A Real Change Success Story: Ms Kimberly Mills!

December 30, 2014

Today we have a very special treat: an amazing success story by an incredible woman in the fitness industry, Kimberly Mills. I got the chance to meet Kimberly at the Women’s Fitness Summit last fall. She secretly made my day by “recognizing” me in the lobby of the hotel and making me feel super important 🙂

To me, what makes Kimberly’s story so amazing is not that she lost the weight, but how: the old fashioned way. The totally boring way. The way that doesn’t sell a million fitness products or books or protein shakes. There were no detoxes, no 7 day Juice miracles and because she didn’t’ have autoimmunity or other major metabolic issues, there was no gluten free or other major nutrition strategy. She simply changed her habits.

She simply put in a lot of good old fashioned hard work day after day after day – and again, the day after that too. In the end, it wasn’t any one diet or any fab new exercise plan, but rather lots of good choices over and over again that gave her a new body and a new life. You know when us experts talk about “making a lifestyle change”? Well, this is what it looks like.

Kimberly Mills

This is Kimberly’s before & after shots – 5 years apart. So powerful huh? Where could you be in 5 years if you made some smart changes TODAY?

Here’s how Kimberly did it:

What made you say, “This is it. I’m making change today”?

KM: One morning in May of 2009, several months before I started my journey towards health and strength, I woke up crying uncontrollably. I cried for at least 2 hours if not longer.  I felt as if I was on the verge of a complete breakdown. I was on numerous medications for a variety of ailments: high blood pressure, pre-diabetic, digestion trouble and my thyroid was termed “borderline” (not yet needing meds but not doing great either). I was  sick all the time, in and out of doctors office – and the ER. On top of this I had very high levels of stress at work and at home (dealing with my son’s drug addiction). When I woke up that morning, I knew something had to change. I was sick of being sick. I was sick of feeling that my life was out of control. I felt was though I was drowning and didn’t know how to save myself. I didn’t know how I was going to change, but knew that I had to. It took ten months of miscellaneous events and a variety of people coming into my life that helped me discover the path that would eventually have me healthier and stronger than I’ve been in more than 15 years.

Dr Brooke: So much good stuff here! The only way we will change is when the discomfort of doing what we are doing is greater than the discomfort it takes to make change. Change ain’t easy and it is most definitely uncomfortable. We won’t all hit a bottom as obvious as Kimberly did. Your bottom may be as simple as how badly you feel every time you sit down and your pants feel uncomfortable day after day or it may be a deep, dark moment like she had. Or it may be that one day you just know it’s time. But in order to change, one day it will just be too much. When you think to yourself, “I can’t stand this anymore” that’s when you’re ready. And we all have at least one thing we feel that way about today, don’t we?

Like I said, you mastered the “lifestyle change” that eludes so many by essentially dropped a few bad habits and picking up some healthier ones. What was the biggest bad habit you dropped and how did you do it?

I did a lot of reflecting on my eating habits and determined what my trigger foods were- those foods that I tended to overeat. Surprising, it was not sweets but more salty-fatty foods like French fries, chips and other deep fried foods. (I wrote about this here.) I decided that these two things (chips and fries) needed to be out of my diet temporarily – at least  until I could take control of  my food intake. Almost five years later, I can now have those things and not overeat them. Actually, most of the time I really don’t want them at all, they just don’t have the same taste that they used to for me anymore.

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Dr Brooke: I love this so much. What Kimberly did here was twofold: she took a look at what was what for her in terms of food instead of just jumping on a diet. She took the time to look at what SHE needed to do differently, what foods had to go from HER diet, no one else’s. And, while moderation is the long term goal, she did what was necessary to break the cycle and learn a new way which meant temporarily eliminating certain foods that sent her down a spiral of overeating and more cravings. Very smart. I love that our fitness community is adopting a more moderate agenda in general, but it’s important to note that sometimes we do have to give up a few of our favorites to make some progress. THEN we can find a way to work them in during our maintenance. Like my colleague Jill Coleman says, attaining it not the same as maintaining.

