The 5 Ways I Lost 20 + Pounds in Puerto Rico Naturally Without Really Trying


Posted by Cassie

“Have you lost weight?”
“You look really great, what have you been doing?”
“You seem younger, more vibrant!”

Both Britton and I have been hearing this for a while now. The thing is, we don’t own a scale so we have no idea what we weigh. It just really doesn’t matter that much. It’s important to be a healthy weight and have a healthy body, but the number the scale says doesn’t really mean that much overall.  But the other day I saw a scale in someone’s bathroom and I stepped on. Sure enough I had lost over 20 pounds! That’s more than I’ve ever lost “trying” to lose weight dieting or exercising like when we were in the newspaper (and these 20 lbs I’ve lost are on top of about 10 that I kept off before moving here). I went from slightly overweight (around BMI of 27) to right at my ideal weight (BMI 23)! Wow! It got me thinking: When and how did that happen?

Kayak Cassie 5
Shortly after moving to Puerto Rico: October 2013 -About 20 lbs heavier

Cassie bikini
December 2015

I guess I knew by the way my clothes were fitting, the sizes I could wear and those comments from people that I must have lost some weight, but I had no idea it was that much! I really try not to obsess over weight or my body. If I feel good and confident that’s what really matters. I know this weight obsession is something especially women have been told we have to do in order to fit into society. But I reject that. I don’t buy into this one size fits all beauty BS.

But there is an epidemic of overweight and obesity spreading throughout the modern world, so it is something I am aware of at a personal level. And it is important to think about for your health. Having an extra 10 or 20 or more pounds is really hard on your body and causes inflammation that can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and ultimately an early demise. There are all sorts of theories and reasons why this epidemic of obesity is happening and the best answer is…a combination of things. I believe it is mainly caused by the junk food industry. Check out these graphs  and see for yourself.

So whether it is because of societal pressure to be skinny or because you are also interested in not being an obesity statistic, many people with a few extra pounds will try everything they can to lose weight. And so of course there is a huge industry built on it. But the weight loss industry is hardly any help as they just want to sell you their products and make you feel that you can’t live in a healthy body without their system, shake, pill, or exercise video. It’s a multi-million (billion?) dollar industry and their goal is to keep you hooked on their stuff. Even if it works to help you lose weight, what have you spent getting it? (Probably lots of money and time doing something that doesn’t feel natural!) So I didn’t buy into any of that junk either. And those pyramid multi-level marketing “businesses” where you have to recruit all your social networks to sell somebody else’s questionable stuff? Whole other level of shaking my head.

Bookshelf
Britton October 2013

Britton bench
Britton Sept 2015 ~15 lbs lighter

And so while I understand that this is an issue of global proportions and a societal instead of just an individual matter, I also wanted to understand what I personally did to somehow lose 20+ pounds without trying! While this is anecdotal, it could perhaps be useful at a broader scale as well. I thought about what had changed in order for this weight to seemingly melt off of us. Maybe we could call it the Move-to-Tropical-Island-and-Live-a-Little-More-Naturally Diet.

You know how they say it can’t be a temporary diet, it must be a lifestyle change. Well, that in a nutshell is the key.

Here are the five things we do consistently now that our lifestyle has changed.

1) Eat to live, not live to eat
This is a great motto. Basically it means not to obsess over food. Life is about SO much more than eating. You should feed your body the nutrients it needs, enjoy it and move on. You shouldn’t need to analyze every calorie and write down every little thing. If you are eating naturally (see tip three), you shouldn’t need special powders, coaches and programs to track it. I used to track every little thing I ate in order to lose just a few pounds in Colorado and it drove me nuts because I felt so obsessed with every morsel or drop that went in my mouth. That just sets you up to be neurotic about food.

Eat just enough which for many people probably means a lot less than what you normally eat, especially restaurant servings. In general I eat a LOT less than I used to, but what I do eat is a LOT more nutrient rich.

Some people’s whole world revolves around the latest and greatest new restaurant or food place. That’s fine every now and then, but food is just a small part of life. It shouldn’t be the main focus. This also means to choose activities that aren’t food-based. Preferably activities that also include movement (see tip four)!

