I'm totally excited for 2016. I'm armed with the tools I've acquired, the knowledge I've retained and the determination to finish/keep going. Trust me when I tell you, getting started is the hardest part.
When I started, I was determined to do this myself. I wanted to cook my own food, educate myself, find my own workouts. That being said, I think there are LOTS and LOTS of great, noteworthy programs available if you don't have that kind of time. Beach Body has done wonders for lots of fit people I know. I follow loads of girls on Instagram that are BBG (Bikini Body Guide - Kayla Itsines) followers and have had amazing results. Wild Tree, Trim Healthy Mama - great food/diet guide programs. For me, though, these programs offered things I felt I could acquire on my own. I was - and still am - determined to do this myself with some handy (free) tools I like to call Google and Pinterest. Literally, that's all I used to get started.
Here's a little play-by-play:
I decided once and for all that I needed to change. At 172 lbs I was the heaviest I'd ever been (aside from the whopping 224 lbs I was when I delivered my first born - I gained 70 (SEVENTY!) lbs). I was 18 months post partum (with my second - and final - born) and I couldn't get by with the baby weight excuse anymore. I truly desired a change. So I started thinking about why I had dieted in the past and what methods I used and why I constantly failed at being "healthy". When I began, it was less about losing weight and more about how I felt. Then, once I felt better, I decided it was time to shed some pounds.
I started slow. And this is the key. In the past, I had dropped all the junk food and soda and fast food all at once. Cold turkey. That's where I went wrong. This time I took it one thing at a time. My advice to anyone who wants to change their eating habits is to figure out what you eat that is probably causing you problems. For me it was bread and starch - I LOVE bread. I LOVE potatoes. I LOVE chips and fries. So I started with gluten. I went a good 6 month stretch in 2014 gluten free and I felt fantastic. But, bread. I just thought I couldn't do it. So I tried again and I've been (mostly) gluten free for over a year now. Not only does my gut feel better, but I ditched my horrible sciatic nerve pain as well! I didn't even know that would go away, that was just an added bonus. My approach to gluten free is simple, if it has gluten, I don't eat it. I don't eat "gluten free" bread or "gluten free" cookies, I just don't eat bread and cookies.
Now, that might sound extreme - but this is about what worked for ME. You have to figure out what's going to work for you YOU. The thing is, I can still have fries. So I allowed myself to have fries every once in a while - so I wasn't totally depriving myself of the things I love. When I had a burger, I would wrap it in lettuce. I'm not a big fan of sandwiches so I'd have salads for lunch. Gluten freedom helped me cut out a lot of the processed foods automatically because they use wheat to make a lot of flavorings for chips and such - Pringles, for instance...even though they're "potato" chips- they're not gluten free. Ew. I don't even want to know why....which brings me to my next point.
As I started to really get into the whole gluten free kick, I did a lot more reading about what our food is made from and how it's processed. There are hidden names for gluten so I started reading about what ingredients gluten hides in. Now, listen, I don't have a medical problem related to gluten. I'm not going to have an allergic reaction to gluten if I eat it. I'm not trying to take those things lightly, either. That being said, I would consider myself to have a mild sensitivity to gluten. Because I do feel the affects of eating bread or pizza from time to time. But they generally last 12-24 hours and then I'm fine. Honestly, I think the whole world would be better off without gluten. Give it 30 days, 60 days if you're really brave. You'll feel a world of difference.
As I continued investigating how our foods are made and processed it became easier for me to ditch the things I once loved. Things I continued to slowly give up over this time period included soda, juice and basically any beverage other than water or almond milk. Almost all grains besides oats and brown rice and occasionally corn, dairy. Each thing took weeks, sometimes months to completely cut out. I tried not to eliminate another thing until I had mastered the last.
I decided that I needed a little motivation - because while I was making great progress in my eating habits - i.e. eating lean protein and fresh fruits and veggies, being completely gluten free, and having removed most grains and dairy from my diet - some times things would sneak back in and I would always regret the gross, pit in my stomach feeling that was totally not worth a goldfish and diet coke binge. So, I opened my pantry - and this happened.
I was like, see ya, junk food. It's been real. Hashtag: ButSeriously.
BTW, that's a real picture from my Instagram when I did my purge. It felt so good!
So by this time of the year I had been at this whole thing for about 6 months. I was feeling good, but despite my efforts to be super healthy I hadn't lost a ton of weight. A little bit, but nothing really life-changing. Up to this point I had tried to tell myself that I didn't need to count calories, I didn't need to be concerned with how much I ate, only with what types of foods I was eating. To an extent, I was right. But, if you want to burn calories, shred fat and gain lean muscle mass, you need to set boundaries. I just read the other day that "abs are made in the kitchen". I didn't have abs yet because even though I had cut out most of my carbs, when I ate carbs like rice or beans or potatoes, I ate a lot of them. After all, I was under the assumption that counting calories wasn't necessary, as long as I was eating whole, clean, nutrient dense foods.
The fact that the scale just didn't budge started to change my mind. So somewhere in the beginning of June I started researching the 21 Day Fix. At the time, I thought that was just some sort of fad-diet that I could just look up the rules to. Turns out it is a whole program with food containers, protein/nutrient meal supplement shakes and work out programs. The more I read, the more I became intrigued. It was something that I really wanted to try, however, my track record with purchases in this department isn't exactly stellar. I usually make the farmer shell out a whole bunch of dough and I hardly ever follow through. So...with a hefty price tag in the neighborhood of $120, I knew there was going to be no way to convince the farmer. So I had no choice but to create my own program.
