When I finally decided to commit to a lifestyle change FOR GOOD I needed to change more than just what I ate and how much I ate. Yes, that was a start, but in the grand scheme of things in my life, more than that needed to change. These changes added up over time and helped contribute to my success so far. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I started out by changing just my food intake (no fast, fried, or junk food) and then I eventually made other changes to aid my progress.
I subscribe to the “too much too soon” rule. If someone told you to stop smoking, stop drinking, start exercising, don’t eat fast food, drink more water, and eat more vegetables ALL STARTING RIGHT NOW, you would probably be like “HELLLL NAAAW, get outta my face!” You can’t expect to make so many drastic changes and stick with them. You have to be realistic when you make changes. If you choose just one of those things and can stick to it long enough to make it a habit, then you can incorporate new ones in and you have a better (in my opinion) chance for success. This is for two reasons- I think that you feel a sense of confidence after maintaining a new change in your lifestyle, whether it be you didn’t smoke for a couple of weeks or you only drank a glass of wine when you went out to dinner and not every night. Second, I think your chance of success is higher because you didn’t do too much too quickly and set yourself up for backlash or feeling too much pressure to quit or give in.
When I lost my initial 40 lbs from diet alone (even though I would eventually gain 25 back), I felt a sense of confidence that I could change other things that would help me on my ultimate journey to get healthy. I had become successful at exerting some sort of will power over food for the first time in my life and I was nearly 30 years old. It was more than enough for me to realize that maybe I could start exercising. GASP! I started out in our old apartment gym on an elliptical. I’m not lying when I said I only made it 5 minutes. At 220 lbs with no resistance and no incline I only made it 5 minutes. Well…It was a start. If only I could build on that. So I did. I eventually got up to about 20 minutes within 2 weeks. I hadn’t been introduced to the world of Interval training or HIIT (high intensity interval training), so I did what I could. Unfortunately, at this exact time I started suffering from sciatica and my Dr told me no exercise other than my physical therapy. There was a bonus! I learned some awesome stretches that I still use to this day when my sciatica flares (*which is right now-OWWWW.) Double unfortunately, I had to have unrelated surgery at that time and it caused me to be down for the count for almost 3 months. All at the same time that this was happening, we decided to move an hour back to my home town. Upon moving back and healing, I gained back 25 lbs because of depression, pain, feeling sorry for myself, being out of work, etc. It wasn’t a good time.
Flash forward to Fall 2014 when I had set my wedding date and it lit a fire under my ass. I was up to 235 lbs and wanted to by 175 within a year. (I actually surpassed that goal! YAY) My now husband and I had joined a gym about a year prior so I had been going to water aerobics, and using the elliptical on occasion, but I was not challenging myself. I got my eating under control and started cooking more. I discovered pinterest (for the wedding at first) and it changed the game! I had a plethora of healthy recipes and I wanted to try them all! I realized there really wasn’t a vegetable I didn’t like! I realized I don’t need to eat beef and pork (I miss you sometimes, bacon. Ok, a lot of the time.)
I was on my way!
Healthy Habits I incorporated:
- I started drinking raw apple cider vinegar (2-4 tablespoons) in an 8 oz glass of warm lemon water first thing in the morning to aid digestion. It also has proven weight loss capabilities due to its ability to reduce the rate at which glucose (sugar) enters the blood thereby lowering blood sugar levels. I’ve been doing this every single day for 2 years and it is officially part of my morning routine. The grocery store clerks always ask me if I’m making lemonade because I buy so many lemons a week.
- I was (and need to get back) a gym rat. I started going a minimum of 4 days a week, but a lot of the time it was 5 or 6. I stepped outside my comfort zone and took a zumba class and enjoyed it! I started weight lifting. As a woman, I cannot tell you how important this was to my success. Not only does it boost your metabolism, burn more fat, build lean muscle, and help you lose inches, but it makes you a badass at the gym. I got over my fear of lifting in front of the gym jocks. I started on the machines and then read about how free weights (done safely and correctly) are more effective. I began a routine that I made up comprised of moves I’d found and put together on pinterest or through videos. I started with 8 lb hand weights and now use 12s and 15s. I eventually became brave enough to use kettlebells. I do 30 lb kettle swings, squats, and whatever they call those other things where you jerk them up over your shoulder. In my mind, I’m a badass when I lift weights. I even got some fancy gloves. I’ve kinda fallen off the wagon of being consistent with it, but so it goes… I’ll get back. I also started HIIT training on the ARC trainer which is a stepper elliptical combo. It only takes 20 minutes of HIIT to make a difference. You burn calories long after you are done when you do intervals. So, 60 minutes at an average pace on an average resistance is really not doing you any favors. Well, some favors I suppose. I have since added PIYO (think fast cardio yoga) and maaaan, it kicks my butt, but I CAN FREAKIN DO IT! I’m so proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and challenging myself this last month to try something new. I’ve done cardio fusion a bit too. I really haven’t been going to the gym as much, but it’s ok because I know that my success comes from 80% diet. I do the exercise for the mental health, the endorphins, the strength and muscle building, and the heart health. The weight loss comes from the kitchen.
