How I'm Doing It

Readers share their amazing personal health and wellness transformations. Read their stories to be inspired — and feel free to share your own! 

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Experience Life Magazine

Inspiration: Chef Rocco Whalen’s Weight Loss

Managing a healthy relationship with food is tricky enough when you’re trying to lose weight, but imagine being a chef who has to make rich, sugary foods for his patrons nearly every day. You want to know if a dish is good? Well, you’ll have to taste it. And then taste that. And then you’re pushing meal after meal out of the kitchen and what happened to your time for dinner?

Unless you work at a restaurant expressly focused on preparing and serving only healthy food, it’s no doubt a challenge to maintain your weight when working in the restaurant industry, as chef Rocco Whalen from Cleveland’s Fahrenheit Restaurant shares in this video below from Nightline.

If you work in a restaurant, what are your tricks for staying slim? Can you identify with Chef Whalen’s struggle?

ABC US News | ABC Business News

Experience Life Magazine

Kathe Yamagata: Weight Loss & Life Lessons (Audio)

I hope you’ve been enjoying hearing more from our January/February issue’s featured How I’m Doing It writer. I had a chance to catch up with Kathe over the phone recently, and she spoke about her strategies for success, the unexpected lessons she learned as she lost the weight, and the surprising challenge of weight-loss maintenance.

Listen to the podcast below for more.


Experience Life Magazine

Kathe Yamagata: Video Interview

It was my pleasure to meet Kathe Yamagata, the author of this month’s How I’m Doing It, in person. I traveled to Washington, D.C., to spend the day photographing her, and conducted a short interview as well.

As you can see from the video, Kathe is the real deal. Her commitment to her new healthy lifestyle is truly inspiring.

Thanks to Kathe for her hospitality, and for sharing her story with our readers.

Experience Life Magazine

Inspiration: LaKeisha Shurn’s 100-Day Video Diary

For those of you looking for some motivation to exercise this weekend, check out LaKeisha Shurn’s story: She took on a challenge through to go to the gym for 100 days in a row. Not only did she lose weight, but she reveals that she learned so much more about herself.

Why is she sharing this? “I want you to see how one person really changes everything about their life.”

Perhaps you can relate if you’ve shared your story here with Experience Life readers. If you haven’t and this inspires you, we loved to cheer on your own personal successes, too!

Experience Life Magazine

Temple Restoration, Temple Maintenance

It started in June 2010. I was attending the Prayer Quake conference in Phoenix. On the morning of the second day, a man I didn’t know said he had a word for me from God. This is what he said:

“Steve, you say you love Me yet you don’t love yourself. You will never be able to fully love others until you start truly loving yourself as much as I love you, and by the looks of your body, my temple, you do not love yourself. You really need to learn how to love ‘you’ as much I love you. Then you will be able to truly love others for me.”

Wow. I had no idea what to say as the gentleman hugged me for God and then walked away. I began to ask God if this was from Him or if this was a very rude person who has issues with overweight people. Later that morning and throughout that day, God made it clear that it was a message from Him.

First, God spoke through another conversation I was part of, about Israel defiling the temple of God and needing to restore it. Later, I had it come up again in my own devotional readings. Yes, you guessed it: Israel’s King had defiled the temple by putting in Asherah poles.

So by now, I realized I had an issue to deal with. Taking care of me! I began to ask God for his help in knowing where to start and for his strength to be able to stick with it. It was then God led me to an endocrinologist named Dr. Chung.

The first thing Dr. Chung told me to do was journal everything I put in my mouth. That sounded simple enough. To my surprise and horror, I filled three pages in one day. If I didn’t realize it before I did now: I was in serious trouble. I was living to eat. Eating had become my coping mechanism. I would need God’s help to change.

By this time, my diabetes was out of control. My A1C was 13. My average sugar reading was around 225. I was taking 100 units of Lantus insulin a day plus five oral medications. My weight was in the 345-pound range. I felt awful.

So the journey began — or rather, my Temple Restoration project, with God as my guide and source for strength.

I started to cut down on how much I ate, keeping my food journal to a half-page each day. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize that I needed to make some life changes, not just go on a diet. What made it more difficult was that we would be traveling from September 2010 through the first week of November 2010. After three months (from August to November), my insulin was reduced to 80 units a day and I had lost 24 pounds. By November 9, 2010, I weighed 321 pounds.

Then God gave me an extra source of help. I found a free app and website to track food intake called SparkPeople. The tools they provide were just the tools that I needed to help me change my life as the Temple Restoration continued.

From November 13, 2010 to March 30, 2011 — just four months — the results were amazing. I’ve lost 83 pounds total since August 2010. My doctor took me off one of my diabetic medications completely, and I was down to 17 units of Lantus insulin a day. (My goal was to be off insulin by the end of April 2011.) Each day starts with my restoration workout, both physical and spiritual. I’m eating much healthier and I’m also walking every evening. I still have another 80 to 90 pounds to go to reach my goal weight, but I know with God’s help and strength, it will be realized.

