Fat to Fit to First Level: Doubling Down

Kaliwohi makes progress while Esther plateaus — and decides to jump right in to a new 21-day challenge.

Sometimes, our equine riding partner develops at a different rate than we do. Kaliwohi recently had a breakthrough with respect to flexibility and relaxation. He’s reaching down into the contact and relaxing his back.

I’m delighted with his progress, because this is such a major component of his foundational training. Now that his spine is relaxing, he can begin to engage more with his hindquarters.

It took us a good month to achieve this level of consistent relaxation, but it will prove invaluable as we progress on to the next steps in his training. These “next steps” include conditioning exercises to build his loin and back muscles, and additional bending/flexing exercises to improve his suppleness and “bendability.”

While Kiwi had a breakthrough, I have been on a plateau, weight-loss wise, for the past three weeks. For two of those weeks, I lost a few ounces, but nothing spectacular. Last week, after being on a business trip to Chicago for several days, my bathroom scale was rather unkind – I had re-gained a couple of pounds, despite drinking water, eating reasonably, and walking (and sweating) a lot every day.

As you may recall, New Zealander and HorseNation reader Maree Thom is a health and wellness teacher. She’s also a professional musician and an avid equestrian. Maree has been coaching me for the past few weeks on nutrition, with a focus on how excess carbs and sugar can really upset the delicate balance of a healthy human body.

Maree is a cheery, energetic, sincere, very knowledgeable health and wellness coach, and I enjoy our Skype sessions very much. And, like any great riding instructor, Maree is also capable of giving “tough love” when necessary.

She’s been patient with me while I’ve resisted going completely “carb-free” these past couple of weeks. But recently, she dropped a gauntlet at my feet.

“I challenge you,” said Maree in her delightful accent, “to a 21-day eating challenge!” I want to break through this plateau before it becomes a launchpad for regaining any weight I’ve lost thus far, so I accepted the challenge! Since I have one more trip coming up very soon, Maree suggested I plan ahead and pick a date that is far enough in the future I can get to the grocery store and make meal plans and all that.


September 1 through September 21 are the dates I’ve chosen for my “21 day challenge.” And, so y’all can follow along with my progress, I will be writing about this challenge here each Friday for the next four weeks, starting today! I’m sharing the details of Maree’s “21 day challenge” so you can even come on board with the challenge yourself if you like!

I don’t know that I’ll make it, but I’m sure gonna try! After all – I can do anything for 21 days, right?!? Going without my stroopwafel or Friday night ice cream is not going to be easy for me. But I am determined to lose this weight, and if enduring 21 days of zero ice cream is one way to help me succeed, then BRING IT!

Without further ado, here is Maree’s 21-day challenge, with additional links and info below!

“Maree Thom’s 21 Day Challenge. Follow the steps and the results will speak for themselves.”

1. Eat real food.  
Uh oh. This means I’ll have to cook for the next three weeks!

2. Avoid sugar, grains, unhealthy fats, and beans/legumes.
This will definitely be challenging for me, but I’m game to give it all I’ve got!

3. Align your carb intake with your weight goals and activity levels.  
For a helpful tracker of carbs and other nutritional info, Maree suggested I use PaleoTrack. I have found it to be an extremely useful tool!

4. Move frequently at a slow pace to achieve two to five hours per week of moderate aerobic exercise.  
I plan to hike 30 minutes a day on my hilly East Tennessee farm! This is in addition to my yoga practice.

5.  Lift heavy things: Conduct one to three brief, intense sessions of full-body functional movements. 10-20 minutes MAX!  
I’m not sure how Maree defines “heavy” but I’m thinking I’ll use my 38-lb “LJ” wide tree western saddle and lift it up on a two-saddle tier rack, take it off, on again, off again, with a swinging motion like using a scythe to cut grass. Then again, maybe I should just buy a scythe and be productive!

6. Sprint: Go “all out” once a week. This could be on a bike, rowing machine, or simply walking at your fastest pace. No need to run unless you want to.  
I used to run 5Ks for fun. I was slow as a turtle – as in, my PR is over 30 minutes for the 5K. Molasses sllllllooooooow. And yet I do love to run, slow as I am. I plan to do 15 minutes, one day each week, of five reps of two minutes sprinting plus one minute walk break.

7.  Get eight hours of sleep every night.
Seriously?! I have such issues with chronic insomnia, sometimes I’m fortunate to get eight hours of sleep a week! But, Maree, I will try my hardest to comply with step seven of your 21 day challenge, I promise.

8. Get 15 minutes of direct sun exposure each day.
I plan to multitask and have my daily 30 minute hike count as my daily 15 minutes of “direct sun exposure.”

9. Play!  Find time to let go, disconnect, unwind and have fun each day!
For me, that means riding Kaliwohi or dancing in the barn aisle with the stereo cranked!

In next week’s column, I’m going to talk about the foods I’ve chosen, what foods I’ve been surprised to find are full of carbs, and those “nuts and bolts” type things as I start this 21-day challenge.

Who’s with me? September 1 – 21. Twenty-one days. Let’s DO this!


Join me on this journey on Facebook: Fat to Fit at Horse Nation (page and group), and my blog www.appalachianchic.com.

Go Riding.

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