A New Year

When I started the new year, one of my resolutions was to blog more. I know. I realize it’s Jan. 24 and I’m just now posting a blog. But I really do hope to blog more (that’s all a resolution is anyway, right?).

I turned to my childhood friend, Katy (she’ll always be McKenna to me!) Hoffman. Thanks to Facebook, we have reconnected and been able to check in on what the other is doing. Katy lived waaaay out of town, technically closer to another school district. We went to Catholic school together through 8th grade and, since the public high school is even further away, she went to a different high school and we lost touch. I spent lots of time at the McKenna house as a kid, both because her mom was our Girl Scout troop leader and on the weekends for sleepovers. It’s where I was first fed spinach (and didn’t like it) and first encountered beets (though we were painting a tree stump with them and not eating them).

In the last year or so, Katy started commenting on the I Eat Veg Facebook page, letting me know when she used a recipe (“And the kids even liked it!”) and asking me for vegetarian recipe website recommendations (Of course I told her about two of my favorites, The Post Punk Kitchen and The Kind Life. I still have to let her know about a new favorite — Veggie Grettie). Late last year she told me that she has adopted a vegetarian lifestyle, begun exercising and dropped tons of weight.

When I asked myself just why I should want to blog more, I thought of her. I don’t blog for any particular reason. It all started when I was living in Chicago, became vegetarian and wanted to share my recipe and restaurant discoveries as I was navigating this veg world (which I feel like even 5 or 6 years ago was far less accessible). If me posting a recipe every few days (OK, let’s shoot for one a week for now) can help Katy or someone else, or even encourage me to make a new vegetarian recipe, I say it’s worth it.

Here are a few questions I asked Katy just after the new year about what led her to need a change and how she made it. Thank you, Katy for opening up so candidly and for being a true inspiration. Your last line says it all. I have no excuses (like 4 kids!) and need to get my own butt in gear!

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2012 to everyone! (Even though I’m a few weeks late…)


P.S. I’d like to let my mom know that I’m still disgruntled about having to wear my sister’s hand-me-down dress (seen below) to 8th grade graduation. Please deposit $5 into my therapy fund.

1. Describe how your weight/health has been an issue for you throughout your life.
I remember being in 2nd grade thinking “I’m bigger than the rest of the girls in my class.”  My mom made me join Weight Watchers at 13. It was a temporary fix.  By my junior year of high school I was nearly 200 lbs.  My senior year of high school I started exercising.  By the time I graduated I was 170 lbs.  College was a struggle for me.

Instead of the “freshman 15” I gained 30.  I tried starving myself after college.  I lost 30 lbs in 30 days, but my hair started to fall out and my teeth started to get loose.  I gained that weight back as fast as I took it off.  Shortly after that, I met my husband; comfort, complacency, and 3 babies in 4 years did me in.  In March of 2010 I was 230 lbs, and I maintained that weight for another year.  In March of 2011 I needed a change.  I have lost 85 lbs since then.

2. Did any particular event/way of life/etc. cause you to eat unhealthy or do whatever it was that made you feel unhealthy?

I have pondered this question so much over the last 10 months.  My
parents are, and always have been, very healthy.  They work out, they
eat right, and they talk about being healthy constantly.  My dad is
62, runs 3 miles per day and can do more push ups and sits up than
anyone I know.  I can not figure out where I went so wrong.  They gave
me the tools; I chose not to use them.  Food has been my main focus my
entire life.  I’m definitely an emotional eater.  Happy, sad, mad,
stressed out, I cope by eating.

3. Describe how you used to eat — what your favorite foods were, your former eating habits.

Ahh, a day in the life of “Fat Katy”.  I always skipped breakfast, so by 10 a.m. I was ravenous and would run to the break room for a vending machine donut and a diet coke.  I never packed my lunch (I never planned to eat lunch, because I was always going to start a crash diet), so at noon it was time to hit the Chinese buffet, or McDonald’s, or burger King, or Mexican. I’d wash that down with another diet coke.  As a result of eating junk for lunch, I would be hungry again by 2.  I would grab a Snickers bar and another diet coke from the break room (I NEVER drank water.  I thought I hated the taste.  So silly).  When I got home I would snack on anything we had until dinner.  Before I knew I could cook, we had hamburger helper or boil-in-a-bag rice with cheese nearly every night for dinner.  Once I learned that I could cook, dinner would be something like meatloaf, chicken cordon bleu with cream sauce, pot roast, etc.  If we had salad it was a salad out of bag.  I would snack on cookies (I could’ve eaten
an entire package of Oreos without thinking twice) or chips.  All the while drinking diet coke.  My husband and I were going through a case of Diet Coke every 4 days or so. (Photo taken at the Grand Canyon in May 2010)

4. When did you decide you wanted a change and why?

I had my gallbladder removed in April 2010.  I had a doctor tell
me, in no uncertain terms, it was because I was fat.  However, that
wasn’t enough, I wasn’t ready.  In April of 2011, I woke up on a
Tuesday morning and I couldn’t move my head.  My neck was completely
stiff.  Throughout the day, it got worse and worse.  I ended up with a
migraine for 5 days.  My husband took me to the med center on Saturday
and instead of trying to find out what was wrong with me, they pumped me full of narcotics, gave me a prescription for a muscle relaxer and sent me on my way.  On Sunday the pain was unbearable and I was desperate.  I called a friend that is a massage therapist.  It took her nearly an hour to make it a little more bearable.  When she was done, she said “Katy, you are not healthy. Your body is screaming at you. You have to listen.”  She went on to say that I needed to get moving.  The lymph nodes in your body collect toxins, the only way to release those toxins is to sweat.  The next day I started walking with the kids. We walked every single day.  That led to researching nutrition; which led to eating healthier.  Eventually walking wasn’t enough and I started high impact cardio in my basement.  When that wasn’t enough anymore, I started running.  The first time I ran, I was able to run a 5k without even being winded.  When I was unhealthy I couldn’t run more than 1/4 mile.  It has been a huge snowball effect. I have learned so much about nutrition, exercise, and my body.  The best part for me is that my family is benefiting from it too (my husband started running and has lost 35 pounds in the last 4 months).

