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In My Healing Era

Updated: May 3

How did I get here? 
It's a common question in our 40s. It feels like one day we wake up and things don't move, operate, function or flow as easily as they once did... even for those of us who've been physically active and fit for our entire adult lives. There are mental blocks, hurdles, and obstacles every time women (and men!) look into a mirror. I'm no different. 
Your 40s are perhaps not when the 'first' gray hairs appear-- but when masking it grows increasingly difficult. The new lines on your face and sometimes your hips are just par for the course no matter how diligent you are about moisturizer. Gravity takes a toll in ways you didn't expect. Energetically, you're in the midst of a major shift that not even caffeine can fix. 
As a longtime yoga and meditation instructor, health advocate and wellness reporter on TV, there is a layer of added pressure to always look good-- and feel good. Coupled with the fact that I'm not married, haven't birthed children, and do take time to meditate, workout and stretch daily -- talking about changes in my own body and mind hasn't always been met with empathy or even sympathy. 
"You're fine." 
"At least you have time for yourself." 
"You always look good." 
I stopped talking about the times I didn't feel good because I was constantly met with comparison. 
"If I had your body, I wouldn't be complaining." 
It's not about that. 
In the years after I turned 40, I've been in a totally different rhythm of life: I left a full time corporate career to start my own wellness company; I teach more, travel more, and study more (which includes a lot more sitting, thinking and creating in front of a laptop than people might think). 
I also started eating mindlessly. Girl Dinners were my jam. I lived off of processed ("healthy") snack foods. It was all gluten free, soy free, dairy free, non GMO, bla bla bla... still, clothes got snug, and I started wearing baggier apparel to hide what I didn't want to see. 
After 6 weeks of travel through parts of: New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, (and a lot of fried rice) I returned to Dallas knowing that I needed to make some significant changes. 
I was getting calls about a lot of upcoming work: on-camera, as a yoga or fitness professional, wearing tight clothes, being photographed on stages at festivals, serving as a role model for healthy living and -- I didn't feel healthy. 
I'm all too familiar with diet culture. My own culture (stemming from Iran) serves up the truth: people constantly let you know if you've gained weight, lost weight, look too fat or too skinny... It's why I became a long distance runner, kept up with my childhood love of dancing, continued to squeeze in every type of fitness class I could, and eventually became certified to teach yoga for everyday people. 
I would never promote "diet culture." I have scrutinized studies associated with the short-term success of Keto. I've read about hormonal interference related to women who have coffee first thing in the morning. I've studied time-restricted eating (aka intermittent fasting), calorie counting, food tracking with apps, I even completed a Nutrition Science program through Stanford University. 
Still, at the start of this year, I was desperate for change-- and I wanted it to happen within 3 months. 
12 weeks is a reasonable time to set goals, create new habits and still notice measurable change. 
I signed up for the Happy Healthy Thin 8-week program not really knowing much about it-- other than the fact that I'd seen firsthand how incredible my friend Hannah's results were! 
I received a LOT-- and I mean a LOT of information via email, joined a Facebook group, took a survey about myself online that prompted their team of experts to send me a specific protocol, food tracking diary, trace minerals and other proprietary all-natural formulas. I bought a food scale and a bathroom scale as a commitment to myself. 
The Plan: 
I'm certain this is the part everyone wants to know about. What did you eat? What did you do to lose the weight? 
The first two weeks were absolute hell for me. I felt tired, dehydrated, and hungry. 
For the first several weeks, after prepping your body with SCT oil, you eliminate all fats. No olive oil, no coconut milk, no avocado, no nuts or seeds. There's no added sugar either. The only carbs you get are from fresh fruits and vegetables.  


