I’ve decided to pull away from my normal bookish content for this post, and talk about the struggle a lot of us, including myself, face to get healthy, and stay healthy. In October 2014, after 5 months of working on a healthier lifestyle, I shared this post with you about my weight loss journey. I went on to lose another 25 lbs by January 2015 (losing a total of 75 lbs), and then in February my love of running began. It was almost a year exactly from my first major weight loss milestone that I ran my first ever 5K (November 2015).
But folks, it hasn’t been easy. And sometimes the motivation just isn’t there. Or the scale creeps up and panic ensues. Staying healthy is definitely one of the most challenging things I have ever faced, and continue to face every single day. It’s not something that just goes away once you meet a certain goal and lose some weight. It’s a constant battle – always in the forefront of my mind. I struggle daily with eating the correct number of calories, not overindulging, making healthy food decisions, saying ‘no’ to sweets. And although I love running, and would do it every single day if my knees didn’t hate me, there are definitely days where I am not feeling it. Where the laziness takes over, and I feel like that girl I was a year and a half ago.
There’s also the struggle internally. Just because I have lost weight doesn’t mean I feel skinny. I still carry that overweight perception of myself, although I continue to work hard at changing my mindset every day. This article about ‘Phantom Fat’ makes some excellent points about the struggles people like myself face after a big weight loss. Yes, I can tell by my clothes and the scale that I’m significantly smaller. But there are days when I look in the mirror, and I don’t see it. Days when I feel like a busted can of biscuits. And I can’t even begin to tell you how bad my fear is of gaining the weight back.
These are all battles I fight with myself on a daily basis. Allowing myself to eat a piece of cake without the fear of gaining back 75 lbs. Being okay with taking a rest day and telling myself that I don’t have to hit my 10,000 step goal every.single.day. Accepting that my metabolism has improved, and that it’s okay to indulge once in awhile, as long as it’s not an every day occurrence. Finding new, healthy foods to break up the boring routine. Staying motivated to run by signing up for a new race every month. Finding a balance so that I’m not totally consumed by counting calories and being healthy, but still making it a priority so I don’t fall back into old habits. Learning to live a new lifestyle, while still learning to live a little. Being aware of my choices and how they’ll affect me, but also not beating myself up when I’ve had a bad week and gain a couple of lbs. Being able to look in the mirror and be proud of how far I’ve come, and that I worked my ass off to be a better version of myself – and using that motivation to not give up.
So, What are some ways to be healthy and keep your sanity? How do you live a healthier lifestyle and stick to it? These are just a few things that have worked for me.
Find some fun, low calorie foods you enjoy
I used to be the queen of fast food and sweets. And although I have given up fast food (and don’t even miss it), I still love sweets a little too much, and have had to find alternative foods to feed that sweet tooth. Yasso Sea Salt Caramel Bars, Chobani yogurt with granola, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Energy Bites, Quaker Chocolate Crunch Rice Cakes w/peanut butter, Dove Dark Chocolate, Nature Valley Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein Bars. These are just a few of my favorite low calorie snacks that give me the sweet fix I need. And that’s just snack food – I’ve also found a new love for veggie burgers, salads, low calorie breads, egg whites, almond milk, oatmeal. There are so many healthier foods that I never ate before, but have grown to love and crave now. I’ve learned to make substitutions here and there and now they’ve become a part of my diet. I still love me a cheeseburger and fries once in awhile, don’t get me wrong. I’ve just learned how to balance my love of food by working healthier options into my daily diet, and not having to give up all the foods that I love, like pizza. Because life just simply isn’t worth living without pizza.
I used to be the laziest person in the world. No joke. The thought of any kind of exercise was revolting. I would come home from work and plant my ass on the couch, only moving for important things like using the bathroom or getting a bowl of ice cream. But clearly that wasn’t working for me. And even though I lost weight solely by eating better and dieting, I didn’t want to be on a diet the rest of my life. I knew that in order to eat more and get to enjoy food (because let’s face it, I love food), I had to become more active. I started out by downloading the Sworkit app on my phone and working out 30 minutes a few days a week. After about a month of doing that, I got the bug to try running. And it was then that my love of running was born, and it is my sole form of exercise now. The point, though, is finding what works for YOU. Some people love walking, and walking is a GREAT way to lose weight. Some people like the elliptical, and I do too once in awhile. I have friends who love yoga or spinning class. Some people are into CROSSFIT and weight training. That’s great, and more power to those people because it works for them. What works for one person may not for someone else, but the key is just finding that one thing you love to do and then making it an important part of your weekly or daily routine. Start out slowly so that you can learn to enjoy it, and once you build it into your routine, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll NEED it. The body is a powerful thing, and once it starts to get used to something, it will crave it regularly. I never imagined I would love running as much as I do, but when I don’t get to run for one reason or another, I get anxious. My body needs that outlet. It clears my mind, but it also makes me feel good about myself. It is MY therapy, and now that I am used to it, I need it to survive.
Find a routine that works for you and then stick to it. The recommended amount of activity every week varies by person. Start small and build your way up to what you’re happy with. It’s not always easy making time around working, taking care of your family, kids activities, etc. I totally get that. Some people can only work it into their schedule a few days a week, and that’s okay! You do what works for you. If you’re a morning person, get up a little earlier and get in a 30 minute workout. More of a night owl? Fit in 30 minutes after the kids go to bed. I have friends who workout over their lunch breaks a few days a week. Whatever works. I personally prefer to get up a little earlier every morning to run. For me it’s the best way to start my day. But I know that’s not ideal for every situation, and there are days where I say ‘screw it’ and decide to sleep in instead. Because I’m human and we’re all going to have days like that once in awhile. The point is to keep moving forward and keep trying.