Through it all, I pray that God is glorified and for others who are challenged to start or continue their own restoration project. Start loving yourself as much as God loves you.

Loving Me and Restoring My Temple
As of June 21, 2011, I will have been on this Temple Restoration journey for a year. For the first month and a half I was trying to do it with little results. It was only after my first endocrinologist appointment that I began to understand just how messed up I was, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. You see, I am an emotional eater. I use it to cope with stress and other difficulties, but I also use it to celebrate victories and to have quality family time. And when it was all said and done, I would feel so guilty for eating that I would eat again to comfort myself. (The refrigerator became my therapist.)

Sounds crazy, I know, but that is the vicious cycle I was in.

All the while I would blame my medicines for my weight gain. In reality, a portion of my weight gain was due to my meds, but 80 percent was me and my dysfunction. As best as I can remember, it all started while in college. I never admitted I had a problem but I did. I know that you can’t live in the past, but one can learn from it and grow. That is what I’ve chosen to do. In short, I am a foodaholic. I lived to eat when I should be eating to live.

It was only after my encounter at Prayer Quake, where I was confronted with God’s truth about me and my lack of love for myself, that I realized I needed to make some radical changes in my life. I would have to rely on God for strength and a daily renewed purpose. That is where the Temple Restoration came in. I realized I had defiled His temple/my body because I wasn’t loving me enough to take care of my life and my health, the greatest gifts God had given me. I knew I had to make changes and that I needed His help.

We Americans tend to look for the easiest and quickest way to accomplish everything, and the same is true when it comes to our health. We want to be in good health and have our cake, too. We look for the “magic pill” that will allow us to keep on doing what we enjoy but still make us into a better person. I wanted to find a quick and easy fix to get me off my insulin and other meds. I begged God to heal me yet I was unwilling to do anything to change my destructive habits.

I have news for you: There is no magic pill or quick fix. It takes determination, discipline, and a desire to care for yourself. The great part is that, as I made my effort, God met me halfway and provided the strength and purpose I needed to make the changes. I’m not on a diet: I’m making life changes!

The day God directed me to SparkPeople was the day that my restoration kicked into another level. It helped me learn more about the foods I ate and their nutritional value for my body. It helped me see that just 10 minutes of activity here and there will add up and make a difference in your health: parking farther from the store and walking, taking the stairs when possible, just getting yourself moving more than you do now.

When I started out, I was doing 10 to 15 minutes of exercise or walking. Over the past year, I have discovered that I am looking for more and more ways to move. I am now walking 3 to 4 miles each morning. That has required me to rise earlier, but I really enjoy walking. I am currently walking at a pace of a mile every 13 minutes. And I still find myself looking for ways to move during the day. Beginning in August, I will start to train for my first half marathon.

OK, I realize some readers will think I am judging others. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My heart is crying out, longing to see people love themselves as God loves them. I like the phrase in the scriptures that says we are to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves (Matthew 19:19; 23:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14 and James 2:8). Now, I’m not promoting an unholy pride but a love that longs to care for one’s self. The question that I was asked was, How can I truly love others if I don’t truly love myself? Ouch!!! No, I’m not perfect and I still need to continue working on this.

Luckily, my wife, Debbie, has being on the same lifestyle journey with me — without her, it would have been a lot harder. Together we have dropped 260 pounds. (Editor’s note: Read Debra’s story here.)

2008-2012 pics

My weight-loss in pictures (May 2008 to June 2012). Click to enlarge.

Experience Life Magazine

The Power of Momentum

I think the key to getting healthy is momentum. Every little thing you do to change the momentum in your favor gives you the spark you need to make the next change.

My story is one of bad momentum turned around.

My husband, Steven, and I were both overweight diabetics with high blood pressure and a myriad of other concerns. His story is a miracle in itself: He lost half his body weight, down to 170 pounds; rid himself of every diabetes medication and other prescription; and, in the process, went from his first 5K as a walker to a full marathon. (Editor’s note: Read Steven’s story here.)

2b Debbie 11-7-11aBut this is my story. Not as spectacular but every bit as big a turnaround. I’ve gone from an exhausted couch potato to an active, healthy person carrying 85 less pounds, all in a span of just a few years. My concerns over my husband’s failing health and extremely expensive medications woke me up to the truth: I was at a point of no return. I either changed the momentum in my life or I would be on those same expensive meds with multiple side effects and damage to our pocketbooks.

I needed to change for him, but mainly I needed to change for me. I was worth it.

