There is simply no substitute for discipline and good, old-fashioned hard work. I have had the pleasure of watching our next guest author transform over the past 18 months, and wow. It is truly amazing to see someone exemplify what it means to DO THE WORK. I’ve done a lot of things in life, but I haven’t done anything like what Sarah shares with us today. Without any further ado, I introduce you to my dear friend Sarah Goodwin in a very VERY special “How Did You Get Here” Interview…
Brief Bio – Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Sarah Goodwin and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been obese. I remember noticing size difference between me and classmates in Kindergarten, and later asking my thin friends about what they ate, how they restricted their diets, controlled their cravings, how they exercised, etc. when I was in 4th grade. To say I’ve been acutely aware that I was bigger is an understatement. I felt the bullying, name-calling, shunning,…that’s to be expected from children. I’ve seen evidence that coworkers/former friends/acquaintances have discussed my appearance in a negative way. It never feels good to read those words, especially when it’s someone I felt close to, but it’s illuminating about that person’s true self. There’s a negative stigma around size, and people associate your worth, or lack thereof, based on your appearance. People see an obese person and assume lazy, unhealthy, doesn’t care. What they don’t bother seeing is the person behind that: their likes, dislikes, personality, health issues hindering any effort to get healthier.
How did you get started/here?
We had family photos taken in Fall 2017 when my son was around a year old. I wanted our little family to have some really great photos of all of us while he was still little and learning to walk. When we got the files from our photographer, I was in complete shock. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the big smiles and the excellent quality of the photos. But I was at my highest known weight…is that how I look to everyone else? It certainly wasn’t the person I saw in the mirror every day. It’s a sickening feeling; I’d been morbidly obese for years, but I never saw myself as such. Which is odd. I am generally confident about certain things, but in that moment I had very low confidence and body image. It shook me enough that I decided I didn’t want to look that way and was ready to make changes.
Tell us about it. Why?
Between those photos and how I appeared in my son’s 1st birthday photos a couple weeks later, I’d had enough. I’d had that feeling before, of being ready to change, to diet or exercise. And most of the time it was short lived. Good faith efforts with no real results. Most of the photos I took with me and my son ended up getting deleted because I hated how I looked. Which is terrible in retrospect, because he’ll never be that small again.
On 12/27/17, my husband introduced me to a Facebook group called Ketogenic Dieters (KD). Years ago, we tried a LCHF (low carb, high fat) version of the diet for a very short period, but this group’s method was different. The KD group follows a nutritional ketogenic diet: LC, but not HF. They’ve developed a really great document that sums up the diet and science behind it, complete with pages of links to reputable studies for specific topics. (We primarily follow the work of Phinney & Volek). This document is a 45 page e-book, and I credit that file with providing the foundation for everything I’ve done in the past year. Later, I joined the Ketogains group, which follows pretty much the same philosophy. Both groups have excellent resources that I’ve been studying.
Most people think of eating large volume of fat when they think “ketogenic.” Which makes sense; the medical ketogenic diet was designed to treat pediatric epileptic patients, and has been extended to treat some people with autism, cancer, etc who benefit from higher amounts of fat intake. The ketogenic diet based on eating certain ratios of macronutrients, so a percentage of your daily calories should come from protein, fat, and carbs. You may be surprised to learn that it wasn’t designed for weight loss, even though that can be a result.
All you need for ketosis is carb restriction. Put simply, ketosis is a metabolic process where the body burns fat instead of glucose. Period. There are a couple of things to remember…first, you can hit the ketogenic ratio, but be eating far too many calories in which case you would not realize the benefits. The other thing is nutrients: if your goal is fat loss, why prioritize eating fat? Wouldn’t it make more sense to burn what the body already has stored? The nutrition for my plan involves adequate protein to protect muscle mass to make sure you’re losing fat, not muscle, and mostly fibrous, leafy green veggies and avocado which are low in sugar and high in fiber. When you think about it, it’s what we’d all consider to be healthy: meat + veg. Lots of micronutrients found in those sources.
I started following the macros (grams, not percentages) from Ketogenic Dieters (KD) on 1/1/18 and have lost a little more than half my weight. I’ve had 4 DEXA scans since then, which have shown the weight lost to have been from fat, not muscle, which means I’m eating sufficient protein to protect muscle mass. I decided at some point during 2018 that I wanted to attempt the Tobacco Road Half Marathon in 2019. I’d done the race in 2016 with a time of 3h:58m. My goal for 2019 was to be under 3hrs, which is a huge change, but doable. I started training in the fall and it’s paying off. Every time I complete a long run (6mi, 8mi, 9.5mi, etc), I’m floored that…
1. I was able to complete it.
2. I didn’t die.
3. Finishing that distance made me feel stronger and energized to do even more.
I finished Tobacco Road Half Marathon with a time of 2h:47m, well below my goal. A month prior, I also signed up for the Cary Greenways Half Marathon that would take place 2 weeks after Tobacco Road. I figured I was already in shape to run, so why not. Cary Greenways was much hillier, but I beat my own personal record and finished at 2h:43!! I’m thrilled that this body is capable of so much and is rising to the challenges I’m throwing at it.
