I originally posted this on my personal blog back in March ’12, and am reposting in response to prodding from Danielle Liss and Kelly Olexa. I’ve seen some people wonder, “What if I don’t need to lose a lot of weight? What if I just need to lose 20 pounds, or find the motivation to exercise more/eat better?”
This is how I did it.
A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.
So, I mentioned that I’ve lost 25 pounds and 3.5 inches ’round the waistline. You can check out my before picture here if you are so inclined. Be kind.
I had a few people ask how I did that… it’s not very impressive, but since I learned from The Atlantic that Like Obesity, Weight Loss Can Be Contagious, I thought I’d share. (I want to say something about infecting you, but that seems weird?)
My diet was already pretty decent (“eat real food. mostly plants”), but I did make some changes:
- I stopped drinking coffee and soda daily. I used to have one or two Pepsi Throwbacks every day, and a huge cup of coffee with cream and sugar. Now I have maybe one of each a week. That’s like 400 calories less a day, plus I have to sleep more to compensate for the lack of caffeine. (Sleep has tons of health benefits, and if you don’t get enough, you tend to crave high fat foods.)
- I cut back on meat. Just slightly smaller portions. On taco night, I go with beans. If we have a roaster chicken, I cut it up and garnish a salad with it. Not a huge sacrifice.
- I started eating breakfast and lunch. I used to be famous for skipping both, then having a big snack when the kids came home and then a pretty big dinner. Now I have a Lean Shake (courtesy of GNC) and a bit of fruit or some toast with peanut butter as a chaser in the morning, and a bit of leftover whatever from the night before or an omelet for lunch.
- I stopped snacking. I won’t lie: adult braces help a lot here— I’m lazy, plain and simple. I don’t like having stuff in my braces, and I don’t like having to brush and floss all the freaking time either. I eat my meals, I brush, and then I wait until my next meal. Just water in between.
- Oh! I drink more water too.
I was doing Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred. I’m not doing that anymore, but it was a GREAT way to begin. It’s a flipping fantastic value for the money (currently about 8 bucks on Amazon, goes down to $6.99 all the time). What I’ve been doing since the new year started:
- Yoga. I flip between Rodney Yee videos and my Danielle Diamond video. I do these more for the stretches, to keep my back from feeling tight after a day hunched over the keyboard, than for any cardio value (although Danielle’s video is no joke), but my abs are definitely feeling tighter under the layer of paunch I still need to lose.
- Pushups. I’m probably going to regret telling you this, but I do 10 pushups whenever someone randomly texts me during the day. [UPDATE: Now I alternate between pushups and pullups. Progress!) Some days that means no pushups. Some days that means my arms are screaming at the end of the day. Fate decides.
- #Plankaday. Basically it's just a challenge to hold a plank position for as long as you can once a day. It doesn't take long. I tend to do this while waiting for the dogs to take care of business during their last letting-out of the day.
- Couch to 5K. Writing up the recap of the runDisney Princess Half marathon for work totally got under my skin. I plan to run that thing next year. I started the Couch to 5K program and I think I'm doing a Dirty Girl mud run sometime this spring. [UPDATE: I totally ran that thing! And then I took a plane home and ran a 5K with my son the next day!] I have never been a runner so we’ll see how it goes, but at the moment I’m enjoying lacing up my sneaks and getting outside.
Look, what is working for me might not necessarily work for you. We all have different genes, different motivations, different schedules. I share only to illustrate that small changes do make a difference; I didn’t do anything drastic or life-altering.
I’ve done a lot of discussing and writing about what’s universal, though, and this is what I’ve decided.
We need to have clear goals. Right now I want to be able to run 3 miles without wanting to die. (Full disclosure: I’ve got the lungs of someone who smoked for more than 2 decades.) Before, I wanted to have a waistline. Decide on something, you can adjust if you need to as time goes on. But you’ll never really commit until you know where you’re going.
We need support. Tell somebody what your goals are, even if it’s just me. I told the internet, and I’m glad I did, because it prompted me to post a before photo so I could actually see the progress I had made. It’s tempting to keep your goals a secret but seriously. Don’t. Mentally you’re just giving yourself an easy out down the road.
We need inspiration and motivation. Human beings are visual creatures. My boss Kelly Olexa allegedly keeps a bikini in her refrigerator. I have motivational sayings in frames in my office. Some people put pep talk Post-It notes everywhere. Pinterest is great for creating inspiration boards. Figure out what makes you want to just do it and then surround yourself with it.
We need feedback. I fought this one for a long time, but it works. Keep a food diary. Even better, use something like the USDA SuperTracker or a mobile app like MyNetDiary (haven’t used that one myself, but others have vouched for it). In my experience, consciously trying to meet fruit and veg requirements meant I wasn’t hungry for anything else. I have a Fitbit, which combines a pedometer, food tracker and sleep tracker, but really any pedometer works to keep you motivated to fit some extra steps in. And when I’m running, checking my heart rate monitor for my heart rate ensures I’m not slacking off. I’m also tracking the distance I cover in the time allotted on each run. You better believe that I’ll start pushing once I see that number increasing.
We need to keep it enjoyable. If it ain’t fun, you’re not gonna do it, pure and simple. Find what makes you feel good. Make it a game, like my texting pushups. That goes for eating, too. Experiment. Play with your food. I love food, and I don’t deprive myself of delicious, full fat and sugar foods. I cut out the non-foods, the processed crap. I fully enjoy real food. I just don’t eat the super rich stuff everyday, I keep that for the weekends. During the week I try to keep it simple, and I try to find ways to cook healthy foods that everyone can live with.
Just recently I was saying that going green became a way of life for us. Not all at once. It builds. You start with baby steps. Recycling. Then it stops making sense to buy the plastic in the first place. So you start with the reusable bottles… then bags… you switch out your household cleaners for non-toxic options, then you start thinking about what’s in your lotion and your makeup. It snowballs.
It’s the same with health and fitness. You start by burning 250 calories on the treadmill, then you hate to see that good work undone by a soda and a bag of chips. You eat better, and you can eat more, and that gives you more energy to fuel better workouts. It builds. It snowballs. It gets easier.
But only if you start.
Just do it.
Self-proclaimed Honey Badger Mom of 3, Robin Elton is the FitFluential Community Manager and day-to-day voice behind the @FitFluential Twitter handle. She writes about real food, healthy green living, practical parenting and the power of play at simple. green. organic. happy.
Robin hopes to one day actually launch HoneyBadgerMom.com. If you think she needs to get moving on that so she has a place to get her snark on, tweet her @robinelton— she responds well to public chastising.