A website and phone app called SparkPeople got me over my excuses that counting calories was too hard. It also gave me a cold dose of reality: I wasn’t eating halfway healthy like I thought. I was eating 3,000 or 4,000 fat-laden calories a day and moving very little. What else did I expect to get from that besides sluggishness and added pounds year after year?

I made the decision to change just days from my 48th birthday and during Thanksgiving week. I felt if I could succeed on a week like that, the following weeks would be easier. During that week and the many weeks following, I gained momentum. I saw that if I can change, then I truly believe anyone can if they really want to be healthier.

How I did it:

  • I was determined to take as long as I needed and refused to starve myself, following a moderate-calorie diet and never going below 1,200 calories. I logged my food every day, and I’m so glad I got in the habit because it has helped me to maintain what I’ve lost and even keep on losing those last stubborn 20 pounds.
  • I also refused to swear off any foods. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to think about anything but chocolate if I told myself I could never have any. (That said, there were a number of things I only had rarely, including fried foods and rich desserts.)
  • I began to move more. I started with 10-minute walks and light strength training, then added more activity as I started to feel better and have more energy. My 10-minute walks became 3-mile walks to the grocery store and back. (I love exercise with a purpose and reducing my carbon footprint was a great purpose!)

me ready for aids walkIt feels great to be active now, free from diabetes and blood-pressure medications, and to be able to sign up for a 5K on a whim and not even have to train extra because I can already do it! I also love my new app, Charity Miles, because my miles can go toward a great charity. (Exercise with a purpose again!)

My weight loss has slowed to a pound or two per month and I still have 15 pounds to go to reach my goal, but I’m not discouraged. I know, whether I get to my “scale goal” or not, that my goal has already been reached — I’m healthy! I even got through breast cancer and radiation exercising all the while, and I’m convinced I won’t be hearing that “C” word again.


With my husband, Steven, in May 2009 (left), April 2011, and October 2011.

Experience Life Magazine

Kathe Yamagata: How My Holidays Are Different

Walking around the jovial holiday party, I suddenly realized the rookie mistake that I made by not eating before I arrived.

As a recovering food addict with very strict eating restrictions due to food allergies, this is just the type of scenario that can cause someone like me to “fall off the wagon.” The next four hours required intense willpower and the constant reminder to myself that bad decisions are often made while hungry so stay strong!

I am proud to report that I emerged successful — still hungry — but a favorable outcome especially under the circumstances.

Kathe_holidaysThis year, the holidays are very different for me. Long gone are the days of snacking on homemade toffee, white chocolate pretzels, or pecan pie, which would result in a 5- to 7-pound weight gain at the end of each year. Halloween always kicked off my “binging season,” and once I got a taste of my chosen drug of processed carbs and sweets, there was no stopping me. I always entered the new year with regrets and a tighter waistband but also a renewed passion to get healthy and break the cycle.

That lasted until maybe Valentine’s Day, if I was lucky.

This madness suddenly put me 70 pounds overweight, borderline diabetic, depressed, exhausted, embarrassed, and harboring low self-esteem. Eighteen months ago, I finally broke that cycle with laser focus and pre-planning to stay on track, especially during the holidays. Here are a few tips that helped me:

  1. Chose healthy foods and work out before big meals. Ironically, my holiday celebrations are actually more enjoyable than ever because I feel strong and fit; I choose healthy foods like turkey, spinach, roasted parsnips and rutabaga, and treats such as Paleo Pumpkin cookies. I work out five to six days per week, planned in advance of any feast. I am proud to still see my body-fat percentage decrease — even during the holidays.
  2. Bring food to share that’s on your meal plan. This holiday, I’m bringing one or two “Kathe approved” dishes to share with me to any gathering. At recent parties, I’ve simply explained to the “food pushers” that deviating from my approved foods will result in extreme fatigue and sickness, and may kick off a cycle that will undo all of my recent achievements. This direct and honest approach seems to help and I’ve even found that they become more interested in my healthy dishes. For the really severe pushers that don’t get the hint and might even go so far as to be offended if I don’t partake in their homemade treat, I’m not afraid to remind them that they wouldn’t push an alcoholic to deviate from his or her program and that I need the same support. It is with this point that my efforts are truly embraced and met with kindness and appreciation.
  3. Enjoy alcoholic beverages mindfully. I can even enjoy a cocktail on my new plan! Fresh lime juice and agave can easily be mixed in advance and placed in an empty water bottle so you are prepared to combine it with a shot of tequila at a holiday event. This “low-carb margarita” has quickly become a favorite with my friends and family who are making their own healthy changes.

By planning in advance, I never feel deprived, guilty, or out of control, and I always keep in mind that nothing tastes as good as healthy feels!

Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and Cheers to a New You!

Experience Life Magazine

Kathe Yamagata: Seeing My Story in Print

Pure joy. Deep pride. Raw emotions. Embarrassment. Anxiety. Empowerment.

