Moving on Mountains

Hello, friends. It's me and my unruly hair, coming to you live from my favorite mountaintop across the Bay. Most of you know that hiking has become an important part of my life, especially since moving to San Francisco three years ago. I didn't always enjoy moving my body, but in 2012 when I began to build a daily walking habit, I realized the mental benefits far outweighed the calorie deficit.

I've been overweight most of my life and if you share my experience, you know how uncomfortable it can be to move, much less exercise, when carrying excess weight. The rewards of fitness accumulate over time, but it's difficult to build a consistent habit when its negatively reinforced by discomfort. I think this is a big part of why so many of us struggle to get and stay active.

New workout clothes always give me a confidence boost, so when I got more serious about exercise, it was clear I needed to trade in my cheap thigh-rubbed yoga pants for something more technical. At almost 300 pounds, my apparel choices were limited, especially if I wanted something of quality from a brand with integrity. While I hesitated to make the investment, I knew it was important to reward my hard work. Athleta's plus size options and “Give-It-A-Workout” guarantee gave me the confidence to take the plunge into performance activewear.

My first Athleta purchase was the Be Free Knicker, perfect for daily walks and hiking the paved trails of Los Angeles. The pockets were a game-changer and a feature that I now seek in all activewear. The convenience of having a place to stash your phone and keys should not be underestimated. Even when carrying a backpack on the trail, it's nice to have quick access to pull out my phone for photo or peek at the trail map.

As my fitness increased and I began looking for low-impact ways to increase my calorie burn, I stumbled into hiking. I had no idea what I was getting into, but the more time I spent in nature, the better I felt. Not just physically, but mentally — and the research backs my experience. Spending time among trees has numerous healing benefits including reduced anxiety and depression, decreased cortisol production, and increased immunity.

After relocating to the cooler weather of the Bay Area, I found a new favorite in the Metro Drifter. I have several pairs in both regular and high-waist styles and these quickly became my go-to pants for everything from brunch to hitting the trail.

Athleta makes amazing pants for everything, but it wasn't until this year that I decided to try their hike-specific line. I've found my new holy grail in the Wander Utility Pant. Designed not only for trail adventures, but everyday life in the city. The pants are made with trek tech fabric that is water-and-abrasion-resistant on the outside with a cozy, brushed interior. They are stylish and versatile with a super comfortable waistband and tons of pockets, and they even fit my iPhone+!

This weekend, I paired the Wander Utility pant with Cityscape Sweatshirt while hiking Cataract Falls trail on Mount Tamalpais. The Modern Mantra fabric is cozy and breathable with side zips for a little extra ventilation. I'm also partial to the Sunlover UPF Top, which is a lightweight, breathable semi-fitted long-sleeve top rated UPF 50+ and made from sustainable recycled nylon. Both pieces are perfect for layering — a must when exploring outdoors. Finally, I like to wear the lightweight Ahnu Sugarpine boots because they're extremely comfortable, waterproof, and provide ankle support for more challenging terrain. It's just a bonus that they come in beautiful, fun colors.

If you've been thinking about heading out on your own adventure, it's easier to start hiking than you might think. Here are a few beginner tips:

  • Start small. Navigating through the trees and varying terrain can be more tiring that you might imagine. A few miles on a trail will be more difficult than a few miles on a paved road. Start out hiking few miles and gradually build up to longer treks.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear comfortable clothes that offer protection and allow you to move. Make sure you wear appropriate shoes to keep your feet dry and supported.
  • Be prepared. Always carry plenty of water and extra snacks. Even on short hikes, carry a small first aid kit with blister treatment, bug spray, and sunscreen.
  • Plan your timing. Hiking can take longer than expected. It's better to plan for it to take a longer than you expect, especially if you are hiking in the afternoon or evening. Depending on your fitness and the elevation gain, you can expect to cover about two miles per hour.
  • Explore your city. You don’t have to live in the Bay Area to enjoy quality trail time. Cities, counties and states all have parks or natural areas to get started hiking.
  • Tell someone where you're going. While it's great to hike with a buddy, solo hiking can also be very rewarding. It’s important to tell someone where you are going and when you are expected home.