5. Describe your diet, health, and habits now.

My diet is so much different now.  Food isn’t a comfort for me
anymore, it’s fuel.  I still enjoy eating, but I know what my body
needs for power.  It’s all about input and output.  I don’t eat meat
(watching Food Inc. and Forks over Knives helped that along).  I
ALWAYS eat breakfast.  I haven’t been out for lunch since March.  My
meals are full of fresh veggies and whole grains.  I have a water
bottle full, and in my hand, at all times.  Processed foods are a big
“No-No” now.  If I can make it, I won’t buy it. I can’t remember the
last time my family had bread from the store. I have tried my hand at
making Cheez Its, Animal Crackers, and Graham Crackers.  We have
cookies in our house, but they are homemade.  I have a company
delivering organic fruits and veggies to my door twice per month.
Exercise is so important too.  Most days I dread going to the basement
to run on the treadmill or do one of my cardio videos, but 6 out of 7
days per week I get my butt down there and do it.  I love how I feel
when I finish a run or complete a tough workout.

6. What are your eating/health goals for 2012?

I reached my goal weight of 145 lbs, 2 weeks ago.  I want to maintain this weight.  I’m want to learn how to snowboard with my two
oldest sons this winter.  I want to run the River Bank Run 10K in May
(my goal for 2013 is the 25k). I want to complete the GR Triathlon in June.  I have about a dozen 5k’s that I am planning on finishing.  I
WILL tackle vegan in 2012.   Eventually, I would like to have a degree in nutrition/personal training.  I would love to help others live a healthy lifestyle.  I have 4 kids, a husband, a dog, I work 40+ hours per week and have a household to maintain.  If I can do it, any one can. (Photo taken November 2011)

11 responses to “A New Year

  1. Great blog post, it’s so great to hear about other people who are getting healthy and happy! Everyone deserves to feel good about themselves and to feel good physically most everyday. Congrats Katy! very inspirational!

  2. What an amazing and candid story! This is proof if anything is that people can change.

  3. I’m not exactly sure why, but I cried all the way through this blog. Maybe because it is so personal to Katy and so special for me to read her very personal account of her achievement. I’m so proud of her! I remember when she started her journey last April she said, “I have to get healthy for my family. I want to see my boys grow up.” Her revelation not only affected her and her family but has been an inspiration to others. She is so positive and passionate about her healthy habits and loves to share her research. I have learned so much from her this past year. With her encouragement I’ve returned to a meatless diet after a long hiatus and increased and intensified my workouts. She has shared many great recipes with me. Some, of which, have come from your blog. Thanks for sharing, Kirsten. It was a pleasure to read even through my tears. Dorothy McKenna
    P.S. Did you steal those beets from our neighbor’s garden? Oh, woe little girl scouts! 🙂

  4. I’m so proud of her too! And, yes… busted! The beets I remember were across the street from your house, maybe near a shed or the garage. Was that where your neighbor’s garden was?

    And, for the record, I always eat my spinach now, Mrs. McKenna. 🙂

  5. Great ready by Katy. Thanks for sharing. Kirsten, I am sorry you had to wear Sarah’s dress. I was in therapy myself for several years starting then 🙂

  6. Haaaa! Zing! Touche, mom.

  7. Yup. That’s where said beets grew. So funny! I’m glad I introduced you to spinach and happy you’ve continue to enjoy it. 🙂

  8. I am Katy’s aunt and I have loved her from the day she was born (on my oldest daughter’s birthday). I am so proud of her, not just for losing the weight but because she changed her lifestyle and continues to maintain the discipline to stay healthy. My oldest daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2010 and started doing research on nutrition and diets and how her diet might have contributed to her disease. She has always been thin so weight was not an issue for her. However, after reading umpteen thousand books (at least it seemed that way to me as I viewed her living room with stacks of books from the library, Amazon.com, and friends), she decided that perhaps putting animal fats in her system was not a healthy way of life. She has been on a vegan diet since her surgery and is urging her family (she is the mother of 5, grandmother of 3) to adopt a lifestyle with more whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. I have promised her that I would a try vegetarian diet to see if I can improve my own health. I’m so proud of Katy and of my daughter Kim for the way they are not just tackling, but attacking, their health problems and for making the commitment to a healthier lifestyle. My sister-in-law, Dorothy McKenna, was a wonderful and supportive parent (as was my brother) to all three of their children and continue to be to this day. Love you all.

  9. She was diagnosed in October 2011, not 2010. Sorry.

  10. Hi, Connie. Thanks for your comments! I hope Kim is doing well and has made the diet transition relatively easily. The movie’s Katy mentioned would be great ones to see if you haven’t already (although I’m sure Kim already has!).

  11. What an interesting story. Thanks for posting this; I’ll be sure to pass it along! Way to go, Katy!

    Jeff Marion

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