My 21 Day Challenge Recap- Whole 30, distractions, dishes and a bit of disappointment

Have you ever willingly given up sugar? For more than a day? :)  I recently gave up sugar, grains, dairy and a few other things for a 21 Day Challenge through our church.  The challenge was to "fast" something that we felt distracted us, to focus more on God. Having spent so many years struggling with food issues, I knew immediately knew I wanted to challenge myself to give my screwed up relationship with food over to God.  I chose to follow the Whole 30 Plan for the 21 days.  A Whole 21, as it were.

The basic rules of Whole 30 are: No sugar, no dairy, no grains, no legumes, no artificial sweeteners, no snacks, and no weighing yourself. There are other rules, but this is the gist of it without getting into the tedium of it.  And believe me, there are nit picky rules that can get overwhelming. You can find all the Whole 30 rules here:

The payoff is (supposed to be) that you are cleansing your body of all food groups that tend to give people problems.  It allows you time to clear it out of your system, then re-introduce food groups one at a time to see if you have any reactions.  People go on and on about how amazing they feel during their Whole 30.  Week three is even deemed "Tiger Blood", as in a time that you feel so incredible and so full of energy it's like you've got tiger blood.  I read about everyone's non scale victories of loser clothes, more energy, better sleep, you name it!  Victories abound! 

Food Prep Day One= All the Veggies

Food Prep Day One= All the Veggies

None of that happened for me or for my husband, Scott. We stuck to the rules.  We didn't eat out at all for the three weeks so we could control all of our food and make sure we didn't inadvertently eat anything non-compliant. I cooked, prepped, grocery shopped and cleaned more dishes than a school lunch lady does each day.  It was SO much work. Work that never seemed to pay off in the ways we may have expected.  

From the beginning, we were dedicated.  Having a reason bigger than losing weight to change our diets made our commitment level very high.  We cleared the house of any non-compliant foods, hid Scott's peanut butter in the back of the pantry, and braced ourselves for cravings and missing some of our go to's, like greek yogurt, brown rice, and for me, oatmeal.  The amazing thing was that those cravings didn't really happen.  It surprised us both how little we missed any dairy, sugar, beans, or peanut butter (Scott's fave!).

What we did miss was eating every three hours.  And we missed the carbs.  We were allowed sweet potatoes or white potatoes and we ate them almost daily.  When I lost weight, I started eating 5 times a day, and have stuck to that for the last 3+ years.   Our normal is breakfast, mid-morning snack (this is where my oatmeal comes in), lunch, mid afternoon snack and dinner.  What made the "no snack" rule hard for us is that we get up at 4:15am.  Breakfast is after crossfit at around 6:15am.  Not snacking meant we were going 6+ hours before lunch.  You are allowed an additional post workout snack on Whole 30, but it still meant not eating for hours.  My body has become accustomed to eating every three hours, so this was one of the biggest struggles for me.  

Rather than boosting my energy, eating this way, although super "clean" and very healthy, depleted my energy. I dragged through my days.  Especially the first week. I had to take a few days off form working out as my body adjusted to eating a much lower carb diet. During the first week I was sleepy, had headaches for a few days and wondered if I had made a huge mistake.  Around day eight, I began to feel a bit better and was able to push through my workouts.  

The reason I was even doing this Whole 21 was for spiritual growth.  And that suffered too.  Although I set aside time each day to pray and read the 21 Day Challenge study, food was still a big focus.  Sticking to the rules, meal planning, shopping, and cooking became overwhelming. I spent so much time and energy trying to make sure we were successful in our fast, that I became frustrated with it all.  Not what I had envisioned happening when we started our challenge.  I poured out my frustration to Scott and cried with feeling that I had blown the whole thing with allowing food to, once again, distract me from the important things in life.

So, I tried to simplify it all.  Whole 30 boils down to eating lots of veggies, lean proteins, some fruits and healthy fats.  Not that different from our usual diet.  I had been sucked in to the Pinterest Whole 30 vacuum and had been trying all these recipes, making homemade salad dressing, breakfast egg cups, and double checking every ingredient on anything I bought.  After my mini-breakdown, I went back to the basics.  Salads, roasted veggies, grilled proteins and big batches of soup that would last for days. much better.  My favorite soup was The Pioneer Woman's hamburger soup, but made with ground turkey. Here's the recipe:

Hamburger Soup- Made with turkey. Delicious! 

Hamburger Soup- Made with turkey. Delicious! 

