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Refined Sugar and Me Wrap-up: Down 27 lbs, plus, the best yoga bra

before and after losing 27 pounds

You guys probably thought that I had completely abandoned this “refined sugar and me” series, because it’s been so long since I’ve added anything to it! Here’s what happened. I first started avoiding most added sugars and processed foods at the end of December 2016. But through the end of last year and across the first few months of 2018, I’ve really broadened my thinking: Yes, I’m still avoiding added sugars and processed foods 90% of the time, but it’s turned into much more than that.

before weight loss

Oh and: Yes, I am down a total of 27 lbs in the last 18 months.

after weight loss

That’s put me down two jeans sizes, and I am feeling pretty darn good — I know I could stand to lose another 10-15 lbs, but it’s continuing to creep down slowly and I’m happy about where I’m at.

So, let’s ramble around this topic for a bit here.

Sugar stinks

added sugars in ingredient lists

Sugar is where it all started, and avoiding added sugars is still a priority: Mostly because I feel so much better when I watch out for those, and I feel so much better when I limit processed foods.

Note that I say limit here, and not eliminate — real food meets real life, and life… happens! But I’ve found over the last 18 months that I can have a few bites of something sweet here and there, or I can throw a little sugar into something like a stir fry to balance out the salty/spicy, or I can have some tortilla chips and salsa on occasion. Any more than that, though, and I’ll pay for the indulgence with headaches, digestive issues, sleep disturbances, and just generally not feeling “right.”

But that’s OK, since after 18 months I rarely crave sugar any more. More than that, though: I have a different and more mindful relationship with food in general, and I rarely crave food any more. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy food; I surely do! And, I love coming up with new recipe ideas and cooking meals for my family.

But whereas when I started this journey I could spend the whole day anticipating sitting down to the ice cream in my freezer, or mindlessly snack on a bag of whatever was in the cupboard, or eat the leftovers off the kids’ plates so as not to waste food: Now, smaller amounts of real foods are more satisfying, and I’m better able to appreciate what is in front of me without always thinking ahead to more. Breaking my dependence on sugar helped me begin to change my relationship with food in general.

Yoga rocks

ahimsa yoga

Along with my mostly real foods journey over here, I’ve also gotten back into regular yoga practice over the last few months. Somewhere in this series I’d mentioned trying out a class last year, which turned out not to be a good fit for me — but for the past few months I’ve been practicing as often as possible on a monthly pass at Ahimsa Yoga Studio. (Speaking of real life, if you’re wondering about the splotch on the photo above, Mr. 11 managed to get chewing gum stuck onto my pretty Ahimsa postcard right before I went to take a photo of it. That would be the mark it left behind. I know, eww, but…)

  • For those of you who are local to me, I highly recommend Ahimsa — I use the Elmhurst locations, but they also have studios in Oak Park, Berwyn, and La Grange. Get your first month for just $40 through my referral link here. 😉

One of the reasons I appreciate Ahimsa is that they offer modifications and support for all levels, but another big reason is the variety of people represented in their classes. There’s not just one yoga “type,” and it’s good to find a place you feel welcomed even if you don’t fit the stereotype of a yoga body.

That being said, everyone faces their own challenges in yoga practice, and the way you are built does affect the ways you may need to modify your practice. I know, I know: This is somewhat of a departure from our normal food, recipes, and meal planning chat, but let’s think of this topic as more along the “real life” spectrum of our real food meets real life tagline here, and I’ll let you know that…

Amazon Prime Wardrobe Also Rocks

best yoga bra for large breasts

I’m pretty darn excited that I’ve actually found a sports bra that fits well and helps me practice yoga more effectively, so wanted to share my find with those who might also be looking for the best yoga bra for large breasts. How did I find it? Well, those of you who also can’t just walk into Kohl’s or Target and pick up a sports bra may sympathize with me on the lack of extended sizes in most stores — and when you go looking for “yoga bras” online, their ideas of the best sports bras for the well-endowed among us often don’t go past a D cup.

Enter: Amazon Prime Wardrobe. I don’t often buy clothes online because I do need to try them on, but losing 27 pounds also required purchasing new bras. So I thought that, instead of visiting one of the few local specialty shops where I could try on a limited selection of expensive bras and deal with salespeople while figuring out my new size, I’d check out the new Amazon Prime Wardrobe “try before you buy” service.

