Hello again OSSS readers! It’s Lindsay back with you again, talking about something that’s very important to me.
It’s almost the end of January and my guess is some of us have already “failed” at our new year’s resolutions of losing weight, or eating healthy, or getting fit, or quitting sugar, etc. etc. And understandably so. Getting healthy, losing weight, eating right–those are all hard things to do. Good, and necessary, but hard.
A little over 3 years ago, I had (what I hope to be) my last baby. It was always hard for me to stay motivated and lose all my baby weight after each baby when I was planning to get pregnant again. But after our last baby, it was go-time. And by “go-time” I mean 8 months after I had him I was finally motivated and ready to get back in shape. For the record, I didn’t exercise while pregnant with my last baby (unless you count chasing around 3 other kids as exercise, and it should probably count) nor was I a healthy eater while pregnant. I ate anything and everything all day long and put on a good 50+ pounds. And I was as out-of-shape as I had ever been in my life. I had my work cut out for me.
During this process, I started getting a lot of questions about what I was doing to lose the weight and get back in shape. I learned a LOT during the next year as I literally worked my butt off to get healthy and thought I’d share some of the lessons from getting healthy that I learned.
The first and most important thing I learned: what you eat and how often you eat will be THE biggest factor in your success. The truth is, I LOVE food. And I’m an eater. I can easily out-eat my husband and several of my brothers. I like to eat, and I like to eat a lot. I’ve never been a big snacker, but I’m definitely a big meal girl, especially dinner. I like a big dinner. I seriously get famished in the middle of the night and wake up starving for breakfast.
I’m also not willing to say I can’t have something. If I tell myself I can’t have something, that’s all I want. So when I talk about food, I am most definitely NOT talking about a diet. I don’t diet. Ever.
For me, the key was to eat healthier foods, eat as much protein as I possibly could, cut out as much processed food as I could, and drink more water than I thought I could handle. And eat LESS food MORE often. That was my biggest adjustment. My goal was to eat around 1500 calories a day when I was trying to lose weight. So I split those 1500 calories up into 5 smaller “meals” instead of 3 bigger meals.
And then one day a week, I get to eat whatever I want. But when you exercise crazy hard all week and start to eat healthier foods, your cravings literally change and you don’t want to spend a day eating a bunch of crap. Maybe just one crappy thing. Or two.
Eating better in smaller portions more often made the biggest difference in getting healthy.
My “before” and “after.” These photos were taken 4 months apart:
The second lesson: exercise smarter not longer. The one thing people said to me most often was “Are you running a lot?” I love running. And it will be a part of my life as long as my legs will allow, but that’s not how I lost weight. For the first time in my life, I tried using an exercise DVD and IT WORKED!!! High-intensity interval training. The shortest video was 40 minutes and the longest was 56 minutes. I never exercised more than an hour. But when I did exercise, it was hard and often had me begging for mercy. It was effective and efficient. And it literally changed the shape of my body and got me in the best shape of my life. And it didn’t require any equipment. Definite win.
Lesson number three: Drink TONS of water. I kept a water bottle out on my counter and drank from it every time I passed it. Water. Water. Water. And if possible, give up soda. I know, all the Diet Coke drinkers out there are cursing my name right now. But I truthfully think it makes a difference when you’re trying to lose weight.
Another valuable lesson was to not feel guilty for taking the time to exercise. I’m a mom. Which means I suffer from “mom-guilt.” About anything and everything. And for awhile, I was feeling guilty for giving my kids an iPad or a pile of toys and snacks and begging them to entertain themselves for 45 minutes so I could exercise (getting up before the kids when my baby still wasn’t sleeping through the night wasn’t an option at this point). But then I realized how much nicer I am when I get some exercise in each day. And it was good for my kids to see me exercising and understand that regular exercise is an important and crucial part of our human existence. So I got over the guilt issue as quickly as I could. And my kids adapted pretty quickly. Mom exercises. It’s better (and safer) for all of us.
Even then, they still try to sabotage my efforts.
And last, don’t make it about how much you weigh. Yes, weight is a good gauge to track progress, but it’s not a good end-goal (despite what the people of The Biggest Loser make us think). I never weighed myself more than once-a-week. And sometimes I went several weeks without weighing. My body shape changed, my clothes sizes got smaller, I physically felt better than I ever had in my life and that was truly my gauge. Now that I’m down to a size I feel is healthy for me, I haven’t weighed myself in months. Weight is overrated.
Bonus lesson: This is one I didn’t do at the time, but having a good heart rate monitor and tracking your heart rate is incredibly helpful when you’re trying to lose weight. It’s a pretty accurate way to know how many calories you burned, so you know how many calories to eat. Sometimes, our problem is that we aren’t eating enough calories. And unless you know how many you’re burning, it’s hard to know how many to eat.
Eat healthy, exercise smart, drink lots of water, don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself, and use the scale sparingly. The journey to a healthier life is not an easy one. But it is one that will literally change the course of your life. So if you fell off the New Year’s Resolution wagon, get back on and try again. And again. And again. If I can do it, trust me, you can do it.