Best Life Challenge: The Best of LaToya's Blog
Weight: 190 pounds
To accomplish her goal, LaToya says she'll have to break free from her family's "famous hips." As LaToya explains, "exercise" was a bad word in her house. She was raised to be "a little lady" and that meant sweating was strictly discouraged. Combining that sweat phobia with unhealthy attitudes about eating has brought LaToya to nearly 200 pounds on her tiny frame.
Now LaToya says she's ready to put her family history behind her, get rid of the "meat on her bones," and start living the healthy, confident life she knows she deserves!
Overall, my week was good. I am just still overwhelmed that this is my life (and that Bob Greene and Oprah Winfrey know my name!). The fact that I have this opportunity to change my life for the better is just amazing to me and nothing but a blessing. The onslaught of e-mails and well-wishes has been so inspirational. I can't believe that my story touched so many lives. Friends have come up to me and told me how I've inspired them to join the diet or deal with some other aspect of their lives. I was like, "Wow, really? You have issues, too? We all are struggling with the same issues?" Who would have thought that all of these fabulous people around me were having similar issues? Committing to this public process has opened up conversations with my friend-base that I think has been really valuable. People are now more willing to show their warts, which I think is a good thing. Heck, a great thing! Maybe we can get down to authentic living soon!
My biggest challenge this week was my late club night on Friday night. I had dinner at 6 p.m., but by 11 p.m. I was pretty famished. So, I decided that since I was about to go dancing and would be up fairly late, it was acceptable to have something to eat. The problem was that nothing was open, so I convinced myself that McD's was okay. I had a fish sandwich and small fries. I guess it could have been worse, but I definitely felt guilty eating it. To make up for it, I kept myself on the dance floor and danced the night away. My shirt was drenched when the night was over! At least some of those calories were burned off. ;-) (Side note: The no-alcohol rule was killing me softly when I was at the club—especially since they were charging $6 for a bottle of water! That was painful.)
So, on to the next week. My goal this week is to figure out the late-night gatherings prior to leaving the house so that I don't have another McD's situation on my hands. This is my life, so I can't avoid them. I just have to figure out how to deal with them. Heck, by figuring it out for myself, I may end up helping someone else. Now, that's motivation!
I hope this message finds you well. I'm looking forward to getting together with the team soon. Anyway, here's Week 4. Can you believe it...where has the time gone? Soon, I'll be writing Week 24.
The end of the fourth week has finally arrived and I must say that the day started out with a fizzle. We received the word from Bob that we could weigh ourselves this morning. Man, oh, man! How is it that four digits has such an impact on me? If you would have asked me how I was doing on this challenge prior to getting on the scale, I would have discussed how my new behaviors have become habits. I would have mentioned how I am starting to get creative with my drink orders sans alcohol. I would have been beaming about my progress. Well, after I read the scale...waited a few minutes...and read it again, a surge of disappointment rushed over me. Suddenly, my efforts became reflective of this number. No new habits, no accomplishments, no pride...just a number that was only a half-pound less than it was when I started this process.
At first I took it hard. "Lucy, you'se got some s'plainin' to do!" I was so frustrated, embarrassed, etc. I began to get that feeling that I used to get when diets didn't net the quick results I was looking for. I just sat and sulked for a while. How was I going to face everyone? Heck, what would Bob say? Oh no! But then something fabulous happened. I checked my e-mail and Tori had started a thread about her minimal weight loss...then Barb...then it just kept coming. By the end of the day, all of the team had sent words of encouragement to one another about disappointment with their scale numbers. With each e-mail, my spirit was lifted.
Bill reminded us that this was a journey and that we were just at the beginning. Melissa reminded us of how our behaviors had changed and that was what was most important. They were right! I have improved certain behaviors and, while the scale didn't reflect it, I KNOW IT! I've been working hard in Phase 1 and I should be proud of that. So I brushed myself off and filled up my water bottle. Heck, I had work to do! Whew, I'm so glad I checked that e-mail. If I hadn't, I'd be drowning myself in McD's french fries and a caramel sundae! And after coming so far, that's no place I want to be.
The lesson...success isn't always measured on the scale. What's more, the support of friends is invaluable!