This tip also means eating when we are hungry (and not eating if we’re not). Sometimes we may not eat a traditional full meal. Sometimes breakfast is a full plate of eggs and peppers, plantains, cottage cheese, passionfruit, coffee, a cookie, toast and more. Sometimes if we’re not hungry it’s just a banana and coffee.

Listen to the needs of your body. I, for one, am not very hungry late at night, but Britton is. So he sometimes eats late and I don’t. I used to, just to be on the same page. That’s another key. Just because someone else is eating/drinking something doesn’t mean you have to! Think about your body as something that needs fuel. Then you will choose foods that help it thrive and not just give you spikes or emotional rewards as most junk food does. This also goes for drinking. I usually try to have an equal amount of water (or club soda) for every alcoholic beverage I drink because alcohol is not really fueling the body (but it can be a fun part of life if done carefully so I still include it in my chosen lifestyle).

On the farm with turkeys and a papaya
By looking the part, I become that -Farmer Cassie

2) Look the part.  Dress for success.
I don’t know a better way to say this. This tip isn’t just about weight loss, but really any goal you have. Life is like a big play. We get to play a role or many. When we moved to Puerto Rico we got to choose new roles. It’s sort of like the advice to dress for the job that you want not the job that you have. Act the part. Learn from the people who are playing a role you would like to have/live/look/do. Then fake it until you make it. If you want to look and feel good in your own skin, start doing that. Wear the type of clothes you would want to wear if you were in the role of your choice. If you want to feel good and confident, do the things that make you feel good and confident whether that’s a certain hairstyle, clothing, manner of talking, exercises, food, whatever. And then the spiral effects start happening. The more you feel confident the more you’ll hear that you look good and confident which only magnifies that feeling and makes you want to do more of that.

If I want to be a farmer, I wear my farmer boots and grow stuff. If I want to be a beach bum/surfer chick I wear my swimming suit and go in the water. If I want to be a rockstar I wear flamboyant sequin outfits and sing. Whether consciously or not, you are already in many roles in this play. So if you want a new one, cultivate it.

Mini watermelon cucumber
“Mouse melons” growing as weeds all over – Melothria scabra

3) Eat natural
This is the nitty gritty down and dirty prescriptive advice that is the cornerstone of most weightloss advice/books. It’s where all the arguments about this or that particular food. Gluten or not? Carbs or not? This diet or that. For me, I just want as natural as possible. And living on a tropical island we should be able to have natural/local/organic a lot more often! And by natural here’s what I mean in order of preference.

—a) Truly wild. Like a fish that was swimming in the sea is now my dinner sort of wild. Or a wild parcha vine drops a passionfruit and I eat it. A weed mousemelon snack. You know, caveman sort of foraging.

—b) I planted it or raised it and cooked it and know exactly everything that went into growing it. Our plantains, bananas, breadfruit, citrus, avocados, coconuts, sapodillas, mulberries, tamarinds, and other fruit trees. Our garden plants like basil, cilantro, or lettuce. Our chicken eggs. Our turkey meat. if I can grow it and pick it off a tree or harvest it from the ground or my birds/animals, it’s definitely natural.

Bounty of the finca 1
Just some of what we can grow here

—c) Someone I know planted or raised it or caught it and I can talk with them about all the stuff that went into that. This means friends and neighbors, people at the farmer’s market. Someone directly connected to your food at a local level.

—d) Someone I don’t know planted or raised it, but it is pretty clearly a single ingredient food close to its raw state.  Here’s where the grocery shopping may start coming into play and where you have to look at ingredients to make sure there is no industrial chemical and addictive crap (sugars, GMO commodity junk, fats, salts) added.

—e) Multiple ingredients, but most or all of them seem natural.  I try to go organic here as this is where it starts getting tricky. Things like chips or crackers or cheese or even canned beans or fish. You have to be careful here because the food industry tries to jump in and make false and confusing claims. This is where you have to really watch out for the industrial stuff like corn syrup, soy bean oil, hydrogenated oils, stuff that ends in -ose (hidden sugars), and all the preservatives and even what it was packaged in. In general I prefer to stay away from stores and closer to the finca for a large part of my food to keep it simple.

