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  • Nikki Cagle


A large part of starting this blog was to one day dive into my weight journey. Therapeutic? For sure. But inspirational? That's the ultimate goal. I am the epitome of the cliche, "If I can do it - you can do it." And I did it—it wasn't always puppies and unicorns {or fruit and rice cakes}—but I did it. For those who only know me today, you may be thinking, "What is this journey you speak of?" {because you all talk in ancient history lingo, right?} And for those who knew me "then"—you've been expecting this tell-all to come at some point, right?

When I decided to change my body... my health... myself — I was 16 and had no guidance, no education, and NO idea where to start. As a result, I went balls-to-the-wall for one full day, working hard to cleanse myself of 16 years worth of build-up. Funny thing—it doesn't happen overnight. I woke up the next morning with a real arm injury {1,000 triceps reps too much for a newbie?!}, and felt completely defeated. "Forget it. I'll just stay like this forever."

By the time I got old enough to really educate myself and learn from healthy surroundings, I realized one very valuable tidbit: It took my entire life to get this way. I would have to succumb to the fact that it may take just as long, or even twice as long, to reverse the effects. You have to start somewhere, and while nothing is scarier and more daunting then officially deciding to change your life, there's also nothing more exciting and exhilarating when you realize that YOU, and only you, have the power to do so. Don't get in your own way. Take control. At my heaviest I was 186. {Just so you know, my stomach did a little knotted flip-flop when I typed that. I rarely say that number out loud. And I just put it on the internet. I have contemplated erasing it two times already since I've been typing out this little inside freak-out moment. But I'll leave it. In the name of therapy. ::insert prayer hands emoji::} When I finally took control at 18 years old, I didn't do a crash diet; I didn't immediately join a gym; I didn't jump fat-first into this healthy-change — I weened into it. It's been a long, constantly evolving, overwhelmingly educating experience. I did it — in my mind — the "right" way. The right way for ME. I didn't want to do a "diet" because a diet, to me, was a temporary fix. I wasn't looking for temporary. I was looking for a lifetime lifestyle change. After 10+ years of changing my life, of daily battles, of yo-yo enthusiasm, and inevitable ups-and-downs, these are, at the core, my top ten health hacks for how I got from "then", to "now."

