Welcome to Health(ier) Habits, a series I started to help keep me on track with my goals to stay healthy, even when (ESPECIALLY when) I don’t always see the progress or results that I would like to as quickly as I would like to! Every two weeks, I list out my progress on my recent goals, my exercise habits, and what I’ve been eating.
As I’m sure almost anyone who’s ever been on a “weight loss journey” can tell you, the process is very rarely just a one-and-done type thing where you lose all the weight and then it just magically stays off, or at the very least, that you somehow magically become this person that can easily keep it off. I can only speak for myself, but I know that once I’d gained more weight than I liked, it has become somewhat of a permanent battle to KEEP that weight off, especially the older I get.
I know, for me, one of the quickest ways to tank my motivation is to bemoan how far I am from my fittest/thinnest/lowest weight, etc. Sure, I am consciously grateful that I currently don’t loathe how I look (which I did for quite awhile after I had Raven and especially when I had to go on steroids to treat my autoimmune disease); I am grateful that I no longer hide from photos (which I definitely did during that period), and I feel grateful that I’m in pretty decent shape aerobic shape–I feel confident that if you ask me to do any kind of cardio activity, I’ll be able to do it, and with reasonable energy and speed, too. These are things that I don’t have to search too deeply to feel gratitude for.
But the hardest part for me has been–can where I’m at right now be “enough” for me?
“Enough” so that I don’t constantly feel the need to compare myself now to how I used to be?
“Enough” so that I’m not anxious about stepping on the scale at any given time, nervous at what it might show me?
“Enough” so that my journey shifts from being one that’s motivated more by weight loss to one that’s more about embracing a healthy lifestyle, even if it means I never shed another pound or inch?
THAT, my friends, is where it gets tricky.
Some days, I think I’m just about there–I celebrate my latest fitness victories, I have grace with myself when I eat more cookies than I should (because I know I’ll get back on track soon thereafter), and I don’t stress about the fact that I just bought a size of jeans that was two sizes up from my “happiest” weight. I remind myself that my body HAD to change because it grew a small, perfect human for 9 months. I remind myself that the medications I had to take for my autoimmune condition seemed to shift something in my metabolism and body makeup permanently, and that I just need to accept that and move past it, rather than becoming bitter about it and giving up.
On other days, I miss not having to worry about the “angle” that a picture of me is being taken from (yes, I do think about that), and I miss being able to wear horizontal stripes without fear, and I miss that awesome gray skirt I used to wear to work at least once or twice a week just because it looked awesome on me. I miss being able to order clothes online without worry because I knew that whatever I got in my size that was more or less my style would look good on me. I miss the feeling of excitement I used to get when I went clothes shopping, when I knew I would love far more pieces than I hated that I tried on.
These are silly things in the big picture of life, of course—I am grateful, first and foremost, that I am healthy (and am especially thankful that my AI disease is currently in remission and has been for quite awhile) and that I (usually) still have the energy that comes from youth and from taking relatively good care of myself.
The reason for this long intro is because I was considering quitting this series—I felt like these small tweaks weren’t really adding up to any visible difference, so why bother? Plus, to be perfectly honest, I wanted to let myself off the hook a bit with the holidays coming up. I know all too well what it’s like to be in a strict diet during the holiday season, and it’s not an experience I want to repeat anytime soon.
But I think that desire to let myself off the hook is EXACTLY why I need to keep doing this—because, whether I like it or not, it is no longer easy for me to lose weight, or even to maintain my weight, so without constant vigilance and constant check-ins, it will become all too easy to let myself slide into unhealthy habits and weight gain. This I know.
