Illustrated image credits:
I am in serious need of a health and fitness reboot. After both kids, I worked my way back to a healthy place but going back to work after my second and then months spent planning a renovation and then executing it derailed the routine and balance that I worked towards. It’s been over a year since the renovation and there are no more valid excuses left.
I love reading and hearing about other people’s journeys. I asked Andrea to share her story. She and her husband work full time and are parents to a 2 year old daughter. They gave their food and fitness habits a reboot by starting with nutrition and then adding the T25 exercise program. With incremental changes, they are feeling a real difference just a few months later. They stick to their program most days. When they skip a day, they get right back to it and don’t let a day off derail them. She shares her story and her top tips for eating and moving.
The first time I ever really committed to a workout routine and healthier eating I went all in. I was about 165 pounds. I went from meat eater to vegetarian to vegan to primarily raw eating. Yes, I spread this out over the course of about 10 months or so, but still it was too much, too fast. I was losing weight rapidly (at one point I was down to 118 and I am 5’7, so I was pretty thin). I started losing my hair and I even started skipping periods. I realized I couldn’t continue on that path, and gradually I worked my way back to a much more balanced lifestyle. I began eating meat again but it was a higher quality and lower quantity. I still made fresh green juice, but I didn’t live off of that exclusively for days at a time. In a nutshell, I learned moderation. But that time period was all pre-baby. Having a kid makes finding that balance THAT much harder.
I breastfed via exclusively pumping for a little over a year. I’m a woman that some other women really hate because I lost weight while breastfeeding. Yes, no matter much how much I ate and how crappy the quality (and trust me, I was hungry and eating all of the time), I lost weight. As I weaned and my breastfeeding journey ended, the pounds crept back on. I was a few pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight when I said, “Okay, enough is enough. Cut the bull and get to work. No more excuses.” Plus my kid was getting closer to turning two, so the whole, “I have a newborn and am breastfeeding around the clock and working full-time,” excuse really wasn’t true anymore.
So, where could I start making changes first? With food. I’m not a big exercise person. It’s just not my thing. I always find it easier to begin with food. Easiest steps you can take:
- Drink more water
- Eat less food with barcodes
- Drink more water
- Eat more vegetables
- Drink more water
I’m assuming you have figured out a trend here, yes? I’m not saying go vegan or vegetarian because you know what? That doesn’t work for everyone. It didn’t work for me. But I would be shocked if you can find someone who could prove to me that drinking more water, eating more vegetables, and eating less heavily-processed foods is not going to help you. Seriously, if there is some science that backs that up, send it to me. I would love to see that info.
Second change for me: get back to making my fresh green juice most days. I prep the ingredients I need for a daily serving of green juice on the weekend. Then all I need to do is to drop those ingredients in the juicer, clean the juicer and go about my day. Much easier than cleaning and sorting produce every single day, but the juice is still fresh (you really want to drink it as fresh as possible). It’s a great way to get more vegetables and fruit in your life. And you know what? Because I started my toddler on it so young, she loves it too. I juice a head of celery, some kale, romaine or spinach, a lemon, an apple, an inch of ginger and 1/8 of a pineapple. But you can create your own version. For optimal digestion, I drink it on an empty stomach. The only thing I drink before that is a mug of warm (not hot) water with the juice of a lemon added. It helps with digestion and is a great way to start your day. Add a dash of cayenne if that’s cool with your taste buds.
I also like to drink butter coffee. That’s how I get my caffeine fix and a solid serving of what I consider to be good-quality fat. I add a half of a tablespoon of grassfed butter (unsalted), a half of a tablespoon of coconut oil, a little sweetener and a dash of cinnamon to my blender along with hot Bulletproof coffee. I blend it for a few seconds and then drink the deliciousness. I drink it like that pretty much every day.