This is how I felt seeing my story in print for the first time. So many conflicting emotions bubbling up to the surface finally culminating into a deep, primal sob. I never imagined I would actually make it through that hell successfully, let alone see my story in print.

But, there is was, for the whole world to see.


It didn’t belong to me alone anymore. I finally felt pride and validation of getting on the other side of a lifetime struggle — trying to “crack the code” and “solve the riddle” of how to get healthy and stop the madness.

Putting a face on food addiction, food allergies, and a lack of motivation is embarrassing and empowering all at once. But I’ve learned that there is no shame in telling my truth, exposing my soul, and inspiring others to face their own reality. In fact, it motivates me to stay strong, eat clean, and dig deeper in my workouts.

My life experience has helped me realize there is no magic pill or easy solution to being healthy, especially in today’s processed world. It takes focus, dedication, indescribable willpower at times and a belief that you actually deserve to be healthy. Each time I receive a note or nod about my own changes, the tears of joy flow. For so long, I thought I was alone in my endeavor. I continue to be inspired hearing there are so many people dealing with the same struggles that I have faced.

This is just the beginning, I hope, of a fresh start for so many who want to cross over, honor themselves, and get healthy. You cannot fail if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other. — Kathe Yamagata, Fellow Survivor

Read Kathe’s full story here.

Experience Life Magazine

Detox Diary: A Life Time Fitness Member Perspective

Heidi Wachter had me at hello with her first sentence in “Detox Diary“: “Normally, I’d roll my eyes at the idea of a ‘health’ detox.” Now that was someone I could relate to! With that, her article pulled me in. As I continued to read, the idea of a health detox became more and more intriguing.

Like many, I’ve struggled for years with my weight. Even as an athlete in high school I was heavy. As the years flew by and the responsibilities increased, college and then a career, marriage, and children – one with severe mental and physical disabilities – my weight grew as well.


By December, 2010 I knew I had a problem but managed to successfully convince myself that it wasn’t that bad until a series of (unfortunate) events converged to change my mind:

  • I saw myself on a video recording from a charity event.
  • I fell three times in quick succession, all three times as a result of simply losing my balance.
  • My medical provider, a nurse-practitioner I’ve been going to for years and greatly admire, scolded me for gaining yet another 10 pounds. At that time, I weighed 190 pounds and at 5’5” I was beyond overweight, I was obese.

Faced with these events, I told my husband that what I wanted for Christmas that year was for him to research all the fitness facilities in our area and then buy me a membership in the best one. And yes, I know you can see my commitment avoidance to this whole fitness thing a mile away at this point. I’m fortunate his choice was the Life Time Fitness club in Beachwood, Ohio.


My previous attempts at belonging to a fitness club had never worked for me so I was still dubious at this point. However, I started working out at Life Time Fitness in January, 2011, determined to lose weight. At first it was all about losing weight; getting into better physical condition overall wasn’t part of my thought process just yet.

Time went by and I was going to the gym regularly but I wasn’t seeing the results I had hoped to achieve. I was starting to lose my motivation and wondered if I should keep my membership at Life Time Fitness. When it was time for my annual physical, I had only lost the 10 pounds that had originally earned me the scolding from my nurse-practitioner. I was relieved that at least I wouldn’t have to listen to yet another lecture about gaining weight.

Sure enough, the nurse-practitioner commented on my 10 pound weight loss…and in the very next breath essentially said “You are still fat, what are you going to do about that?” Of course, she said this much nicer and more professionally but the truth is still the truth.

Well, that hurt – and it got my attention.

Luckily, about that same time I discovered group fitness classes at Life Time. For someone used to team sports, these classes were a perfect fit. As I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried all the different classes, more weight began to come off. I was trying different classes, enjoying myself and having fun while losing weight so I was going to Life Time more often and working out harder than I had before. Because I was exercising more, losing weight, and adding muscles where I didn’t know you could have muscles, I began to eat better. Instead of being caught up in a vicious circle, I found myself in a virtuous circle – an entirely new fitness experience for me.

As wonderful as all that sounds, when the April 2013 Experience Life magazine came, I was feeling a bit stalled. I was down to 153 pounds but hadn’t lost weight recently and was concerned that I would lose my motivation.

That’s when Heidi’s “Detox Diary “caught my attention. Perhaps this type of health detox was exactly what I needed.

My first step was to buy the book referenced in the article, The UltraSimple Diet by Mark Hyman, M.D. My game plan was to read the book and then decide if the detox was for me. Once the book arrived, I read it immediately (it is an easy read) and then sat back to ponder the possibilities. I knew I would have to be 100 percent convinced this was the right next step in order to be 100 percent committed to carrying through with the detox.

