Becoming Accountable

Hi, this is Elizabeth Horton.  I’m the web person that brings you the wonderful news written by Nancy Radding, Christine Denney and the amazing Sheila Cluff, the experts at The Oaks at Ojai.  I’ve worked at The Oaks since 1981, surrounded by health and fitness gurus, news and motivation.  Finally, this info is beginning to sink in for me – and Nancy’s sharing her platform with me this month.

I’ve always believed that diets don’t work, so I never bothered going on one.  At The Oaks, I adore seeing our repeat guests again and again.  Yet, in the back of my mind, something was wrong.  If we’re teaching you the right things, why do you need to return?  Why aren’t the changes permanent?

Trendy diets and pills clearly don’t provide safe permanent results.  The philosophy we share at The Oaks does!  Move more, eat less, be accountable and mindful. Why isn’t it working?  Not that I was trying to follow the philosophy myself….

Accountable and mindful are the keys.  But before that, you have to care.  The weight I gained during the past 15 years never bothered me.  A few years ago I learned that I have an autoimmune disorder.  (I felt so trendy!)  I expected my medical expert to recommend dietary changes, but there were none, and I was really glad!  In my head, I’ve always known I should eat better, but…who can bother with that?

THEN I learned about something called High Fructose Corn Syrup.  A processed sweetener used in the cola beverage I drank 3-4 times per week.  I thought I’d been drinking sugar – but this HFCS was something different – that really didn’t sound good to or for me.  I also learned that the same beverage, manufactured out of the U.S., still used cane sugar in their recipe – and this was available in a few local locations, but at double the price.  I tried it – it was GREAT!  I was now committed to switching – permanently.  I could easily imagine never buying the old type again…and I haven’t had one since.  That was late in 2010.

A few months later I started noticing that same ingredient in many other beverages as well as in products I’d never imagined.  All the condiments on my refrigerator door had it!!!  Gradually, as I needed to replace items, I intentionally read labels and chose items without HFCS.  Yes, these items still had sugar, but at least it was the real thing, rather than this processed item I no longer wanted.

For the first time ever, there was a (albeit small) philosophy towards what I ate.  By late 2011, there was NO HFCS in my kitchen.  That’s not saying a lot, because I still ate out for many of my meals.  I had no feeling of deprivation – yet I had taken a small step toward being accountable for what I was putting in my mouth every day.

Several times a day.  Every day of my life.

Also in 2011 I watched some sensationalized footage of the pink slime that was supposedly in my favorite fast food.  I dug for more info, and became so discouraged.  For years (ahem, decades) I’d been enjoying cheese burgers – but I was so turned off, I’ve not returned to a fast food place since.  Still loving cheeseburgers, I delved in to my local options and discovered there were many cheeseburgers around that didn’t have unknown slime inside.  They cost a bit more, and preparation took longer (I couldn’t drive through) – but I’d made another responsible decision regarding my food.

By now I was inspired to learn more about what I was eating.  I KNOW a lot about food already (I bet you do too!), but I wasn’t applying what I knew.  But one change led to another….I was now on a mission to clean up my act and felt highly motivated.  Additionally I noticed that my overall consumption of soda and cheeseburgers had gone down a lot!  I didn’t feel deprived at all – and when I did have them (1-2 per month), they were SO TASTY!  Better than I ever remembered!

I was not eating with weight loss in mind, not viewing calories or low fat options.  Typical dinners for me might include:  A shredded wheat cereal with raw sugar and whole milk.  Spaghetti with canned tomato products & ground turkey.  Canned beans with boxed rice mix, chicken breast with cheese in a tortilla.  A fried egg and cheese sandwich on whole grain bread.

Over time, with lots of label reading, the ingredients for those dinners became more whole.  I actually soaked beans or bought whole tomatoes, onions & basil.  I bought a rice steamer.   I should add that these things were ALL I knew how to make.  I have no other cooking skills.

In the latter half of 2012 I noticeably had an emotional change.  My personal and professional life took a surge of energy that I’d never felt before.  I became significantly more concerned about cleaning my rather messy house, for the first time in my life.  I stepped up for some work opportunities that were so rewarding and motivating.  I had never noticed my lack of energy until I had more of it.

My eating continued to become cleaner yet I still never felt deprived, I was enjoying my little changes.  Then in the spring of 2013 I went for my annual physical.  Everything was fine.  My doctor said, “Looks like you’ve lost 10 lbs since last year.  …and, 5 lbs the year before that.”

I was stunned!  I immediately realized that I was onto something with my little changes.  I wasn’t trying to lose weight, but I had been 200 lbs two years earlier! (by the way, how did that happen?)

I was so pleased that giving up some processed products made me feel better, kept good overall health and also caused weight loss.  I felt empowered and wanted to be even better!  I dusted off my old juice extractor and bought kale.  Ack, I hate kale!  But kale, beet & carrots make an awesome juice!  I started comparing regular to organic produce.  Then I got a top-notch blender!  On June 1, 2013 I joined a local CSA (community supported agriculture).  It’s a veggie co-op.  I pay monthly, and each week I pick up a huge crate of veggies, grown organically, 2 miles from my house.  The produce is huge and amazing and often contains things I’ve never seen.  Did you know there’s a dinosaur kale?

I’ve been upgrading my kitchen supplies and even started collecting recipes from the web (Pinterest is amazing for this). Shocking, as my one and only cookbook, Joy of Cooking had ¼ inch of dust when recently discovered.  Each evening I make my lunch to take to work the next day.  I planted tomatoes, basil & a dwarf lemon tree on my patio.  I’m eating or drinking most of my CSA each week.  I found dozens of nutritional expert bloggers (Facebook has been an awesome resource to find them).  I’ve lost more weight…currently under 180 lbs.  I found several friends with chickens who sell eggs and I know where all the little produce stands are in my neighborhood each weekend.   I want to make my own cleaning products and skin care items.  I have so few unhealthy cravings.  All of the healthy tips I’ve heard from my mentors at The Oaks suddenly hit home.   I can’t stop talking about it!  I know I’m annoying my friends.  It’s like I’m a born-again-eater!  I want to shake the people who aren’t paying attention to what they eat!  Whew….I was rambling.  Sorry, I’ll settle down and get off my soap box.

For most of the week I’m so caught up in eating this perfect produce that there’s no time, interest or room in my belly to eat anything else.  I’m not trying to be perfect.  I’ve had cocktails, cheese burgers, homemade sweet treats and I’m looking forward to the upcoming county fair so I can eat some fried stuff!  But for at least 80% of my week, I’m eating meticulously clean & local.  It’s like I have a new hobby.  I want to be an expert on everything I eat – and agree that it’s good for me, before I put it in my mouth.  (okay, I don’t want to know anything about the fried fair food!)

I’m constantly analyzing how I got here.  How did I finally do this?  Here are some of my firm answers:
I was not trying to lose weight.
I started with one small change, that I philosophically was passionate about.
I became accountable for what I was putting into my body (slowly).
After learning more about what I had been eating, I was actually angry.
Each change is a lifetime behavioral change, nothing has been decided for a temporary basis.
I now firmly believe that my health is primarily determined by what I put into my mouth, and I’m in charge.

I’m not deprived.  I’m so much smarter.  I feel really great.  I am empowered.  I am accountable for how I feel. I can’t stop talking about it!  Friend me on Facebook! Drop me a line, Elizabeth


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