As you can probably tell, our Whole 21 wasn't some earth shattering, life changing event that it can be for others.  I have reflected on why that was.  Here are my takeaways: 

We don't eat that bad to begin with.  It wasn't a drastic change for us.  We weren't going from eating junky processed foods to a clean diet, like some people are.  So, we probably didn't have the same response to cutting a little bit of dairy, sugar, and grains from our diets compared to those who made a huge diet overhaul. 

It just didn't seem to work well with our lives.  We get up early.  We have long days.  We work out a lot.  Super low carb, no snacks and minimal fruit did not fuel our bodies for what we need in a day. Eating five times a day is something that suits our lives, fuels our bodies, keeps us satisfied and boosts our metabolism.  

Were there positives?  Sure.  I realized that food doesn't control me.  I learned that when I need to, I can totally buckle down and eat a very clean, streamlined diet.  I realized that I do love my little sweet treats, and I missed them occasionally, but it allowed me to see that I can live without any sugar at all.  I lost six pounds.  I did seem to sleep well, even if it also meant I was super tired most of the day.  

I can see that the ideology of Whole 30 is solid.  It forces you to break your sugar habit. It breaks your snacking habit.  It cleanses your system of processed junk.  It can be a life changer for many people.  It just didn't happen to change our lives. And we didn't need it to.  We had our huge life change over three years when we began this healthy living journey.  This was just another step in trying new things and seeing what works for us. 

This 21 Day Challenge was a snapshot of our lives.  Learning to grow closer to God, focusing on His best for us.  We are still learning and growing in our healthy life journey.  What foods work well for us? Healthy carbs. What foods are not great for us? Dairy, too much sugar.  Am I fueling myself in a way that benefits me in my workouts? Usually, yes. Am I an emotional eater? Duh, yes! Am I a sugar addict? You bet.  But this challenge showed me that food doesn't control me. It also showed me that I can allow God into this complicated, messy relationship I have with food and He will help me.  

Breaking Out of My Bubble

Do new places and people intimidate you?  They do me.  I am a people person.  I can talk to pretty much anyone, anytime (just ask my husband).  But depending on the situation, I can totally lose my confidence and let new places overwhelm me.  New gyms, new workouts, health food stores…I still feel like the fat mom who doesn’t quite fit in.  Even after all my hours in the gym and hours fixing healthy meals, super healthy environments make me feel like I’ve got a neon sign above me flashing “she doesn't fit in here”.  These feelings make me want to revert back into my bubble, where I feel safe. 


I was a Superstore shopper for years.  It fit my needs.  Cheap, easy to grab, and near my house.  I didn’t give it much thought.  Food was food.  I never read a label.  If it was something we liked, I bought it.  My how times have changed!  I have shopped at some “healthier” stores since I began to lose weight and care about my health.  But, I started a 21 day challenge at my church, and decided to follow the Whole 30 diet during this time.  Having stricter dietary needs pushed me out of my comfort zone and right through the doors of Whole Foods.


Whole Foods!  The mecca of health food stores.  The place that intimidated me and made me squirm.  And here I was! We purchased flowers for my daughter’s wedding at Whole Foods, so I had been, but I had never actually grocery shopped there. What in the world was I waiting for?  I set up an appointment with the personal shopper at our Tulsa store, Debbie, and she was wonderful!  Yes, you heard me, a personal shopper!  Debbie pulls online orders, or like with me, can shop with you to help you find what you need.  Every store has a “Debbie”.


I told Debbie I was following Whole 30, and she knew what my needs were.  (To find out more about Whole 30: The basics are: no sugar, no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no artificial sweeteners, no preservatives.  So my diet these days consists of lots of veggies, lean proteins, some fruit and some healthy fats.  Not too different from our usual diet, but I am missing my greek yogurt and my oatmeal. Overall, it's been a great challenge for us, and much easier to stick to than I anticipated.  It has also pushed me to get creative and find new recipes.  There are only so many nights you can eat grilled chicken and broccoli.  

My Personal Shopper, Debbie, and Me

My Personal Shopper, Debbie, and Me


I had a new recipe I wanted to try so I just pulled it up on Pinterest (you can find it here:, or below) and Debbie went to work helping me find everything I needed.  I made grilled salmon with a mango salsa and a spinach salad, topped with Tessamae’s dressing, one of the few dressings that is Whole 30 approved.  Having a professional grocery shopper was so nice!  I would have never known which mangos were ready to eat that day.  She picked the perfect avocados and even convinced me to add some jicama to our salad.  I never knew how to pronounce jicama (\ˈhē-kə-mə\) or that we would actually like it.