This means you really can't eat at restaurants-- and I was not a person to cook -- ever. Why can't you eat out? You absolutely have no control over portions, added sodium, sugar, oils, and fillers. 
On the small number of occasions that I did meet friends, we had to choose places conducive to my eating plan. My friend Lauren and I were successful at Origin Kitchen in Dallas.
I was able to meet my fertility doctor for lunch at Bacchus Kitchen + Bar in Grapevine, TX. Aside from that, I turned every lunch or dinner meeting into a coffee or tea meeting and became the person who packed my lunch, visited the grocery store weekly and stocked up on fresh, whole foods: select fruits, vegetables and proteins. 
Photo By: Sonia Azad
My first hurdle was trying to figure out how to cook without oil. I made some really disgusting meals.
It gets harder: You're only allowed one vegetable, fruit and protein at a time. You can't repeat the same thing for lunch and dinner. And you can't eat the same thing two days in a row. This diversification was crucial for my microbiome, particularly because I'm the type of person who can eat the same thing every day for weeks at a time. 
As a "semi-pescatarian," I found myself on a new rotation of: canned albacore tuna (in water), eggs/ egg whites, cod, halibut and shrimp. I loved steaming broccoli, roasting asparagus, sauteing squash and zucchini and chopping Persian cucumber with tomato. 
Cinnamon, Trace Minerals and Frank's RedHot Sauce became my best friends. 


My daily lattes turned into black coffee with cinnamon.
I didn't snack for 8 weeks! You don't realize how long that is until you're in it. Every birthday party, going away party, work lunch, and dinner with clients was amended. 
There is no cheating on this plan. This is designed to reset your entire metabolism. 
A handful of close friends heard me complain endlessly for the first two weeks. Colleagues side-eyed my packed lunches of hard boiled eggs, celery and a chopped pear. 
I was peeling and deseeding fruit, googling "how long to steam halibut" and getting creative with combinations of eggs and the vegetable du jour. 
Photo By: Sonia Azad
My absolute favorite thing to eat was apple with cinnamon. 
The juicy flavor of plums, frozen cherries and blueberries saved me in the latter half of the program. 
I don't drink much alcohol regularly, but people always want to know about that. There is a very limited amount of wine (dry reds and whites only) allowed on this plan, but it would have to replace the fruit, and there was no way in hell (most of the time) that I could imagine letting go of my daily allotment of fruit. 
I left the founders of this company (Rob and Randy) several audio messages that I refuse to replay because I sounded so hangry, pessimistic and dismissive. I was resisting-- big time. I didn't want to cook two meals a day. I didn't want to wash dishes twice a day. I didn't want to have to go to the grocery store multiple times a week. Who has time for all of this? 
Then it hit me: I'm part of this culture of instant gratification. I order a bowl from Uber Eats and work on my laptop until it arrives. 
I don't want to cook because I'm not cooking for anyone else. (Why don't I enjoy cooking for myself? Why must I serve someone else in order for it to be satisfying?) 
Once I was met with this realization, I had a choice: stay the same or choose to evolve. So I embraced change. 
I documented my food and shared bits on Instagram-- albeit, cryptically, because I was still skeptical of the program. 
While I was dropping weight, I wanted to make sure it wasn't just water weight. What would happen when I reintroduced healthy fats and other food? I had to remain consistent, patient and grounded. 
Typically, I would lean on a few good workouts a week for mental release, but part of the program is not working out. AT ALL. The only exception is a 20-minute walk after dinner and very gentle yin-like stretching. There are a lot of reasons behind this -- but as a physical fitness advocate and a yoga teacher, I freaked out. No exercise for six weeks!? I'm going to lose muscle, I'm going to lose strength, this is all stupid and unsustainable! 
But then... a gift of understanding: maybe this is my healing era. Maybe this is the time when I can refocus on repairing some soft tissue injuries-- and finally get that microneedling at my dermatologist's office to take care of my skin. (Microneedling requires you to avoid workouts or increasing core body temperature for a week after the procedure. And I did two rounds during this program!) 