Even though I was the "odd ball," everyone was very supportive and impressed with my level of dedication. Having their support made me feel so much better, because I was very nervous about how it would be perceived. But it worked out fine. Some of my friends even met me at 6:30 a.m. to work out on Saturday. Now you know that's love! Even though the facility did not have a gym, we made use of the open space and went to town!
A special thanks to all of the "chosen" women who supported me without judgment this past weekend. Having so many cheerleaders made all of the difference.
Now after such a good weekend, you'd think I'd be on top of the world, right? Wrong. I ran into an old friend when I returned from the trip...french fries! Oh my goodness! There is something seductive about a french fry that renders me helpless.
So, after partaking in a few of them (who am I kidding? A few dozen of them!), I made a decision. I am banning french fries from restaurants from my diet during Phase 2. If I prepare the baked fries at home, that's fine because I count them out, they are baked, etc. But at restaurants, I cannot even order them while I'm in this phase because I have not mastered the art of portion control when it comes to french fries. It's my Achilles' heel, so I'm taking my power back.
I'm still figuring out this eating out thing. Although I've decided to limit the times I eat out considerably, the reality is still that eating out is a part of my life. Now I just need to learn how to do that in a healthy manner. So I'm on the hunt for dining out tips—I'll report back anything I learn. Heck, I can't be the only person who struggles with selecting the right meal on a Pan-Asian menu!
Until next time,
If I had a dollar for every time I have gotten that question, I would be financially secure. Better yet, if I lost a pound each time I heard that, I wouldn't have to work out anymore. :-)
Friends, family, strangers...everyone wants the answer to this question. It's an interesting place to sit. People feel completely comfortable talking to me about my weight. I guess when you "out" yourself on Oprah for wanting to lose weight, you are fair game to this type of probing. Honestly, it's only natural to be curious about that. But as I've reflected on it this week, I realized that in most people's minds—including my own—weight loss has become the sole barometer of my success on this journey. It's more about the number and less about the lifestyle changes and new habits that have formed.
In reviewing my journal entries, I saw how much I was beating myself up because the scale didn't appear to reflect my effort. I was trying to figure out ways to get the scale to move, to prove to everyone that I was really working hard. After all, no one is with me 24/7 to see the changes I've made in my life. So the scale is their only window to my effort. Forget about what the book says about the slow and steady weight loss. No one really cares about that. They want some dramatic weight loss (heck, so do I!), and are judging me based on the decline of the scale. C'mon scale, move down...move down!
I realized the amount of pressure I have put on myself to decrease the scale amount. I began to get so caught up in the whirlwind of the number that I was losing sight of the bigger picture of making incremental steps to become healthier FOREVER! I get it, it's a weight loss challenge. So, at the end of the day, I should lose weight.
What I've come to realize, though, is that by focusing solely on the weight loss I fail to affirm the daily success that I've had, such as eating before I go out or volunteering to bring a healthy dessert for a potluck. Shouldn't I be proud of the fact that I have packed my lunch for the past three weeks? And working out on the elliptical at 11:30 p.m. after just getting home definitely deserves a gold star! So when I give someone an update and their response is, "You must not be trying hard enough," or "Keep at it, I'm sure you'll eventually become successful," or "Are you cheating?" it completely negates my sincere effort. I start doubting myself and that's no longer okay. I know I'm working hard...PERIOD. With continual effort, I will reach my goal. I can't get caught up in this or it will become something it isn't—a diet!
I know that I will still get the question, and I will still answer it. But privately I will celebrate my steps toward living the best life. When necessary, I'll make adjustments—e.g. the french fry debacle—and keep it moving.
We would all like to see the scale decline when we are on a weight loss journey. But I have to believe that it is not the full measure of success. I'm going to focus on the behavior. After all, it's the only thing that I really can control. Okay, I'm taking the challenge on the road (again) and am off to Montego Bay tomorrow. I know I'll have a lot to fill you in on when I return!
Until next time,
But the funniest thing happened when I got there. It was like second nature! The eating...the exercise, they didn't evoke the stress or intensity that I anticipated. Passing on certain things or asking for particular things was required behavior. PERIOD! I think I was worried that I would look like a "dieter" and wouldn't be as fun to hang out with. It turns out that my new lifestyle is actually quite normal and no one even mentioned my eating or my fitness activity. See, most of that is in my head! I just need to focus on me and stop worrying about what others think.
