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My Journey to Living Lean


An awesome part of working at Crossnore is their commitment to the Sanctuary Model. Part of the Sanctuary Model is a focus and priority on Self-Care. Each employee must have a Self-Care plan to help prevent and reduce the vicarious trauma that may be experienced as a result of our type of work. Self-Care looks at the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual strategies that we use to care for ourselves. Physical health and wellness is one aspect of this plan, and as such, Crossnore offers, as one of its employee benefits, a Go365 Wellness account. Kelly Riley is an Assistant Director of Foster Care on our Winston-Salem campus. This is her story.

What I didn’t know.

author standing beside friend at wedding

October 2015

My entire life, I had always been what I considered “medium sized,” and had accepted that as the way I was built. I have never really been overweight or what I considered unhealthy, and did what I could to exercise and eat what I thought was fueling my body well.

Last winter, I was pretty intrigued by the new Go365 program and the opportunity to earn points. I jumped onto the website and app, took the assessment, and looked over the things I could do that would earn me the most points. Due to having a history of high cholesterol and some of the eating habits revealed in my assessment, one of the recommendations for me was to take an online course through the Go365 site called “Living Lean.” Honestly, I just thought it would be something easy to play in the background, earning me 600 points!

As I was half-heartedly listening to the first session, I had the realization: I think this is going to change my life.

Life-changing realizations.

Although I thought of myself as a pretty healthy and strong person, as the session went on I recognized that I had both obsessive and compulsive eating habits that were making me less than my best. I have always had a sweet tooth, but being honest with myself I realized – I was addicted to sugar.

So much of my internal dialogue was about food—when and how can I get the next sweet treat? I wanted to feel free to think about other things besides food; to have fun experiences that didn’t center around a cake shop! The person I saw in the mirror didn’t look like the person I felt like on the inside. I wanted to feel good about myself.

Learning to fuel my body in healthy ways.

December 2017

During the course, you choose your two biggest food-related issues. For me, it was the constant search for sugar and late-night snacking. In the program, you cut those two things cold-turkey. But it isn’t about depriving yourself. In fact, it is a good thing to have cravings! It gives you the opportunity to be mindful about what your goal is, what the temptation is, and to willfully make a choice to Live Lean. That is how you create new patterns and new habits that become almost effortless over time. So, no sweets or desserts for 21 days. No eating after dinner time for 21 days. After that point, it honestly was easy. Along the way, there is a lot of guidance about changing other eating habits as well, and learning to fuel your body in the healthiest, leanest way.

When I look back and people asked me what I did, the truth is that I changed everything about my relationship with food. But it did not feel that difficult. In fact I am kind of amazed at how simple it really was, and I wonder why I didn’t do this sooner.

Practically speaking.

A few highlights of the changes:

  • I cut out refined foods. I eat almost exclusively whole grain foods and avoid white flour.
  • I do not do sweets (most of the time).
  • I eat as many vegetables and fruits as I possibly can.
  • I do not eat after dinner time.

If that sounds restrictive or overwhelming, here are some side notes:

  • I still do lots of breakfast baking! I love banana muffins and we have a batch around the house almost every week. But, I find recipes that use whole wheat flour, no or very little butter, and very little sugar. You’ll be amazed at how healthy options start to taste better than the sweet and fattening ones!
  • I do not feel restricted by these things. It is about choices. If it is someone’s birthday, I will have a (small) piece of cake and feel totally ok about that. I don’t crave more after that little piece—that’s the difference. But I know that 95% of the time, eating right is important to me, so I make choices that align with that.
  • I have learned that some foods are especially difficult for me not to cave in to. So I do NOT keep ice cream or cheesecake in my house!

The bottom line.

author down 25 pounds, after pic

January 2019

The bottom line: I started this journey on March 2, 2018. By August 2018, I had lost about 25 pounds total. I did this without significant exercise—although I always try to include more of that. I have gone down 4 pants sizes. I have maintained this weight loss with no additional effort and without feeling deprived. I have never counted calories; never considered myself on a diet.

For about a year before starting this, I was dealing with chronic fatigue and joint pain. With a little extra Vitamin D and these better eating habits, these issues are almost non-existent. I also felt like a fog was lifted from my brain once all the sugar was out of my system.

I don’t know if or how Living Lean would work for everyone. I would say that the key is to be brutally honest with yourself. It would have been easier to say my problems were chocolate or ice cream in particular, and so allow myself to continue with my sugar addiction in other forms. But I knew it was the eating patterns more than any one or two foods that was the issue for me. Know that the first couple of weeks will be tough, and it will take a LOT of mindfulness and self-talk. But the course teaches you how to do that well. I do believe that even if you don’t see a huge change in the number of pounds, you will feel better, and feel in control over what you put into your body.

I am very thankful to Crossnore for providing this opportunity through the Go365 program and would encourage you to check it out!