I want to know if you share my love for Athleta, hiking, or both. Would you like to see some of my favorite Bay Area hikes? Tips for solo or destination hiking? What about more of my clothes or try-ons from Athleta and other brands I love? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thank you to Athleta for sponsoring this post. As a long-time consumer of Athleta, I have always felt included no matter my size or fitness level. I respect and support their mission to ignite a community of active, healthy, confident women and girls who empower each other to realize their limitless potential. Of course, all opinions are my own, and I'm grateful to work with a brand I truly believe in.

 

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Yosemite

Earlier this month I took some time off-the-grid at Yosemite National Park with some girlfriends – Aimee, Lisha, and Shikha. This adventure had been on my calendar since December, but I was having mixed feelings. You may have noticed I have been mostly MIA this year. In January, I joined Movemeant Foundation as Executive Director and have been logging long hours as I ramp up. I have a lot of new responsibilities and I was worried about taking time away from work. Although I felt like I didn't have the time to get away, I knew I needed to step back and recharge in order to move forward.

Lucky for me,  Lisha took over the planning and ensured we were well-prepared for the trip. She rented us a super fun 4×4 Jeep Wrangler from GetAround, a local peer-to-peer car sharing service. Given the record snow this year, we wanted to be prepared with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. We lucked out with near perfect weather, but the Jeep was still the way to go. It fit all four of us and our gear comfortably – plus it just made the whole trip more fun!

We arrived to Yosemite after dark and checked into our tent cabin at Half Dome Village. For those of you familiar with the park, this area was previously called Curry Village. You could probably call it glamping, but I think it was the way to go – our cabin had beds, fresh linens, and a heater!

Saturday morning, we woke up early to hike Snow Creek Trail – a strenuous 10-mile hike with 2700 ft gain in elevation. We started out bundled up for a leisurely walk past mirror lake, but once we hit the switchbacks, we stripped off the layers for a relentlessly steep ascent criss-crossing a snow-melted creek with plenty of waterfalls. At the top we were rewarded with fields of snow and incredible views of Half Dome.

I've worn and loved Athleta apparel for years, but up until this past year, I had only worn trail running shoes for hiking. Last summer,  I took a pair of Ahnu hiking boots to Europe for Tour du Mont Blanc and never looked back – I even wear them in San Francisco when it's rainy. They're super lightweight, waterproof, comfortable, and require zero breaking in. The best part is they are designed for women, by women, and come in fun colors.

Once we made it back to camp, we pulled off our boots and got ready for dinner. The only thing better than s'mores after a long day of hiking, are s'mores made from Dandelion Chocolate. I don't normally eat sugar, but there is no better situation to make an exception than kicking back after a long day of hiking.

Lisha and I dreamed up this trip when I asked her to coffee to talk about shooting some photos for me. I've shared on social media about my body image issues and discomfort being in front of a camera. I've come a long way from the girl who refused to have a profile photo on Facebook, but I still struggle with this. I'm still self conscious, but I'm growing and learning to be more and more comfortable in my skin.

I am excited to share these photos and video with you because they are evidence of my growth, proof that change is possible, and a celebration of how far I've come while embracing where I am today. Thanks for allowing me to share my journey with you.

Hi New Friends…

Hello! Welcome 🙂 I was not expecting you, but I'm glad you're here. My story was reposted to Yahoo and MSN so I've been receiving a lot of traffic the past few days. I've taken a step back from blogging/social as I started a new job in January. I have been trying to figure out how to combine this new role with my work here. Things are very exciting and I can't wait to start sharing more with y'all. My life's work and mission is to reverse the obesity epidemic and I feel so many steps closer to that than ever before. If you aren't already, please subscribe to my mailing list. I have a lot to update you about in the next week or so, part of that being a detailed log of my food and exercise alongside detailed 3D body scans. I wish I could have it ready for you now, but it is what it is. I hope you'll stick around, things are about to get really good around here!

2016 Review

As 2016 comes to a close, I have been reflecting on the year, the experiences I have had, and the ways in which I have grown.

