Monday, April 25, 2011

Weight Loss Tips that Worked for Me

The Fine Print: The only initials behind my name are B.S. (or B.A., I can't remember which, but B.S. is probably more appropriate...).  If you do anything that I suggest in this blog and hurt yourself, it's your own fault, and you may not sue me, but I have nothing to offer you anyway other than a husband, three adorable children, and some clothes, most of which are now too big for me.  Just read the exercise equipment before you begin working out and consult your physician before beginning an exercise regimen blah, blah, blah...

As indicated in my previous post, Stephen and I began efforts to live a healthier lifestyle at the beginning of January.  It has been a very rewarding, yet challenging, journey so far.  I'm trying to be realistic though and keep in mind that we're only about three months into our change, and we still have momentum and the rapid weight loss that always happens at the beginning on our side.  A plateau for each of us is right around the corner and will soon rear its ugly head, but in the meantime, we've learned a lot of helpful tips.  I think if you're prepared for that to happen, it's not as discouraging as it could potentially be.

The facts:
  • Since January 5, 2011 (my birthday...such a fun day to begin weight loss efforts), I have lost 14.29% of my original weight.  As a result, I've also lost two pant sizes and one shirt size.  I still would like to lose about 5 more pounds, but to be honest, I'm really pleased with our progress so far and just really want to do my best to maintain what we've already accomplished.
  • Since January 5, 2011, I have gained more energy throughout the day, more endurance to really play with my kids, and a messier house...but more on that later.
So here are my four tips that have helped me in the early stages of my attempt to live a healthier lifestyle.  (Disclaimer: some of these are applicable to anyone who has a gym membership, but you can probably figure out a way to apply it to your own life if you don't.)

1. Make your workout count.
I'm sure this goes without saying, but with three kids who are three years old or younger, it is a huge effort just to get to the gym in the first place.  Then once I'm there, it's a big deal to get to stay there.  Here's what I mean: at our YMCA, the childcare doesn't change diapers for liability purposes.  I completely understand and don't fault them at all for this policy.  However, two of my three kids are in diapers, so it is inevitable that I will be called out of class or the gym to go change a diaper at least once during the two hours that I'm allowed to leave them in childcare.  So once I'm there, I'm committed.  I also have no idea when someone will get sick, a car will break down, or whatever, so I know that I'm not guaranteed the next workout that I think I'll be going to.  (See #3.)  Challenge yourself to something harder each workout.  Go for a longer amount of time or increase your resistance or use heavier weights or whatever.  Don't do the same thing every time because your body will grow accustomed to that activity and will become more difficult for you to lose weight doing the same thing over and over.  I have been going to a class since the first week in January that I really enjoy (see #2), and it is an hour long.  I have no idea how long I will get to stay in it each day because it is very likely I'll be called out to change a diaper, feed Caleb, or whatever.  When I get to class, I do the best I can to give as much effort and energy throughout the class even from the warm-up because I have no idea how long I'll be able to stay.  Sometimes I get called out and have to leave class early or miss a few minutes of it, and I'm thankful that I worked really hard while I was there.  But sometimes I luck out and am never called out until class is over, and I just happen to put in a really hard workout that day.  If I have a little bit of energy left after class, I will sometimes go on the treadmill or stairclimber or elliptical machine and put in a little bit of extra time because like I said before, I don't know when I'll get to go back.

2. Consider taking a class.
Most gyms offer some sort of organized class system from aerobics to kickboxing to bodypump (a free weights/barbell class) to step aerobics to pilates, and they are included in the cost of your monthly membership fee.  Our YMCA even offers a treadmill class and a stroller class!  A variety of classes are offered at many times throughout the day at most gyms that I'm familiar with. Here's why I suggest going to a class:  The group fitness instructors know more about fitness/weight loss/healthy living than you (or I) do.  They are professionals at knowing the best way to take care of your body both through nutrition and exercise, and they WANT to help you.  If you're like me, you cannot afford both a gym membership AND a personal trainer.  However, I have never attended a class at either the Katy YMCA or the T.W. Davis YMCA where I have not walked away learning at least one thing that I didn't already know about fitness or nutrition.  Every instructor (who are also all certified personal trainers) I've been around offers little "freebies" or tidbits of helpful information throughout each class.  Plus, research has shown that you will burn 15-20% more calories doing an hour of group exercise than you would on your own.  Choose something that interests you that is offered at a time that is convenient to you and try it out.  Maybe even choose a variety of classes so that you get a well-rounded workout throughout the week.  Since the window of available time for me to go is very narrow considering feeding times, naptimes, meal times, etc., I found a class that is a combination of strength training and cardio training intervals, and I love it because I feel like I had a complete workout when I leave.  A heads up though: classes can be somewhat intimidating, but there's a blog post to come about overcoming that intimidation in the near future (I promise I have no intentions of turning this into a weight loss/fitness/nutrition blog.)