- Meal planning. I may sound like a crazy person, but it really helps me when I devote a few hours of my weekend to cooking and prepping. I’ve written at length about it in my previous posts. It is crucial to my success at this point. I’m not so rigid that I don’t allow wiggle room. I aborted the plan last night in favor of a calzone for my hubby and a grilled chicken salad last night at a local Italian place. No worries. I just like having healthy lunch options during the week so it is worth it to me to spend an hour the week before picking recipes for the weekend and then 3 or 4 dinners for the upcoming week. I make the shopping list, buy the stuff, and my awesome husband helps execute when I work late. We make a great team.
- No processed foods. It’s not really a healthy habit as much as it is a commitment to not eating fake crap. It’s that simple. I don’t want bullshit. I want real, whole food. If it comes from a bag, box, or drive thru, I don’t eat it. Easy.
- I started drinking an insane amount of water. I am now up to 16 cups or 1 gallon a day. I basically drink all day (and go to the bathroom an equal amount.) I have a 32 oz nalgene and drink 4 a day plus my glass in the morning. It helps me to realize I’m not hungry, but rather thirsty throughout the day in between meals. I don’t force myself to drink, but I find that I am that thirsty. Some days I only drink 12 cups.
- No alcohol. This is pretty much a very specific habit for me, but an easy one to maintain. I’ve never been a drinker. When I read about it exacerbating endometriosis, the occasional glass of wine ceased. It turns out a lot of people I know can dramatically lose weight by cutting alcohol consumption. (especially beer.) Don’t remove it completely if it’s your favorite thing, just think about reduction. mmmmm, Wine reduction over a nice steak…
- Stretching daily/yoga. There is something about taking time out of your day to be fully present with yourself without labeling it as meditation. About 2 years ago I started a regimen of stretching that I would do every morning for 20-30 minutes. Now I’ve expanded this routine to include a few ab exercises, a plank, and yoga. I’m fortunate at my job that I get some time to myself during the day to take a break and do this. Even if you don’t do it at work, you can find time in the early morning (or if you’re me- HELL NO) or in the evening. When I don’t do it at work, I will do it before weights/cardio at the gym. I even filmed my routine about 2 years ago and put it on YouTube as “stretching with Sarah.” I really hope it’s lost in the black hole of the internet. I find I’m energized, reinvigorated, and in a better mood after I do this routine. Sometimes I’ll do it to music, but other times I just enjoy the silence. Silence is so rare in our lives these days. It’s important to focus on your breathing and be fully present. You can burn calories just stretching! Plus, tai chi and other things I have incorporated are proven to help with flexibility and longevity. I also bought a foam roller! This thing is bad ass. It really helps my sciatica and is great for any kind of muscle pain or soreness. I need to use it more.
- Meditation/Mindfulness. I’m working on this one. I don’t try hard enough. I want to make this part of the routine like everything else in this list, but I haven’t quite mastered it yet. I struggle with turning off my mind. I know everyone tells me it takes practice, but I am making every excuse I can think of to give up before I even try. I’m also trying to be more mindful of everything, not just my eating. I’m definitely very in tune with my body and how it feels good or doesn’t feel good so I’m trying to extend that into other aspects of my life. This is the one thing I really want to focus more energy on in the future. I learned about the practice of QiGong recently and it is a way to harness the Chi (life energy) within you and clear energy pathways throughout your body that contribute to both physical and emotional pain. Here are some easy exercises that are a lot like mindfulness/meditation: 15 minute Qi Gong Exercises
- Walking/biking. When you can’t get to the gym or you don’t belong to a gym, find something that you can do that will help you be more active. When I started out losing the bulk of my weight, I was the nanny for a wonderful 2 year old and every day we would take a 30 minute walk (even if I knew I was going to work out later.) I made it part of our daily routine. Now at my current job, I have incorporated either a 30 minute walk or a 30 minute bike ride (toting that kid trailer is NO JOKE) every day. Regardless of whether I think I will get to the gym, I still do this. It’s like my stretching; it energizes me and helps clear my head. So if you have time on a lunch break or in the evening with the kids, jump on the bike, roll out the stroller, or go alone-just get moving!
- Loving myself at this exact point in time. This is a big one! Healthy habits include your mental health. I’m not perfect, nor will I ever be perfect. I struggle. I beat myself up for no reason. I obsess. I hold on to feelings that I should let go. I try too hard. I don’t try hard enough. I’m HUMAN. It’s so very important for me to reflect on where I started, what I’ve been through, and where I am at this exact moment. I am grateful and overjoyed to be able to express how happy it makes me that I can inspire just one of my friends or a reader. I’ve been told many times how I’ve helped others make small changes and that really puts it into perspective for me. The abundance that comes from having an open heart and an ever expanding mind for learning new things and stepping out of my comfort zone has shown me that this journey has been worth it not just for the physical aspects alone, but for the person I’ve grown to become.
I’ve come a long way, baby! This journey isn’t over. I’m going to keep challenging myself and loving myself every step of the way. Whether you want to lose 10 lbs or 100 lbs or just build muscle, look within and believe in yourself. YOU ARE WORTH IT. So, what are you waiting for? Message me. Reach out. I can be your accountability buddy, add you to an accountability group, show you some exercises you don’t need a gym or equipment for, or help design a meal plan you can stick to.
You know what they say: