The Ever Elusive “Lifestyle Change”

What the heck does that even mean, “Lifestyle change?” Every legitimate fitness person ever, typically preaches the same general message when it comes to weight loss. These 2 simple words, are repeated over and over in top tips and tricks, magazine articles, and interviews…lifestyle change.

Two years ago, if you had asked me what lifestyle change meant, this is what I pictured: Everyday, for the rest of my life, I must wake up and do at least 15 minutes of morning yoga and meditation. img_1661.jpgNext, I will float into the kitchen, and whip up an Instagram worthy Acai bowl, complete with fresh slices of kiwi and perfectly placed strips of chia seeds. After I’ve nourished my body with a bounty of fruits and vegetables, I will go on a brief 6 mile run. I’ll be wearing a perfectly matched outfit, and I’ll end my run, looking like a goddess. Then, I will make my way home to stuff my face full of kale, quinoa, and green juice. I’ll have to repeat this routine day in, and day out for the rest of my life.  A perfect specimen of health and fitness.

It honestly sounded exhausting! I spent my days taking Levi to school with greasy hair, a newborn attached to me 24/7, pumping, sleeping, eating, and watching TV. I felt like it took everything in me, to just get through the week.IMG_8004 Between work and family, I was totally drained, and the only thing that the aforementioned lifestyle seemed like to me, was more work. I had no visions whatsoever of spending my mornings in the gym and my days eating steamed broccoli and boiled chicken. But I knew that I did have to start getting some of the weight off, if only to have more energy. I could still remember what my body had felt like at 150 lbs. That was the lowest weight I had been able to achieve after taking Phentermine, and even though I was far from healthy, just being at a lower weight, I remembered that I physically felt better.

That’s what I was trying to get back to, but this time, I really couldn’t muster the energy to go nuts from day one. I knew I wanted to do flexible dietingeventually, because I had dabbled in it before I had gained all of my weight back. A friend had made me a meal plan years before, but I knew in order to make long term progress, I was going to need to learn how to do it for myself. That being said, when I first started my weight loss journey, I wasn’t quite ready for flexible dieting yet. I needed to take it slow. I had a lot on my plate, and I felt like going hardcore right from the start, was just setting myself up for failure.

Taking Baby Steps

There were certain habits that I knew would have to change. Common sense things, that would need to be adjusted, if I wanted to reach my goal. One of those things was sweet tea. Whenever I would eat at a restaurant, when the waitress asked me what I wanted to drink, it was almost like a reflex. I couldn’t help it! Asking me what I wanted to drink, was like asking me my name. Auto response: Sweet Tea. I finally realized, that by drinking Sweet Tea with every meal, I was adding hundreds of calories into my day. Those were calories that I could’ve been eating that would’ve actually filled me up. I knew that was a pretty obvious habit that I would need to change. I knew I could still have it sometimes, like with a “cheat meal”. I just couldn’t have it all the time, and reach my goals.

One of the next things I did, was to start planning my meals ahead of time. Actually making a grocery list, doing meal prep, and eating the foods that were on my plan. This was a huge adjustment for me, img_0319-1and this was something I started practicing before I was actually tracking macros. I still couldn’t wrap my brain around macros, but I was just getting into the habit of doing meal prep and actually eating what I intended to. I had to practice every day. I had to practice NOT finishing my kid’s food that they left on their plate, not nibbling on their goldfish crackers, and not picking at all of the treats left around at work.

Looking at how I was eating before, it’s easy to see how these small changes alone, helped me to start seeing progress. I started losing weight, little by little. As my weight began to drop, I started to want more. If I had been able to see results from these small changes, I wanted to see what I was capable of when I really dialed in my food, and I started going to the gym.

That’s when I started really learning how to track my macros, and I decided that I would start working out at Planet Fitness. I knew several people who worked out there, and they all loved it. And let’s be honest, it was cheap and involved very little commitment, so if I flaked out again like I usually did, no harm no foul! I truly felt like this time was different though.

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My Free Planet Fitness T-shirt, size small!

I really wanted to stick with it and see it all the way through. I was so sure, that I walked straight into that Planet Fitness at just over 200 pounds, and asked for a size small t-shirt. That girl working the desk and I, both knew that I wasn’t a small. But I knew I intended to be!

