Monday, February 4, 2013

Make a Lifestyle Change, Not a Fad

Hey everyone!

So it's been almost a year since I've worked on my blog...with chasing after a crazy 2 1/2 year old and working on my MFA, I don't have much time for anything. However, that's kind of why I wanted to be sure and start off this year with this post.

Let me preface this entire thing by saying that I am not an expert on any of this. I'm learning every day and consult with people constantly. I only want to share healthy tips that have worked for me and things I have learned from friends and professionals.

January 1, everyone sets new goals for themselves....the most common of these being fitness related (i.e. losing weight, eating better, etc.). The problem with the majority of the resolutions is that they hardly ever stick. The reason? We go full force and get immersed in fads - these burn us out incredibly quick and by February 1, it seems like everyone is back to their normal routine. In fact, a gym manager once told me that every January, their gym is loaded with new memberships and by March, over 75% of those new members are no longer a part of the gym. THAT'S SAD.

I am no exception. I've been part of that 75% before. Toward the end of 2012, I realized how complacent I had become with my health and my overall lifestyle (something I've really valued in the past). Between keeping up with my husband's sporadic military schedule, keeping my son happy and entertained, and making sure I'm excelling in my program (as well as setting time aside for my hobbies - a HUGE must for my sanity), I had really relied a lot on eating out and eating out of necessity: paying no attention to what I was actually putting in my body. This unfortunately caused my husband to suffer in this department as well and really, the only person getting a decent meal around here was our son (thank God I still stuck to that!). But what about us??

For 2013, I promised myself (more personal to me than a New Years Resolution) that I would MAKE TIME for mine and my husbands health. No excuses. That being said, I thought I'd share some tips that have really helped me with my lifestyle mini-makeover and tips that I've found can make these changes last.

NUMBER 1: Avoid the fads. It's too overwhelming. 

This has really saved me. After pregnancy, my husband and I started doing P90X. It's a fantastic program and I really love it (I'd recommend it to anyone) however, I didn't last long. It's SO intense that I got burnt out really, really fast. I literally just stopped working out all-together once I was sick of it.

This time, we (one of my best friends who is doing this mini change with me) did workouts that did not take hours of our day (she has 3 kids and home-schools all 3!) or made us so completely exhausted that we couldn't function and take care of our families. We found short routines that were doable but initially somewhat challenging as neither of us have worked out in over a year.

Here's a very basic layout of what we're doing:
Monday - general overall workout (Tracy Anderson Method) with optional stretches
Tuesday - cardio
Wednesday - TA general workout
Thursday - abs
Friday - TA general workout
Weekends - NOTHING

We gave ourselves the weekends to relax and each workout is 30-40 min max. I do mine the second I put my son in bed so I can get it out of the way, feel good, and relax the rest of the night. We're not killing ourselves and none of it is crazy. We even eased ourselves into the Tracy Anderson workout by not doing nearly as much as required and just building our endurance without killing ourselves.

NUMBER 2: Make changes with a friend. It forces you to do it. 

The only reason I got off my ass and started this whole thing was because my friend wanted someone to do it with. It totally worked. I honestly would not work out HALF of the time I've been doing if I knew she wasn't working out, too. The fear of looking like a loser, not keeping up in endurance or health, or the fear of disappointing her that I'm slacking has kept me on the right track - completely. We compare notes every day or two to make sure the other is keeping up and if one slacks, we make them feel like complete crap about it haha! :) Anything that works right?

She motivates me and we can whine to each other. It REALLY REALLY WORKS.

NUMBER 3: You can have these changes without hating life. 

I am, by no means, a health or fitness expert. In fact, I almost always consult everyone around me before I do anything. My husband is extremely knowledgable about fitness so he's been a great resource. He's taught me the mechanics behind my body and I've learned that just making overall healthier choices still allows me to have the crap I still crave once in a while. For example, I literally ate fast food at least once a day previously. I've cut that down to about once or twice a week but when I go, I eat what I want. If I'm at McDonald's, screw the salad. I'm not on a diet. I've reduced my crap eating down by 80% so I'm eating crap and enjoying it.

We decided that cutting out coffee was not an option. Because we're eating so much better, a nonfat Starbucks a day is the thing I look forward to. As my friend says, "What's the point of living if you don't have something to look forward to every day?" THIS is why massive diets for people rarely work. Instead of creating an overall health movement, they go for the jugular and overhaul their eating going from Big Macs to salads 3 times a day. You're miserable, you're starving, and it's really not great for your body so what the heck are you doing??! These diets never last because they suck. Treat yourself. Eat right.  It's much more important that you maintain your health instead of crash dieting.

Truth be told, fast food now makes me nauseous. Just by cutting out a giant percentage of it and substituting other, better food that I still really love, my body has already learned that the other is junk and just not good. The less you want it, the less you eat it. It's fantastic how it works that way.

NUMBER 4: Water, water, water!!!

One thing my friend and I have incorporated is focusing on water in-take - trying to drink 8 glasses a day. I rarely ever meet this goal (8 is a lot more than it sounds!!!) but 6 or 7 is about 4 more than I was drinking previously so every day, I shoot for 8 and if I don't make it, oh well. Tomorrow is a new day and I still made much healthier choices throughout the day than normal. It's natural - it's God's greatest gift to our bodies. Just drink it.