The biggest success on this vacation for me was that I developed a plan and I stuck to it! I didn't get caught up in the concept that being on vacation equals relaxing my newly formed habits. Heck, no! It took too long to form these "bad boys" to leave them at home.
Actually, the habits are a part of me now (can you believe it?), so me on vacation didn't look that different from me at home. Now that's progress. My friend and I even got up three out of the four mornings and worked out. It was funny because my friend, Jill, mentioned that, based on my mannerisms, she knew that exercise was nonnegotiable. She was right. So, before we had breakfast, we hauled our butts to the resort's gym and got busy. As we made our way over, we joked about how we would be the only folks at the gym so early. Ha! It was filled with "healthy" (read: "skinny") people. We looked at each other and I said, "Oh, so this is what 'healthy' people do on vacation? They work out. Right!"
I allowed myself one goodie for the entire trip, which for me was one mixed drink. I mean, what's Jamaica without a little Jamaican rum? The nice thing about planning for it was that I looked forward to it, I savored it, and then it was over. I didn't feel guilty, and I didn't have another one.
Overall, I was able to truly enjoy my vacation while still maintaining the new me. I was able to find a balance that I was able to stick to. I didn't become so stressed out that I didn't enjoy myself. I just followed the plan. Now that's progress for real.
In the illustrious words of Effie in Dreamgirls, "I am changing!"
Until next time,
What inspired me the most about these conversations was that those individuals could relate to my situation. Some people commented that they had similar struggles with the scale. (So, it's not just MY scale that lies?) Others mentioned that with such a hectic schedule—especially with travel, meetings, etc.—it has been hard for them to fit in the extended time needed to exercise or prepare meals.
The reason why this was inspirational to me was because I began feeling like an anomaly on this challenge. I mean, am I the only person who regularly leaves home at 8 a.m. and returns at 10:00 p.m., and thinks carrying all her meals and snacks in a lunch box throughout the day seems impossible? Is it me, or does fitting in a couple of hours of exercise in an already crazed day feel unrealistic? Hearing from individuals who understood what I meant when I said that I needed things that would "fit into my lifestyle" was comforting.
It wasn't about a "partying" or "social" lifestyle. I was speaking of a schedule that I "barely get enough sleep in" lifestyle. But I said to them what I've been saying to myself since boot camp. If Oprah with her busy schedule figures out a way to fit it in, we can, too. We HAVE to! It's going to require a sacrifice of something, but it'll be worth it. Yeah, it will definitely be worth it!
Until next time...
Being sick made me realize that the challenge has truly become a lifestyle. Instead of using my illness as an excuse to be lazy, I still got up and worked out. Now let me not overstate it. While I moved four times last week, it was not strenuous. But it was important for me to keep the habit going. So long walks, low intensity cardio classes, etc. replaced my usual regime. Wow, what a difference a challenge makes. Trust me, before this challenge, the last thing I would be doing while I was sick would be working out. Heck, the last thing I would have been doing while feeling healthy would have been working out! So clearly a mental adjustment has occurred.
The food part was a little easier because I didn't want anything to eat. But I must admit that toast was my food of choice. Have you ever noticed that when you get sick, most of the foods that you're advised to eat are high in carbs and low in vegetables—toast, crackers, chicken noodle soup, rice, etc.? I decided not to worry too much about that and I focused on getting better. By the end of the week, I felt better and now I'm ripping and running again. A little stomach flu can't keep a sistah down...not anymore, anyway. :-)
Until next time...
Oh, my goodness. I moved this past weekend. I must say that the stress of the move by itself was enough to take me to the edge. Packing, getting movers, making sure the new space was ready, cleaning, etc., created in me an overwhelming sense of wanting to retreat to a place of comfort. Add to that trying to navigate a new community to find something to eat because your food is packed and on a truck, and I had a true recipe for disaster.
So, how did it go? Well, I didn't exercise much last week (only three times), and while I could attempt to excuse it away because of the packing process, I won't. My eating was better and I maintained my Phase 2 diet. The only problem was that I didn't write things down. Argh! For me, writing down my food is so very important! So I'm frustrated that I didn't keep up with that.
Well, I've brushed myself off and I'm back on the wagon. I started writing down my food and I've even started a new exercise program this week that will definitely be kicking my butt! I'm still unpacking and still a little stressed out. But, oh well, I have work to do! Now, I'm on the hunt for an accountability partner because, let's face it, I need some more help on this! I have some great cheerleaders, but now I need a drill sergeant. Well, not really a drill sergeant, but you know what I mean!
