Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Journey to Health and Happiness

When I graduated high school I started gaining A LOT of weight. Ya know that dreaded freshman 15? ... only mine wasn't a freshman 15, it was worse.
Shortly after graduating high school the weight gain was showing, check out that belly (and no I wasn't pregnant).



In a matter of 6 months I had gained 35-40lbs. Where did all of this weight come from?! I was so confused. I had always been petite growing up ( I am only 5'1") and with in a matter of months I didn't recognize the person in the mirror. I can remember looking down at my thighs, and for the first time seeing bright red stretch marks everywhere. I was totally devastated.
Weight gain and braces- not my most flattering stage.


How did this happen? Why did I look like this? I was looking for some type of explanation.


Reflecting back on the past I have realized there wasn't an easy explanation for my weight gain like I had wanted there to be. I wanted a magic button that would revert me back to my old body. Hey I got news for you, there is no magic button, pill, or diet. It comes down to getting REAL with yourself and taking a good hard look at all your habits and committing to a change, not a diet, but a life long change. 
 

Here is my story....


After gaining a lot of weight I knew something needed to give so I enrolled in a fitness class on campus that required me to work out 4 days a week for 1 hour to get an A. This sounded like the perfect solution because it would force me to adopt a regular work out routine.




Over the course of my college fitness class I was working out 4-5 days a week, only problem was the scale was going UP. What?! UP? No, this can't be right I told myself.



Concerned that something might be wrong I went to the doctor to discuss my drastic weight gain. After some blood tests, I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and had been told that this is why I was having trouble losing weight.



I had many other symptoms besides just weight gain. My hair was falling out, horrible acne, and I had not had a period in 9 months. I mean any woman out there know 9 months without a period is a scary thing! I left the doctor feeling a sense of relief. Essentially what I took from my doctor’s appointment that day is that none of the weight gain had really been my fault. I had an excuse, it was beyond my control, I had a disease. WRONG. But that is what I told myself for a long time. The doctor basically explained that the hormone imbalance associated with PCOS made it 10x harder for me to lose weight over a "normal" person. Which meant I was going to have to work much harder to get back to old me.



I was put on a diabetes medication (Metformin- I was on the verge of being pre-diabetic at the time) to help me loose weight and control my insulin levels. Although I didn’t have diabetes, PCOS causes similar insulin spikes that can lead to other hormone imbalances and weight gain. This medication had some of the worst side effects I have ever experienced. The side effects became too much to handle and were interrupting my daily life. A few months later I went off the medication.



I realized I needed to make big changes in order to feel good about myself again. I wanted to get my eating in check so my first big change... oh just thinking about this makes me laugh...go on Jenny Craig. After researching Jenny Craig, their food options didn't sound "yummy" enough for me.



After reading lots of reviews on food home delivery I settled on E-diets because their menu items sounded irresistible. Please, please, please never subscribe to ediets.com. I was convinced that if I had pre-portioned meals all laid out for me I would have no excuse to not be eating healthy. The only roadblock in this epic plan of mine was that the food from E-Diets was inedible and far from healthy.



The women they picture on their site claim to have lost 40lbs sometimes even more from E-Diets. I honestly do believe if these women were able to choke down the rubbery, soggy, tiny, tiny portions E-Diets sent and stuck to the plan they probably did lose 40lbs… from starvation!!! I could not force myself to eat these "gourmet meals" that were really the most disgusting TV dinners I have ever tried to stomach.

August 2011- 15lbs lost.

 

It was May 2011- I was left feeling discouraged, as if there was no hope for me. My younger sister was having her Bat Mitzvah that summer and my whole family was coming to town. I hadn't seen most of my family since gaining all of this weight. I didn't want them to see me this way, which gave me motivation to keep going with my weight loss journey. I started trying to eat "healthier", eliminated soda, kept simple carbs to a minimum and watched my sugar intake. I had lost 15lbs by the end of August 2011 when my family came to visit. I felt much better about myself but still was nowhere near reaching my goal. Although I was trying to eat healthier, I wasn't totally committed.

