So I started my real life personal challenge to get healthier on January 2, 2014. Let me again make the point that this is not a resolution. As I stated in my previous post, I don’t make them. This is a challenge I made for myself. A lifestyle change that I am choosing to make. If you haven’t read my original post Here’s to Health! take a read. Now, a week and a half later, I thought I would share an update and pass along things that I have learned through my challenge so far, that may be helpful to you if you are trying to diet or get in shape. But first I have to stop and take a moment to pat myself on the back. This hasn’t been easy for me at all, and I very proud of myself for having the willpower and determination to do this. At times my husband has made comments such as “What have you done with my wife?!”, and “Who are you?!”. He knows firsthand that I have no willpower usually. I even threw away the rest of the homemade cookies from Christmas, which NEVER would have happened before! My husband has been very encouraging, helping me when he can so that I can get my workouts in, and frequently telling me that he is proud of me for having the willpower and determination to stick to a diet. It is so helpful to have the support of your spouse.
For me this health challenge isn’t just about losing weight. I know that I don’t need to lose a lot of weight, my goal is get back to my weight prior to the pregnancy with my third child. This isn’t about my husband or anyone telling me that I need to lose weight, that isn’t the case. For me it’s more about creating a healthier body and lifestyle, and the goal of getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Ultimately I want to create a new lifestyle for myself to follow that will help me to have more energy, feel better physically, feel better about myself, make time for me, and ultimately lead to a healthier being. Being healthier and more physically fit will help me to be a better mother and wife. Believe me, I know all too well the challenges of finding time for this. As a wife, mother of 3, business owner, working a part-time job from home, and blogging, I rarely have time to fit anything extra in my schedule. That is what brought me to where I now am. As my husband has said over and over in the past, you just have to make time. And when you do that something has to give, but in the long run, it will give for a happier and healthier you. And your family will thank you.
Disclaimer: I am not a personal trainer or a dietician, the following are just things I learned and discovered during my own personal challenge to live a healthier, more fit life, that I thought might be helpful or inspiring to you. Before starting any exercise or diet regimen you should always consult your doctor, and certainly listen to your body.
First of all, it is imperative that whatever regimen you decide to take on, fits in YOUR lifestyle, and includes things that you will enjoy. It will be difficult to maintain if you set unrealistic expectations, activities, and diet restrictions that are unattainable and difficult for you to fit in your life. And you won’t be able to make a real lifestyle change for the long term. Because ultimately that’s what this has to be about. A lifestyle change. Any diet or exercise regimen is great, but as soon as you go back to your old way of life, whatever progress you made will quickly be undone. For me, I know that it is unrealistic to make the extra time to go to a gym. It’s hard enough for me to squeeze in exercise without adding on the travel time and time to get things ready and load up my toddler. And it just adds stress. Fortunately I have a home gym, and I enjoy walking outside and doing fitness videos. So that works for me.
Exercise is a must in any diet and fitness regimen. It gives you more energy, makes you feel better, tightens and tones your body, increases your self-esteem, gives you a feeling of accomplishment. And most importantly when you exercise while dieting, it burns calories, and allows you the ability to consume more calories and still maintain your weight loss or maintenance. Any time I know that I am going to consume a high calorie meal I make sure that I get exercise in earlier in the day so that I can add to my allowed calorie intake for the day.
To start, I wanted to focus on toning my mid-section to rid the unwanted, excess stuff from the birth of my third child. I decided that alternating cardio and one exercise video would be a good starting point, and allow me to see if the video workout was really working for me. It is important to include various types of exercise in your regimen to avoid boredom, keep you motivated, and work different parts of the body. You don’t want to build one area and forget about the others.
I started out using the 6 Week Six-Pack Abs Workout by Jillian Michaels.
You can find the video by clicking the link above, which will take you to YouTube.
I love this video. As Jillian frequently says, it is “no joke”. Many of the moves are tough for beginners, and I can definitely tell that the level at which I workout during it has improved over the course of time. It works the core and abs, and you will certainly feel it. I have noticed a difference in the tone of my mid section. The “pooch” that remained from my pregnancy is starting to reduce, and my clothes are fitting differently. Tops that fit prior to my pregnancy, but were too tight after, I can now wear again and not feel self-conscious.
I have been alternating the Jillian Michaels video with some type of cardio, either elliptical training, or walking outside when it’s nice. I’m fortunate to have an elliptical trainer at home, and I find that I can quickly and easily get in a good workout on it. However, I get less bored walking outside. When I do walk outside, a great app that my friend Nicole Diehl from Here’s The Diehl recommended is Map My Run. It’s fantastic. It makes it effortless to track the distance and time of your walk or run, and how many calories you burned.
Above is a screen shot from my walk earlier today. The app gives you all of the information that you need, and all you have to do is click a button that says “Start Workout”. That’s all!
