Guest post by Mariya Heinbockel
Last year my husband and I started the Happy Body Program. Together we lost over 30 kilograms. We’ve been keeping our ideal weight ever since. But the transition was far from easy for us both, especially when it came to food choices.
The following are true stories that mark our journey into the Happy Body weight.
Spinning the wheels
One morning I woke up exhausted. “Push up, one more, just one more!” my fitness instructor repeated in my head. And now I couldn’t lift my left arm at all.
I need to go and see the doctor went through my head. But I’m so tired that I can’t even get up! A mug of coffee with milk and two white bread buns with a thick layer of Alpine butter and strawberry jam should solve the problem. The German bread is so good that I can eat it all day long which makes breakfast my most favorite meal of the day.
Still feeling heavy and tired, I went to see the doctor. My knee and elbow joints ached – a familiar pain after drinking a latte.
I stepped into the doctor’s office. After checking on my arm, she said:
“It’s the sinew that gives you pain. It’s going to take some time to heal.”
I rolled my eyes. Again! Sit and stretch for just one more minute, and my hamstring was torn. Run for five more minutes, and my Achilles got swollen.
The doctor handed me over my prescription and said:
“You don’t run anymore, do you?”
“No, absolutely not.”
“Very good. Running is not for you, remember that.”
I said goodbye and went to buy the medicine. I felt absolutely miserable. My joints still ached. I just couldn’t understand why I had so many health problems. I ate organic most of the time and I exercised almost every day. It seemed like I was spinning my wheels harder and harder but was getting nowhere.
I thought: “Maybe I should stop thinking and get myself a nice all-you-can-eat Indian lunch instead. The spices will definitely calm my nerves.”
The new “muscles”
A week later I watched my husband putting on a shirt. I said:
“Stefan, I think that you’ve built up some muscles! Wow!”
“Of course! That’s why my shirts feel so tight,” he answered.
“Let’s get you some new ones!” I suggested immediately.
So we went to the biggest European men’s fashion store, located in the center of Munich.
I said to the shopping assistant:
“We need new shirts for my husband. You see, he’s got very muscular.”
The woman put on her reading glasses and gave Stefan a long gaze. Her glasses rolled to the tip of her nose, as she said: “The muscles, I see. Let’s get you classic shirts to match those blue eyes.”
She returned with two shirts for Stefan to try on.
“My size is two numbers bigger now!” Stefan exclaimed, his eyes filled with worry.
“Take it easy. You are a tall guy with long arms. And you’ve been working out much and grew some muscles. Don’t worry, you look great!”
“OK,” He seemed to lighten up, “Let’s celebrate the new shirts! How about going to the Italian restaurant? And maybe we can check out that new café for desserts?”
“Sure! Let’s go!”
Room for the cake!
On Saturday we went to our favorite café for brunch, followed by cakes, coffee and hot chocolate.
Stefan tasted his cheesecake and said:
“Fantastic! And this hot chocolate is exquisite! I love this place! The cakes are delicious, and there’s always new desserts to try every time we come here. Wait a minute, did I just say something funny? Why are you laughing?”
“Well,” I said, “I just unzipped my jeans and you didn’t even notice! Normally you would say ‘Hey! What are you doing?’ But now you didn’t even notice!”
I kept giggling.
“So what? Who cares? We must make room for those.” Stefan pointed at cakes with his dessert fork.
Under his sweater, Stefan, too, secretly unbuttoned his jeans.
“But you are thin!”
Stefan and I were sitting at a café directly at Brandenburger Tor in Berlin.
“This will be the last one,” I said biting a chocolate eclair.
“What are you talking about?” Stefan frowned.
“I must lose weight.”
“No, you don’t. You are thin!”
“I’m 71 kilogram.”
“So what? You look great!”
“I must lose 16 kilogram,” I said, taking another bite.
“Are you crazy? Who said that?”
“That Happy Body book. It gives you standards, like weight, leanness, flexibility, speed, strength, and posture. I did the tests, and failed through most of them. I hate failing, you know.”
I sipped at my cappuccino.
Stefan stared at Brandenburger Tor, as if figuring something out. Then he said:
“But it means that you should weigh 55 kg?!”
“No, no, this is crazy! It’s absolutely unhealthy.”