What was the best healthy habit you picked up and what makes it easy for you to keep going with it?

The best healthy nutrition habit I picked up was making sure I was getting adequate lean protein and lots of veggies.  Rather than restricting carbs and fats, I just ate them in moderation after making protein and veg a priority.  And as much as possible, I avoid highly processed foods. I also started drinking a lot more water (by eliminating diet soda). Because my diet has not been highly restrictive when it comes to the macronutrients, it has been easy to maintain and sustain.  I am eating good food that I enjoy and I don’t fear foods.  I don’t look at foods as bad food and good food. I know that because I eat healthy most of the time then an occasional treat is not going to sabotage my diet.

Dr Brooke: Amen! Start with what can you do BETTER. Start with doing more good stuff instead of starting with taking stuff away. Thisis so much easier, requires less WILLpower and will increase your success. When you get a few great habits under your belt, then tackle a harder habit to break. Another great lesson in this one is that her plan didn’t have a ton of details, such as X grams of this or that. It is high level solid plan and one she could do every day. I get so many questions about details like grams of protein in an post workout shake and what time of day to eat fat vs. carbs when that person isn’t even making it to the gym twice a week and is still having sugar every day. If the broad strokes aren’t there, the details won’t make a bit of difference. Get the basics in line: lean protein to make you feel satiated, loads of veggies, some carbs, some heathy fat, THEN dial in details.

You’ve been successful for many year – more than most make it. How many times have you messed up or drifted back to old habits?

From 1993- 2010, when I tried every diet under the sun. I would frequently go back to my old ways after only a few months on the diet.  Most of them were very restrictive,, leaving me hungry all the time. I wanted the foods the diet said I couldn’t eat, so I would go back to my old habits and gain the weight back that I’d lost. During those years, I also joined many different gyms. I go only for a few months mainly because I didn’t know what to do besides get on a treadmill or a bike! Or maybe a resistance machine here and there, so it got boring pretty quick. Since 2010, when I started my journey to once and for all take charge of my weight and my health, I have not fallen backward into my old ways nutritionally because I really make drastic changes to what I was eating, other than getting rid of my trigger foods (Sabotage Foods as Dr Brooke calls them). I simply became more mindful and watched the calories I was taking in. I made sure all of my meals had a protein and  veggie source, along with some starchy carb and fat. As for exercise, having a trainer – which I had to make some sacrifices to afford – helped me learn the value and effectiveness of strength workouts, which I developed a passion for. With a diet that made sense, wasn’t overly restrictive, yet took out my trouble foods and because I found exercise that I loved doing, I was able to move forward without looking back at all.

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Dr Brooke: The rest as they say is history huh? Yo-yo dieting and fitness fads are part of Kimberly’s history, but not her present. She found a sustainable way of eating and exercising that worked for her, but most importantly one that she could KEEP DOING. She bridged that gap between knowing she needed to do better and continuing to do BETTER – partly by finding things she  was willing to continue with. I think it’s also important to point out here that the strategies she employed weren’t just something she enjoyed, they were ones that work for nearly every woman: strength training, adequate protein and veggies and enough carbs and fats to be sustainable. And also,the key to this whole thing is that none of this was temporary for Kimberly. She knew when she started that she was out to find a way to do it for the long haul, to make real change. That’s the way to get off the dieting merry-go-round – accept that while it may be tighter for a bit, much of what you need to do to lose weight you’ll have to keep doing to keep it off. Not all of it, but a lot of it so it has to be something that feels good.

You’ve obviously figured out a way to not have a misstep take you down, how do you continually stay on track?

Habits. I made small changes gradually – rather than a complete overhaul all at once. Those changes turned into long lasting habits that are just part of me and my life now. One example that worked for me (but may not work for everyone) was eating 4 -5 times per day. I eat three main meals and have 1-2 snacks as well.  I plan my snacks in advance and always have them at the same time each day. This keeps me feeling full most of the time and helped me drop my old habit of random snacking.