Until next time,
We're in Johannesburg now and I love it here. I could see living here for a little while. It feels very much like being back home. And there is a mall across the street from our hotel. Hello!
The challenge has been going against the grain of the crowd and making wise choices relative to eating. But I've been holding my own and asking for what I need. Sometimes I have had to go grab a meal on my own to make sure that I could do the right thing. I've even had to ask for vegetables at certain restaurants because they don't always offer them with the meals here. But potatoes and bread? They are giving those away! Oh, and even though I am in wine country, I have not had one drop of alcohol. See, Bob, I learned from my mistakes. I've also been finding space to work out at the gym in the hotel and I'm still doing hard labor at the sites that we are working with. Have I been perfect? No, but I have definitely been working hard and being a good representative of TBL challengers abroad!
Well, I am homebound soon and I'll get back to my normal routine. I intend to step up my exercises and try some new things. I also have met some new workout buddies on the trip, so we'll be making plans when I get back as well. Oh, and I plan to join a food co-op so that I can purchase organic produce. Yay! Onward and upward, right?
Until next time,
One of the most exciting things that I have done this week was take a stroll down memory lane with my dad. Although I was born and raised in New York, I have not visited my childhood homes in quite some time. So on Monday, we took a "back in the day" road trip and visited some of those places. It was a great experience. My dad and I went back and forth, sharing stories about my youth. We laughed and shared, laughed and shared. I had fond memories in those homes.
Then it happened! It was time to eat and we decided to hit our favorite soul food spot in Queens. Duh-da-da-duuuh! Now what would I do? The old me would have had a twinkle in her eye as we pulled up to the restaurant, but the Best Life me was quite nervous. What was I going to eat? This place is not known for "living your best life." What should I choose? What would Bob order? Bob probably would not have even come into the place! So I thought long and hard and then ordered baked chicken, string beans and cabbage. No sweet potatoes, mac and cheese or stuffing for me! To top it off, I only ate a third of the serving. Now that's progress!
As I sat down and watched as my family eat (oh, they got the sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, etc.), I realized that I really have changed. I really am not the same person that I used to be, and I actually can live without consuming all those types of foods. My parents commented on my eating habits and were surprised—and proud—of my food order. You know what? So was I!
Until next time,
At first, I was so offended and I began to berate this person and let them know that I was praying that every one of the six-pack would "win!" I told the person that this was an individual journey that each person needed to figure out for themselves. This wasn't a challenge, and I was supporting everyone. How dare they. I just went on and on...
The next day, I went to work out with a friend, and as we were doing our thing, she said it. She said the word "challenge." This time however, it wasn't in the context of the other team members or even this show. She was directing the word at me. She said, "LaToya, challenge yourself. Work out harder. Push yourself. This is between you and you!" Huh? Challenge myself? Isn't it enough that I am out here? Isn't it enough that I am getting my workout in? What do you mean challenge myself? I am challenging myself!
And then, right before I fixed my demeanor to be offended, it hit me. The Best Life Challenge is not about the other five people on this journey with me. It's not about who wins or loses. It's about me and me. It's about challenging myself to live MY best life every day, with every workout and every meal. It's about doing activities that stretch me and help me to go to a higher lever.
Wow, that's deep! It made me realize that I had to recalibrate some things so that when the next person asks me if I am challenging myself I can respond with a resounding, "Absolutely!"
Until next time,
First thing's first—exercise. I decided to take my workouts up a notch. I knew I would need to visit the gym more regularly. Okay, I can do that. But something inside was saying, "Go for it, girl. Aim higher!"
I began asking around to folks I knew were into this stuff (working out, that is) and I was introduced to boot camp! Oh my...oh my! After checking out the class, I realized that it would most certainly be a challenge for me. And I did the craziest thing known to man. I JOINED! Yep, that's right. Can you imagine me with some men yelling about more reps. What the heck?
Yeah, there's a lot of eye rolling going on. At the end of each work out, I vow never to do it again. I'm fully drenched (and you know a sista' does not like to sweat), hungry and so sleepy. But for some strange reason, I keep going back. I think it's because I cannot deny the sense of accomplishment I feel when I'm done. If you can make it in boot camp fitness, you can make it anywhere!