If you’re interested in running, this is the Couch to 5K app that I used. It starts you off running only a few days a week, and only very short periods of time. For a girl who used to pretend illness to get out of running in gym class, this app worked for me. It says it’s an 8 week program, but it honestly took me about 4 months to be comfortable running for 30 minutes. You go at the pace that works for you.
The other thing that has really helped me be active on a daily basis is getting an activity tracker. But beware, it becomes an addiction. I find that I’m very competitive with myself to meet or surpass my step goals every day. That can be a good and a bad thing. Good because I am getting the much needed activity that is recommended (10,000 steps minimum), but bad when I need a break and the guilt sets in. It’s important not to let it consume you, but I feel having a tracker has been instrumental in my journey to becoming more active. It’s made me more aware of how little activity I used to get in a normal day and has helped get me up and moving. It has made exercise more fun and keeps it constantly at the forefront of my mind. I have a Fitbit, which I definitely recommend. I’ve used both the Charge and now I have the Surge, and I’ve loved them both. Wearing a tracker has been an eye opening experience for me, and I highly recommend getting one if you’re looking to be more active and need a good motivator.
Studies have proven that a good night’s sleep is key to losing weight and feeling good. 7-9 hours is recommended. This is where I struggle a bit. My body requires at least 7 hours of sleep every night to function at my full potential. But do you think I get that much sleep? No. Because I like staying up later with my husband, reading my book, drinking a glass of wine in front of the fire, basically refusing to cave to fatigue. That time after my daughter goes to bed is my down time, and I don’t like cutting it short just to get more sleep. I know it’s bad, and I’m working on it. I can usually stay up later for a few nights, but then it will catch up to me, and I’ll have to go to bed earlier for a few days to make up for it. When I DO get a full night’s sleep, it’s amazing how good I will feel the next morning, how good my run will be. You would think that would motivate me to go to bed at a decent time every night, right? I’m still working on it.
Do it for YOU
It’s very important to make time for yourself. We all need an outlet for the everyday stresses of life. I have several outlets – running, reading, and wine. Without these things, I’d lose my damn mind. With the daily struggles to be healthy, make sure you’re doing something for yourself. Set goals with some sort of reward in mind. My reward for losing my first 50 lbs was a new tattoo. I set that goal knowing how bad I wanted a new tattoo, and it was such a great feeling walking into that tattoo shop, knowing this was my reward for working my ass off. I have set small goals for myself along the way because it’s important to reward yourself for working so hard. Buy a new purse, buy some books, get a new pair of running shoes, some new clothes. Do it for YOU.
Go Easy On Yourself
You’re going to have bad days. You’re going to slip up. You’ll hit a plateau and get frustrated. You’ll get bored and need to change up your routine. And you’re going to want to give up over and over again. This is all normal and it’s okay! Don’t beat yourself up, and cut yourself some slack. What’s important is that you maintain your focus and get back at it. Remember why you started and be proud of how far you’ve come. Use that as motivation to keep moving forward and push yourself just a little harder, because there is nothing as satisfying as meeting that goal. There really is no greater feeling than finding a strength you didn’t know you had, and exceeding goals you never imagined possible.
Live a Little
I love that I’m a healthier person now. I don’t miss fast food. I don’t miss drinking pop. I gave up a lot of unhealthy foods, and I don’t miss them one bit, because I’ve learned how it affected me. I’ve become so much more knowledgeable about what goes into my mouth and how many calories are in everything I eat. It was eye opening, let me tell you. I couldn’t have done it without MyFitnessPal. And it was KEY to my success. I never cared or even looked at the back of a box of food to see what I was eating or what a portion size was. And now I’m more aware of everything I eat and how to measure out the proper portions, which has helped make me a healthier eater. I want to eat better, because I have a better understanding of calories and how different foods affect me. But I also know that it is EXTREMELY important to live a little. Indulge. Have that Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Drink that red wine (I drank a glass of red wine every night during my weight loss journey – it was my daily reward for sticking to my calories). Eat that chocolate chip cookie. You can not go through this process without living a little. You are only human. It’s okay to have pizza for dinner. Just find a balance. I still love pizza and have it at least once a week. But I eat a salad for lunch that day so I don’t feel guilty about it. I love ice cream in the summer and refuse to give it up. You can live a healthier lifestyle without giving up everything you love. It’s all about moderation and finding that balance. Use portion control, set a routine of healthier eating throughout the week by cutting out some extra calories or substituting healthier foods, and then have that Molten Lava cake from Applebee’s on Saturday night – guilt free! Remember that this is a process, but to be successful you will have to find ways to enjoy it.
And it’s all worth it
It’s amazing to me that once I got into a routine and started eating better, it became my norm. I still eat foods I love, but I am more aware. I still have lazy days, but I have more active days to offset them. I’m still struggling with the fat girl on the inside, but I’m beating her one day at a time. I’m proving to myself that I have the strength to fight for a healthier life, to be better for my husband and daughter, but most of all for myself. I have energy and confidence that I never had before. I can go shopping for clothes and actually enjoy it. I can look in the mirror and see how far I’ve come and be proud of how hard I worked to get here. This post has helped remind me that I’m going to screw up, and I’m going to have bad days or even weeks. What’s important is that I remember how I felt before I started this journey, and to use that to fuel my motivation and get back on track. I will continue to work on my self image, I will continue to struggle every day to eat healthy, and I will continue to fight that overwhelming feeling of laziness that gets me once in awhile. I will fight and I will win.
I started this post to talk about the daily struggles of being healthy and wanting to share the things that have worked for me over the past year and a half. I would love to hear what things keep YOU motivated and helps you stay on track.
Here are some fun ways to burn some quick calories!