Dr Brooke: This was a great example of a big ticket habit, one that trickled down into other habit change. Kimberly’s big habit of meal timing (4-5 meals per day) helped her not only avoid overeating by feeling satiated all day, but it made an unhelpful habit disappear: random, uncontrolled snacking. Always start with these big ticket, or as some say “big rock” habits, and change those first. Put time and effort into the habits that will yield you the most change for the least effort. These big ticket habits have a way of making other habits easier.

What was the biggest attitude or mindset shift you made that has helped you be consistent?

Eating intuitively. Letting my body tell me what it needs. Not fearing foods or food groups. I enjoy cooking and eating good food.  So for example, I don’t severely restrict my starchy carbs or avoid wheat; however, some days I may have more carby days and days that are less carby depending on what my body is telling me.

Dr Brooke: This is a game-changer. We’ve all become so scared of carbs or fat or sweets or whatever that we get all worked up just thinking about how we’ll navigate being around them – let alone trying to incorporate them into our normal diet. I know I’m still a recovering carb-phob. I can’t handle a lot of carbs but with breastfeeding now, I do need some and my default is to steer very low or no carb which doesn’t work well for me at this time.

Intuitively, I know I have to plan some of them in and not be scared to eat them because right now I really need them! But my past weight loss mindset has been “carbs make me fat”. But low carb right now makes me extremely low energy and unable to drop any fat. My body is talking, I need to listen. Learning to listen to our body – and heed those messages – is key to finding what works for you NOW. It may not be what worked in the past or will work in 5 years, but it’s what works now.

On the flipside, my carbs can’t come from gluten containing sources – as I know many of my readers can relate – because I am depressed, broken out and utterly exhausted when I eat gluten, so I have to listen to that as well and find the carb type and carb amount that works best for me. More on unique carb tolerance here. And remember this does change as you change, so continue to listen to those signals of appetite, cravings and energy and adjust accordingly.

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The take away from this point is that by tuning in, you can learn a lot about what your body will do best on – what will be easier to maintain. When we push against that, our metabolism will always push back. We restrict to much, our metabolism fires up the cravings.

The metabolism is like a rubber band, to get results you have to put just enough stress on it that you get results but not so much it snaps back. So a big THANK YOU to Kimberly for sharing her story of slow, steady habit change.

I think this is the bravest kind of change because you sacrifice the instant gratification of a few pounds up front for long term results. It requires you to stay very committed to what you want most for what you want right this moment. Not easy. It’s anti what magazine headlines and The Biggest Loser want to sell you.

But it is the only thing that makes lasting change. Habit change doesn’t give you the immediate boost of quick results and you do have to keep slogging it out day after day, waiting for your prize. But along the way there is a wealth of prizes: no crashes from crazy diets, no ups and downs as you try this and that but rather the satisfaction that you do in deed have some staying power.

And in time, you do see those big changes that come from doing a few little things right, over and over. Habits aren’t sexy, but they are where it’s at. As you go about making your New Year’s resolutions keep that in mind.

I think they are so important, yet changing them eludes so many, that I’ve created a totally FREE 7 day habit change program. It walks you through my 6 step process to changing habits and unlike a 7 day juice cleanse to kick off the New Year, you’ll actually be different when this 7 days is up. You’ll actually be in a position to make 2015 “the year” you make change.

The program is delivered via email and will be available until JANUARY 7th only. So don’t miss it, sign up here and make some real change in 2015!

Let’s all follow Kimberly’s example and finally tackle those things we do every day that are keeping us from what we really want. Please keep me posted on your habit change on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook! Can’t wait to see what you’re creating for yourself this year. Follow with #BETTERhabits – I’ll be there changing too. With that, Happy New Year! Dr Brooke


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