My take away?  It’s not so hard to get out of my comfort zone.  Deciding to do something new is the hardest part.  Once you get there, it all falls into place. This whole healthy journey has pushed me way out of my safe little bubble.  And I have found when my bubble is lifted, something good always comes from it. Whole Foods isn’t some scary, uber healthy place full of pilates perfect supermoms, but a great option for me that fits my healthier needs! 


I’ll be sharing more of my “Breaking out of My Bubble” stories.  I spent too many years being overwhelmed by everything and letting my weight keep me from trying things I wanted to do.  Life is too short to be scared and to live in a bubble.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get out there. Break out of your bubble!  Try a new workout, go to Whole Foods, go on a run in a neighborhood where you love the homes, try yoga, go to a juice bar.  Just do something besides staying in your bubble.  I promise it will be worth it!


Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa

Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa


4- Six ounce Salmon Filets


¼ Cup Cilantro

1 tsp Garlic Powder

1 Jalapeno (small)

Juice of 1 Lime

2 Mangos, diced

½ Cup Red Onion, diced


1 tsp. Chili Powder

½ Red Pepper, diced

½ tspSalt

½ tsp Pepper


For Mango Salsa:

Stir together mangos, red peppers, onions, and jalapeno, and cilantro.  Set aside until ready to use.


For Salmon:

Stir together garlic powder, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Rub mixture into salmon.  Grill on each side for 6-8 minutes.


Squeeze lime juice over grilled salmon.  Top with mango salsa.  Enjoy!



Guest Blog- You Can't Do It Alone, By my husband, Scott Johnson

I’m in Good Shape…Right?

Before- 2013, After- 2016

About three years ago, I set out on a journey to lose some weight and get healthier.  At the time, my main motivation was that my wife was headed off to a 90 day “bootcamp” for a weight-loss television show. She would be returning in 90 days after having worked out every single day of that time to continue her journey for 9 more months.

My motivation was to start working out and eat a little better for her. I really didn’t think I was in too bad of shape, but SHE needed to know that I was with her. Because I knew that she was going to be doing a pretty extreme type of working out, CrossFit, I decided that’s what I needed to do. So, I met up with the owners of the local CrossFit box and started the intro class. I very quickly realized that was that I was completely out of shape. Not only that, but I was at least 50 pounds overweight. I had no idea how bad it was, that is, until I started the first workout. Five minutes in and I was gasping for air and nauseous. It was so embarrassing for this “jock”, who had prided himself on being an athlete, being strong, and seeming younger than I was, for so many years. Then I was faced with the reality that I was just your average “out of shape, middle aged man”. It wasn't the reality that I wanted to face.

I feel this is a reality that many of us find ourselves facing in our relationship with Christ. We just keep moving along, living our lives like “normal”, all the while slipping down a subtle, but slippery slope. We have a tendency to remember back to a time when our relationship with Christ was strong and make the assumption that we’re are still in that place even though we are fully aware that we are, in reality, fooling ourselves.

James 1:22-24 says, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was."

This is exactly what can happen to us. It doesn’t happen overnight. I didn’t just wake up one morning unhealthy with an extra 50 pounds. It happened subtly over a period of time— a much longer period than I realized. We keep saying things like “I’ll take care of it at some point, I have time,” until it’s literally been years since you made your spiritual growth a priority. We’ve all found ourselves in this condition at some point in our walk with God.

So, what now? Well, for me, the first step was becoming vulnerable. I said earlier that I was embarrassed about how out of shape I was in those early workouts. My pride was a huge problem for me. My first class was set for 6:00 AM. I woke up, ate breakfast, got in my car and headed that way. The garage doors were open to the warehouse where the CrossFit gym was and I could see what was going on inside. There were guys working out with shirts off, who were younger than me, in much better shape than me, and were climbing ropes and throwing heavy weights around. All of those things added up to me, or more accurately, my pride, saying, “Not a chance!”  If I try this class, not only will I know that I can’t do any of this, all of these other people will also know. So, I did what any red-blooded, prideful male would do, I got in my car and went home. There is no way I’m putting myself “out there” in front of these people. I made every excuse possible, but it just kept coming back to one thing— I didn’t want anyone else to know how bad it was.