So, here we go:
Quick Recap of My Goals From Last Post:
- Be more diligent about tracking what I eat, and hit my fiber goal (25 g/day) at least five days out of the week
- Continue shooting for 10,000 steps on average every day and find a replacement class or workout for Wednesday night’s boxing class
- Do two 10-minute strength training sessions each week
- Don’t buy any more Diet Dr. Pepper once my current supply is gone
I was doing better at tracking what I ate again until I got sick in the first week, then I lost a LOT of motivation/energy to do anything after that. However, I WAS able to keep my goal to not buy any more Diet Dr. Pepper this two-week period (after my initial supply was gone early in the first week), which was a BIG win because I really wanted some when I spent basically the whole first week dealing with sickness (since all three of us got this horrible stomach bug at three different times in the week).
Right now I’m reaching the point where I know that to see any kind of change in my body, I’m either going to have to do a more dramatic tweak to my diet or a more dramatic tweak to my exercise (which probably means starting up running again). Since I’ve enjoyed our family walks every night after dinner and have more or less kept up on my new short strength training sessions, I think I’d better tackle diet a bit more.
As you’ll notice from seeing what I eat, I love food and refuse to cut out things like carbs or sugar entirely (at least for long periods of time). However, I also recognize that my current diet is not going to get me anywhere if I want to keep seeing progress, so I’ve been debating back and forth about what to do. I’ve cut out whole food groups enough times to know that I CAN do it, but also to know that I LOATHE doing it (I also know it’s not a sustainable thing for me and that I usually see weight creep as soon as I add it back in, or shortly thereafter). Over the past several years, I’ve worked to add a lot more produce into our diet, so I feel okay about where I’m at with that. And since I recently did the whole cut-down-on-sugar thing, I kind of want to focus on something else (though I will be working on my sugar addiction my whole life, I’m afraid).
That leaves my next biggest weakness: DAIRY.
You guys, I LOVE me a good hunk of dairy every day—I usually eat just cheese and crackers for my lunches half the time, and most of our dinners involve dairy in some form, whether that be sour cream on Mexican haystacks, a big ol’ dish of homemade macaroni and cheese, or a nice cup full of cream to thicken out the latest batch of chowder on the stove. The only time I’ve ever tried to fully cut out dairy was when I went on my elimination diet two years ago, and it is NOT something I ever want to repeat again, if I can help it. However, I can see that dairy is one of the biggest contributors to my calorie totals for the day, so if I make some tweaks here and there, I think it will start to really add up.
First up, though, what I had for dinners over the past two weeks:
Monday: Mexican Haystacks (apparently more calories than I thought, at least when I add all my usual toppings like sour cream and cheese. Will need to cut those down/out next time!)
Tuesday: homemade mac and cheese with peas (recipe to come soon)
Wednesday: apricot chicken + broccoli + homemade breadsticks
Thursday: sick, sick, sick all day (hardly ate anything except crackers, toast, and jello)
Friday: take-out Chinese food for the writing group Matt and I do with my in-laws + a few York peppermint patties
Saturday: Cream of Wheat + toast (Matt not feeling well)
Sunday: hamburger stroganoff + green beans + cookies
Monday: scrambled eggs + toast
Tuesday: spiced up corn, chicken, and sweet potato chowder (recipe to come soon) + toasted French bread w/ melted parmesan
Wednesday: cheese ‘n avocado tortillas + sooooo many cookies
Thursday: roasted chicken dipped in milk, garlic bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese + broccoli & carrots + two small slices toasted French bread (buttered, w/ Parmesan)
Friday: (anticipated dinner – leftover sweet potato chowder from Tuesday)
Because I’m trying to make sustainable tweaks that I can continue doing indefinitely, I think my new goal for nutrition is going to be to just have cheese for ONE meal or snack during the day, rather than at the majority, ha ha. And while I do want to keep tracking what I eat, I’m going to have more of my focus be on just maintaining the lower amount of sugar I’ve been on for several weeks now (other than those big cookie days) and on implementing this new cheese rule.
Since trying more actively to actually hit the whole 10,000 steps a day thing, we’ve been taking a LOT more family walks together (we pretty much have established the habit of going on a family walk every night after dinner now). This walk is something I look forward to all day, as it gives us all a chance to get some fresh air, gives Matt and I some time to catch up and talk, and gives Raven a chance to squeal over all the Halloween decorations everywhere. I am LOVING our walks.