For as long as I can remember, my number one goal/resolution/desire/priority has been to lose weight. Every year, I would make resolutions around losing weight, and every year, I would fail. Apparently I'm not alone in this – only 8% of people actually achieve their resolutions and weight loss goals are cited more than anything else.

This year, I took a different approach when setting goals for the year. I didn't focus on weight loss and instead challenged myself to step outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to run a 5k, learn to hip hop dance, and go to the banya with friends. I also decided to give up alcohol for the entire year as an experiment to see how it's absence would effect my mental health and productivity.

In hindsight, these resolutions were ways for me to take care of and honor my body – an unfamiliar concept when weight loss was the end-goal. I am grateful to have stopped chasing perfection or a number on the scale, but I want my BMI to be in the healthy range, and I really expected that it would get there in 2016. It didn't, and that's disappointing, but I am very proud of all that I actually did do this year.

For the first time ever, I achieved all of my resolutions. 

After a lifetime of hating my body, I have finally started to feel comfortable in my own skin. It happened almost unexpectedly, quietly, and without fanfare. At some point acceptance turned into love, and now I find awe in my body, it's resilience and it's strength. What matters to me now is really taking care of myself – physically, emotionally, and mentally. Cultivating not just self-love, but self-compassion and allowing myself to let go of the idea that I must always be who I have always been.

2016 has also been filled with new adventures and new friends.

A year ago, I was watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat preparing to spend 7 days cycling through Cambodia with some of my closest friends. I would have never biked 10 miles voluntarily, so covering 186 miles on two wheels is a true testament to our my love for them and our camaraderie.

Happy New Year from Cambodia! Woke up early to catch the first sunrise of 2016 over Angkor Wat.

A photo posted by 100+ Pound Weightloss ✧ BROOKE (@excessmatters) on

I lost 100 pounds!

When I returned from Cambodia, I hit a pretty big milestone of losing 100 pounds.

I met so many new friends through social media! 

One of the most incredible things about social media is it's ability to brings people together in real life. I have met hundreds of people this year as a result of my blog and Instagram, many of who I now consider close friends. I am constantly inspired by the communities we create for ourselves, both online and locally. As an introvert, I used to be painfully shy and enjoy spending time alone. Learning to connect with others has been a huge catalyst for my personal growth. This year I led, organized, and hosted events that I would have been too uncomfortable to even attend. That is surely a result of surrounding myself with kind and supportive people and I am so grateful for every person who I have met this year.

I taught a Binge Eating Workshop & 12-week Course!

I created my first course on overcoming binge and emotional eating through habit change. I spent the better part of a year creating this course and putting it out into the world imperfectly was a huge step for me. This work is obviously very personal, which makes it exceptionally challenging, but I am dedicated to helping those who share my struggle with obesity, binge eating, emotional eating, and body issues. I have continued to refine the course based on feedback from my students and I am looking forward to opening it up again in 2017.

I hiked 100 miles around Mont Blanc!

In September, I set out on the trip which felt like the culmination of my transformation. I've written about how I slowly worked my way up from walking a block to 10k steps per day, and then pushed myself to start hiking. This 100-mile multi-day hike through the French Alps was one of the best experiences of my life. My full review is long overdue, but make no mistake, this was a highlight of 2016.

My 2016 Fitbit Stats:

  • 3,606,549 steps
  • 10856 floors
  • 1,650.06 miles

How Rachel Graham Lost Over 90 Pounds and Found Balance

@LosingGravity Rachel Graham Weight Loss Story

Meet Rachel, a 24-year old mom from Nova Scotia. At 5'5, she has lost over 90 pounds, but more importantly, she gained confidence and control over her health. After suffering with an eating disorder in her teens and ballooning up to 245 pounds while pregnant, she has finally let go of the all-or-nothing mindset. Now she focusses on living a balanced, healthy lifestyle, day by day. I am excited to share her weight loss journey because she didn't just lose weight, she truly changed her life.

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6 Tips to Avoid Overeating and Binge Eating at Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving dinner is for Overeaters like what New Years Eve is for Alcoholics. It's the day when everyone overindulges and bingeing is viewed as normal. You don't have to binge eat this holiday season, and here are 6 tips to help you prepare for a sane and enjoyable day.