December of 2011 I moved to Bellingham, Washington, 1 and a half hours north of Seattle, for school. This is really where my clean eating journey began. I was committed to getting my health back and not being plagued by my PCOS. I learned about clean eating and made small consistent changes over a period of time. I am a college student, so my budget is limited. I started by swapping out pantry items slowly. Then I started buying more whole foods and filling my house with healthy options verses calorie dense and nutrient deficient foods. 

I also taught myself how to cook! I went from not being able to make boxed mac and cheese to cooking gourmet healthy meals for myself. I have eliminated most processed food, added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and chemicals from my diet. These are the types of things in food that trigger cravings. I have learned that healthy food tastes good, it just takes more work! Anything in life worth having takes work. The key to my weight loss was getting my eating in check. No amount of work that I did in the gym would out weigh my unhealthy food choices. Once my eating was on point and I was working out, the pounds started coming off. 

 One of my new favorite activities since moving to Bellingham, hiking! Made it to the top of the Oyster Dome- hard hike but worth the breath taking views. 

I now eat an 80% clean diet consisting of whole unprocessed foods, 20% my foodie desires. Balance in life is key! I do believe in an occasional cheat or treat meal, whatever you want to call it, but I still don't "pig out" like I would have years ago. Everything in moderation and a good balance prevents me from over indulging. Through healthy eating and getting active I have been able to reverse almost all of my PCOS symptoms. No medication, no real help from doctors, just hard work and dedication. I have lost over 40lbs to date, have a regular cycle, and no more acne.



I don't weigh myself very often anymore. Scales are cruel and never end up making me feel good about myself. I stick to my clean eating and workout routine and I don't worry about the scale. You have to remember muscle weighs more than fat and there is a lot more going on in your body that scale just can't see. I don't count calories. I count nutrition, meaning if it is healthy and provides my body with clean nutritional value I find no guilt in eating it. I listen to my body, eat when I am hungry, and choose healthy options. For some people tracking numbers helps, for me it complicates and confines my journey. Do what works best for YOU!



Since the beginning of the year I’ve been working out 5-6 days a week to take my body to the next level. I like to keep my body guessing and mix up my workouts. I am working on replacing fat with muscle and gaining strength. I am doing a Chalean Extreme hybrid with 2-3 days a week of the program and 2 days of lifting in the gym with some cardio mixed in. Later this month I will be starting Insanity Asylum- a 30 day sports conditioning program to get my beach body is shape for summer!

Feburary 2013- healthier and happier than ever before.


My advice is... stick with this journey!! It is going to be hard at times, you might want to give up and revert back to your old habits but don't. There are no quick fixes to long-term weight loss (I'm NOT talking about yo-yo dieting). It takes hard work and dedication but it will be worth it! I am a work in progress- each day striving to be better than the day before. My love for health and fitness has grown into a passion. I want to help others achieve their goals and be happy within their own skin. Loving yourself first is the key to loving anyone else fully.



If you ever have any questions about my journey or need advice please comment or reach out to me on Facebook. You’re not alone in this!
 

32 comments:

  1. Love this! Such an inspiration for me. Glad I know I'm not along in this PCOS journey! Keep going girl!

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    1. I agree with Alexis!!! My husband and I have been trying to conceive since last July with no success and I was diagnosed with PCOS but I HAVE started my journey as of last week. I started P90X and shakeology plus clean eating!!!! Can't wait to follow your blog's some more and hopefully conceive by the end of the year :) You look amazing and so beautiful by the way!!!