Isn’t this how it works? When we find ourselves in a place we didn’t expect to be, facing the reality that our relationship with Christ is not where it once was, maybe it's non-existent, or maybe we’ve even allowed sin of some kind to creep into our lives, the last thing we think we need is anyone else finding out just how bad it is. It didn’t take me long to realize, that was exactly what I needed. I needed to be vulnerable  I needed for a group of people to see me exactly where I was. All of my weaknesses, all of my failures, and all of my blindspots. All of the things that I could not fix myself. All of the things that keep us from sticking to something and seeing it through. That is exactly the reason I needed to be connected to a group of people— a group of people who cared about me sticking to it and getting healthy. I needed a group who would allow me to be vulnerable without ridicule, who would encourage me, coach me by pointing out my blindspots, and keep me accountable.

It’s exactly what we need in our spiritual walk. We need to be connected to a group of believers who we can be vulnerable with, who will encourage us, share scripture with us, pray with us, and keep us accountable— this is where true growth can happen. What I realized is that there were things that were holding me back that I was never going to see myself. God uses others to help us strip away the things that are weighing us down.

In the story of Lazarus, we see that after Jesus had raised him from the dead and he walked out of the tomb, he was still wrapped in grave clothes. He couldn’t see because his face was still covered. He couldn’t remove the cover from his face because his hands and feet were still tied.

“Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.’”  John 11:43-44

Jesus strategically had the people around Lazarus to cut away the graveclothes to free him from what was holding him back. This is a great picture of what we need in our lives in order to become more like Christ together— we need a group of people to help strip away what’s restricting us.

This is the role of Small Groups. I can tell you that today, because of a group of people who I allowed into my life, I was able to lose those 50 pounds and I’m now in the best physical shape of my life at 47 yrs old. However, I’m still growing in my relationship with Christ. Even as a pastor, I have learned that I NEED a small group who I can be vulnerable with. People who can see the “grave clothes” in my life that are restricting me— the things that I will never see myself. When I am connected to a Small Group, that's where relationship and true spiritual growth can happen.


I Do Not Have Your Answer

I was recently asked to guest blog for a friend who I have gotten to know through social media.  Becky is a young mom that I met on Instagram.  She followed me, and through comments and interactions, I realized we had a lot in common.  What I love about Becky is that she is working hard to balance her family, fitness and faith.  Something I was not good at when my kids were younger.  Becky specifically asked me to speak to moms now that I have survived the crazy years and have hit the empty (almost!) nest.  

I share my heart on how to find answers when you feel overwhelmed and are ready to make healthy changes.  I do not have all the answers, but I know how to find what works for you!  

I would love for you to show Becky some love by visiting her blog and I would love to have your feedback!  Click the following link to read my guest blog.

You Are More Than a Number

Numbers, numbers, numbers.  I never liked balancing a check book, and I dropped Calculus twice when I was in college.  As much as I like to think I am the creative type who can't be bothered with numbers, there are some that can make a difference to my health.  And those are the numbers that I ignored for years.  My weight, my blood pressure, my body fat percentage, my Resting Metabolic Rate.  While they do make a difference to our health, learning not to allow those numbers to define me has been a long, arduous process for me. 

Starting with the most basic of stats, in 2013, as I applied for Extreme Weight Loss, I had not weighed myself in several years. I guessed on the application and put my weight at 315 pounds.  I had been to the doctor a couple of years earlier and weighed 307.  I figured I had gained a few pounds since then. And I was right. I weighed exactly 315. Not a number I wanted to see, and one that was hard for me to believe.  How had I gotten to the point in my life that I was dragging 315 pounds around with me every day? 

Casting photo taken at my call back interview. 

Casting photo taken at my call back interview. 

It wasn’t even so much the pounds that made life difficult.  It was the overwhelming “weight” of the weight. It was being disappointed in myself.  It was feeling that I was an embarrassment to my family.  It was wanting so badly to be an athlete again and not knowing how to get there.  It was feeling lonely, like no one I knew could possibly understand because no one I knew was as big as me.  It was being scared that I would never change.  THAT is the weight.  THAT is what weighing 315 pounds felt like.

I am learning through this process though, that the number on the scale does not define me.  Which has been a hard and very emotional process. On one side of that coin was weighing 315 pounds.  I used to feel that the number being so high defined me.  That being fat was my destiny, and that others must be judging me because of my weight.  I was ashamed and stuck at 315.  

The flip side of that is losing 165 pounds, and getting down to 150 pounds.  Ten pounds less than what I weighed in high school.  It was in lights, on a huge screen, on national television.  This woman weighs only 150 pounds!  Which for me was a very low weight, especially compared to the rest of my life. I had gone from a size 24 to a size 8.  