1.) Don't Worry, Be Happy: I wasn‘t like a diehard Oprah fan growing up... until, I was. She wasn’t really an afternoon staple in our house, but damn if woman didn't creep into my life and change it anyway. On the occasion that she was on the television screen in the background as I did homework {gabbed with my friends on AIM} after school, I happened upon an episode when she proclaimed that losing weight wasn't about a diet or a workout regimen - it was about being happy. When you're happy, the weight melts off, she said. "HA! If only it was that easy," I thought. But then - it was. I started dating my now husband when I was 16 years old. By 18 I had {magically} lost 15 pounds, just by being...happy. So my first health hack is: find your happiness. (And watch Oprah.) 2.) Educate Yourself: Wait, so a Caesar salad ISN'T the healthiest option on the menu?! What do you MEAN it's one of the WORST?! I feel completely duped. Duped, I tell ya! Forget everything you t h i n k you know about food, and REALLY educate yourself. In today's technologically-equipped and health-conscious world, it's easier than ever to brush up on your nutritional knowledge. I learned from this little program that's been around the block a few times: Weight Watchers. I credit WW for teaching me everything I needed to know about what amount of calories, fat and fiber work for my body, at my age, and at my activity level. So you're telling me I should only eat 1/3 of the amount of calories I typically eat a day? And they should be filled with twice as much fiber as I was actually getting? Huh, who knew?! Welp, now I do. And once you know, you can ever "un"-know. Trust me—you will forever count calories, calculate points and glance at nutritional information...even 10 years after completing your 3-month love affair with WW. 3.) Stand Strong: Not just on your eating habits, but against the naysayers and nitpickers. The mockers. It's going to happen—even though everyone who loves you really, really does support you, there is going to be some mockery. "Oooh, little miss, 'I can only order salads and eat half of it' is splurging on a chip! Someone document it." Or, "Can you eat this? Should I eat this? I shouldn't eat this if you're not eating it, right? Oh well, I'm not on a life diet like you." And, of course, "She probably binges and purges. Or does drugs. No one is that disciplined." Stand. Strong. Call it jealousy, call it their own demons coming out to haunt them, call it whatever you want and need to in order to stand. strong. This isn't for them, not even in the SLIGHTEST. This is for you, so who the hell cares what anyone else says or thinks. 4.) Never Finish: You are almost always full before you think you are. You don't need that last bite—is it really going to be the difference between feeling absolutely fulfilled or still feeling hungry? Likely, it's not going to make a difference at all - so leave it be. Eventually you'll ween yourself off and find out how much you R E A L L Y need to eat to be satisfied, and you'll be surprised at how much {or little} it really it. So, always leave a bite, or two, or three. 5.) Take a Break: Whether you're at the dinner table, a restaurant, sitting on the couch, mingling at a cookout, or any other food-eating atmosphere - don't scarf down your meal in one sitting. Eat half, then take a break. Read a chapter of a book, gossip with your friends at the table, drink a full glass of water, or set your meal down and come back to it later {just make sure it's well hidden and secure!}. You may find that you're full enough and don't want to finish it. Or, you may find that you want to nibble a little more after a while - but that way you're not DOUBLEY eating, you're simply finishing your first {and only} meal. 6.) Surrender: When you start to feel full but it's just. SO. good. And you can't physically stop yourself - have a "surrender" signal. Mine is putting my napkin on top of my meal—gross, I'm clearly not going to eat it now. Or, turn your fork over. This is the symbol that you're "done" in Europe, and it should also be the symbol for your brain and stomach. Napkin on, fork over, done and done. There's nothing worse than feeling so full that all you can manage is to lay out on the couch—so don't even go there! Wave that white flag {or white napkin} and surrender! 7.) Snack. A LOT.: I always have snacks with me. ALWAYS. If I don't, I get hungry—and you won't like me when I'm hungry. Not kidding, it's in my blood, we turn into the hulk. Having snacks handy will ensure that you always have something on hand when you need a nibble, and that way you won't GORGE when you do finally get to something edible. My go-to snacks are nut mixes, 100 calorie packs, granola bars and whole fresh fruit (apple, banana). You will find them in my purse, my work bag, the center console of my car, my glove box, my coat pockets, my desk drawer—e v e r y w h e r e. They are everywhere short of my bed, because the hubby hates a crumby bed. 8.) Hydrate. And then rehydrate.: 9 times out of 10, you're not hungry, you're thirsty. I have trained myself to be a fish—I literally cannot go more than 30 minutes (sometimes less) without taking a gulp of something, unless I'm sleeping, and even then I have to have an emergency refresher by my bedside. It may be hard to adapt to being an aquatic animal at first, but like everything on this list, you will train yourself over time. Make it easy to suck down the liquids—I use special bottles {Voss #ftw}, add-ins (fresh lemons, Crystal Light To-go's, Mio, Dasani Drops, etc.), and sometimes I get fancy and sparkle. 9.) "Cheat." "Splurge." Allow: I don't like to call it a "cheat" meal, because what exactly am I cheating on? I'm not on a "diet" so I'm not "cheating" on that. I'm not "splurging" just because I'm allowing myself to have a treat. Cheating and splurging indicates that you are doing something wrong, and you're not. ALLOW yourself to have the goodness in life. I don't have a specific day, or meal, or amount—there's no definition to my "allowance". If I want it, I have it. And I try my damnedest not to beat myself up for it afterwards {sometimes I am not successful, but sometimes I do allow a wee too much. Whoopsie! Human over here.}. Truth be told - you find yourself "allowing" less and less when you see how AMAZING it feels to live a healthier life. Sure, I could have that cheeseburger and large fry, and I could definitely devour three slices of that loaded pizza, and you're kidding if you don't think I could KILL that massive tower of cheesecake - but you know what would feel even better? A bite of the cheeseburger, or four fries, or one thin slice of veggie pizza, or a forkfull of cheesecake bliss {not all together now, sheesh}...all accompanied by a healthier more filling option like a hearty salad and a bowl of strawberries {because who doesn't love strawberries & cheesecake?!}. Sure, in the moment you'll want MORE MORE MORE of that fatty goodness, but tomorrow you'll REGRET REGRET REGRET—save yourself the angst, while still enjoying a bit of the goodness. It's a win-win! 10.) Don't Let Me Fool You: Do I follow ALL of these, 24/7, 365?! Do I look like a robotic vampire to you? {But really, how cool would that be?} I too say, "screw Oprah", I don't even pretend to glance at the nutritional information, I scarf everything on my plate {and even some off my hubby's}, I replace hydration with swirly drinks, I lick that cheesecake plate CLEAN, and I too become a naysayer—I. am. human. Just like you. It's an everyday, back and forth, debate and debacle, struggle and win, challenge. It's the best and worst game I've ever played. But is it worth it? You bet your worked-hard-for-this, ass, it is.


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