I also have been doing *okay* with doing two strength sessions a week. Since getting sick, I haven’t worked up to the length/intensity I was doing before, but overall the exercises are getting a lot easier and I’m a lot less sore in the day or two following than I used to be, so…progress!
I wanted to try and replace my boxing workout on Wednesday night (which I can no longer do because of Matt’s new church calling) with something else, but that stomach flu really took it out of me these past two weeks, and it was all I could do just to keep up with the walks and strength routines (plus my usual Tuesday hip hop aerobics class). I still want to try and figure out another option for my second high-intensity hour-long cardio session in the week (whether it be an aerobics class on a different night or a run), but we’ll have to see…nights are getting trickier and trickier to fit in something that long now.
Now for some solid numbers though:
Monday: after-dinner walk (30 minutes)
Tuesday: two (!) long walks, 60 minutes hip hop aerobics (over 18,000 steps!)
Wednesday: after-dinner walk + 10-minute (abs) strength routine (10,000 steps)
Thursday & Friday: sick 🙁
Saturday: after-dinner walk
Sunday: after-dinner walk
Monday: after-dinner walk
Tuesday: walk + 60 mins. hip hop aerobics (over 15,000 steps!)
Wednesday: walk + short abs strength training session (not quite 10 minutes)
Thursday: longer walk than normal + short abs strength training session (10,000 steps today)
Avg. Step Count in Week One: 7,722 (being sick just KILLED it, as I was trying to move the least amount possible)
Avg Step Count in Week Two (so far): about 8,700
My goal for the next two-week period is to double the sets I’m currently doing in my strength training routines. I’ve been doing some of Kayla Itsines’s workouts, each of which consists of four different exercises targeting a different area. So far, I’ve just been doing one to one and a half sets of all four exercises, but I want to start doing a full two of each. So, for example, for the abs set, I do 20 snap jumps, 20 sit-ups with a twist, 20 jackknifes, and 40 X mountain climbers. (That’s all one set.) Before, I could just get through one full set, maybe one and a half. Now, I want to start doing two full sets, with little to no rest between exercises and only a minimal (60-90 seconds or so) rest between sets.
Other Health Goals //
As mentioned above, my other health goal was to cut out the Dr. Pepper (again) from my life, something I’ve been doing off and on for years. Well, I haven’t had any in about a week and a half, so I’m doing pretty well there.
For my new goal in this area, I want to be better at consciously taking time to unwind and relax before going to bed. I used to be in the fabulous habit of reading for an hour every night before going to sleep, but lately, with all the photography sessions I’ve been doing and the work I’ve been doing on the blog relaunch, I’m lucky if I just get in a half chapter of scripture reading before cutting the lights. So, while I’m not going to set a specific time amount, I am going to say that I need to set aside enough unwinding time to read at least one chapter of something other than scriptures (which I read every night anyway). I think this will really help improve the fact that I’ve had a hard time turning my brain off to fall asleep lately.
Progress I’ve Seen //
Weight: – 1.5 lb. (for a total of -3 lbs. in 10 weeks)
My weight loss this week was largely due to being sick, but I at least did get off the pound I’d gained the two weeks before as well as an extra half pound, bringing my weight to 146. I have been taking measurements too to see if I’ve made any progress there, but it’s all been fairly unremarkable so far (with the exception of the half inch or so off my waist that comes and goes depending on whether I did my strength workout the day before or not, ha ha).
Other progress I’ve noticed is that it’s MUCH easier for me to do the abs workout I’ve been doing for a few weeks now–I can now not only do the whole set without stopping to rest (most days, anyway), but I can also do it much faster than before, too. That probably means it’s time to switch it up and try a different routine!
New Goals for the Upcoming Weeks //
- Eat cheese for only one meal or snack per day
- Do two full sets when doing my strength workouts
- Consciously take time to unwind each night before bed–enough to at least read one chapter a night