“But it’s necessary. So I’m doing it. And this,” I pulled out an organic granola bar from my bag,”This is going to be our next snack. I’ll take one. And you can have two.”
Stefan didn’t look at the bar and gave his full attention to hot chocolate. Suddenly, I felt an impulse to take immediate action toward my new weight goal. So I said:
“You know what? I already don’t want it.”
And I put the rest of the chocolate eclair on Stefan’s plate.
Pancakes against Bars
A week later my scale showed 69 kilogram. It meant that I lost 3 kilograms. I was elated. “It works! It works!”
Now I had to learn how to make the health bars of my own. Meanwhile, my mind was going crazy trying to figure out what kind of bars to make. Were those the same as granola bars? Or maybe low carb bars? I wanted a recipe and I wanted precise caloric calculations. But there was no recipe, only a recommendation from the Happy Body website about how to produce the bars.
“Who cares what kind of bars I’m making: low carb, slow carb, no carb. I just have to hit the 120 calories per bar, that’s it”, I coached myself, my mind still spinning.
After spending an hour on calculating calories and another hour processing nuts and dried fruit in a smoothie mixer, I ended up with a total of 20 bars.
They looked dry and almost fell apart. And I forgot the dark chocolate. Why did I always have to do it all wrong?
I was totally exhausted and felt like a failure. I forgot to process the chocolate. My calories per bar were all messed up.
With sticky palms and nuts still under my nails, I took a knife, cut a chocolate bar into small squares and put them on the top of my creations.
“That’s OK”, I said to myself, “In my home country Ukraine people say: “First pancake never turns out the best.”
“But that’s pretty good!” Stefan exclaimed, putting a bar into his mouth, “There’s a piece of chocolate on the top, and I love it! May I have one more?” Stefan stretched his arm for a second bar.
“Of course. You may have two for snack every three hours.”
Stefan beamed at me.
“I love the idea of eating every three hours. Can I take those to work?”
“Sure. I’ll wrap them up for you for tomorrow.”
“But you aren’t stopping making cakes and pancakes, are you?
I kept silent. To cross baking from my to-do list had been a secret ambition of mine for a long time.
“I love pancakes, cakes, and of course the ice cream!” Stefan continued.
“You can eat that kind of stuff in a café,” I said.
Stefan frowned. So I said:
“Ok. I’ll make pancakes for you once a week.”
At least it was a compromise.
Next Sunday I made new bars, with chocolate on the top, and Stefan discovered that he lost 2 kilograms. He looked puzzled.
I asked him:
“What snacks do you want to take for work?”
“I want those”, he pointed at the fresh batch of our home-made Happy Body bars.
“It’s our snack time, and I’m going to keep my promise and make pancakes with chocolate for you.”
Stefan hugged me and smiled.
“You know what?”
“I love the bars. Don’t you worry about pancakes. Ever.”
The hardest choice
Stefan was dropping 2 kilograms per week, but the scale seemed to freeze at 93, just 3 kilograms away from his ideal body weight. My weight loss pace was 500 grams per week, and my scale circled around 65 kilograms.
We kept craving foods that we loved, and our heads were constantly on fire.
So once a week Stefan and I would go to our favorite Italian café where he ate chocolate ice cream, and I drank a big creamy cappuccino.
After another round I said:
“My stomach hurts. I think I might be intolerant to lactose.”
“I don’t feel very well myself. I read that most adults can’t digest dairy.”
“So what do we do? Dairy is everywhere! I tried to switch to goat milk, sheep milk, lactose-free milk, but I still feel sick after consuming any kind of milk. Even products with traces of milk make my stomach ache. And maybe that’s why you don’t drop those last 3 kilograms. You eat too much ice cream!”
Stefan scrambled the last drops of melted ice cream and said, looking down at the labyrinths that his ice cream was forming in the bowl.
“In the past we dropped weight several times and gained it back. We tried different diets and different sports. We didn’t eat meat for two years, and you went coffee-free for 15 months. We had good results, but then we always ended up in the same spot again,” He raised his hands, “Right here. The same table, the same ice cream, the same cappuccino, the same weight. I’m afraid that what we are doing now will be just as good as what we did back then. I think this is why I can’t lose those 3 kilograms. I’m afraid to go back to where I was.”
My joints ached, and my heart raced, as always after drinking a big cappuccino.