—f) Meals cooked by or shared with friends/family. Regardless of the ingredients the love that is felt sharing a meal is almost always worth eating because to me this is about filling the soul. I don’t worry about the components of these meals too much and just enjoy and appreciate all of it. I might not eat much, but I will eat some. Sharing a meal is the most natural thing in the world. And if it is also made with natural ingredients, even better! If you have anxiety about going out with friends/family because of what is going to be served, this is the most unnatural of all. I’ve never been much of a pork eater, but when in Puerto Rico…I eat lechón! :-)

So on the flip side, what is not-natural? Commodity industrial ”food” -most anything made of GMO pellet food like corn, soybean, canola and anything fed those things -like pretty much all conventional animal products- and also most wheat products since they are so processed. This means most packaged foods. It means practically all fast food or chain restaurant food. It is the kind of stuff that doesn’t rot. Stuff that is not natural in any of those above definitions I try to avoid. Still, I know that we live in a very un-natural setting and the cards are stacked against us. So I go for the 80/20 rule. 80%+ of natural eating and 20%  or less of unnatural foods. Once you know the difference, it’s very easy to eat naturally.

Things I avoid with all my might if at all possible: soda, cured meats, fried foods.

A note on treats and hunger.
If I’m super hungry and there is nothing else to choose, I may be stuck in a situation where I must eat something not very natural with low-nutrients/unhealthy ingredients. I have to be careful here because the more you eat of this junk the more you think it’s ok. It’s the addictive side of modern food. But if you are hungry, you should eat! It is natural to eat if hungry! But it is better to plan ahead or even go to the store and buy some single ingredient foods like bananas than it is to eat out almost always. And the more natural ingredients you eat overall, the less cravings you’ll have for crap junk industry commodity foods laden with added sugars, fats, chemicals and salts. This makes it all the easier to do without really trying.

And then there are the treats. For instance, I like a cookie in the morning with my coffee. I try to choose cookies with better ingredients, but it’s still a sugar/fat bomb. It gives me a smile in the morning and I’ve consciously decided it should be a part of my life like alcohol, but I just have one or two. Again, I eat to live, not live to eat them.

Here are some specifically helpful food for weightloss/health/vibrancy. Since we’ve lived in Puerto Rico our diet has changed quite a bit. I think these foods have helped a lot in our well-being and we eat them nearly every single day.

Scambled eggs
Example of a daily meal -scrambled eggs with peppers, garlic, avocados and fresh local fruit

Bananas. Great snack. Filling. On-the-go food. Always in season.Grows easily. Compostable wrapper.
Plantains/Breadfruit. Awesome as the main starch in a meal.
Coffee. Locally grown Puerto Rican coffee. So good. High antioxidants and a natural appetite suppressant.
Turmeric. So, so important for health. If you want to reverse aging, feel healthy and prevent diseases eat this! We eat fresh turmeric root daily!
Garlic. Like turmeric it is superfood. Helps avoid colds and illnesses. Great for the heart. Like most spices it’s a good seasoning so that you don’t have to use as much salt.
Chia seeds. One tablespoon a day. Naturally filling when eaten with water because they expand so it suppresses the appetite. Super high fiber, high omega-3s, great for the digestive system.
Coconut oil. Pretty much the only oil we use to cook. Good for everything from eggs to popcorn.
Our free-ranging chicken eggs. Perfect source of protein. Great source of vitamins.
Beans. High fiber. High protein. Inexpensive, filling and delicious.
Local fruits and veggies. Anything else we have locally or in season. Avocados. Starfruit. Passionfruit. Peppers. Watermelon. Coconut. Sapodilla. Tamarind. Oranges or fresh squeezed juice.

4) Move naturally
You should move your body. It’s that simple. We need it. We are creatures that need movement, exercise. Whatever you want to call it. I think that running on a treadmill or stationary bike or lifting weights or doing a workout video feels really fake. Sort of like a hamster on a wheel in a cage. And I guess if you are in a cage (stuck inside due to weather or at a job that is mostly sitting or whatever) it is definitely better than nothing. But Britton and I prefer to move naturally using our body to do things. Use it for transportation: walk, bicycle. Use it to dance. Use it to swim. Stretch. Carry heavy stuff. Make stuff. If you like doing those other things that were made in and by modern society, then by all means do it. These things just seems so foreign to the way we have evolved.

Snorkeling Cassie 3
Natural movement: swimming/snorkeling!