I started out doing the 30 minute workout at Planet Fitness, stalking other gym-goers to see what machines they used, and how they used them. Then I moved onto doing a workout plan from Jamie Eason, and eventually put together my own workout routines based on which exercises I enjoyed the most for each muscle group, and what I felt were the most effective. Eventually I switched to a larger gym that offered childcare, because after working out at Planet Fitness for a year, I knew that this was a habit I wanted to continue, and I wanted to be able to go without having to find someone to watch Tyson while I went.

Stacking Habits

As the weeks went on, and I kept stacking one new habit on top of the next, eventually those small changes here and there, have amounted to some big results. So here’s the part of the blog where I throw in a weird example. Hear me out!

When I was preparing to go back to work after maternity leave, I knew I was going to need to start pumping, so that I would have enough milk to send with Tyson on the days that I worked. I hadn’t made it very far into breastfeeding with Levi, so this time I was determined to make it work. So when Tyson was about 3 weeks old, I started pumping after each of his feedings. Day one of pumping began. I awkwardly strapped in, went into full dairy cow mode, and patiently waited. After 20 minutes, I looked down to inspect the fruits of my labor…one measly ounce. Not one ounce from each boob…one ounce total. This was not going to be easy. I was determined though, and stuck with it, pumping after each of his feedings for the rest of the day. The next time was the same, one ounce. Each time I pumped, I only was able to get one stinking ounce. But I kept adding ounce on ounce, until the end of the day I had one whole 4 ounce bottle. It seemed like it was going to take forever to get any kind of stash going! I kept with it though, and even though most days I could only pump 1-2 ounces after each feeding, by the time I went back to work a month later, I had 100 ounces in the freezer!

The point is, small things eventually add up to big things! Ounce by ounce, I stored up a good amount of milk, and it was the same with weight loss, I just kept collecting pound after pound making little changes here and there. Tweaking things as I went along, until now I’ve lost a total of 112 pounds.

Two short years later, my daily routine has completely changed from what it used to be, and it happened so gradually, that I didn’t even see it coming! It didn’t happen overnight, it happened one little habit change at a time. Two years ago, my typical morning involved taking Levi to school, taking care of Tyson, and eating and sleeping as much as possible throughout the day.camerarolltempimage That was all I felt like I could handle. Now I routinely hit the gym 3-4 days a week, immediately after taking Levi to school. I get groceries regularly, and meal prep every week. Sometimes, when people congratulate me on all of my hard work, I almost feel like a fraud. Intellectually, I know that losing 112 pounds with diet and exercise is not easy. I know that it takes dedication and discipline to form new habits. But because I did it gradually, and didn’t try to fix every one of my bad habits at the same time, it really doesn’t seem to me like it was all that difficult! I just let myself naturally progress at my own pace, as I craved results more and more. I knew what my ultimate goal was, but this time I wasn’t in a huge rush to get there. I knew scientifically that I would reach my goal in time, I just had to actually give my body the consistent nutrition and time to get there.

Lifestyle Change In a Nutshell

Now if you ask me what does “lifestyle change” mean I would explain it like this: It’s not about eating perfectly, or spending hours everyday in the gym for the rest of your life. It’s about forming new maintainable habits that support the body and life that you want to have outside of your fitness routine. Lifestyle change is about finding a balance between reaching your health and fitness goals, while still living your life.

How you truly change your lifestyle, is just by stacking one new habit on top of the next. You get there by continuing to build and add on new goals. Pushing a little farther and a little farther, as you feel like you’re ready for a new challenge. Now that I’m at a point where weight loss isn’t necessarily the goal anymore, I can continue to make progress with new goals.

My new goals, are continuing to share my story and hopefully help others, to keep pushing myself with my level of fitness, to keep adding in more whole foods and vegetables into my day, and to get my Personal Training and Nutritionist certifications. Outside of fitness, my goals are to continue using my new body to experience life with my family. Enjoying days at the pool, trips to the beach, and hiking with my husband, and being able to fully enjoy those experiences without my body holding me back, because that’s what true lifestyle change is all about.