I decided to go for it but then the question became one of logistics and deadlines, when to start? It was amazing how easy it was to keep putting it off. Was this fear of failure, of not being able to stick to the plan or fear of success, sticking to plan and where that would take me? Hmmm…food for thought. At least that kind of food doesn’t put on the pounds.

My son had left for his first year of college in the midst of my weight loss journey and I hadn’t seen him for four months; soon it would be time for me to fly to Boston to help pack him up to return home for the summer. What better deadline than that? It was time to get started.

Following the pattern of Heidi’s article, below are excerpts from the journal I kept while on Dr. Hyman’s detox program.

Week One is preparation, getting ready to get ready is my favorite description for this week. I was struck by all the details in the book, tons of instructions for grocery shopping, preparing food and planning meals. Having grown up with a mom who was a home economics teacher, I wasn’t overly concerned about these details. If you aren’t used to cooking at home, these instructions could be a bit overwhelming but my problem had never been that I didn’t know what to do. My problem was in the actual doing.

Two things that did concern me about seven days on the detox were 1) eliminating caffeine and 2) eliminating gluten (for me that meant my whole wheat bread and pasta). Those two were going to be a challenge.

Typical for me, once I decided I was going to do this detox, I also decided I didn’t need an entire week to get ready to get ready. I decided to start the preparation on Sunday and the full detox on Wednesday. After all, I had already changed many of my eating habits and was actually eating pretty well.

Day One: Sunday

Ok, today’s the day. I take the Toxicity and Inflammation Quiz and score a fairly respectable 17 (mild imbalance). I feel pretty good about this since case studies in the book referenced scores from 80-99. I’m committing to this as jump start to more weight loss, not for many of the other excellent reasons for which someone might want to complete a detox. I’m ok with that.

I start my caffeine withdrawal by cutting my usual intake in half. Half of a lot is still quite a bit… coffee is my only source of caffeine but I do drink quite a bit of it in the morning. I also go cold turkey on all sugar and refined carbohydrates.

Day Two: Monday

I cut my caffeine in half again. I’m down to a more respectable amount today. I feel good and a bit surprised that I’m not having any cravings.

Day Three: Tuesday

I’m determined to completely eliminate coffee today. I start the day without coffee or even the green tea that is permitted on the detox but by late afternoon I have a pounding headache so I relent. I have one small cup of coffee (yes, the headache goes away) and acknowledge I should have taken the caffeine withdrawal a bit slower.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m completely stressed about getting information needed to complete my son’s college financial aid application, completing a project for a client and handling my daughter’s care for the day because her nurse had called off. When the nurses call off, my life turns upside down. Normally, because I work from my home, I have the flexibility to handle things but today I have a critical meeting scheduled with the president of a client firm, a meeting that had been difficult to schedule. In order to make the meeting I take my daughter to my husband’s school where he teaches and coaches track. Since she is in a wheelchair and requires constant attention, this is harder than it may sound, both getting her there and for him while she is there. I feel like I’m barely making it.

The UltraSimple Diet – The Actual Detox

Day One: Wednesday

The word for how I feel today is relief. I’m relieved that I made my meeting yesterday and that all is going well for this client project, relieved that I got the information needed for the college financial aid application and relieved that I can handle my daughter’s needs better today even though the nurse is off again.

I’m feeling extremely upbeat and start the day determined to relax and enjoy the day with my daughter. I’m planning on taking a long walk and not stressing out about not making it to the gym again or not working. I remind myself that one of the reasons I run my own business is exactly this. I even promise myself to break out that yoga DVD I bought years ago.

And then life hit…what a day! Nothing goes according to plan and I run into problems with everything I do. Interestingly enough, I manage to stay positive and do what needs to be done. I get a little headache about the same time as yesterday but hold off on the caffeine. It’s a high energy day and I manage to maneuver through all the complications and meet the deadline for completing the financial aid application. I didn’t experience my usual 2-3pm “crash” either.

I’m finding that I miss my coffee – not the caffeine as much as the experience. I’m one of those people who can literally drink a pot of coffee and go straight to sleep so I’m not using caffeine to stay awake. I miss the taste, the hot drink in the morning when the house is quiet and I’m the only one up and about. I miss the experience of my morning coffee. On the other hand, I’m surprised that I don’t miss the sugar or carbohydrates at all and I don’t have my usual cravings either. The UltraBath is the perfect way to end the day.

My observation after this first day is that you truly can do anything physically, once you make up your mind to do so.

Day Two: Thursday 

I start today with the resolve to begin a client project well ahead of deadline so I won’t feel so pressured when I get back from Boston. I plan on going to the gym today and plan to use the steam/sauna to help with the detox.

Since I do most of the meal planning, shopping and preparation for the family it seems like I’m always thinking about the next meal even as I just finish the current meal. I decide to stop doing this.