NUMBER 5: Green Monster Smoothies

Ok - I really don't know how much of this is attributing to my overall betterment. All I know is that I love them and everything that goes into these babies is fantastic for your body. It is supposed to aid in weight-loss but who really knows. However, between the water and these suckers, I feel better overall and my skin looks so much better. On top of that, they are a BIG motivation for my workouts. These babies curb some of my sweet tooth and are literally the one huge thing I look forward to at the end of my workout. They are incredibly satisfying after a good 30 minutes in.

NUMBER 6: You don't need a gym so stop the excuses.

I DESPISE working out at home. I really do. I've bought DVDs in the past and never did them and used to love just the energy at the gym. But then going to the gym was a pain because I could only go when my husband wasn't working so he could watch our son (which is rarely) and I never wanted to go when he WAS home because I wanted to spend time with him. On top of that, gyms are crazy expensive and it just gets to be too much. This is where it's important to avoid fads and create an effective workout for you that you don't absolutely hate.

Working out at home is really easy and if you make them quick, it's no biggie. I workout at home now Monday through Friday and don't even use a single weight (so you don't need to buy those either!!!).

NUMBER 7: Explore food. 

My biggest promise to myself this year was to cook more for my family (instead of just my toddler). In the past, I've bought great cookbooks that I love but none of them focus on health. The ones I've looked over in the stores are just so extreme, I always think, "I'm never going to cook something like that." For Christmas, my mom bought me the BEST BOOK EVER. It's a Trader Joe's cookbook that focuses on eating lean. Everything you need, you can buy at TJ's (alot of their premade stuff is super healthy and makes cooking so easy!!!) and most of these recipes take 20 min tops (my kind of cooking)!

The key is the same with working out - don't go overboard. I only cook these big meals when my husbands home for dinner (sometimes this is only 2xs a week) and on the nights he's gone, I made heavier caloried food for the kiddo and make something healthy but quick for myself (a good stand-by is a tuna sandwich - high in protein, low in fat - and a green smoothie an hour later). Trader Joe's has a FANTASTIC vegetable lasagna that I love and lasts me two days (it's a huge dish). I keep it simple and don't go crazy when it's just me and the baby but still make sure I eat better than my normal days of the drive-thru.

Its important, though, (and this is something I'm ALWAYS hesitant to do) to try things you're not used to. My friend and I swap healthy recipes once we've tried them and this has honestly gotten me to explore more foods as she's much more brave in that department than I am.

NUMBER 8: As Dr. Laura says, "If it comes packaged and will stay good for months, it's probably bad for you." Eat more produce!

Like I said before, I'm still eating what I want (I'm still having a coffee every day, a glass of wine when I want, and a cookie or piece of chocolate when I get a craving) but I am introducing much fresher ingredients into my body. A fitness friend got me on a berry kick - raspberries and blueberries every day for a snack. It's SO GOOD and makes me feel great. I've also never been a cereal eater or a breakfast person period but I've been realizing that eating breakfast will actually speed up my metabolism as opposed to just not eating breakfast at all (what I normally do). So I'm eating a yogurt or granola (yum!) for breakfast. It's simple, it's quick, and it's painless. It takes literally no thought and I actually love eating it as my body has adjusted to the finer things God provides us with :)

NUMBER 9: Find your personal motivation.

Pinterest is great for this. I find images of bodies I'd die for and I look at them to remind me of what I want. It seems so stupid and simple but it really helps me to get off my butt and do what I need to do!

NUMBER 10: Anything helps!

Some days, I'm just too damn tired to workout. Like the day last week I spent ALL DAY at Disneyland with a friend and my son. I actually had a migraine due to exhaustion when I got home and there was no way I was going to workout. Normally, I'd just transfer that day to that Saturday and keep my 5 days however, I chased after a 2 year old all day at Disneyland. I probably got a better workout that day than my normal one so I let it slide. If you just HATE working out, doing things like this can really help your lifestyle in small ways. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the end of the parking lot instead of the front, etc.

Listening to my beloved Dr. Laura today, she said she used to take her son to the park by pulling him in a little buggy on her bike. That was her only exercise but it's HUGE compared to sitting on your butt in the car. She also used to just go to the mall and literally chase after him to get some cardio in. ANYTHING to get your butt moving is a positive in the right direction. This isn't to say that you can eat Twinkies all day and then walk up your stairs an extra time a week, but you get the idea.

NUMBER 11: The scale isn't everything.

I literally learned this TODAY. My husband was yelling at me yesterday because I was obsessed over the fact that over the last 2-3 weeks, I've only lost a pound (my goal is 10). According to him and his prior research, the most you are supposed to weigh in is once a week. This is due to all of the things that attribute to slight weight fluctuations. Weighing yourself every single morning like a complete psycho (i.e. ME) only discourages you.

Additionally as most of us know, muscle weighs more than fat. So, as your body transitions, your weight may not change drastically right away as your body is transitioning from fat to muscle. It is important to measure your body (the circumference of your waist, legs, whatever you're interested in changing), realize the change in your clothes, or do what I did and take pictures to mark the difference. THIS has literally been the motivation for this post as of today. Because I had only lost a pound, I feel like this mini overhaul really wasn't changing my body much....until I compared pictures.

The top is 10 days ago; the bottom is today

Although these are minor changes, for me they are HUGE. I'm no where near my goal but each step closer gives me confidence, strength, and motivation to just keep going. This is proof that little changes can quickly make differences. 

I hope this helps you in your journey to better living and a healthier lifestyle! I'll keep posting as I come across new things that have helped. Please share if you have any tips that have helped you! Remember, it's not about losing pounds - it's about feeling better, looking better, and living longer.