My Journey to a Healthier Lifestyle: Part 1

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Image by Vidmir Raic from Pixabay

Hands up if you, too, fell victim to the Quarantine 15! Not sure what I’m talking about? It’s the little catchphrase coined after the Freshman 15 that makes gaining weight in a short amount of time sound fun and innocent. And maybe a little weight gain when we’re younger wasn’t such a big deal, but now that I’m in my mid-thirties, it literally feels like I can look at a pizza and gain weight.

Like many, many other people out there, I ate (and drank) my way through the early weeks of quarantine in March and April. I had no regrets at the time. All the extra baking we were doing felt good and the fruit of our efforts was absolutely delicious. But before I knew it, all the baby weight I lost from my last pregnancy was erased and the gains I had been making on weight loss were replaced with gains on the scale. And for awhile, if I’m being honest, I just didn’t care.

But when the Quarantine 15 didn’t come off, I started getting worried. And frustrated. And less confident. So in August, I decided to do something about it. I made an appointment with a registered dietician to help me make better food choices and lose the weight – for good.

I’m not on a diet. This isn’t a temporary fix before a big event. I will have ups and downs. It will take awhile.

And I thought what better place to share than right here, on a blog for moms, where maybe we can all cheer each other on for the little wins and small improvements that one day, can make a big difference on our overall health and well-being.

     >>Before we get started, just know that I will not post before/after photos or weight. I’m not that much of a sharer to begin with, and my photos and numbers are a reflection of me. Your experiences, circumstances, photos, and numbers are all about you. And I’m not going to compare myself or my journey with someone else’s, and neither should you. What I will do is post periodic updates of my progress, setbacks, tips I’m learning along the way, and experiences so that maybe we can learn and commiserate together.

When I first met with my dietician, we agreed that this isn’t going to look like a diet. I don’t want to be a stickler for counting calories or writing down every single thing I eat or drink, because for me that’s not sustainable. What I want is a healthier lifestyle and a better relationship with food, which over time, will result in weight loss. What I am trying to do is focus on the long-term. For example, I am not going to give up pizza for the long-term. What I can do, though, is limit myself to two slices of pizza per serving plus a side salad. I’m not going to stop enjoying beer or wine, either. But what I can do is limit myself to enjoying them less frequently and in less quantities. [sidenote: I’m for sure not an alcoholic but I’d be lying if I said I hardly ever drink. I have kids. Of course, I drink.]

Balance.

That’s the word that my dietician is helping me define. We’re working on making healthier swaps permanent, like wheat bread instead of white as an easy example. Or instead of the granola bars that my kids eat as a snack, maybe I choose a protein bar.

Balance isn’t going to lose weight right away. In fact, I’ve been really frustrated at different points recently because even though I’ve been feeling better, the number on the scale hasn’t dropped more than five pounds since summer. In the meantime, she is helping me track other milestones and benchmarks that the scale can’t. [other sidenote: she told me that there are so many things that can influence weight, like how much water we drank, how much sleep we’re getting, time of day, when we ate last, etc etc that it’s far from the best barometer to gauge overall health.]

These are some of the tactics I’ve been using to create a healthier lifestyle. At this point, we are sticking with my macro goals; as in, what are my overall needs per day in terms of protein, fiber, etc instead of the micronutrients like vitamins and minerals.

  • Include a protein source with every meal and snack. My personal protein goal went from 100 g / day to 130 g / day. That means I now must incorporate protein powder and be more mindful of what I’m eating to hit that goal.
  • Get five servings of fruits and vegetables every day: three veggies, two fruits.
  • Drink at least one cup of green tea every day.
  • Aim for 1,500 calories per day.
  • Go to the gym twice a week; part of a goal of getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.
  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night, or most nights.
  • Drink around 75-80 oz of water each day.
  • Properly manage stress.

Most days, I can hit my fruits and veggies goals, as well as my green tea, and I can usually come pretty close to my protein goals the majority of the time. Where I struggle the most is making time to work out, sleeping enough, and managing stress. I am also still figuring out what works best for me: either several smaller snacks/meals throughout the day or three meals and one snack. Sometimes, eating smaller portions more frequently makes eating feel like a chore, but eating larger amounts less frequently can lead to me feeling too full. 

The way she explained it is that our health, and by extension our weight, is influenced by four factors: sleep, stress, food, and exercise. Sleep and stress management are the foundation. Without them, the rest just won’t work. Exercise makes up only a small portion of weight loss. Most of it – weight – is influenced by sleep, stress, and food. As the saying goes, you can’t outrun a bad diet and most weight loss occurs in the kitchen. Or out of it, as it were.

The other thing we talked about early on was balancing the types of carbs I eat. 80 percent of my carb intake needs to be from the 20 percent best types of carbs, like whole wheat, quinoa, whole rolled oats/oatmeal, and natural sugar found in fruit. Less than 20 percent of average carb intake needs to be from the least value-added types of carbs, like white bread, white pasta, and sugar from sweets and baked goods.

I am a work in progress and while I aim for these goals, I don’t hit them all as often as I should. Or I would lose weight a little faster. My little wins recently are that I’ve made it to the gym at least once per week the last two weeks, so that’s a plus, and I’ve been on my feet with the kids at the playground quite a bit lately. I’m not feeling sluggish during the day anymore, and I’ve lost the big urges to overeat or mindlessly eat. I’ll usually only eat baked goods if I think it’s going to be really, really good … so for example, a Giant Eagle doughnut or processed cookie just isn’t good enough to waste calories on. I might not be losing a lot of weight quickly, but I stopped gaining it.

What ways are you finding balance in your lifestyle? What tips and advice help you manage healthier choices? I’d love to see some of your experiences in the comments below.

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