Day Two of the detox isn’t hard at all. Hummus for lunch is delicious and reading/napping guilt-free is truly liberating. I have no cravings for late night sweets – and I had even made cookies and brownies for my daughter’s class today. I notice the difference between what being hungry feels like versus what experiencing a craving feels like.

I still miss the ritual of my coffee…

Day Three: Friday

One of my “perhaps” ideas in the beginning of this detox was to spend less time following the news on the Internet, a version of the media holiday Dr. Hyman recommends. I decided to follow through with this idea and consciously avoided the news as I began the detox. I’m realizing how much time I waste each morning, mindlessly clicking through different stories. I’m also noticing how I can easily avoid the Internet news and, as soon as I open my browser to do something legitimate for work, I’m easily pulled in and find myself clicking away.

What works today is being flexible. I substitute foods all day yet still manage to stay on the program. I try the Tuscan bean recipe from the book, it is delicious. The UltraShake is also working for me; it stays with me, I don’t get hungry and don’t feel sick when I exercise. (I use Version 3 throughout the detox because it is the easiest and made with ingredients readily on hand.)

Day Four: Saturday

I’m interested in how things will go over the weekend. I want to eat at more evenly spaced intervals in order to better manage my energy. I also want to sit quietly enough to pay attention to my thoughts.

A good surprise today – although my reason for doing the detox was completely opposite from Heidi’s and my score on the Toxicity and Inflammation Quiz was relatively low, I’m seeing definite physical improvements.

Day Five: Sunday

Today began with the realization that I need to give up the belief that I’m fat. Although this is no longer true I’ve not let it go and I still see myself as fat.

I stay with the program all day, yet eat a great deal more than on previous days. Having family around and cooking, eating with them…

I’m thinking about how much of this I want to continue once the seven days are done. The UltraShake and the UltraBath will definitely continue to be part of my routine.

Day Six: Monday

Dr. Hyman recommended “gentle” exercise during the seven day program. By this point I guess it isn’t a surprise that I ignored this recommendation and continued to do the group fitness classes. My rationale was to exercise as usual and if I had any problems, try a less strenuous exercise routine. Since I didn’t have any problems, I stayed with my routine. I start today with the thought that I want to stretch better, perhaps even do a yoga class.

I have a business lunch scheduled at one of my favorite local restaurants, one that specializes in Lebanese cuisine. There are lots of items on the menu that are part of the detox program, however, this restaurant also serves the most amazing warm pitas with Zaatar dipping oil while you wait for your food to arrive. This will be a major temptation for me.

Victory! I didn’t eat any of the pita/Zaatar today.

My observation today is that this seven day detox is actually much closer to how I need to be eating on a daily basis. One of the case studies in the book calls the detox the “basis for lifelong healthy eating.” I agree.

Day Seven: Tuesday

I feel pretty darn good today! I’m not sure I imagined myself writing that on Day Seven when I began this detox. Like Heidi, I’m looking forward to adding things back and watching how my body reacts. I need to decide what I will continue with, what changes will “stick.”

Life After Detox 

I noticed many of the same things as Heidi on the detox program, namely, I felt great, much better than expected. While I didn’t have the same hung-over and depleted feelings as she did in the beginning, I did experience the severe headache and nausea from caffeine withdrawal. Again ignoring Dr. Hyman’s advice, the first thing I added back was my morning coffee. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I am drinking less coffee than before the detox. I’m going to make a conscious effort to monitor the amount of coffee, allowing myself the pleasure of the morning experience while not mindlessly drinking more than that.

I slept well on the detox but falling asleep has never been an issue for me; I just wasn’t getting enough sleep before the detox. Now I am doing my best to get more. I’ve stopped falling asleep on the couch (when I used to wake up and head straight for the chocolate in a sleep trance) and instead, actually go to bed. That feels good.

Food does taste better and the sweetness of fruit is especially good now that I’ve stopped eating sugar. I had already stopped eating anything but whole wheat bread well in advance of the detox so I was interested to see what would happen when I added the whole wheat bread back into my diet. I bought a loaf of “Seeduction” bread (organic, whole wheat and filled with healthy seeds) and to my dismay one slice lead to another, and then another. The rest of that day I felt hungry and continued to want something to eat even though I knew I wasn’t really hungry. Cravings had returned – a hard lesson that I will have to control my bread intake, even “healthy” bread.

Heidi was also correct in her observation that people detox for different reasons. I didn’t experience the same emotional detox as she did yet still agree with her “stop, breathe, experience life and let go” advice. I learned to let go of my fat image and see myself as fit instead.

For those who might be considering a detox for my reasons, that is, to continue or jump start a weight loss, the good news is that it worked for me: I lost 5.5 pounds and have continued to lose a few pounds even as I added foods back. I lost 2 inches from my waist and 1 inch from my hip and officially moved from overweight to normal weight on the BMI. My score on the Toxicity and Inflammation Quiz is now an 8.5 (optimal health).