My Top 5 Weight Loss Excuses

I’ve really been enjoying sharing my thoughts on weight loss here and on my Instagram. Most weeks, I’ve been pretty good about writing my blog post toward the beginning of the week, giving myself plenty of time to edit and proofread before posting on Saturday. This week, it’s been full-blown procrastination. Working mom mode has been in full effect! It’s been a jam-packed week, full of Easter festivities, baseball,img_0202 work, and trying to squeeze in the gym and meal prep. I feel like I’ve been procrastinating all week, trying to think of what I want to write about, and searching for time to actually sit down and write it. So here I am, on Friday afternoon, trying to form some coherent thoughts while Tyson is squealing, watching his Pops working on his tractor behind our house. So what do you write about after a week of procrastination? I guess let’s talk about excuses and procrastination!

If there’s a support group out there like, Procrastinator’s Anonymous, I might need to lead a meeting. I am horrible about procrastinating. Most of the time I feel like I’m so overwhelmed with such a long to do list, that I just really don’t want to even start. The same was true when it came to weight loss. When I stopped taking Phentermine years ago, and slowly started seeing the scale creep back up, I knew I should nip it in the bud. I knew I shouldn’t let those 10 pounds become 100, but I put it off and put it off, and then got pregnant! I ignored it for so long, and I had some fantastic excuses! I thought I would share some of my top excuses with you, and share how I put the metaphorical duct tape over my mouth and decided to quit using them. I’ll share with you the mindset shifts that helped things click for me, and hopefully they can be helpful for you too! Here are my top 5 go to excuses in no particular order:

#1: This is Just My Body Type

My weight has fluctuated so much over the years, that sometimes it seems like there’s this imaginary set point, and that my body is just meant to be overweight. I love watching shows about obesity and weight loss. My 600 Lb Life, documentaries on Netflix, I love them all. One day I was watching a documentary, and they were pointing out, that all throughout history, obesity was never a huge issue until the last few decades, with the rise of processed and fast food.

Our bodies are amazing machines. God designed them so perfectly, everything working together to maintain homeostasis and keep us alive. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I truly don’t believe God designed any of us to be naturally overweight. Most of the time, our diet, lifestyle, and habits, are the only things leading us to struggle with our weight. This is good news though! For me, it gave me hope that if God designed my body perfectly, just like he designed everyone else’s, then if I did my part, and changed the parts that I controlled, that my body would do what it had been designed to do. While there are some hormonal imbalances and medication that can make it more difficult for some, that wasn’t the case for me, and I don’t believe it is for most. For me, it was completely related to lifestyle, which leads me to #2.

#2: I Don’t Want to Change My Lifestyle

As uncomfortable as I was in my body, I was very comfortable with my lifestyle. I liked spending my days off lying around pregnant on the couch while Levi was in school, and I liked laying around on the couch even more after I had been up all night with a newborn. I didn’t love cooking all the time, but I loved going out to eat for just about every meal.img_0337 Most of my physical activity was on the days I worked, and all that hard work was completely negated by what I ate while I was there. As soon as I walked in the door, put my stuff in my locker, and got report from the off going shift, I immediately went right back down the elevator to the in-house Starbucks to order my breakfast, a Venti White Mocha Frappuccino with almond flavoring added. Large Coffee milkshake please! Breakfast of champions! For lunch, tired of eating hospital chicken strips everyday, I would usually order out from anywhere that would deliver. By the time I got off work at 7 p.m., I was hungry again, and on the prowl for a drive thru.

I can see now, how it’s no surprise at all how I packed on the weight, but at the time, I was just stressed and doing what was easiest. I never thought I would actually be able to figure out a system for meal prep and exercise that I actually enjoyed. Because…

#3: I Hate Exercising

I truly did. As I’ve said before, I tried for quite a while to enjoy running, but for me, there was nothing enjoyable about it. I’ve always heard about this mysterious “Runner’s High”, but never actually experienced it for myself. I always got bored and tired of hearing my heart pounding in my head long before any euphoria could take over and make it even remotely pleasurable. And after the running was over, being as overweight as I was, my body hurt. My knees, hips, and back ached. Not my idea of a good time. I mean have you seen those people on The Biggest Loser? They look absolutely miserable.