3. Have a plan.
Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." I am taking extreme liberty to translate this to, "Where this is no plan, people get fat and lazy."  Our efforts to live a healthier lifestyle have caused us to literally change our habits and daily routines around here.  Stephen has his workout and weight lifting routines planned to a "t." I don't know exactly how his system works, but he does, and he has been reaching his goals, one right after another, and I am so proud of him.  We had to sit down, literally, and figure out how we were gonna make this whole gym membership thing work into our daily and weekly schedules because we knew that we couldn't just throw our membership fee away and not go.  I have a morning routine that we have to stick to in order for us to get to the gym on time for my class.  Part of your plan can include measurable goals such as "I would like to lose __pounds in __weeks" or "I would like to make it to the gym ___ times in a week" or whatever.  Just make sure that your goal is measurable, not "I want to lose weight" or "I want to work out more." I set a goal back in January for the amount of body weight percentage that I wanted to lose during our roughly 90 day long weight loss challenge at church.  Thankfully, I've already met my goal, so I'm trying really hard to not go backwards (harder than it seems!) and to actually make even more progress.  Regarding food, we have definitely started making more deliberate plans about our meals.  Not only do I plan out our meals throughout the week, including the "sides," but I also plan our snacks, and I try to figure out which meals will provide us with leftovers and which won't.  So if all goes as planned, before I go to bed at night, , I pretty much know exactly what I'll be eating the next day from breakfast to dinner with some snacks in between.  Which ironically leads me to my last point...

4. Accept that life happens.
 Here are some truths that I've had to learn to accept (and actually even appreciate since we began striving for a healthier lifestyle): Your kids will be invited to birthday parties and there will be cake.  Your child will get sick, and you might not be able to get in a workout for a few days.  You might be injured and have to temporarily take it easy.  You will decide to have pizza one night and actually eat what the rest of the family is eating.  You will have to make trade-offs...more time at the gym or working out might (in my case) mean less time that you can offer to keeping your home in order.  You might be invited out to dinner to a place that offers many of your food weaknesses.  And the list could literally go on and on...  In #3 I tried to emphasize the importance of making a plan and trying to stick to it, but sometimes, life just happens, and a monkey throws a wrench in your plans.  You might be able to get in an extra workout to make up for the Blizzard that you ate, and you might not.  You might be able to make it to the gym when your hubby gets home because you couldn't go earlier because your child was running a fever, but you might not.  Try and look at the big picture.  Yes, losing weight and becoming healthier over a long period of time requires daily efforts, but you can't and won't do it perfectly every day.  Right after we got our gym membership, and I started going regularly which is about a two hour/day commitment (no joke) even though I'm not working out for two hours, our dishwasher broke.  That might not seem like a big deal (and in the grand scheme of things it's not), but I really didn't have two hours in my day to spare to commit to working out and exercising, and now we have a dishwasher that doesn't work which requires additional time (that I don't have) to maintain some sort of order within our house. To be honest, a lot of regular housekeeping around our home has been pushed to the backburner in an effort to commit more time to a healthier lifestyle, but I've come to grips with the fact that I have the rest of my life to have a clean, spotless home, but I don't have the rest of my life to invest in my health because I'm not getting any younger!  Make a plan, try and stick to it, but don't think it's the end of the world if your plan goes awry sometimes.  Be flexible and forgiving of yourself, and by "flexible" I mean be willing to snap back into your original shape (the plan) whenever your stretched and pulled and out of shape, no pun intended.

That's it.  I really hope this is helpful as it is worked for a "real" family on one income without any actual, regimented plan.  It is not a magic formula, and I cannot guarantee you that if you do #1-4, you will lose ___ pounds in ___ weeks or you'll get your money back, but it is what has worked for our family.   When I have a few spare minutes, I will jot down some lessons I've learned through exercising that are applicable to Christians, especially within the local church.  Our recent efforts have confirmed to me why Paul often compared our journey and challenges as believers with those of an athlete.  I'm sure you're all at the edge of your seats... :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Half a Year

Dear Baby Caleb,

Will you mind if we're still calling you that when you're five years old?  Or fifteen years old?  Everyone in our family refers to you as "Baby Caleb," but especially your mommy and your big sister. 

What a precious boy you are and what a special gift you have been to our family.  You are such a sweet son to your daddy and me and a lovable brother to your big sister and big brother.  I sure hope that you know how we love you so!  It has been so exciting to watch Grace and Carter's love and affection toward you grow over the past six months.  I sure hope you know how special you are since they are both willing to share their most prized possessions, "Bum" and "Bunny," with you! 

Here's what you've been up to lately...