Finale Filming- A great day of celebrating the new, healthy me. 

Finale Filming- A great day of celebrating the new, healthy me. 

When you are on a weight loss show,  your worth is tied to your weight.  It is absolutely what defines you.  It’s why most of you are even reading this blog today.  People cheered that number, I traveled and gave speeches about how I lost so much weight. 

Yet, that number came and went.  It felt nearly impossible not to gain weight once the show had wrapped. I had spent a year dedicated to losing weight and getting healthy.  And as I tried to regain some sense of normal life, to not work out four hours a day, it seemed that the scale was determined to creep up pound by pound.

Although the scale no longer reads 150 pounds, what has not changed is my commitment to staying healthy.  I have worked out at least 5 days a week, every week, every month, for two years since my finale.  I have eaten clean most days.  I have a reward meal on Fridays, and a few weekend treats here and there.  I have not strayed far from how I was eating to lose weight.  I still eat “clean”. Which for me, is eating as fresh and naturally as I can.  Very little processed food.  Lean proteins, lots of veggies.  Some fruit, some healthy fats and carbs.  

Although the scale has moved up some, I have finally realized that I cannot allow it define me.  Gaining some weight does not mean I gave up.  Or that I am not healthy. I refuse to allow a number to define my worth. Sure, it matters to some degree, as morbid obesity is not healthy.  But weighing 30+% less than I did three years ago is still a win.  

I know many of you have lost weight, gained that same weight, and lost it again.  You've lost and gained the same 20 pounds for years.  Or you have wanted to lose weight for years and feel stuck.  Or you’ve lost weight and kept it off.  So many of us are in one of these situations.  So, what do we all have in common?  

We want to be our best selves.  We want to feel that we have worth.  We want to be healthy, make our families proud, and feel good about ourselves. We want to move and live and feel strong. We want to be confident and not feel ashamed of who we are.  And none of that comes from a number on a scale.

If you think your weight defines you. It does. But only  to you. It does not define you to others unless you allow it to.  If you mope and whine about your weight, yet do nothing to change, you are allowing others to be sucked into your weight issues. If you are always focused on your weight, you are giving it power to control you.  You are allowing that number to define your life.  It's time to move on.  Time to take the power away from that number. 

We decide if we will live defeated, depressed, and stuck.  We can choose to be different. We can choose be stronger.  We can change and be more confident.  All without losing one single pound.  

I can lose 30 pounds and be closer to my finale weight.  Or I can gain 20 more pounds and it will not change me.  I will still be me.  I will still be strong.  I will still be healthy.  I will still be happily married.  I will still  be a good mom.  My weight will not change who I am as a person.  It never did. 315 or 150, I was always me.  And I always had worth.  And so do you, no matter what number is on your scale. 



I Was A Bystander To My Own Life

Bystander- noun- A person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part.

I was a bystander. Not to just one certain event or incident, but to my own life. I spent 20 years watching my life go by. I was a pro. I had my bystanding down pat. Don’t push the envelope, don’t draw attention to yourself, and don’t do anything that is out of the ordinary. Basically, don’t do anything.

I watched a lot of life. I watched my girls play sports, win state a state championship, travel and play volleyball all over the Midwest. I watched Scott flourish in his dream job. I watched him play football and basketball at church. I listened to stories of my brother in law running marathons and ultra marathons. All the while thinking that I couldn’t possibly ever be the one doing anything worthwhile.

I watched reality television. Biggest Loser, Extreme Weight Loss (of course!), Survivor, The Amazing Race... you name it. I loved watching people challenge and change themselves, and have incredible experiences. All the while thinking, “That could never be me”.

I had listened to the voice in my head for years telling me that I was finished. Life was going to just go by and I would never be anything more than overweight and afraid to try anything. I was afraid to go for something and fail, so why bother trying? I was comfortable in my bystander roll. I was not willing to be uncomfortable.

And then I realized I had had enough. My youngest daughter had graduated from high school, Scott and I were almost empty nesters and I knew that we had a lot of years left in us. Years that were meant to be lived. Not years that were meant to just pass by. I had done all my watching, all the bystanding I could stand.

I knew it was time to stop watching and start living. I know it may sound cliché, but it’s true. I just could not stand to think about watching 20 more years go by. I didn’t want Scott to be bored with me, or wish that we were doing more. We had dreamed about our girls being grown. We were young when we had them and we had always talked about how we would travel and do life. We were going to be young empty nesters and it was going to be awesome. But it wasn’t. And it was time to inject some awesome into our lives.

It had to begin with me getting healthy and losing weight. So, I did. I never would have imagined myself being one of those people on TV, losing weight, trying new things, challenging myself. But, that is exactly where I ended up. And it was the beginning of me shedding my bystander role and becoming an active participant in my life. I didn’t want to just be present at events; I wanted to be in the middle of the event. I wanted to live events, make my life eventful!

And so it is. I choose to make it eventful. Sure, it’s pretty benign on a day-to-day basis, but I have come to love challenging myself. Setting goals. Meeting my goals.

My most recent “event” was the Nashville Half Marathon. After knee surgery last summer, I wasn’t sure that I would ever do another half marathon. I had done one the previous year, and knew then that my knee was an issue. After surgery, I have been advised not to run. Ever. Which was a blow. I thought to myself that my “running career” (I use that term in the loosest way possible) was over. But, as I recovered, I realized I could always walk. And walk fast. And just maybe walk 13.1 miles.

And so, I did. I worked up my mileage through the spring, the knee held up and I did it. After I registered for the race, although “race” is a strong term compared to what I do, I did have self-doubts. That inner critic began to tell me that walking was lame. Tried to get me to question why I was even bothering because it would be embarrassing to walk the whole course.

At the starting line.

At the starting line.

Then it hit me that the people watching the race would be doing exactly that. WATCHING ME! They would be watching me “race”. THEY would be the bystanders to the event. They would be the ones not participating. And I would be the one involved in the event. Who would have thought it? Who could have known that the afraid, overwhelmed, self-doubting bystander could become the participant? Could become someone who made life happen instead of watching it go by?

I did it! 13.1 Miles of fun!

I did it! 13.1 Miles of fun!

How much life have we all watched? How many times have we thought, “I wish I could do that!”? Guess what? We can do that! We can get healthy. We can run/walk half marathons. We can do back handsprings at age 45. We can do CrossFit. We can coach CrossFit! We can fly even though we’ve been afraid of flying for 15 years. We can travel with our spouses. We can wear two-piece bathing suits and not care what anyone thinks. We can be who we’ve always wanted to be. We don’t have to wait another year. We don’t have to wait and wish and hope and wonder if we’ll ever be the ones to do life.

As someone who spent way too many years as a bystander, I know from experience, it’s not fun. Getting uncomfortable, challenging yourself, doing something new, LIVING... that is fun. Are you currently a bystander? Are you watching life go by? How long can you stand to be a bystander? Don’t wait any longer. Start today. Get up. Do something. Participate. LIVE.


Fat...AND Happy?

There is no such thing as fat and happy. I know. I’ve been there. There is fat and content with parts of your life. There is fat and putting on a happy face. There is fat and lots of good times in your life. But fat AND happy with your weight. I doubt it.

I am not saying anyone who is fat does not have a great life. Or can’t be happy in their job, or with their family. And I am not saying there aren’t people who embrace their weight and just go with it, enjoying life and not seeming to worry about it. And I certainly embrace the “no fat shaming” movement because no one should ever be the victim of bullying or shame as a result of their weight.

But, I do know from experience that being fat is difficult. And I know from having spent a year changing my life with 15 other fat friends, that at the end of the day when there is no one around, and you are left alone with your thoughts, your weight wears on you. It is a mental strain to be fat.

Being obese or, as I was, morbidly obese, does not equate to happiness. Obesity is defined as being more than 20% over your ideal weight. Mildly obese is being between 20-40% over your ideal weight and morbid obesity is 40-100% overweight. I was on the highest end of morbid obesity when I began my weight loss journey. I was 100% overweight. Meaning I weighed double what I should have. I weighed almost exactly double what I did when I was in high school. And it took much more than a physical toll on me.

From the outside I looked pretty happy. Just by browsing my Facebook page you would find vacation pictures, pictures of my kids, glimpses of the glossy, happy life I liked to share. I am a positive person, so my posts were all positive and happy. But, deep down, I was not happy. I was very frustrated with myself, unsure if I could ever change. Mad at myself for having let me become so overweight. I was overwhelmed at the thought of losing all the weight I needed to. I was not happy. I was fat and scared.

I worried about my health. I had panic attacks, worried that my children would wake up and find me dead of a heart attack. I had sore joints. My feet were swollen. Being obese is not easy.