After using the same workout video for the past week and a half, I am now ready to start rotating a new video in to the mix and begin working out other areas.
I know, the word we all hate. And I use the term very loosely for myself, because it is not my intent to lose a lot of weight, or really to diet. But in order to be healthier I know that I have to adjust my diet. I LOVE to eat. And I have a major sweet tooth, and am a total carb junky. So this is by far the most difficult part of the challenge for me. But I took it on with an open mind, and great determination. You see, typically I have ZERO willpower when it comes to food. ZERO. Just ask my husband. And up until the last few years I never had to worry about it. But child birth and age has finally caught up with me, and I have to face the reality that I’m not as young as I used to be, and my body isn’t what it used to be. So if I want to maintain the body that I have had in the past, I have to work much harder at it.
In order to lose or maintain weight, counting calories can be necessary. It can be very eye opening. But it doesn’t have to be a way of life forever. It does however help you to get an idea of what portions are, and what you should be eating. Believe me, I wasn’t excited about it either. What a pain I thought it would be. But once again, my friend from Here’s The Diehl came through with her recommendation for an app, My Fitness Pal. Oh my gosh! It is amazing. You can search or scan foods, and almost everything I have tried to put in is already in the system, I just have to add it. Being able to scan a barcode is amazing. Once you locate your food, you just enter the portion of serving that you consumed and it calculates everything for you. Without this app I probably would have long ago given up counting calories.
But when you are greeted on the home page of your app with a post like above letting you know that you have lost weight, it is certainly encouraging! Nicole also gave suggestions in her post 2013, The Recap of how to calculate how many calories you really should be taking in to reach your goals, for your body:
“Here’s a great tool to figure out how many calories you should be eating to lose weight. It’s called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). Fill in the little form (just use the Mifflin-Jeor formula button), and it will give you your TDEE. Multiply that number by 0.8. This is the number of calories you should be eating, and you can manually enter that into your MFP profile, so that it’s your goal every day.
To get your calculated calories manually entered in MFP, follow these quick steps: From the website’s homepage, click on goals. Then click change goals, then custom, and then put in your calories in that first box. Click the green change goals button again, and you’ve got it!”
For me, counting calories was a HUGE eye-opener. You just don’t realize how the handful of this and that and the extra portion add up. When you really start paying attention to the calories that you are consuming, you will be amazed at what you were eating before. But it allows you to discover, or re-introduce, new things in your diet that will allow you to stay full, have fewer calories, but still be satisfying. The biggest culprit of empty calories is anything carb laden. That was one of my huge downfalls. Recently having gone gluten free, I can’t eat a lot of it anyway, so I had already cut out a lot of carb based items, but would still reach for gluten free items to snack on because they were quick and easy. Some things I have discovered that are low calorie, and are satisfying for me are the following:
- Scramble 2 egg whites and 1 whole egg and serve with 3 slices of turkey bacon, under 170 calories, full of protein, and keeps me full!
- Greek yogurt, plenty of protein, the honey vanilla flavor that I eat has 290 calories in 1 cup.
- Apple with 2 Tb. almond butter, fruit and protein, 203 calories.
- Salads are great. Vegetables fill you up, and have a very low amount of calories. If you choose your ingredients carefully you can have a very satisfying lunch for well under 300 calories. Choose lower calorie dressings and cheeses, and add nuts/eggs/meat for protein.
- When I am in a hurry I make a bread-free “sandwich” with 2 oz. of Oscar Meyer Selects Applewood Smoked Turkey Breast (has no artificial preservatives, no added hormones, no artificial flavors, gluten and MSG free) between 2 slices of Sargento Ultra Thin Slices Swiss cheese (Swiss cheese is one of the lower calorie cheese options). This “sandwich” has 140 calories, I just pair it with some vegetables and am good to go!
- Babybel mini light cheeses have 50 calories each and are quick and easy to grab.
- Fresh fruit and vegetables. You will be amazed at how few calories they have, especially vegetables, and will fill you up. Fruit helps to curb the sweet cravings too. I have recently become obsessed with pomegranates. The seeds of half a pomegranate have only 50 calories. They give a juicy burst of flavor and crunch all at the same time. Sugar snap pea pods are one of my favorite, easy, go to snack veggies, 1 cup contains only 40 calories
- Carrot sticks and 2 Tbsp. of hummus are about 130 calories.
- 3 Tbsp. of raw almonds are 150 calories.
- Unbuttered popcorn or Indiana Popcorn company has various flavors. Depending on what flavor you can have a cup for anywhere from 60-120 calories.
- Hard boiled egg whites, only 35 calories each.