  1. Start the day with a gratitude list. There is no better day than Thanksgiving to reflect on what you are truly thankful for. Perhaps you might write more long form in a journal. Meditate for a few minutes and remember all that you have to be grateful for. Try to keep this top of mind throughout the day.
  2. Eat a satisfying breakfast. Often times we think we should restrict our food intake in the days or meals leading up to Thanksgiving dinner in an attempt to “compensate” for the large meal to come, but this can lead to overeating and binge eating.
  3. Set loving boundaries or guidelines for your meal. For example, commit to eating one plate of food and no more. Pile it as high as you like with whatever you want. Setting a clear line around the amount can stop the urge to keep going back for more beyond the point of full ness. Be careful of trying to be too restrictive with certain types of foods as this can backfire.
  4. Eat slowly and mindfully. Chew your food thoroughly and make an effort to really savor every bite. Take a moment to consider how you are feeling going into the meal and check in with yourself throughout the meal. Are you hungry? Are you satisfied?
  5. Don't overexercise in anticipation of the larger than normal meal. Exercise is known to increase hunger so it will likely result in you eating more calories than you would have otherwise. Stick to your regular routine and be kind to your body.
  6. Plan how you will spend your time in the evening. The feeling of being overly full can trigger a binge for many people and there will likely be an abundance of food remaining. Think of what you might do to occupy yourself instead.Try getting out of the house for a walk or going to a movie. If you enjoy shopping, some stores even open early for Black Friday sales.

What Are The Signs of Food Addiction?

If we are open, we can see signs everywhere. I don't talk too much about the spiritual side of my journey, but it's perhaps the most important. Being open to the universe and listening to that quiet voice within – that is where we find our truth.

The more I grow, the more I realize how little I know. I'm cool with that, it makes things interesting and reminds me not to get too complacent. There are, however, a few truths that are constant for me. When I'm feeling disconnected or lost, nature always brings me back.

Yesterday, I went hiking for the first time in a long time. It was hard. Harder than it should have been and even more humbling to see how far I've backslid. I've been struggling the last few months and my health and fitness have suffered. I can point my finger in so many directions as to why, but the why doesn't really matter.

What matters is the truth. Whether I like it or not, I'm in the midst of a lifelong battle with obesity, food addiction, and binge eating. There is no room for complacency in this fight. There is no finish line.

I can wish with all my might for a “normal” relationship with food and maybe someday I'll get there, but for today, that's not my reality. If I could eat certain foods in moderation, I wouldn't struggle with obesity. It's really that simple.

Last summer I reached a breaking point and realized that it wasn't just flour and sugar that triggered an addiction like responses in me, it was all starchy carbs – corn, potatoes, beans. I dove into the scientific research, taking a closer look at how our brains work with insulin response and metabolic resistance. I came to believe that I was addicted to carbohydrates and it was very clear to me that I had to eliminate these foods completely to find the freedom I was seeking.

So I googled “will i die if i don't eat carbohydrates?” and came across the concept of ketosis. I wasn't looking for another diet, I gave those up years ago. What I found was a community of people who were finally finding freedom from food, losing weight without starving themselves, and feeling hope after a lifetime of obesity. I'm grateful for those who embrace this lifestyle and show others that life goes on without bread.

I don't promote keto as the solution because i don't think it is. To me, keto is actually a byproduct of the solution – my diet falls under ketogenic/paleo/whole30 because of the foods I choose to eat/not eat. For most people, such a drastic shift is not feasible or sustainable as a starting point. It took me years of being honest about how the foods I eat affect me to reach this point and the process continues to this day.

Sure, I'd like to skip off into the horizon, forever cured of my issues with food, but that's not reality. For today, I'm grateful that I am able to go for a hike and see this sign. A reminder to STOP before plummeting off the cliff and of all the wonderful things we might discover when we choose to turn around and take a new path.

What is Self Care Project? #selfcareproject

The days between Halloween and New Years tend to be a danger zone for those of us who struggle with food. It's the time of year when tensions rise and even the most normal of eaters let their healthy habits slip.