Detox Tips 

In addition to those offered by Heidi, here are my tips to help ensure a successful detox:

  • Get a copy of The UltraSimple Diet and read it.
  • Identify why you want to do a detox. Knowing what you want to get out of the experience will keep you motivated during the seven days of the detox.
  • Determine if you need to make any modifications to make the detox work for you. Identifying those up front and working them into your plan puts you in control and eliminates potential obstacles during the actual detox.
  • Plan on writing things down. Use your book or download the journal and print the pages you need in order to track your actions/behaviors (what you do) and your observations about what happens as a result. For most people this way of eating is so different from what they typically do, it is easy to lose track. I found writing things down really helped. Dr. Hyman makes it easy with checklists.
  • Be realistic on your approach to withdrawing from caffeine.  Use the Vitamin C, too, it does help.
  • Learn to ask yourself “Am I really hungry? If you are honest, most of the time when you go looking for something to eat it isn’t because you are hungry. If the answer is yes, get something healthy to eat. If the answer is no, figure out what you are instead (bored, tired, angry, frustrated) and take action on that instead of eating.
  • Be flexible. Stay on the detox program and be willing to change up dinner for lunch or try new foods. Find what works for you!
Experience Life Magazine

Paper Gown

As I sat in the doctor’s office examination room, I couldn’t believe what I heard the nurse say, “Ma’am, you might want to wear this paper gown for larger people.” I didn’t even know that the paper gowns came in different sizes but sure enough, there they were, hidden in one of the secret drawers or as I will forever call it, “the fat person drawer.”

The humiliation continued as my doctor revealed my lab results. Cholesterol – over 300. Sugar – borderline diabetic. Body fat percentage – 46% – yes, half of my body was pure fat. Stress levels so high that he feared I would have a stroke at any moment. I blacked in and out of the conversation until I finally heard him say, “You are going to die if you don’t do something about your health.” Die? I’m only 41 years old and sure, I enjoy eating 8 cupcakes at a time but come on – die?

Furthermore, he suggested the lap band surgery. “Surgery? No way. I ate my way here and I am going to do this the hard way.” After ditching the fat person paper gown in a fit of violence, I immediately drove to the gym. I had been a member of Life Time since 2009, but I could count on one hand the number of times I had actually worked out there.

Kathe Yamagata's BEFORE picture

Kathe Yamagata’s BEFORE picture

I spotted Japheth from across the gym and instantly knew that I wasn’t going to be able to outsmart him. Yes, he would be my trainer (whether he wanted to or not!). I thought our first consultation would be just that: an hour filled with me spewing all of the excuses about why I was fat. “I have Hoshimoto’s Disease” (an autoimmune disease that affected my thyroid). “I have a high stress job; I am a single parent.” I have this. I have that. At some point, he stopped me and said, “Well, let’s get started working out.” Working out? Now? “Ummmm. OK.” That was almost 11 months ago.

Japheth started me on a solid workout program: 4 days per week with him and 2 days on my own. For those of us that are good at math, yes, that is 6 days per week! During the first few months, I would come home and take a nap after my workouts — I was in a constant state of fatigue. I lost a few pounds in the first 3 months but nothing significant.

I cried most days through all of the testing as I heard things like, “Your fitness level is that of a 68-year-old woman.” But Japheth and I were determined to make this work! He motivated me every day to keep going and even helped me celebrate my successes a bit (something I had never really done in life).

One day, he started probing me on what I was eating. Hmmm … talk about getting personal. Is nothing sacred? I shared the details of my eating habits and he suggested that I cut out processed carbs. Oh no! Not, my beloved processed carbs??? They are my one true love. They have stuck with me (in more ways than one) for all of these years. They are what I crave most in life. Yep. They would have to go.

For 2 weeks, I walked around in a fog, forgetting where I was going while driving on the Toll Road, feeling like I was going to pass out during my workouts. Most pronounced was the fact that I was a raging WITCH! After 2 weeks of withdrawal from sugar and processed carbs, though, I felt like the sun finally came out and that I was actually going to be OK! I wasn’t going to die!

During this time, I read an article that said that the human brain reacts the same way when one withdraws from sugar as it does when one withdraws from cocaine. I have never done drugs, but that statement made me weep because that is exactly how I felt — like I was withdrawing from a drug! And, aren’t processed carbs and sugar a drug?

The weight started coming off a bit faster, but still not as aggressively as it should be for working out 6 days per week! So, I didn’t eat processed carbs and continued to work out hoping that my body would finally catch on to the program.