Luckily for me, Pinterest had loads of "21 Day Fix" friendly meal plans, lists of approved foods and even some insights to how to figure out your portion control for each meal. So, for 21 days I dedicated myself to eating controlled portions, packing all my snacks and meals if we went somewhere and working out once a day. For snacks I had apples and peanut butter, nuts and seeds, carrot sticks, trail mix. Lunches and dinners were usually salads or rice bowls with chicken, beans, avocados, etc. Breakfast was easy - this farm girl loves some fresh eggs, so eggs were a staple for me during these 3 weeks.
My workouts were very simple. Generally just circuits with jumping jacks, triceps dips, push ups, crunches, and planks. These were all plans I found on Pinterest. I would try to work out for at least 20 minutes and push myself to go longer if I could. I was not tracking my heart rate or anything and I really had no idea how many calories I was burning, but for the first time in my new lifestyle's history, I was eating clean, controlling my portions and working out all at the same time. In 21 days I lost 7 lbs. That was pretty much the same amount of weight I had lost in the whole 6 months prior, in THREE WEEKS!
Finally, after figuring out that it really did matter how much I was eating, I tried my very best to stick to the "21 days" rules I had created for myself. I continued working out [almost] every day and I added protein shakes to my daily menus. I usually try to replace one meal every day with a protein shake. Right now, my go-to shake is 2 scoops of Vanilla Creme EAS (Lean 15) + 8 oz Unsweetened Almond Milk + 1 Frozen Banana. Blend well and it tastes like an ice cream shake. Really, I promise.
I've equipped myself with more tools that help me workout better and stay on track. All while trying to keep my investments at a minimum. I purchased some inexpensive hand weights and a yoga mat at Target. I spend less than $20 on my protein powder and it lasts me quite a few weeks. I have not spent more on groceries than I did in the past. I shop at Woodman's and frequent their reduced produce section where you can buy giant bags of fresh fruits and vegetables for $0.99 each! I still use coupons and try to purchase meat when it goes on clearance at Target and stack it with coupon and Cartwheel savings. It takes a little work, and a little luck (hitting sales/clearance) but when you shop smart, eating healthy doesn't have to break the bank!
Here's the thing. I get it. I'm a stay at home mom that has pretty much as much time as I'd like to dedicate to researching healthy food and planning grocery hauls and working out whenever I can fit it in. This is why making my own program works for me. I get it when you're working and adulting and being a mom all in the same day that it can seem next to impossible to fit these things in. I seriously get it. Working out either has to be done super early in the morning or super late at night - both of which are very daunting times of the day. Not to mention making grocery shopping enjoyable. Trying to navigate things you don't understand (maybe) - trying to find gluten free options, get the right amount of produce so that you eat it and it doesn't go wasted, finding recipes that your family will enjoy and finding the time to cook and prep meals and snacks for the days ahead. But, it's all part of living a healthy lifestyle. And that's where the noteworthy programs come in that I mentioned in the beginning. If you're not opposed to shelling out a little dough, you can purchase meal plans, portion control containers, work out programs, and even have "coaches" contact you and keep you in check. There are lots of options out there, you just have to pick one that works for you and START.
If you'd like to try it my way, in the end it comes down to how bad you want it. And it comes back to my original point - taking it one step at a time. If you start small by just eliminating one thing at a time, it won't seem so huge. You don't have to plan a week's meals, snacks and prep it all after grocery shopping for 2 hours after you put the kids to bed only to have to get up and work out for 45 minutes at 4 am because there's no other time. I think a lot of people (especially working moms) feel that way. And I agree - I wouldn't want to do it either if I had to do that, that right there sounds like a living hell.
But if you just stop taking that snack break in the afternoon and grabbing a snickers and a pepsi from the vending machine at work. Or stop picking up the super calorie packed lattes in the morning. Pick ONE thing. You'll save money, AND you'll feel better. Stop drinking 4 sodas a day and drink 1. Replace your soda with water. Or just drink more water in addition to your soda. Switch from milk chocolate to a dark chocolate that's at least 60% cacao. Limit your fast food to once a week. Then once every 2 weeks. Then once a month. Until you don't even miss it, in fact, when you do run through a drive thru out of desperation, you'll feel so sick after you eat it that you'll swear off the stuff for a lifetime. Slow and steady wins the race, friends. You need to find out what your one thing is going to be. Mine was gluten. Then it was soda. Then it was processed/fast food.
Once you master one thing, pick another thing. After a few months (yes, this will take months) your diet will look totally different. Hopefully it will be full of lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables and an occasional dark chocolate bar. Then, whenever you're ready, start some sort of work out regimen. Take a walk on your break. Do push ups and crunches before bed. Run when you go take the mail out to the mail box. Do something small at first, and add to it over time. Before you know it, you'll miss your workout when you skip it. And suddenly it will fit itself into you day.
Finally, find some friends that can rally around you and encourage you. I have to say that one of the best things I have found with my healthy lifestyle is that I have reconnected with friends who live the same way and met some new friends along the way. We stay in touch and hold each other accountable and ask each other how its going. It helps so much. And, when you do start seeing results those remarks from people about how great you look will be the only fuel you need to keep going. But even before that - the changes that you see and feel will keep you going, keep you pushing yourself to the next level. It will take time, but it will be totally worth it!
Take progress pictures. Even if you never show them to anyone. It will help keep you going. There was a period of time in summer when i felt like nothing was working. I was doing all this for nothing. Then I snapped a picture of myself in my bathing suit and compared it to another of myself in the same suit just 3 weeks earlier. The difference to me was astonishing. It might be hard to see at first, and that's why taking before, during and after pictures is so critical. If for nothing else than your own motivation. Also, to show your husband and be like, "See honey - this is why we eat brown rice and boiled chicken every. single. day. Aren't you so happy now?!"
But seriously, you can do it! I did it, and I know you can too. Make 2016 your best year yet. You've got this.
The Farmer's [sort of] Fit Wife
[Trying to] live a Fit Life