You nurse about 6 times a day, about every two and a half to three hours during the day.  You take wonderful naps, two longer naps and one or two shorter ones.  You sleep anywhere from 10-12 hours at night.  Thank you, sweet boy!

You mostly wear size 3 diapers, mainly because you tend to leak if we don't put you in bigger ones.  We go to the doctor tomorrow for your six month check-up, so I'm anxious to see how much you weigh and are in length!  You still wear some 3-6 month clothing, but mostly size 6 months or 6-9 months. 

You love playing on a blanket on the floor, playing in your exersaucer, or playing in your play gym.  You will sometimes play in the swing.  I think the most entertaining thing for you though is to sit in your bouncy chair and just watch your sister and brother play!  I think your favorite toy is this plush ball that has little taggies all over it that jingles when you move it.  Your grandma gave it to your big brother last year for Easter. 

Thank you for humoring me and grinning so big from ear to ear when your mommy starts singing silly, made-up songs to entertain you. 

You have four teeth!  Everything goes in your mouth!  We haven't started you on any food yet (Ooops!) because mommy hasn't had any time to make any yet, but we're gonna try oatmeal cereal tomorrow!  I hope you love it as much as your brother did! 

You really only cry now when you're overly tired or hungry.  But when you cry, YOU CRY!  Your cry is the most dramatic, ear-piercing sound to Mommy, and it makes me want to take care of your immediate need right away just so that I don't have to hear your desperation any longer!  But I do think that you're a little bit of a drama king and that your life isn't as traumatic as you make it sound! 

I've said this before, and I'll say it again.  When we found out that we were having a boy when we were pregnant with your big brother, I had no idea what I'd do with a little boy.  All I "knew" were girls.  Now, two boys later, I have no idea what I'd do without you. 

I pray that you continue to have a special relationship with your brother and sister and that you grow to have a unique friendship with each of them.  I also pray that you experience your mommy and daddy's love in a sweet way every day.  Most importantly though, I pray that somehow, in your little six-month-old way, you have experienced and will continue to encounter God's love for you, precious boy.  You have so many people who love you: your mommy and daddy, of course; your brother and sister; your grandparents, your aunts, your church friends, and your teachers.  But as much as I love you, my love for you cannot even compare to how much Jesus loves you, sweet boy.

I love you, Baby Caleb.
Your Mommy

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

To Lose Weight You Gotta Lose the Excuses

Roughly around five years ago, I was in the shape of my life.  I looked great, but more importantly, I felt great.  Few things could tire me out, and I had the lowest body fat percentage from as far back as I can remember.  I knew that I was healthy even without looking at a scale.  I was eating right and had a very active lifestyle.  I had even signed up to take courses to become certified as a group exercise instructor through the encouragement of one of my own instructors at the YMCA.  This was right before I got married, and most of you know the rest of the story up until now.  About 3 1/2 months after we got married, I peed on a stick and two lines popped up, and three days after our first anniversary, our first child was born.  I nursed her and thought that I'd magically lose all of my baby weight and then some, but that didn't happen needless to say.  Right around her first birthday, we found out we were pregnant again, and I actually did lose quite a bit of weight after Carter was born and found myself within 5 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight.  When Carter was 8 months old, we learned that we were expecting Numero Tres who is now 4 1/2 months old. 

If there is an excuse, I've thought about it and could actually make it sound legit.  Examples:
  • Cooking nutritiously isn't cheap, especially when you're on a single income.  
  • What do I do with my kids while I'm working out?
  • I'm not that big for having had three kids in three years.
  • And the list could go on and on...
 Here are some ways that the Lord has helped re-shape my thinking regarding some of my most frequently used excuses...

My kids won't like nutritious food.
WRONG!  We've made major changes regarding our eating habits over the past weeks, and the kids have LOVED it.  All the Christmas candy and goodies that were leftover have been thrown out.  They haven't asked where they went.  I've missed them more than the kids have.  :)  Instead, we've been enjoying homemade smoothies in the afternoons when we're craving something sweet.  Grace even helps me throw everything in the blender, and she loves pressing the "smoothie" button and watching it blend.  We've had plenty of fresh fruit on hand, and the kids are begging for it with every meal and much so that I've had to start HIDING it because we're having diaper issues...not kidding!  We've also had at least one serving of fresh vegetables (not frozen or canned) with every meal in the past week, and I didn't make enough!  There were no leftovers! 