I used to love watching The Biggest Loser back in the day, but honestly I think that it can give people unrealistic expectations when it comes to weight loss. img_7875I’m a firm believer that 90% of my personal weight loss success has come from my nutrition, not because of what I’ve done in the gym. Lately, whenever I’ve posted transformation pictures, I get a lot of compliments on my shoulders. Want to know a secret? I hardly work my shoulders, and I feel like they’re probably the weakest part of my body. The only reason my shoulder muscles are visible, is because my nutrition is geared toward fat loss, and that’s just a part of my body where the fat has chosen to come off of more than other parts, revealing the muscle underneath.

I think diet and exercise are both parts of a healthy lifestyle. However, most shows tend to focus so much on the exercise portion, I think, because it looks so much more dramatic than just watching overweight people eat healthy for an hour. Nobody would watch that!img_0335 What they will watch are overweight people killing themselves in the gym for six hours a day and losing 20 pounds in a week. Just enough drama and tears to make it interesting, but unrealistic enough to make it seem impossible for an ordinary person with a family and a full-time job. As a person with a family and a full time job, I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to kill yourself in the gym to start seeing results. Your results will be from your nutrition. It’s true what they say, “You can’t outwork a poor diet.” So just focus on that, and then as your body starts to feel better, you can gradually add in exercise that you actually enjoy.

#4: It’s Too Much to Think About

This one could also be phrased, I shouldn’t have to think about this. There’s a lot of disgruntled feelings surrounding weight loss, for a lot of people. Not only did I not want to have to think about what I ate all of the time, I was mad that I had to. If “Becky” can eat whatever she wants and not have to worry about her weight, img_0338then it’s not fair that I have to. I just wanted to be able to eat whenever, where ever, and whatever I felt like, just like Becky seemed to do. I don’t actually know a Becky, but for this example, just think of her as that super annoying person who always complains about how they struggle to put on weight.

I heard a great example about how to change your mindset around this: It’s just like when you were in school. When I was in school, I never struggled to make good grades in English. Reading and writing always came easy for me, and I enjoyed those classes. Math was another story, I could make decent enough grades in math, but I really had to work at it. Becky was a math whiz, but couldn’t write a paper above a fourth grade reading level to save her life! We all have strengths and weaknesses.  My struggle in life might be my weight, and while I roll my eyes every time Becky remarks about how she lost 5 pounds without trying last month, maybe Becky can’t ever seem to pay a bill on time, or screams at her kids every day for no reason? The point is we all have things we struggle with and it gets you no where wishing you had a different set of problems. You deal with your weight and let Becky deal with her temper. Okay, we’re done with Becky!

#5: I Don’t Have Time

Ew. This one stings a little. This is a big one. I think we’ve probably all said at one time or another, that we just don’t have the time to focus on losing weight. When we think about losing weight, I think we’ve been taught that to be “fully committed”, we need to be eating organic gourmet masterpieces for every meal, and slugging it out in the gym six or seven days a week. If this is what you’re envisioning when you think you don’t have time, you’re probably right. Who has time for that? People on The Biggest Loser, that’s who!

I truly believe that when you want to lose weight, you will find the time, but there are also some practical things you can do to save yourself some time. For grocery shopping, I highly recommend Kroger Clicklist, or I have also heard great things about Wal-Mart’s online ordering. This is a huge time saver when you’re struggling to get to the grocery store. The next thing I would suggest is doing meal prep.img_0319 Meal prep is a huge time and money saver. If I can spend a little bit of time cooking at the beginning of the week, it saves me so much time and energy for the rest of the week. I don’t have to worry about if my meals fit my macros, because I already know I have food cooked that will fit perfectly for the whole week. I know that by investing those couple of hours on Sunday, I’ve set myself up to be successful for the whole week. My only job after that is to eat the food. If you don’t even have a couple of hours for meal prep, I have a lot of meals that don’t even require cooking. I literally portion them into bowls and go about my business. There are ways to make it work when you truly want to.

And lastly, if you don’t have time or money to go to the gym, you can still make it work. Like I said, I truly believe 90% of weight loss is in the kitchen, not in the gym. If you feel so pressed for time that you can’t go to the gym, don’t even worry about it right now. We all have time to eat, and you can make awesome progress with just your food.

