking about puberty.

Little girls go through dramatic changes in that process, which lasts approximately four years and turns them into young women. This second puberty shifts fertile women into another stage of life but one that still has several decades of living ahead! I’m not expecting to come through this second wave looking like my 34 year old self. That would be as impossible as a poppin’ 19 year old looking like a child again. I’m hoping to come out looking like a vibrant, slightly older version of the same person I’ve always been, someone with wisdom and valued experience but also energy and strength and health. In my heart of hearts, I believe there’s a way to age gracefully and healthfully, with my inner badass and verve intact.  I honestly don’t know if Optavia can help get me back to her but I do know I can at least try. The me-inside is game to try.


If you’d like to follow my Optavia journey, click “Follow” at the bottom of this post. You’ll get an email with my weekly post. If you’d like to connect with my supercalifragilisticexpialidocious coach Donna, use my contact form to let me know and I’ll send you her email.

Read my Week One insights on weight loss and self-care here.