“Your cortisol levels have been so high for so long that you are in adrenal gland fatigue,” the nutritionist, who Japheth recommended, said. Cortisol — adrenal gland failure? What? I knew I was stressed out, but how does your cortisol level affect weight loss (or the lack thereof)?

I learned very quickly that cortisol is the “stress hormone” and it has several important functions in the body. Cortisol’s functions include blood pressure regulation, metabolism of glucose, maintenance of blood sugar, maintenance of the immune system, etc. Your body usually has high amounts of cortisol in the morning, and this amount decreases as night approaches. Cortisol is one of the hormones released in your body during stressful events. Positive effects of cortisol release during stress include a higher pain threshold, a rush of energy, increased immunity and an improved memory. When the cortisol stays in your blood longer than necessary, however, it can have a more negative impact on your health, like weight gain.

For me, my cortisol levels had stayed so high for so long that my body wasn’t producing it at the right times. So Japheth and I adjusted my work out times to when my cortisol levels were at their highest: midday. No wonder my morning workouts were so taxing. I was running on pure “mind over matter.”

When your body is constantly producing an abnormally high amount of cortisol, your normal cortisol production can be disrupted. Since this hormone is responsible for providing us with energy, it also stimulates the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Cortisol also helps your body release insulin and it increases blood sugar when you’re feeling stressed (this explains why my blood sugar is still high even though I don’t eat sugar). When the stressful event is over and you still have a high level of blood sugar, the excess glucose becomes stored as fat.

Armed with this knowledge, we worked on reducing my stress and keeping my cortisol levels as low as possible. Yoga, meditation and a proper “cool down” post-workout were incorporated into my regimen. The weight was coming off, but veeerrrry slooooowwwwly.

After sever to eight months of about 1 pound of weight loss per week, Japheth suggested that I see Dr. Heyman, an integrative doctor associated with Life Time. Sure! I will eat dirt if you think it will help me!

After a month of waiting to see Dr. Heyman, I was finally able to meet with him, and we discovered that I was mineral and vitamin deficient: magnesium and chromium, specifically, so we incorporated those supplements into my diet. The most profound discovery, though, was the result from the suggested food allergy blood test. I had tried everything else, why not? I was allergic to 35 out of the 100 foods they tested! I thought I was eating healthy but I was actually eating toxins! Lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, sweet potatoes, barley (beer), onions, and eggs are among the foods that were causing my extreme fatigue and constant state of inflammation.

Since cutting these foods out of my diet and focusing on eating Paleo, the weight has been coming off at a much more rapid pace and I don’t feel the constant need to take a nap. Thank God! If you don’t know Paleo, you are missing out. I had never heard of it until Japheth suggested it, but it is the right lifestyle change for me. Basically, if it doesn’t come from an animal, the earth, a plant or a tree, I don’t eat it. As humans, we don’t need all that sugar and processed carbs. We want it, but we don’t need it.

Regarding the workouts, I am still working out 5-6 days per week, and we were able to tap into the fact that my body responds very well to chaos! The normal workouts that work for everyone else weren’t getting the results Japheth wanted so we “tried something new.” Every day is a new adventure.

On “cardio days”: Zone 1 for two minutes, Zone 2 for three minutes, back to Zone 1 for two minutes, etc. Crossfit workouts are my favorite as they are short and nasty, and I have proven to myself time and time again that though I feel like I am going to die for about 7 minutes, I never actually do. I am especially happy on the days that Japheth works out with me, as I so enjoy seeing him in pain along with me. Pure bliss!

Today, I am 55 pounds lighter and a lot more muscular! The fact that I know how to deadlift and strict press is impressive to me as well! My cholesterol is now around 125, and while sugar is still troublesome (but not borderline diabetic), I think that will reduce as I continue to work to keep my stress and cortisol levels down. My body fat percentage has gone from 46 percent to 28 percent. Dance around! Dance around!

Kathe Yamagata's AFTER photo (so far!)

Kathe Yamagata’s AFTER photo (so far!)

While I still have about 17 more pounds to lose (not that I am counting!), I can’t believe how far I have come. I am actually a success story! But, it has not come easy. It is the hardest thing I have ever done and these changes have saved my life. Japheth helped save my life. He hasn’t given up on me and hasn’t let me give up on myself. He has helped me change in so many positive ways and I could never find a way to repay him (except he might need to go to therapy now for having to deal with me and my intense personality!).

“If something doesn’t work, we are going to try something else” is what I heard from him on a weekly basis. For me, working out wasn’t enough. He helped me find a full, comprehensive approach to healthy living. Now, when I eat, I ask myself, “Will this cleanse me or clog me?” When I work out, I remember that I have to keep it chaotic. When I get stressed, I must meditate.

If and when you are ready to make the right lifestyle changes, Japheth will help you find out what works for you. For as we know, one size paper gown does not fit all!

—Kathe Yamagata

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