I really hope that by me sharing my top excuses, and how I pushed past them, that it can inspire you to do the same. Weight loss is such a mind game, and we use these excuses to sabotage ourselves all the time. But there’s something about really identifying our excuses, that really helps you be able to swat them away when they pop up in your brain. Stay mentally tough friends and have a great week!

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Why “Eat Less, Move More” is Crap

It sounds so simple, Eat less, move more. Any idiot can do it. So here’s my problem, if it’s this simple, why are there so many educated, intelligent people, still struggling with their weight?

First, a little back story. In the words of Sophia Petrillo, “picture it”, I’m nineteen years old, married, in school, and working at a small hospital. Like most people overwhelmed with the stress of school and work, I put on a little weight. Not a lot, but enough that my clothes were getting tight. img_7595-1So finally one day, I got up the courage to ask one of the dietitians that worked at the hospital, if she had any tips as to what I could do to lose those extra pounds. I figured if anybody knew, she would. Imagine my disgust when she, without even looking up from what she was doing, uttered those four nasty little words, “Eat less, move more.” You don’t say. Insert eye roll.

Now at this time in my life, I had no clue about flexible dieting, macros, or nutrition. However, even then, I distinctly recall having the immediate thought, “what a load of crap.”

Obviously I never asked again, and went on to go through years of the ups and downs of the diet/binge cycle. Thanks for the earth-shattering advice!

It’s Not That Simple

“Eat less, move more” is not the answer. It’s so much more complicated than that. When you hear those words, while they may be true in a very broad sense, they don’t even begin to address the real reasons why we can’t lose weight. Calories in versus calories out is only the tip of the iceberg.

The reason we don’t lose weight isn’t because we don’t know how. It’s pretty common knowledge these days, that to lose body fat, you have to burn more calories than you eat. We don’t have to get all reflective and mushy about the reasons why we gained weight necessarily. For me it was simply apathy and stress. The reason we can’t lose weight, is because we can’t keep our head in the game long enough for habit to take over. We haven’t decided to really commit to doing it.

The “Kinda” Zone

I was forever stuck in the “kinda” zone. I “kinda” need to eat better, I “kinda” need to lose weight, I “kinda” would like to look better. It took me a while of feeling horrible in my body and feeling embarrassed about how much I had let myself go. Finally, I made the choice to change my mindset and do what it took to change my body. img_7596

Our success starts and continues with our mindset. We have to decide that it doesn’t matter how long it takes, there are no deadlines. We need a true lifestyle change in order for this to be sustainable. Even if that means doing what seems like the harder thing, of not just following a diet plan, but learning how to make our own.

We women are unstoppable when we decide. Ask my husband, when I get something in my head, and I decide I want to do it, I’m freaking doing it. I obsess about it until it’s done. I’m sure people would say the same thing about you. We are powerful and capable when we move from “kinda” to actually truly deciding.

We’re More Powerful Than We Think

We’re way more complicated and powerful than “eat less, move more”. All that tells me, is that I’m an idiot for not being able to do this. img_7598Now go starve yourself and run on the treadmill. Both of these things sound horrible to me now, and sounded even worse when I was 100 pounds heavier. A dumbed down answer like that just doesn’t do it for me. If it was that simple, no one would struggle with their weight.

Taking Action

If you can be a sponge, figure out your why, and truly decide that this is something that you want to accomplish, then you can. You can decide that you’re going to figure this out for the last time. Let it be a process. Understand that it will be trial and error. But when the errors happen, you course correct and move on. I have said this before, but I’ll continue saying it, this is all a mental game. It’s not all about “looking better”. My true motivation this time around, has been to just physically feel better. img_7597What has been an unexpected surprise to me, is that while my confidence increased some from looking better, the main reason my confidence increased, was because I set a huge goal, and I accomplished it. I decided I was smarter and more complex than “eat less, move more” made me feel. I decided that I was going to look at this like a calculated, scientific experiment, and that I was going to do what I needed to do mentally, to keep going and see what would happen. I was going to eat and train smarter. So much can change in a year if you keep going. I’m nothing special. My body functions just like everybody else’s. Truly, if I can do this, you can do this. It all starts with your mindset and your decision.