For lunch, I usually have a protein shake. Most days. Not all days. Some days I go to lunch with coworkers and order whatever the hell sounds good because that’s what moderation means to me. But most days, I have what I call a shake. I prep three or four shakes ahead of time on the weekend. Mine include a frozen banana, a cup of coffee, a cup of homemade cashew milk (stupid easy to do but you can use whatever milk you darn well please), a scoop of vanilla protein powder and a dash of cinnamon. I make several on the weekend and pull them out of the freezer when I get up in the morning. It’s typically thawed enough so I can drink it at lunchtime.
I do snack between meals, especially on days I’m just doing a shake for lunch. I do my best to keep Epic protein bars, Lara bars, fresh fruit etc. on-hand as much as possible. I drink water all day. I drink herbal tea when I need to change it up. I have local honey and apple cider vinegar on-hand, too as well as lemons when I think about bringing a few to work to help enhance my water.
Dinner, more often than not, is a protein (grassfed beef or organic chicken) and a vegetable. We have gotten really good about cutting out unnecessary carbs. Yes, macaroni and cheese is delicious. But even if it’s organic, we just don’t need to cook and eat that multiple times a week. And for those wondering, organic mac & cheese is not healthy. It’s just organic. Organic and healthy are not the same thing. This is still a common misconception, so I figured I would throw that out there.
By keeping dinner simple, not only is it healthier, but there’s less to clean afterwards. My daughter can typically eat just about anything we cook, so we don’t have to prep a bunch of separate stuff for her. That’s super helpful!
I also make bone broth on the weekend and we will drink that with dinner during the week until we run out. Again, I’m not going to try to school everyone on the benefits of bone broth. Look it up and decide if it works for you. My husband and I are believers, and my husband hardly buys into any of my “hippie crap” as he calls it. But bone broth? Yeah, he’s a fan.
But what about when I want a pizza? Or pasta? Or what if I’m out with friends at a nice restaurant and the seafood risotto is calling my name? Eat the pizza. Eat the pasta. Eat the risotto. Just don’t eat that way at every meal, every day, and don’t eat yourself sick.
Moderation means more often than not I am eating the “healthy/balanced” stuff. So when I do stuff my face with delicious risotto, I can enjoy it without feeling like a totally terrible person about it (which would result in binging on more less-than-ideal food choices over the new few days/weeks/months/years with the thought-process of, “You already screwed up so might as well keep screwing up”). If I don’t allow myself some guilt-free treats, meals etc. sometimes, I will drive myself nuts. And that’s not going to help.
Okay, but what about exercise? Did I mention I hate exercise? I do. With every fibre of my being. Every minute of a workout, I hate the person yelling at me in the workout video, I hate the people I run past in my neighborhood (people who are just outside being normal people but they aren’t running at the moment like me, so I hate them) and I hate everyone in the world who isn’t working out at that exact moment I’m working out. Because that just seems unfair. I would rather be eating, sleeping, watching paint dry etc. than working out.
But I do it. Lately that means I do T25. 25 minutes of an actual workout I can do at home with very minimal equipment after my kid is in bed. Don’t have weights? Use canned goods. Don’t have a mat? Roll out a soft rug. You don’t need much and you don’t have to be in amazing shape to do it. There are modifying moves in every video. And if you can’t do those, then just do something. That’s my motto. “Crap, I can’t even do what modifying girl is doing. Okay, I’ll just alternate knee-ups until they switch to a move I can do.” I’ve played this card many times. Sometimes for what seems like half of the workout video. And I’ve still seen results. So there’s that.
I have definitely lost weight, roughly 14 lbs, and my measurements (which I didn’t bother to take because it’s just not a priority in my busy life) have clearly changed because my clothes are getting big on me. I’ve actually been hitching up my dress pants at work all day because they are really drooping. Heaven forbid I actually wear a belt or buy new pants. I’m too cheap for that. Maybe when they literally fall off of me one day. Maybe then. Maybe.
So, top tips anyone can utilise:
- Drink more water
- Eat more vegetables.
- Eat less food with a barcode. Overall, increase the quality and quantity of food that actually adds nutritional value to your life. Decrease the quantity of food that doesn’t.