Let me walk you through the mind of an obese person. Just in day-to-day life. Putting shoes on, a difficult task. It’s not easy to reach down and just get your shoes on when your belly is in the way. Going out to lunch or dinner with friends? Let’s hope we can squeeze past the other diners who are sitting when we are walked to our table. And let’s pray that if it’s a booth that we will fit in it.

Going to a volleyball match at an arena that has chair seating? Let me smash myself into the chair, sit uncomfortably for hours and then go home with bruises on my hips from the chair digging into me. Then do it again tomorrow, with the bruises already hurting. And chat with the other moms and my husband and pretend all is ok.

Traveling? Please, let’s not take my husband’s jeep, because the seat belt “just” fits and I have zero room to move or be comfortable. I can’t even reach down to change the channel or adjust the heat because my belt has no slack. Flying? Let’s pray we fit into one seat and then feel the shame because you know the other people on your row are annoyed that you are oozing into their space. When I flew to Denver for boot camp, I could just get the belt fastened, as loose as it would go, squeezed within an inch of it’s life around me. Talking to my cast mates, many of them would just pretend the belt was fastened, too ashamed to ask for an extender.

Being fat is not a happy place. It’s tough. It’s a mental drain. It is the little things all day that make you aware that you are not like others or you don’t fit into the world’s size of things. I am not telling you this for sympathy, but to give you an idea of what it is like to be fat. And to let you know that obese people are hurting. They are aware that they don’t look like most other people. They are aware that they are probably not that healthy, and more than likely are desperate to change but don’t know how.

Just imagine: Glances from other people. Walking into stores to shop for your daughters and getting “the look”. The look that says, “What are you doing in our store? You don’t fit into our clothes”. Avoiding doctors because you are embarrassed to be weighed and to be told again that you need to lose weight, but not being given any real direction on how to do so. It takes so much more than being told, “Eat less, move more”. We all know the science of weight loss. It’s not a science issue; it’s an emotional issue.

So, fat and happy? I don’t believe it. When I see an obese person it hurts my heart. I know what it’s like and it’s not easy. I don’t look at them and think, “Why don’t they just eat less?” or “They really should do something.” I look at them and think I want to go hug them and tell them that it’s possible to change. I want to tell them that I know they are hurting and that if they begin to make small changes that it can add up. I want to tell them that even though losing weight and getting healthy seem overwhelming, that they CAN do it!

I am a living, breathing example of that possibility. I had had enough of not being happy. I was tired of being fat and depressed, fat and anxious, fat and scared. If you or someone you know is obese, don’t give up! I spent 20 years stuck, afraid to try, overwhelmed with not knowing how to change. It is never too late to stop being fat and sad. It’s never too late to become happy and healthy.


The Golden Gate Bridge, Bikes, and Bacon Grilled Cheese

Recently I found myself on the Golden Gate Bridge, crying, overwhelmed with emotion. Good emotion. So many feelings... excitement, elation, happiness, and being proud of myself. For many years I didn’t fully live life. I didn’t engage in situations that challenged me. I found my safety in controlling my surroundings and living in a box I had put myself in. Flying to San Francisco and biking across the Golden Gate was such a huge moment for me. As I rode onto the bridge, wind in my hair, sun on my face, my husband by my side, I had a joy inside of me that for years I didn’t think was possible. Losing weight opened up my life in ways I could not comprehend. It’s not just the pounds, it’s the baggage, the self-doubt, and the insecurities that come with it that really weigh you down.

When I was at boot camp, Chris Powell and I sat down and had a conversation about things I wanted to do when I lost weight. How would life be different, other than just the number on the scale? Chris asked me to make a list of five things I wanted to do that I had not been doing because of my weight. One of those things was to take more active vacations. For years vacations in the Johnson home consisted of driving to the beach (I was scared of flying), and sitting with our toes in the sand for days on end. No activity other than to walk into the ocean occasionally to cool off. Let me lie on the beach and soak up the sun. No effort involved.

Now that I am healthy and much more active, finding vacations that allow for fun activities are high on my to do list. So far this year, I have been to LA (biked in Santa Monica and hiked) and Canada (walked the beautiful river in Saskatoon), Denver (hiked Red Rocks, again!), and hiked around Mr. Rushmore. Recently Scott and I spent a week exploring San Francisco and fell in love with the area. I am excited to tell you about the highlights, how we stayed active, and our favorite meals. I managed to eat pretty much anything I wanted, and lost two pounds while we were there! Win/Win! Whether you fly to a city far away, or just spend a weekend getting to know your own city. There are always new things to see and do, and ways to stay active and healthy. I want to share with you my top tips for balancing fun, fitness and food on your next vacation.