I have been thinking about my own intentions and asking myself why I am able to easily maintain some habits while struggling with others. Research shows that people who are able to create healthy habits don’t have more discipline, they have more self-compassion. This means that the problem is not a lack of motivation, but a counterproductive mindset that undermines our efforts.

Yikes. I spent most of my life beating myself up, depriving myself, and hating my body. I know I am not alone in this. We live in a culture that emphasizes outward appearances over all else and rewards self-sacrifice. How then do we cultivate a mindset that leads us to self-compassion? The answer is self-care.

What is Self-Care?

We've all heard the term self-care, but what does it really mean and how can we put it into practice? At its core, self-care is any action you take to care for your health – be it physical, emotional, or spiritual. Unfortuantely, consistently practicing self-care is challenge for most of us, especially when food and body issues are involved.

As you might imagine, self-care encompasses a broad range of habits and behaviors. From the foods we eat to the ways we manage stress, we make hundreds of tiny decisions every day that affect our wellbeing. Most of us want to be healthier, but actually putting these habits into practice can feel overwhelming and complicated.

How to Practice Self-Care

First, we have to figure out which self-care habits to work on. Each of us has unique self-care challenges so it's important to evaluate which habits we have mastered and where we want to fill the gaps.

If you struggle with your your weight, addressing practical habits around the food you eat and the way you move your body are a great place to start. If you have a tendency toward depression, focusing on regular grooming and social connection might be most beneficial.

Create a Self-Care Action Plan

Once you have chosen a few self-care activities to adopt into your daily routine, think about how and when you will incorporate these actions into your day. Write them down and commit to them. It may be helpful to set aside a specific time each day or schedule them in your calendar.

Accountability and Connection

Having support and accountability is a critical component in successful behavior change. As I was examining my own goals and creating a self-care action plan, I wanted to connect with more people who are also working toward the best version of themselves. I've started tagging my photos that show self-care practices using #SelfCareProject and I would love for you to do the same. I will be following that hashtag to keep up with everyone on instagram and I even have some fun prizes to award every week through the end of the year.

My goal is for this to be an ongoing series of blog posts highlighting different areas of self-care in more depth with strategies and examples. Is this something you would like to see? Please leave a comment and let me know if you have any specific questions or topics you would like me to write about.

 

Hello New Friends!

Welcome to my little corner of the web. I am thrilled for you to visit and I hope to connect with as many of you as possible. I am humbled by the messages I have received and I am grateful for the reminder that I am not alone on this journey. Obesity is hard and long term weight loss is even harder. I don't pretend to have it all figured out, but I have learned a few things that work along the way. I had no idea that I would end up on the front page of Yahoo this morning, but I don't think it's a coincidence.

I am still unpacking a recent setback, trying to understand how and why I went from a loose size 12 to a tight size 14 over the course of a month. After much introspection and many heartfelt conversations, what resonates above all is being kind to myself. The first few weeks back from vacation, I was not. I felt desperate to lose weight (a feeling I know all too well) and I was angry at myself and my body. Motivation that comes from a place of fear never works, yet there I was.

As a culture, we have started talking more about self-care, but what does that really mean and how are we putting it into practice? How does this apply to weight loss, loving our bodies, and ultimately accepting ourselves? Self-care is at the very core of a healthy, happy life, yet so many of us spend our lives seeking a diet plan or training regimen as the solution.

I have been preparing to announce a new community initiative called the #SelfCareProject as a way to inform, support, and celebrate self-care habits. I'm not quite ready to share all of the details, but I would be remiss if I didn't use this opportunity to invite you all to join me. The project will officially launch on Monday morning, so please sign up for my newsletter if you're interested in learning more. It's totally free and I promise it will be really fun.

Thank you again for being a part of my journey. We are stronger together than we are alone. You can also find me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and twitter.

October 2016

Hey friends! I've just returned from a month in Europe, where I wandered the streets of Paris (eating croissants), hiked 100 miles around Mont Blanc (eating fondue), and discovered Budapest (one delicious restaurant at a time). My belly and heart are overflowing.

I indulged often, enjoyed everything, and have no regrets. I definitely gained some weight and that's OK – I know it's temporary. You see, my progress has never been linear and what I learned far outweighs any setback that might show up on a scale.

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