Most interesting part?
I’ve gained some confidence, and don’t have the burden of strangers’ glares when I’m out in public any more, but I’ve noticed insecurities that I didn’t have before. By getting rid of the major issues, I’ve uncovered some that were too minor to have taken much mental space before. So I’m working on those. ☺ It’s a great reminder that the grass isn’t always greener and that everyone is working through something. If we approached others with the understanding that, in spite of appearances, they’re also working through a personal struggle, I think the world would be a bit more harmonious.
Most rewarding part?
Obviously, the vanity of losing half my weight in just over a year and being in a smaller body is hugely rewarding. I’m down more than ten pants sizes and have gained confidence in many areas, not just physical appearance. I’ve never bought as many clothes as I have in the past year, but it’s been fun to be able to shop in the “regular” size section. I’m smaller now than I was in grade school both in weight and clothing size. I look and feel different. I catch myself looking in the mirror from time to time trying to accept my new features, that this is real, this is how I look.
But from a health perspective, my body fat percentage has reduced significantly, and is now considered in the “fitness” range. I’m running long distances and challenging this body, my body, to do things it’s never been asked to do before.
There are dozens of non-scale victories (NSV) that I celebrate, because the scale is an asshole and doesn’t tell the whole story! From being able to wear a seatbelt more comfortably, cross my legs, sit in a chair without my hips squeezed in the sides, smaller clothing sizes, share the rocking chair side-by-side with my son, less knee pain when walking, get out of the recliner without pain/effort, walk up stairs easily, squat to look my toddler in the eyes (HUGE NSV).
At first, it was the movement on the scale. I don’t think I stalled until 5-6 months in, which is incredible. But it’s also now a personal challenge to finish what I’ve started and continue to challenge this body to meet new goals. I’ve not come this far to only come this far. I’ve kept track of my journey and metrics in a datebook. I made a list of NSVs that I hoped to achieve and have almost completed all on that list! The rest will come as I continue my journey.
I should mention that I don’t have an ultimate scale goal. I’ve had milestone weight goals along the way, and goals have been updated as I’ve hit each one. First to see if I could reach my pre-pregnancy weight, then to see if I could get under 200 lbs, then to lose certain percentage of my starting weight. I’m past the 50% lost mark, and have attained a “healthy” body fat%. I don’t have a firm BF% or weight in mind, but I want to gain muscle mass and definition, which is totally subjective and I won’t know when I’m ready to start maintaining until I get there. This is uncharted territory for me, so I’m going to feel it out and decide what feels and looks the best to me.
Most challenging part?
In all of this, it’s been more apparent that I’d been living with an eating disorder, specifically binge eating. But it went undiagnosed. Doctors always told me to eat less and exercise, but never bothered to find out if there were any medical issues (goes back to the stigma of being fat: doctors frequently discriminate against us). Because I committed to following my macros without cheating, I’d set strict boundaries for myself. To help firm that up was the knowledge that after being in ketosis for several weeks and becoming fat adapted, the choice to jump off the wagon and eat a super carby meal would:
1. Give me considerable GI distress
2. Kick me out of ketosis and derail progress,
3. Be incredibly difficult to get back on track motivation-wise.
It doesn’t work for everyone, but I upped the ante to try and keep myself from binge eating and going off track and it’s been successful. I haven’t binged since starting, in spite of temptation.
Every time I’d cheated in the past, I’d never been able to limit the cheat to just one bite, one meal, one day. It always lent to excuses, and inevitable failure. If I didn’t commit to change, then I wouldn’t change. It was ultimately only hurting me, but would now also negatively impact my son, his eating habits, how he interacted with his mother. A lot more was on the line.
As I’m getting closer to whatever my goal will be, I’m feeling the pressure of “what if.” What happens when I start maintenance? It’s a definite fear that I’ll wind up undoing all of this hard work.
What have you learned? Advice to give?
This year and this process has been full of introspection. I’m grateful that 1/1/18 I had the courage to start on this journey. Grateful that I put in the effort to jump in, learn, and commit 100% to changing the way I eat. Because of that effort of my past self, and her hard work and determination, my current self is reaping the reward.
I’m so incredibly grateful for the KD and Ketogains communities for providing evidence-based info from reputable sources. It’s no pseudo-science from some chiropractor or “You-Tube” star – there’s peer-reviewed studies backing up the methods. That’s important to me.
There are several people that I’ve gotten to know in these groups and have learned from them. I keep screenshots of many of the inspirations shared within the group to reference when I need support:
-It’s a slow process, but quitting won’t speed it up
-When you feel like quitting, think about WHY you started
-Ask yourself if what you’re doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow
-Do something today that your future self will thank you for
-Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail
My advice is to just start. No one is perfect from day one. Strive for progress, not perfection. When you make a mistake, spend some time deconstructing it, make a plan to address the trigger the next time it pops up, and move on. You can’t fix the past, but you can make better decisions going forward.
We are so grateful to have a compassionate and hardworking friend to bravely share her transformation. She reminds us that no one is perfect, but we are all trying. And if we lead with that, we can’t go wrong. If you want to learn more about Sarah’s journey, head over to @operaticsarah on Instagram!