- Move more. Maybe that means a quick walk at lunch or taking the stairs versus the elevator. If you can work your way up to actual exercise, awesome. But be easy on yourself. And know your limitations. If you skip a workout one day because you need time with your kid or spouse or for yourself, that’s cool. Just get back to it the next day. Don’t simply let skipping one day justify skipping again.
- Don’t try to do everything at once. Baby steps. If you try to do it all at one time, you will almost certainly fail.
- Give yourself a goal. My first goal this summer has been to get bikini-ready for a trip to a lake house with friends. My definition of bikini-ready is probably different than yours. And that’s cool. Only you have to be happy with whatever your goal is.
- Moderation. Don’t think you are going to switch from eating drive-thru food seven times a week to a raw, vegan lifestyle at the drop of a hat. This ties into number five. Don’t do it all at once. Make some small changes and adjust accordingly until you find your “happy place.” Still eat the pizza. Eat the risotto. Just not all day, every day.
- Prep when you can to save yourself time during the busy work week. Involve your kid. My toddler loves watching me make my juice and then swigs a few ounces when I’m done. When she’s older, I’m totally going to let her prep my bags for me. Uh, for us. I mean us.
- Use a food scale to measure things out if at all possible. Especially when you are first starting out. Measuring cups and spoons are okay, but a food scale is way more accurate. It’s a little annoying at first, but you’ll be amazed how much you are probably underestimating your servings of food.
- A program/app like myfitnesspal can help you. Especially when you are first starting out. I’m not saying those apps are perfect, but it gives you a better idea of what a day should probably look like for someone your size with your goals in mind. I don’t always log EVERYTHING, but I have a pretty good sense of what I want an average day to be thanks to MFP.
Thank you, Andrea!
My Reboot Plan
“How you eat and move your body should be enjoyable, and make your life less stressful. It should make you feel better about yourself and make you appreciate your body not just for how it looks, but for what it can do. It should be part of your life, and shouldn’t dominate it”
– Nia Shanks
My goal is to live well everyday because continuous health and fitness can’t be had in spurts. I had previously donated my pre-baby clothes and had replaced them with clothes that I felt good in and that were comfortable but many of those no longer fit either so I want to be able to wear all the clothes in my closet without risking split seams and put the money I would have spent on new clothes towards a vacation with my family. This means:
1 – Eating well
For me, this is eating food I enjoy and that makes my body feel good and function well. My biggest challenges when it comes to food, aside from a serious chip addition, are portion sizes and multiple servings. I enjoy cooking and we eat good, “real” food – just much too much in my case. I tend to eat a lot while cooking, have multiple servings during the meal, and then finish up my kids’ leftovers which adds up to much more food than I need. I need to stick to one serving per meal and I need to stop multitasking while I’m eating. If I’m not eating in company, I’m either working or reading or watching something which means I often clean my plate without even realising it. When this happens, I often feel like I didn’t actually eat and reach for more. So, no more multitasking when eating. I’m also working on drinking a lot more water. I simply forget to drink and then wonder why my eyeballs feel like raisins. I also need to stop confusing fatigue, thirst, joy, sorrow, and stress for hunger.
2 – Moving more everyday
I joined the gym earlier in the year and had planned to go before doing the daycare pick up 3 times a week but found myself using this time to run errands instead so there were many weeks when I only went once or not at all. I am going back to getting up earlier and starting the day with exercise. This has been most successful for me in the past. I like doing YouTube workout videos and have made playlists of videos of varying lengths – this way if I’m feeling bored, I can do multiple short videos to change it up or if I oversleep, I can at least get a quick workout in and not blow it off because I don’t have enough time. I enjoy workouts from:
- Popsugar Fitness (there is also a free app which has the workouts split into categories and allows you to download workouts to your phone)
- Fitness Blender
If you are giving yourself a reboot, wishing you every success! If you have any tips or stories to share, please do so in the comments.
Good reads and resources:
- In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan (amazon.ca; amazon.com)
- 10 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism
- 9 Things to Cut Out of Your Life to Be Healthy