|Photo by Jez Timms|
I've carried around an extra twenty to thirty pounds since my son was born seven years ago. I've tried running, as well as various exercise videos and classes. Exercise alone has not seemed to work. So here is my "secret": Calories in/Calories out. I can eat mostly anything I'd like to as long as I take in less calories than I burn that day. Sounds simple right? It is and it isn't. I realized that I am not the type of person who can give up bread forever, eat no sugar for a month, or eat only salad. I'm just not. I have excellent willpower with many things, but food is not one of them. (Food seems to be an acceptable sin in the church. I mean, have you been to a Methodist church dinner in the South? Everything tastes so good because it's either fried or cooked with bacon.) I knew I had to do something that would be sustainable in the long-term. (AKA still allow me to eat my favorite foods--ice cream and pizza.)
I began to track my calories. (There are several free apps that are great for this!) I learned that a good calorie range for women seeking to lose weight is 1250-1400 per day. At first, this seemed like an incredibly small amount. I was pretty hungry for a couple of weeks, and very tired. Although I wanted to quit, I kept going. My stomach eventually shrank and my body got used to the smaller amount of calories per meal. I was amazed to learn just how many calories I had been eating and how much fat certain foods contained. I began to swap things out. Almond milk instead of regular. Mini oranges instead of orange juice. Wraps instead of bread. I still allow myself to eat things like pizza (which I can't live without!) but I try to eat less of them. Two small slices instead of three or four. One scoop of ice cream instead of a bowl. A quarter of a large cupcake instead of a whole one. This felt more sustainable than completely cutting these things out.
I also increased my exercise. I aim for 3-4 times a week. The more the better! I've also heard thirty minutes a day is a good goal. I enjoy cardio-strength classes (Shout out to Body and Soul Fitness!), exercise videos, yoga and dance. It's all about finding something you like to do and will want to do. I have been weighing myself each day, which has been a fascinating study in how the body processes food. It is recommended to only do it once a week, but it has helped me to see when I have gone in the wrong direction that week.
I haven't lost as much weight per week as I had hoped. My goal was two pounds, and I've been landing around one. Two major challenges for me have been stress-eating and dish-to-pass/celebration meals. Stress-eating has been my go-to for a long time. I wish I could say that I just pray away the stress, but I usually go for a bowl of ice cream after a long day at work or a draining day with the kids. This has been a hard habit to break, and I can't say that I've completely broken it yet. However, I've tried to replace the need to treat myself with food with something positive like a movie, reading or yoga.
I also have trouble with eating at celebrations and restaurants. Due to my childhood, I learned to eat as much as I wanted at these occasions. If I have a stressful day or week, it is especially hard to eat healthy at a restaurant or a mom's group gathering. (Note to moms: If you have to go to McDonalds, choose the Happy Meal, it is not really that bad calorie-wise compared to other menu items.)
In a way, the "life change" I am experiencing has felt a bit like my experiences with fasting. It has involved a lot of disciplining my mind and body and not always saying yes to cravings. I really like food. I wish that I didn't. (I'm convinced that skinny people must just not like food that much.) I don't think that will change, but my choices can. I learned that I really can say no to that cup of hot chocolate or that third piece of pizza. That has felt freeing. A really cool thing that I didn't expect was that the less food I ate, the more it tasted better. If I only eat dessert occasionally, it tastes so much sweeter than it ever did. Waiting to eat certain things helps them taste better. My body has also started to reject very salty foods (I made the mistake of eating Burger King fries recently, wow!) and I feel sick if I eat a really fatty meal. Our body really knows what it needs and doesn't need.
I'm not finished with my lifestyle change yet, and I know that I will continue to struggle with food. However, I am excited to see change happening in my mind and body and feel blessed to share this journey with you.