And I was scared, too. I was afraid to eat sweet desserts to compensate for sour feelings. I was afraid to consume creamy drinks in order to soothe the harsh truth. The truth that I was a failure at losing weight and that someday I’d drown in milk foam, and Stefan would be lost in labyrinths of ice cream forever.
But failure was not an option for me anymore. The only loser I was going to be was the loser of kilograms of fat.
So I said:
“We will make adjustments. We will substitute. I can do banana cream with unsweetened cocoa for you, and I can stop drinking coffee with milk and be happy with a cup of plain black coffee.”
Stefan gave me a skeptical look.
“You aren’t going to stop, are you?”.
I shook my head.
“Not this time.”
Back at home I removed all dairy products from our fridge.
A week later Stefan has achieved his happy body weight of 90 kilograms.
Ten days later I forgot all about joint pain. Slowly but surely, my weight was moving in the right direction again.
Two months later Stefan did the blood test. The doctor was surprised:
“Your cholesterol is ideal. What did you do?”
“I lost 17 kilograms”, Stefan said proudly.
“Very good”, she smiled. “Keep that weight!”
A month later we went to visit Stefan’s family.
“Who wants some chocolate ice cream for dessert?” Stefan’s mom asked.
“Not me.” I said. It was easy for me to refuse the ice cream because I don’t like cold desserts anyway.
But Stefan held the box with the chocolate ice cream longer than he was supposed to, his eyes sparking.
“No ice cream today?” mom asked.
Stefan silently passed the ice cream on to his brother.
Back in our room Stefan said to me:
“The banana cream tastes so much better than ice cream. Why should I eat something I don’t even want because everybody’s eating it?”
It was the first time I heard Stefan say “No” to chocolate ice cream.
The happy emigrants
Just in time before the first advent I achieved my Happy Body weight.
Stefan and I went out for shopping in the Munich city center. We knew that it could be quite a challenge to keep our weight during advent time. Hot wine punch, cookies, and roasted almonds coated with caramel were sold everywhere. Christmas markets were filled with smells of cinnamon, baked apples, and pancakes, inviting us to eat and drink and be cheerful.
“You know, it’s not that difficult this time.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean it’s quite easy for me to resist the smells and the foods from the Christmas market.”
“Well, they sell good stuff here but frankly I don’t need it. I’m good with our Christmas Happy Body bars.”
He pulled out his bar with a touch of orange zest and ginger and said:
We bought a plain coffee for me and a green tea for Stefan. And for the first time in our lives we could resist the Christmas market because we knew what was enough for us.
“I’m determined to stay at my weight,” I said.
“You are an immigrant to the Happy Body weight now,” Stefan smiled.
An immigrant… The word triggered so many memories. I came to Germany as a student, and had stayed there ever since. But in order to stay in Germany I had to give up my Ukrainian citizenship.
“It would be so nice to keep a double citizenship, for Germany and for Ukraine”, I sighed.
“Forget it!” Stefan said “I’m so glad to avoid double bureaucracy, not to mention extra paper work and visa costs for you to travel. Our life is so much easier now.”
I sipped at my black coffee and said:
“Hard choices, easy life, as Jerzy Gregorek says. But wait a minute, if we immigrated into the Happy Body weight, does it mean that we must get away…” I looked around “…from here?”
“And from too much dairy,” he added, “It makes me sick and causes your joint pain.”
“And from cakes,” I sighed.
“And from eating out so much. Do you feel bad about that?”
“Not at all. I think that we can now even save enough money to travel to the USA. And now I don’t require a visa for the USA!”
Stefan and I danced for a moment.
Then I stopped dancing and said:
“But let’s not loosen up. There are still five more Happy Body standards for us to achieve.”
“Five more? Are you kidding me? I thought we were perfect already!”
I laughed, and Stefan laughed with me.
At the very heart of eating and drinking we both felt like foreigners, realizing that our happy body journey had just begun.
You must begin
Why look for more
You’re already rich
Ideas knock on the door
You just need to reach
Just let them in
You must begin
To plant and to grow
Prosper right here
Moments like beads
Don’t ask the mere
Where it all leads?
Drop the big “I”
In these dimensions
You’re meant to fly
Don’t look for more
Cut your flow-in
From loving core
You must begin.
Mariya Heinbockel is a writer and a Happy Body practitioner from Munich, Germany.