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    2. Kelly thanks so much for your sweet comment! I have found food and exercise really are the best medicine with PCOS. Stick with this journey I am confident it will happen for you and your hubby. Let's connect on Facebook! Send me a friend request FB.com/Lauren.Kilisky

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  2. Hi Lauren,

    I just read your article and I find it very encouraging and inspiring.
    I discovered the phrase “clean eating” through your Instagram account last December, when you posted your progress picture from August 2010 to December 2012. I had a broken toe at that time so I wasn’t able to exercise at all but I started to be conscious about what I was eating. Then I discovered about Simple Green Smoothies with the 30-day challenge of green smoothies and the movie Hungry for Change. I thought starting by juicing would be a good start to my lifestyle change.
    Physically talking, I swim twice a week during a couple of hours, my job is also quite physical but that’s really all the exercise I really did back then. So, towards the beginning of February, I started walking for 45 minutes in the morning. Fast burning walks before eating breakfast.
    And then of course, my trip to the U.S. happened.
    Since I came back, I’ve had mostly more downs than ups… I’m rather impatient and would like to see results faster. I try not to weigh myself but instead measure myself. But even then, my measurements aren’t dropping. My skin condition has improved and my cheeks are less swollen than they used to be, but I see absolutely no results on my waist, hips or thighs. This led to a drop in my motivation. Though I continue to eat about 60-70 % clean, I’ve stopped doing my fast burning walks 3 days ago.
    My family or my friends are reaaaally not in that place where you try to bring your body to its healthiest and fittest so it’s kind of hard to feel encouraged.
    Your advice “stick with this journey” gave me faith again. Me and my mind (lol) are beginning to understand and cope with the fact that this process is going to take some time and determination.
    Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you (again!) for being this inspirational model. I really look up to you with all you’ve achieved. I look forward to achieve similar goals in a close future! ^^
    Thank you again. :-)

    Emma

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  3. Props on putting your story out there! It will help so many people! We need to hike Oyster Dome soon! I still haven't done it and have been dying too!

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  4. Cheers to your success! You look great!

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  5. This gives me some hope. I actually just moved to Bellingham to start a healthier life here because where I used to live did not promote a healthy lifestyle. I have PCOS and it is out of control! I found you on Pinterest so it was really a great surprise to see that Bellingham helped you too! Looking forward to my own journey!

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    1. NO WAY!! Where did you move from? Bellingham is a great little town. It helps to be surrounded by other people who are healthy conscious, but there is still a lot of room for improvement even here. We should connect on FB - add me (Lauren Kilisky).

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  6. So inspiring Lauren!!! I almost got a little teary reading this. PCOS sucks - but we are better than those silly letters & I am so glad to know I am not alone and have some great girls along on my journey with me :)

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  7. I really enjoyed reading about your experience. I have known about my PCOS for a few years, but didn't see the effects on my weight until the past year or so. I have always felt so confident in every part of my life, BUT my self-image and weight. To hear someone else's story is so comforting and inspiring! I recently started a clean-eating lifestyle change. It has been challenging, but I am taking it day by day and keeping my eye on the prize!

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  8. Thank you for writing this encouragement! I was just diagnosed with PCOS today and have been trying to read and learn all I can about it. The more I read the more overwhelmed I become. I'm not struggling with my weight YET but I know that I'm more prone to weight gain/diabetes since being diagnosed so I want to prevent as much as possible. Thank you for documenting your story!

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  9. Hey Lauren, I have just been diagnosed with PCOS and found this a great read. I hope I can replicate what you've done :). Mandy x

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Mandy! I know you can do it!! XO

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  10. I have been diagnosed with PCOS too, it has been so hard keeping weight off, I lose it and then gain it right back. Thank you for sharing, it was so encouraging to read your story.

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  11. I absolutely LOVE this!!! Thanks for sharing. I'm also a college student and I find it to be extremely hard to avoid eating that nasty, greasy food that they serve in the cafeteria. I tried to eat clean, but the little money that I had wouldn't stretch that far in order for me to keep healthy options stocked in my fridge. I have PCOS also and I am struggling with self esteem issues. They started back when I was a little girl and my grandma picked on me about how big I was. Even now, I've felt like I've been in this battle all alone. Glad someone knows my pain! God bless :)

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  12. Hi! Man, this was encouraging to read. I'm 23, just got diagnosed with PCOS, and am slowly losing weight. It's frustrating, but the medicine I'm taking helps and reading encouraging blogs helps too. :) I'd love to chat with you sometime!