What’s Amazon Prime Wardrobe?

best yoga bra for large breasts

Why yes, that is a cat photobombing at the upper right over there, because that’s how we roll in this house. But I’m serious: Best sports bra I’ve ever had. No, this is not the sort of photo I usually post, but it’s my best selfie approximation of how the Elomi Energise gets me through a yoga class.

This service is new, and it is cool: Amazon Prime Wardrobe lets you try on items at home before you actually buy them. Pick three or more qualifying items across clothing, shoes, and accessories, and they ship to you for free. Once your box arrives, you get a seven day try on period to see what will work for you. Return whatever you don’t want using the provided prepaid return label, and only pay for the items you keep! Prime Wardrobe is currently invitation only, but if you haven’t received one, you can request it on the Prime Wardrobe page.

The Best Yoga Bra

I ordered a bunch of bras through Prime Wardrobe, tried them on at home rather than in the store, and ended up returning several — but keeping and paying for this Elomi Energise sports bra. It not only fit me the best out of the extended size sports bras I tried, it’s actually the best and most comfortable sports bra I’ve ever found, after trying out quite a few over the years…

So, if you’re also well endowed, check this bra out — and check it out through Prime Wardrobe, if you want to try before you buy.

Balance is Key

balance - tree pose

I’d post a better photo with a better form, but my reluctant photographer Mr. 11 is out of sorts today. Picture a better tree pose — and a less blurry photo taken from a better angle! 😉

When I picked the new “real food meets real life” tagline for this site 18 months ago, it was honestly somewhat aspirational. But here are a few of the things I’ve learned:

Cooking helps me focus

Cooking dinners for my kids helps keep me focused and centered; chopping and tasting and seasoning as you go can be almost meditative. For some people it might be knitting or kickboxing or cookie decorating, but for me, yoga and cooking help me build balance.

Real foods help me feel better

I feel better after I eat a bowl of plain whole milk Greek yogurt with blueberries than after I eat a bowl of cereal. I feel better after I eat a handful of nuts than after I eat a handful of crackers, and, well: I like feeling better.

Meal planning helps all of us

I’m doing these weekly ALDI meal plans for you guys, but I’m also doing them to help myself focus on cooking for my family and trying new recipe ideas rather than grabbing carryout or fast food. It’s all related.

And, Balance is why I’m not doing Keto

grilled cheese naan

Since several of you have recommended Keto, let’s talk about that as we wrap up the refined sugar series here. I’m mostly not doing Keto because I really like bread. And naan. And tortilla chips. And tortillas. And fruit… And beans. And… But, I’m also not doing Keto because my mantra here is balance in all things. Over the years I’ve tried various diets where you count points or macros or what have you, and I’ve found that this does not work for me. If it works for you: Awesome! The beauty of this world lies in our differences.

It is true that I’m eating fewer carbs than I used to, because my eating patterns have changed — but for me, Keto seems to limit too many real foods. I’m never going to stress about or count the naturally occurring carbs (or sugars, for that matter) in whole foods like beans and fruit, and I’m never going to be in ketosis. And that’s OK.

So, that’s what’s been working for me

The past 18 months have been about slowly figuring out my own path and pitfalls, and mine may or may not be the same as yours. How are you doing on your own healthier eating plan — and what have you found that helps you stay on track?

Earlier installments in the Refined Sugar and Me series

refined sugar and me

Read the whole Refined Sugar and Me series in chronological order (or catch up on any posts you might have missed). This post wraps up our series: I’ll keep posting about real food and continue to post updates here and there, but I think that the sugar topic has run its course at this point. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments, though!

reky hetch

Thursday 12th of July 2018

Keep up the great work. I was blessed with skinny genes, but have been watching my SUGAR for years. I've also learned to watch my SALT usage. Yes, exercise works!


Tuesday 19th of June 2018

Congrats and thanks for posting. I started eating healthier in January and I'm down about 15 pounds. Feel so much better and don't crave sweets. I also love yoga and have found a wonderful yoga teacher. Everything that you've been saying really clicks now that I'm there. Thank you again for your inspiration.


Wednesday 13th of June 2018

This is my favorite post that you've written in a long time! Thanks for this thoughtful post with so much helpful info. And I love your Princess L t-shirt, too!


Tuesday 12th of June 2018

Keep up the good work! It's important to recognize what makes you feel good and...not so much. I'm working on that myself (less sugar, more plant based meals AND yoga). Not much to show in terms of weight loss but I definitely have more energy, sleep better, and feel pretty darn good. I'll take that for now.

Melanie M

Sunday 10th of June 2018

You look fantastic!

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