Those are just some ideas of things I have found easy to eat. It’s important to find foods that you enjoy, or you will quickly get bored of dieting or counting calories. What works best for me is to consume smaller calorie meals and snacks during the day, saving a larger portion of calories for the dinner meal so that I can enjoy what I cook for the family and don’t feel cheated. I find that if I have things prepped and easy to grab, I make better choices. Keep cooked meats, hard boiled eggs, nuts, low fat cheeses, fruits and veggies on hand so that you can easily grab them.
Most important to calorie counting, you have to allow yourself to enjoy some things you love. A trainer that I used to work with gave me the advice that 80% of the time you need to eat healthy, the other 20% of the time allow yourself to enjoy some things. As with anything else, it’s all about moderation. If you are eating things you enjoy, even in small amounts, you will be able to maintain it and won’t burn out as easily. I bought some of the small Dove dark chocolates for when I crave a little something sweet. One piece is 42 calories. And sometimes I allow myself to have a serving of some chips or something snacky. Just make sure to measure your portions. As long as you stay within your allowed calorie intake and make healthier choices the majority of the day, it’s OK to allow yourself some food pleasures once in awhile. Just make sure to consume plenty of fruits, veggies, and protein
We all know that we should drink plenty of water, but for whatever reason, most of us don’t drink nearly enough. When dieting most plans recommend that you drink at least 8, 8 oz. glasses of water a day. Water helps to flush toxins out of the body, helps you to feel fuller, and has been found to help increase metabolism, in turn helping to burn more calories. So drink plenty of water! Other beverages tend to contain lots of things we don’t need. Even if they are low calorie they typically contain forms of sugar free sweeteners which aren’t great for you. When I get tired of water I enjoy a zero calorie soda water that has a natural fruit flavor in it. La Croix is my brand of choice in cans because it is less expensive than some of the others. The fizz and small amount of flavor makes you feel like you are drinking something fun.
Get yourself a large bottle. I find it easier to fill up a large bottle fewer times than a smaller cup multiple times. I have a 20 oz. bottle that I fill at least 3 times throughout the day, constantly drinking water. You will feel like you are floating, but it really does help. In addition, I add some essential oils to my water. (I have become slightly obsessed with essential oils lately. OK, my husband says not slightly obsessed, obsessed!) It not only gives the water some flavor, but certain essential oils can assist in maintain healthy weight and digestion. See more about essential oils in the next paragraph. I add 4 drops of grapefruit oil and 2 drops of lemon oil to my bottle each time I fill it up.
There are several essential oils that can aid in healthy weight maintenance and digestion. I firmly believe that they have assisted in my current weight loss status.
As mentioned above, I use them in my water, and also in warm green tea.
If you aren’t familiar with essential oils, it is imperative that you use 100% pure, therapeutic grade oils when ingesting or applying to the skin. Pure essential oils have no additives in them and are distilled differently than non-therapeutic grade oils. Check out my Young Living website for more information.
- Grapefruit oil: Massage on skin in a carrier oil to aid in toning the skin, stimulating circulation, and relieving cellular congestion . Diffuse or inhale straight from the bottle to increase your energy, uplift your spirits, and to keep from overeating. Ingest in a capsule or beverage to aid in digestion, relieve fluid retention, detoxify, aid in gallbladder problems. (Bonus, if you have a hangover, grapefruit oil can help by eliminating the toxins from your body.)
- Lemon oil: Massage on skin in a carrier oil to aid in the breaking up of cellulite and firming of skin. Ingest in a capsule or beverage to aid in detoxification, digestion, and relieve fluid retention. Diffuse or inhale to bring energy and lift your spirits.
- Peppermint oil: Diffuse or inhale right from the bottle to help curb sweet cravings and lift your spirits. Ingest a drop in a capsule or beverage to aid in digestion (if you have a sensitive stomach be careful with this form because it can cause loose bowels in some people). Rub on the abdomen in a carrier oil to aid in digestion and ease occasional stomach pains.
- Ginger oil: Ingest to aid in digestion. Ginger is a strong oil, so use with caution. Massage on skin in a carrier oil to aid in digestion.
- Cinnamon oil: Enhances the work of the other weight loss essential oils. It is a strong oil and should be used with caution. Ingest one drop in a capsule of beverage, or diffuse to aid in digestion and a healthy immune system, and help maintain already normal blood-sugar levels. I enjoy a drop in a cup of warm green tea.
If you aren’t familiar with essential oils, do some research before using them, or email me to ask questions. My website contains a lot of information as well. When using citrus oils do not go directly in sunlight after applying them to the skin as they are photosensitive.
Be Proud of Yourself
As a mom, I know how difficult all of this can be. I am super busy. I get it. So when you make the time for yourself to exercise and take care of yourself, be proud of yourself. In the long run it will be worth every minute that you devote to your health. I know it’s real life, but make the time, for yourself, and your family. Here’s to health!