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  13. Sitting here in tears. This MY story! Went college and gained 50lbs my freshman year. I tried everything to stop the gaining and was devastated when i looked in the mirror. I was diagnosed at age 19 with PCOS. Ten years later (and Three kids later) I am still fighting to lose these 50lbs. I am pulling my strength ftom your success. Thank you for sharing!

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  14. I moved to Bellingham last year to "start over". I found you on pinterest when I was looking for a new way to approach food, having pcos. I am so glad I found your blog :)

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  15. I have a question! You look amazing by the way, Go you! I have pcos as well, and I started out at about 230lbs and i am now down to 183 :) My only concern is my skin,I can tell that my arms thighs and tummy are smaller but there is just extra skin hanging around. My arms are my biggest concern.. Did you experience the same thing? Does it go away with time, or did you do something more to help your skin recover?

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  16. Thank you for sharing!! I was researching diets for PCOS and came across your story. You look amazing!! You have given me hope that I can lose the weight I want, and need too! I am going to start working out tomorrow in fact! :D

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  17. Thanks for sharing, your story was really inspiring! I have a question though. I've been diagnosed with PCOS (finally) and my hair has been falling out at an excessive rate. The hair that you mentioned you lost, did it grow back? I've just started eating clean and exercising regularly but am hoping to see improvement with my hair in the long run :( Either way thanks again, you look great!

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  18. Wow your story brought tears to my eyes, i was diagnosed on christmas eve with PCOS. Out of all days. lol. But your right. Keeping your eye on the target is going to get you father then you expect. Your an inspiration to all of us that have PCOS. You body is fab. Keep going at it. I am going to start doing more research and hope in the future i can be where i need to be too with my physical and mental state of mind. Thank you so much for blogging.

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  19. I've just recently started on my journey to health as well. I even started a blog this week about my journey and would love for you to stop by with any tips, inspiration, anything. It's so hard for me to figure out what to eat, how to cook etc with 4 family members, two of those being very, very picky eaters. They're three and one and a half years old. One of them went through a four month stint on wanting to eat nothing more than hot dogs, mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. My blog is sweetragscreations.blogspot.com again I'd love any tips you have

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  20. Lauren -

    Thank you so much for writing this article. It is so exciting to hear from someone who like me, isn't ready for pregnancy but still needs to eat healthy and figure out ways to cope with PCOS without the fertility side yet. There are so many similarities in our story and it feels great to know we are not alone. (especially all the comments as well) I just really want to thank you for giving me courage and hope that I can do this as well!

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  21. Hi your story is so inspiring! Can you please tell me what you ate for lunch and dinner? I like to eat oatmeal for breakfast.

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  22. Hi my name is Ashton Burleson and i'm 18 years old and just found out I have PCOS. I had never heard of it until then and I found out a few weeks ago. Reading this has inspired me to take control of this. I was starting to blame PCOS for everything but now I realize that I have control over this and REFUSE to let it control me! I would love to follow you on Facebook if that's alright so I can keep myself inspired and motivated to eat clean and workout. You have become my new inspiration just by reading this! Keep it up! :)

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  23. Hi my name is Ashton Burleson and i'm 18 years old and just found out I have PCOS. I had never heard of it until then and I found out a few weeks ago. Reading this has inspired me to take control of this. I was starting to blame PCOS for everything but now I realize that I have control over this and REFUSE to let it control me! I would love to follow you on Facebook if that's alright so I can keep myself inspired and motivated to eat clean and workout. You have become my new inspiration just by reading this! Keep it up! :)

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