Lombard Street

1- Explore the Area. On foot! Get out there and get to know the area you are visiting. San Francisco is beautiful and extra hilly. Most days we drove into town, parked the car and just hit the city on foot. One day we walked 13 miles! From Coit Tower, Lombard Street, Chinatown, Little Italy, North Beach, or the Farmer’s Market at One Ferry Plaza, there was no shortage of places to walk, sites to see, and hills to climb. Lombard Street is a 27% incline! Whatever city or area you go to, you’ll get a much better feel for it by walking, thriving off the energy of the people, and enjoying the fresh air.

Muir Woods

2- Enjoy Mother Nature. No matter if you’re in the mountains of Colorado, Central Park in New York City, at the beach, or crossing the Golden Gate to hit up Muir Woods, there is likely somewhere to unwind, slow down, and just enjoy God’s green earth. We hiked down to the shore at Land’s End and we spent a morning marveling at the Redwoods at Muir Woods State Park. Seeing the Redwoods and Sequoias was the perfect quiet time we needed after the hustle and bustle of the city.

Biking Across The Golden Gate Bridge

3- Make an Effort to Get Moving. Some days you just need to find a way to get moving. Staying active doesn’t always have to mean just walking around the city. We rented bikes and biked across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was the absolute highlight of our trip. Having always been afraid of bridges, that moment was big for me. I didn’t ride a bike for about 15 years, just because of my weight. Making the 16-mile round trip through the city, across the bridge and back was huge for me. I wanted to shout, and jump for joy! In LA this Spring, my daughter and I rented bikes and rode from Santa Monica to Venice Beach and back. Get online, do a little research and find something fun to do on your next trip.

Breakfast At Kitchen Story

4- Enjoy the local flavors. You can’t go to San Francisco and not get chowder in a bread bowl. We got a bowl at a stand at Fisherman’s Wharf and ate it on the street. We also had some amazing fish tacos in Sausalito. We went to one “fancy” dinner and had seafood overlooking the bay at Cliff House. Being in an area that has such great seafood allowed us to enjoy fresh, local food. We tend to stay away from chain restaurants and try to find smaller, local restaurants and bakeries. You can always find that amazing little gem of a restaurant and have the most amazing meal of your trip. We did just that at Kitchen Story in San Francisco. We had THE BEST breakfast. Which compelled us to go back for lunch one day, and dinner. By going local you get the best and freshest flavors.

Off The Grid

5- Share the Love. Scott and shared many meals and snacks. Believe me, there were some major indulgences. I’m talking to you Bacon Grilled Cheese! When it’s ooey, gooey, and totally rich, a few bites is enough to feel satisfied. We went “Off The Grid” at Ft. Mason, where there are local food trucks. We shared one sandwich. We also shared an incredible BLT (do you see a theme here?) for lunch at Kitchen Story, and a calzone outside in Little Italy. There were times we went for it, and had a full meal to ourselves. But by sharing some meals and snacks, we cut our calories in half.

Farmer's Market Pork Sandwich

6- Don’t let it become a free for all. Find the balance of enjoying some wonderful indulgences, but not overdoing it. Yes, we had the most amazing bacon, a pork sandwich from a vendor at the Farmer’s Market, and made to order Nitrogen ice cream. The ice cream was from Smitten, aptly named, as I was completely smitten with it. They use all organic local milk and cream. So wonderful! But, we also had grilled fresh seafood, a fruit and granola bowl for breakfast and fresh fruit for snacks. Being on vacation doesn’t mean the calories don’t count. Stay aware of how much you are rewarding yourself. If we had a big lunch, we ate a light dinner or even skipped dinner and had a little late night snack. Or if we knew we were doing a big dinner, we shared lunch and went to dinner with a big appetite.

Following these ideas helped me feel like I had a total break from real life. I didn’t have to get up early and teach my boot camp class, and I didn’t have planned workouts. But, I stayed active, logging at least 6 miles on foot each day. I didn’t follow my normal food plan, nor did I feel guilty for indulging. I totally splurged on some meals (bread pudding for breakfast!) but other meals I scaled it back. I enjoyed myself more than I have on any other trip I have ever been on. (Maybe it was my amazing companion?) And I think being active, enjoying the local vibe, and not stressing about what I was eating allowed me to relax, take it all in and have the time of my life!

What was one of your favorite vacations?  What tips do you have for staying on track while on the road?