Once I get this new workout schedule down pat, I'll set my sights at updating how I'm eating. For now, I just need to rest. Tomorrow is a whole new day with more workouts in store.
Yes, I fall on my sword. I admit it. I made a major mistake which I paid for on the treadmill the next day. A friend and I had a meeting at a coffeehouse in Brooklyn. As I was ordering my tea, I noticed this beautiful, shiny cake display that appeared to be calling my name in a soft whisper that only I heard. Since turning over a new leaf and fully immersing myself in this new lifestyle, cakes normally don't phase me. A good fruit salad is all I need to get my sweet tooth fix. But for some reason, while waiting for my tea, this cake—red velvet at that—knew just how to reach me.
Even though I kept turning away and tried distracting myself with other movements, the cake continued to get my attention. And then it happened...the cake put a sign on it that I was sure was done just for me. It read "vegan." In my moment of weakness (and stupidity), I rationalized that vegan meant sugar-free, fat-free and calorie-free. In that same moment, I ordered a slice to go with my tea. As I carried the cake to my seat, I thought that this was probably not a good idea. I shouldn't be doing this. For heaven's sake, I live a different lifestyle now, so I can't eat this thing...all by myself.
So, me being me, I went back...and asked for a second fork so my friend could share it with me. Now that's more like it. Together we devoured that cake! It didn't stand a chance. Who knew a vegan cake could be so good!
As I came down from my sugar high, the reality set in of how many minutes on the treadmill I would need to do to take off the calories that I just consumed. YIKES! Trust me, crime (like eating a slice of cake when you know you have no business eating it) doesn't pay! I've learned my lesson and now I'm reformed. Next time I'll remember that good tea can stand on its own!
Well, I decided that it wouldn't kill me to take a hiatus on dining out. So I formulated a plan along with a friend daring enough to do this with me (thanks, Shadawn) to drastically curb my restaurant living. I'm in the final week of the hiatus, and I must say it wasn't as bad as I imagined. I became quite creative with my approach to meeting friends at restaurants. I also started going to the grocery store every week (wow!).
It has been a transition but I have enjoyed many aspects of it. I've learned that I can live without going out to eat every day. After this week is over, I can't promise to not eat out again. But I can promise that I'll think twice before I pick up the menu at my favorite restaurant.
Until next time,
Sometimes, the gym received 200 percent, sometimes it was my church commitments. That's not to mention the effort that is required for school and all of my obligations. The walls seemed to close in as I berated myself for the things not checked off of the "to do" list.
The good news is that I didn't go to comfort foods and sulk. The bad news is that I also didn't rush off to the gym to get in an extra workout. I found myself somewhat paralyzed in considering what to tackle first. By the time I realized that some productivity was better than no productivity, the week was almost over. As I reflect back on it I realize that weeks like this are a part of life. I'm certain that I'm not the only human on the planet who feels overwhelmed. The way I handle it now is quite different than a year ago. Today I sit in it. I allow myself to fully experience the emotions of being overwhelmed. I analyze it and try to troubleshoot my way out of it. Yesterday? Well, let's just say that yummy foods can temporarily numb almost any emotion. :-)
So I guess when I think about it the 200 percent effort that I'm giving is in living and feeling every moment. Now that's progress!
Until next time,
This week, I realized how much attention I pay to my food. While this doesn't mean that I have eating down to a science (not even close), I am hypersensitive to the food around me. I now fully realize how much food is a part of my culture and lifestyle. It requires much more than shifting some things in the food cabinets in order to make a significant change to your diet. Knowing this makes this whole process a little easier. Speaking with nutritionist Janis, I know that this journey of weight loss will continue well beyond the framework of this show. It began here and I'm thankful, but it may take years before I reach my goal weight/size. But when I do reach that goal, a party will definitely commence. :-)
Speaking of food, grocery shopping was the main item on the agenda this week. While sifting through the aisles, I ran across an unfamiliar brand, Amy's. They offer frozen vegetarian meals that taste very good. I have used their products on days when cooking is not an option. Other than that discovery, I try to stay around the perimeter of the store. Apparently, that's where all of the healthy items are. Who knew? Now when I return to the grocery store, I'll know what to do!
Until next time,