As for me I walk up and down the hill that is our finca at least 2-3 times a day. Britton even more! I walk around our area, downtown, on excursions and hikes, I walk on the beach. I swim and do other water activities. I do yoga and stretching in the morning. I sing and dance. I help Britton haul stuff over to the cabin. And if it is social I like to take exercise classes, play a sport or go salsa dancing. Natural movement should be a natural part of life. It shouldn’t be something you have to force yourself to do or you get mad at yourself for not getting your prescribed workout in. Again, it is the natural lifestyle. This lifestyle of ours naturally includes lots of movement.

5) Cultivate Purpose and Balance.
This is another one that is not really diet or exercise specific, but something that has been a big change in our lifestyle and that I think really has made a big difference. Not only has being self-directed helped us to look and act the part of our choice but it has helped us to be much more balanced. If we do any one thing too much you can tell. So we try to keep it varied. We go out with various people, we do various activities. We probably all have something of a routine, but we often break it and do something spontaneous. We try to put our friends and fun before any project. This has allowed us to really fine tune what is important to us. This includes our health. Because of the bigger picture, we are much less likely to just eat crap or watch crap tv or just go shopping. Instead of being on the unbalanced side of only consuming everything like we used to -eating, listening to music, watching TV, buying stuff; we are now producing -growing food, making music, creating videos, building a homestead. We are making stuff! This gives us purpose, direction and balances out the consumption/production scales (and apparently the weight scales too).

Horned Dorset pool
With this new life we never know what wondrous moments await

Weightloss seems like such a minor side effect of our lifestyle. The effects of more happiness, having more life purpose, feeling more connected with our environment and people and feeling more alive in general doing new and exciting things is so much more important. And so cyclical, because the more you feel those thing the more they come back. The cycle. The balance. We modern people always try to cut out some aspect and refine it into some linear form, but that rarely works. We “modernites” try to encapsulate something (sometimes literally in a pill), but it is nearly impossible to take out half the components and expect that something won’t be missing. So we went back to the basics. The whole is more than the sum of the parts. The combination of effects from our new life is not something that I can neatly summarize into 5 points, but hopefully this is a start. Go out there and live the life of your dreams. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you.

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7 thoughts on “The 5 Ways I Lost 20 + Pounds in Puerto Rico Naturally Without Really Trying

  1. Linda

    you guys do look awesome! Bob and I were just commenting on how the wonderful lifestyle you have adopted in PR is so healthy! (well.. minus rum.. lol)

    Reply
  2. Missy

    I wonder if being restricted in only having a cooktop and no oven also helps you cook/eat healthier. I’ve been eating more raw foods lately and feel so much better.

    Reply
  3. Tonie

    Great post Cassie, about your weigh lost journey and how well you have adjusted to Puerto Rico. I love all your advise and plan to do more like you. I also have lost some weight since we have been here but notas much as I would have liked but every day is a new adventure.

    Take care and stay healthy with all your great fruits,

    Tonie

    Reply
  4. Barbara Schutt

    Awesome post, Cassie, I couldn’t agree more! It really is all about balance in life and making healthy choices. We are currently in Rincon on vacation and ran into someone that looked like Briton at Edwards who said he was turning 50 today and wife was making a big deal out of it, haha. Keep doing what you are doing as I can see the joy of life in your faces!

    Reply
  5. Cassie Post author

    Thanks gals. Haha Linda…a little rum you’re ok. A lotta rum on the other hand….
    Missy, it could be…we have definitely adapted to just our single burner and don’t cook as much as we once did. Maybe it makes us want to eat less since it would take so long to make a large elaborate meal. ;-)
    Tonie, thanks for your comments. As we add more and more fruit from our farm I think we can only become even healthier!
    Barbara, that’s cool you’re in Rincón! Maybe we’ll see you out and about at some of the healthy spots (or perhaps for a rum punch -Linda are you down? haha.)

    Reply
  6. Barbara Schutt

    Daisy invited us to Saturday’s event in Aguada with your band playing but we couldn’t make it…I’m so sorry! We are such early risers and are so tired by early evening but maybe we’ll run into at the Artwalk or something.

    Reply
  7. Alecia Zink

    hey, thanks for this useful post. I’ve been trying to lose weight for about 4 months and I’ve come to the decision that it all depends on eating healthy.

    Reply

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