I began to see my chiropractor, Dr. Brian Mann, at DTX Sports Medicine, on a weekly basis. We've been working around some chronic pain points that I was ignoring and bypassing. I was doing what I told everyone else not to do: I was ignoring my body's pain, discomfort and inflammation. 
Photo By: Sonia Azad
Taking a break from working out, from grains, from inflammatory oils, yielded an unexpected result: my joints feel better than ever! Especially my knees and hips. The first time I noticed the difference in my joint mobility was during a boxing class with my Fitter Together group. (I was grossly modifying the workout.) The trainer kept yelling at me not to go so low in my lunges and squats. I thought, wow! This actually doesn't hurt! I don't feel so stiff, so tight, so tense.
The last 3 weeks of the program is a reintroduction of fats and combinations of fruits and vegetables. You have to ease into it. 
I now know what my body can and can't process. I know what to buy at the grocery store. I know portion sizes that are appropriate for me. I know how to balance macronutrients. I know how much protein I need to eat with each meal and what that looks like. I know how to read labels a little bit closer. I know the right questions to ask when at a restaurant. I know how to make damn good halibut. I know that I can do hard things. And, most importantly, I know that a little sacrifice goes a long way. My body is (still) working for me. It knows what to do. I just had to trust that it would find homeostasis, in due time. 
Was all of this easy? 
Hell no! I didn't expect that losing 10 to 15 pounds at age 42 would be easy! But it worked. I went from hovering at 118-119 in early February, to hitting my goal weight (102). 
Photo By: Sonia Azad
I waited to share this program and blog to make sure that the weight I lost wouldn't return the moment I ate a grain -- had a sip of alcohol-- or God forbid a few chips with guacamole. 
I'm still 102 -- after weeks of eating at restaurants, traveling to New York City for work, exercising again and yes even indulging in a (skinny) margarita or ... few. 
Was all of this cheap? No. But cheap food is what gets us into a mess in the first place. Highly processed, fast-food, chock full of fillers and chemicals that our bodies can't identify is the problem. When I really started reading labels-- I noticed inflammatory seed oils hidden in my almond milk, toothpaste, skincare products and "healthy" snacks.  
Before the Happy Healthy Thin program, I was over-doing it on the grains, nuts, seeds and legumes-- and not focused on protein. 


Now, I'm eating, ordering and digesting meals entirely differently. 
One woman in my Fitter Together group who was invited to try this program said that she didn't do it because it was unsustainable. In some ways, yes, it is. It's not intended for you to always and forever eat like you do in the first 5 weeks of this program. BUT -- I've also tried the FODMAP plan for SIBO. For anyone who has experimented with eliminating FODMAPs, you also know that you aren't intended to extend that type of eating beyond 6 weeks. 
I have taken a liking to the way I'm now eating. I feel entirely better from the inside out. I even choose to brush my teeth with baking soda now (also part of the plan...) because honestly, my mouth feels cleaner than when I use toothpaste. (And have you read what's in your toothpaste!!??) 
Yes, I'm still cooking for myself-- by habit and by choice, and a strange aside for all of you who silently judgingly said, "What's she talking about? She looks great." Guys have started to flirt again. Maybe it's timing-- or maybe we all just live in a vain society. If vanity is your motivation, I'm not mad at you. That's real talk. 
If you're still reading this and you've been desperate to regain a sense of yourself-- not to change who you are, but to feel better in your body, then you'll understand why I went this route. 
This intentional reset for my body and retraining of my mind was meant for no one other than me. I'm choosing to share it with others (especially for those ages 40+) who may have lost hope, as I had. 
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I appreciate your honesty and opening up to the world 🌎 I am sure this was a truly hard task I feel bad you felt the need to do it. And like I always say about you, if you set out to complete a goal it is going to happen. With that being said it’s probably not a diet for about 80% of people and though maybe results happend within 12 weeks would it not be more “healthy” to maybe ease into it more over a 15 week period and slightly less restrictions? I don’t know I just know it’s important to be healthy, but also important to enjoy life and not be on unnecessary constant regiments. I did reall…

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