Megan V. Joyful MovementI started AH in February of 2016, at my mom’s recommendation, because I was highly addicted to sugar. With a 4 year old and a 14 month old, my body had been through a lot in the previous five years. I wanted to stop my sugar cravings and to develop a healthier relationship with food. My weight was healthy, but I still wanted to lose the last 5-10 pounds I’d gained during my second pregnancy.

I did phase 1 for two weeks, mostly following the simplified meal plan and using the ratios and Cheat Sheets. I cooked some of the recipes in the book (all of which were delicious), and also built some simple meals that worked with my limited prep time. Then I moved into phase 2. In the past, I’d tracked calories using My Fitness Pal, done Weight Watchers, and participated in cleanses. However, none of these freed me from my obsessions with food the way AH did.

I felt strong, healthy, and craving free.

It didn’t feel hard, because I loved the food, and so did my family! I stayed on the program until the fall, when stress and the holidays derailed my efforts. We went on vacation to San Diego in late September and I got a little off track (fish tacos and beer, yum…). I mostly went back to phase 2 after vacation, but various stressors led me to veer pretty far off plan. I was eating phase 1/ phase 2 for breakfast, but went back to pasta and bread after not eating either since the previous February. During that time, I was also having more chocolate and more wine than recommended. At Christmas, I definitely ate a lot of cookies, too.

I don’t weigh myself regularly, but when I weighed myself at my parents’ at Christmas, I was 10 lbs heavier than my lowest weight while on the program last May. During November and December, I stopped experiencing the NSVs, and I felt awful. I had awful abdominal pain before my period began each month, which was one of my main motivations to restart in January.

Restarting the Program after Getting Off Track

On January 1, I began Phase 1 again, and I’ve been in phase 2 again for the past couple of months. I have made a conscious effort not to weigh myself the past few months, but my clothes fit again, and I would guess that I’m within 5 lbs of my set point weight. Then, my goal is to move into phase 3 mindfully. I’m enjoying the same NSVs (non-scale victories) that I experienced last year.

Earlier this year, Dawn Ludwig posted about exercise being a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what you’ve eaten. That really resonated with me. I’ve always loved to be outside, and I’ve always considered myself to be athletic. I’m lucky to live less than a mile from amazing mountains, and feel best when I’m moving. At the same time, since I was in high school, there’s always been an element of “I’m running to make up for what I’ve eaten, or what I’m planning to eat later.” How many hours did I spend on the stairmaster in college to make up for the pizza and beer I’d had the night before? How many times have I planned hard workouts around dinners out to counteract the calories?

New Relationship with Exercise

I have been working hard for the past couple of months at seeing both food and exercise as ways to nourish my body. I thought I was doing pretty well with this, but this morning when I went for a run, I noticed some of my old thoughts returning. “We’re going out to dinner tonight, so it’s good that I’m running.” “Signing up for this 10k in May is good, because it’ll get me in bathing suit shape in time for summer.”

It’s still a challenge for me to maintain a healthy attitude about my body. In a city where it seems like everyone is a size zero, it’s easy to lose perspective. About 1/2 mile into my run, my hamstring, which has been bothering me, started to hurt. My mind raced: “I can’t believed I signed up for a race that I won’t be able to run.” “I want to be in good shape.”

Joyful Movement

Then I stopped myself — physically and mentally. I thought about how much I love to walk, and hike, and do yoga, and my weekly spin class. And about how grateful I am to have a body that can do all of these things, as well as to be eating food that’s good for my body. I reframed my “I can’t run right now” and my attitude miraculously shifted from “Oh God, I’m going to gain 10 pounds tomorrow and won’t be able to wear a bathing suit in public” to “Maybe I’ll spend Saturday mornings on hikes and continue to be an athlete, and walk the 10k because I love to walk and I love to move.”

I reminded myself that I can go out to dinner tonight and enjoy my evening with my husband. Regardless of what exercise I have or haven’t done. It felt incredibly freeing to think about what my body is capable of, and to enjoy the sunshine on a gorgeous walk. Here’s to joyful movement being truly joyful.

Advice For Those Starting Out:

Do Phase 1, and don’t judge yourself or get discouraged during those two weeks. Some people lose a lot of weight initially, but others don’t. Be patient with yourself, because it takes awhile to get the hang of the ratios and building compliant meals. For me, Phase 1 was critical in breaking my addiction to sugar.

Challenges I’ve Faced Along the Way:

As a stay-at-home mom with two young children, it’s hard to find time to prep. I have learned that when I eat something off plan, it’s easy for me to spiral into feeling like I’m “off the wagon” and justify more poor decisions. So this year, I’ve been trying hard to be mindful of this! Also, when I started the program, I was still breastfeeding, and even with eating all of the meals and snacks prescribed in P1, I was still hungry sometimes. So, I had to modify to make sure I was eating enough and still within P1 ratios.

My Favorite Part of the Program:

The emphasis on whole-body health, from joyful movement to noticing how food feels in your body— delicious recipes that leave you feeling satisfied and fulfilled, rather than deprived, really contribute to this. Also, the supportive community, and the Ludwigs’ support and guidance on the Facebook group.