Friday, November 8, 2013

How My Job Saved My Life…Probably

Over the last six months, I've been asked again and again what prompted my twenty-five pound weight loss since 2011.

“Tell me the secret, Lauren!”
“What’s the quick fix?”
“How do you keep it off?”
“Is it a special workout?”
“Is it a pill?”

It’s all of these things, and yet none of them at the same time. But, to better explain, I need to start at the beginning… August 2010.

When I was twenty-eight years old and loving my carb-and-grease-filled-life, I began working on the Dr. Oz show.  Most people start a new job and are inundated with the elements that go along with that job, and yes, I had some of that, but what really overloaded my brain was the sudden injection of knowledge about how I was probably destroying my body from the inside out.

I was learning things about diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, every cancer known to man, thyroids – you get the gist – and for the life of me I can’t remember having heard any of this during high school or college biology and anatomy. My God, what did I learn in those classes?

And the resounding lesson was clear: suicide isn't the only way to end your life, ignoring your health is a much easier route. I know that’s a dramatic comparison, but that’s how real this revelation was to me. And it took about a year and a half of being with the show for it to really sink in.

I come from a family plagued with stomach cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stroke, and God knows what else. As I considered this history and compared it to my new-found insights, I was overwhelmed by a need to rethink the relationship I had with my own body. At the time I treated it like the boy next door whose love I wasn't aware of and maybe took advantage of, and the relationship I really needed to have was one of mutual love and respect.

And that helped me understand something incredibly significant - as someone who’s dealt with body image issues and yo-yoing weight since they were twelve, my goal had always been a vain one: get skinny. And I was suddenly aware that it should have always been bigger: stay alive.

So the first phase began. I started with my diet…by not going on one. I changed the diet I was already on, the “I’m only twenty-nine, I can still eat whatever I want as long as I get on the treadmill once a week” diet. That diet was a huge, monumental lie and it needed to be buried far beneath the deepest sea.

I jumped on the Weight Watchers bandwagon at my office. My mind was blown by how efficient the program was at teaching me just how horrible some of my favorite foods were based on their points value. I remember forfeiting something like eleven points on a milkshake one time and hating myself later when all I had left to eat for the day was vegetables and it was only 1:30pm. And that’s when I thought, this thing must have a lot more fat in it than I thought, and it did. And that same experience started to play out over and over with foods I’d never considered to be detrimental to my health. Foods I’d grown up eating on a daily basis because my mother and others who raised me didn't know any better, like most of our country. So I began minimizing my interaction with them or eliminating them all together. Which lead to the next phase…

What can I eat?  

I circled back to the show and paid closer attention to our go-tos: Greek yogurt, quinoa, whole grains, kale, walnuts… I had an entire shopping list at my disposal for quite some time and had never paid attention to it. I started eating new things, healthy things, things that weren't going to wreak havoc on my arteries or clog my intestines. And the thing that was probably most surprising is that they were actually enjoyable. I’d spent most of my life thinking that reducing carbs and adding more vegetables to my diet was going to be a Fear Factor-like experiment. I really thought it’d be like eating roaches. It wasn't.

So there I am, watching my own show, taking notes on new foods I could try and soon I’m noticing other things, non-food things that I think I should give a shot, because health isn't just what you eat, it’s how you think. Doc (as I've come to call him) really has a thing for meditation and yoga. I used to giggle over this stuff; I just couldn't take it seriously. But when you find yourself on a shoot at a yoga studio and you don’t dare giggle, you start to pay attention and you start to think, “Damn, these people are really calm.” And you start to realize how not calm you are. And next thing I know I’m sitting with twenty of my coworkers, meditating in our conference room or bending in ways I didn't think I could at a yoga class.

It didn't stop there. When your host is the kind of celebrity that actually practices what they preach, and when you spend hours in the presence of that host, you start to really pay attention. I began questioning what nutrients I was missing on a daily basis, what natural supplements I should be taking, what could help me build myself up to combat any crappy illness that might come my way. I ate good things, I followed a supplement regiment and I started to feel good, genuinely good, throughout all of my body. And around this time, almost two years into working with the show, I met someone who took health just as seriously as I did. Which led to one of the most important phases…


Bless my family for being such loving and wonderful people, they mean well, I know they do, but they can really be crappy eaters. I constantly have to defend myself for plating only a spoon of rice at Sunday dinner instead of half a plate. “Lauren, you've lost enough weight, stop dieting!” I’m not dieting and I've tried explaining this a million times, but people are just set in their ways sometimes. And here’s a tip: you know all those greasy, delicious foods you grew up loving (especially if you come from a Puerto Rican household like mine), when you haven’t had them for months they are still going to taste just as decadent, but there’s a good chance you’ll be sick for a day or two after eating them (firsthand experience). It’s like your body says, “Please don’t go back to eating that. You never noticed it before, but now you see how much I hate it.”

Luckily, there’s my fiancé, Matt, to help balance the scales. I can’t remember at what point in our relationship we learned that we both adhere to the healthiest lifestyle possible, probably after the first few months of dating where all you do is eat awesome food and drink awesome cocktails at awesome restaurants. (See, I still know how to enjoy food and life. Take that, non-believers!) Turns out he ran the NYC marathon, does yoga and tries his best to limit refined foods, but boy does he love cheese. I think he derives from a line of mice. I digress… The point is, I never had to explain myself to Matt, because he felt the same way and he could care less about losing weight, he just wants to live his life without a barrage of health scares waiting for him at every turn. He gets it. Thanks, babe!

So you see… it’s not one thing that helped me lose weight, and yet there is one goal that definitely did: not aiming to lose weight. I just celebrated my thirty-second birthday. My vitals are better than they were in my twenties, and I’m not only thinner, I’m stronger, both inside and out.  I don’t give people advice on how to lose weight, I ask them what means more to them; fitting into a pair of jeans from their thinner days or living until they are a hundred and being in the best shape throughout? Working on this show helped me understand the real difference between those options. And now, you know not just how I did it, but why.


Norma U said...

Excellent blog Lauren! Thank you for reminding me of the real reasons why its important to make these adjustments. I commend you for not losing sight of your over-arching goals..may you live a long, healthy and happy life. NU- Brooklyn, NY

Unknown said...

@Norma - thank you for reading!!! I wish you all the best as well xo