Almost 2 months ago, on November 2nd, I had our fifth child. Having been through the pregnancy weight gain and post-partum weight loss cycle 4 times now, I finally know what works for my body. Nursing doesn’t cut it; in fact, my body will hold onto some weight until I wean. Somehow I heard after my first that, especially when you are young (I was 21), the weight just comes right off easily and mostly on it’s own. I stayed overweight for a year, waiting for this magical experience. Whoever said that must have been the same source that told me to bring my second-trimester clothes to the hospital to wear home after the birth. Um. I wore the same clothes home that I wore there thankyouverymuch.
So, here I am with another round of post-baby weight loss to tackle. After baby 4 I finally had success, not only in losing weight but also in feeling great, with these elements:
- Interval “running” (jogging, really)
- High-protein (protein at each meal)
- Food journaling
- Mostly cut out refined foods and sugar, in 2-week cycles of laxity and strictness
These were the keys, and besides losing weight and gaining muscle tone, I also noticed these changes:
- I had more energy, and could sprint to catch a toddler or get the mail without being at all winded
- I felt happier (not from externals but from my body chemistry working better)
- I was more aware of what I was actually eating (turns out my perception of what I ate didn’t align with reality)
- Going off any sugar and refined flour (we already eat almost exclusively real food) broke cravings and reduced my taste for sweet, so that even when I had some, I didn’t want as much, many treats were not even tempting, and I could only have a small amount before feeling sick to my stomach.
Through that experience, I learned that weight loss is not a goal to be achieved in itself, but a symptom and side effect of becoming healthy and energetic. Thinking about weight loss as a project and weight maintenance as a lifestyle change feels burdensome and difficult. The motivation to keep a strict and spartan lifestyle with the goal of being a certain weight is hard over the long haul.
Instead, I’ve shifted my perspective, my goal, and my motivation to make weight secondary to health. But health is a pretty nebulous, vague word. Saying I want to “be healthy” isn’t motivating to me because I tend to define healthy as “not sick.” Instead, I’ve set my target as “be energetic” – which is not a default setting for me. It was, however, a setting I experienced while exercising and eating well. Especially after my late-pregnancy swelling and c-section recovery, I am a confirmed couch potato, forgetting that I can bend over to pick something up off the floor or go up stairs at a normal pace now.
Regaining energy and vitality is my goal. Weight loss will happen along the way as a necessary side effect. Instead of working constantly for the rest of my life to maintain a weight goal, I want to instill habits that will keep up my energy and decrease physical problems as I get older.
So, rather than create a weight-loss plan, I have a “healthy habits” plan. These are 10 habits I want to incorporate into my lifestyle. These aren’t short-term tactics to lose weight and then stop, but life-long habits to keep an equilibrium. While doing the couch-to-5K program is a short-term goal, exercising is the long-term habit to instill.
Plus, I am nursing the baby and will be for most of the year, so I am not going to restrict calories, eliminate food groups, or exhaust myself. After I wean the baby, I will reconsider some more extreme options depending on where I am, but for now, the following are simply “being healthy”:
Habits for a Healthy/Energetic Life
- Drink 100oz water & take vitamins daily.
- Consciously plate all food.
- Spend 20 minutes daily exercising.
- Lunch: salad w/ cheese, fruit, nuts, seeds + cup of soup (tomato or broth w/ veggies).
- Make all carbs complex & whole-food, w/ 2 exceptions weekly & Sundays off.
- Spend 5 minutes morning & evening stretching.
- Sieze opportunities to move quickly; make normal routines aerobic activity.
- Eat at least 5 servings of vegetables a day.
- Stand & sit with good posture.
- Eat no starch or sugar after 4pm, w/ 2 allowed exceptions per week & Sundays off.
Remember, I already cook using only my master pantry list staples, we almost never eat out, and the majority of our food is homemade from scratch. Almost all processed foods have already been cut from our family’s consumption, though we still have plenty of homemade treats. If you have yet to make that transition, that alone would make a good long-term habit-change goal for the year. My eBook, Simplified Dinners, can help you make that transition more smoothly. The meal-formula and cooking-process strategy it teaches allows for flexibility as your tastes change. It shows you that home cooked meals don’t have to be complicated or take a long of time and effort.
I will be tackling one habit a month this year, adding the next habit while maintaining the previous, and writing about it here every Wednesday. On Mondays I will share my week’s menu plan, including strategies for reducing starch & sugar, increasing vegetable consumption, and choosing real foods. My kids and husband have higher metabolisms that I, and need the carbs, so I will also explain along the way how I make my own portion lower carb while still cooking for the family and not cooking separately for myself.
I hope you will join me this year in incorporating healthy habits into your lifestyle and shifting your focus away from body image and toward holistic wellness.