What will I do with my kids while I'm working out?
This wasn't as easy to answer as some of the other questions.  I've tried a lot of different solutions.  Going at 5:00 a.m. worked most days, but occasionally Caleb would wake up and need to be fed, and Stephen couldn't really help him out.   We could each go separately at night to our local gym, but that would obviously occupy any amount of time that we would have together as a family in the evenings.  So we researched and visited gyms and checked out their childcare programs.  This was a huge step for me because I'm very spoiled and blessed with reliable childcare.  I have a large handful of "go-to" people who I depend on to watch my precious babies, and every single one of them is a family member or someone who might as well be a family member because we are close friends!  The Child Watch program at our local YMCA was impressive to say the least.  I was very comfortable with it, and observing dispelled most of my fears.  I've dropped off the kids there now three times, and it has been a wonderful experience.  In fact, the first two days I went back and checked on them and saw that they were having so much fun, so I went back and worked out more!  Carter cried when we dropped him off the first two days, but yesterday he went right in with no problems and started playing!

Cooking nutritiously isn't cheap.
Well, it's not.  Leaner meat is more expensive.  Fresher vegetables are more expensive.  But I can learn to exhibit portion control!  And I can make the meals as lean as possible by modifying ingredients.  I do try to add more vegetables than what the recipes calls for to add in more vitamin and minerals.

I'm not THAT fat.
I'm not gonna lie.  I get this a lot.  Actually, what I hear the most is, "Courtney, you look great for having just had three kids."  I know that people mean this as a compliment, so I try to take it as one, but honestly, I know what the scale says, and they don't.  I know what it could/should say but doesn't (yet).  I want to look great.  Period.  Without the added phrase, "for having just had three kids."  And not because I want compliments but because I need more discipline and I know that I can do better.  Stephen and I do not have health on our side when it comes to genetics.  We both have diabetes, heart disease, and cancer in our future if previous generations are any indication of what's to come.  (Wow!  That was really depressing to just type!)  I want to do what I can to live an abundant life without being an abundant size! :)

I can't afford participating in a weight loss program that costs money.
This one is true.  Our family had to choose...either a gym membership or membership to a weight loss program.   We chose a gym membership for a few reasons.  First of all, we are a family on a single income, and I can't justify preparing two different meals, one for Stephen and me and then a different one for the kids.  I also can't justify spending our limited income on meals delivered to our door that only I could eat.  I also don't have an overwhelming amount of free time to go and weigh in at a meeting and then sit and listen to a pep-talk, but just FYI, I've been involved in Weight Watchers, and I personally think it's the best program,other that First Place. :)  After I got to the end of my excuses, the bottom line was this: I knew exactly what I should be doing and exactly what I was doing wrong.  I think if we're all honest with ourselves, we could all admit that.  I have a lot of knowledge about living a healthy lifestyle and eating right.  That's what happens when one of your dearest friends is a registered dietitian.  Since I know (knowing and doing are two different issues though, right?) what to do regarding how we eat, we decided to spend the money on a gym membership so that all of us could reap the benefits.   We needed a more active lifestyle more than we needed to count our calories (although we are doing that somewhat as well).  Although I didn't want to get involved in one of those programs, I seriously needed the accountability (weighing in regularly for someone other than myself) that most of those types of programs offer.

So I couldn't even use that as an excuse anymore!  Our church is hosting a "Biggest Loser" competition (which happens to be one of my favorite TV shows) for the next 90 days.  We paid $10 to enter, and at the last weigh-in, the person who has lost the largest percentage of their body weight gets the money.  There are no "meetings" other than just showing up to weigh-in each week, and you can use whatever type of eating plan you want or whatever works best for you.  I want this to become a lifestyle for us beyond the next 90 days even if we (Stephen is participating too) don't win the money. I've been to a few group exercise classes in the past week and quickly realized that I MISS it! Seriously! The YMCA is maybe 10 minutes from our house, and I have to leave at least 45 minutes before class begins because I have to check the kids into childcare, and the crazy women who attend the same class as me are psycho vultures and territorial about their equipment (which really belongs to the YMCA) and their "spot" in the room. But so far, it has been completely worth it.

I'm thankful that God brought to mind a counterattack for every excuse that I could mention.

What about you?  What are your excuses? 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Permission to Begin Again

So it's January 2nd, and I already broke my "New Year's Resolution" or whatever you wanna call it. 

Part of my goal for 2011 involves not just my time and words but also the "meditations of my heart." And Satan knows that that's my weak easy area for him to establish a foothold in my life and my new year.

So this morning I woke up on guard against the enemy because I was already anxious about a personal fear that I regularly struggle with, and I knew it was very likely to happen.  Throughout the entire morning I prayed and prayed that God would prevent my potential concern from actually happening, but that's not how the morning played out.  Now, my fear coming to fruition coupled with my tendency to think of all scenarios as LIFE OR DEATH was not a good mix, and I sat on the back pew this morning and bawled.  If you know me, you know that I love to sing, especially about my Savior, and not one word came out of my mouth during the awesome time of worship this morning because I couldn't utter anything because I was upset, defeated, and so disappointed in myself.  I sat and wondered how I had already let myself and Him down after only two days into this new year.  I sat and wondered how on earth I was going to survive another year and become more like Him when something relatively petty had discouraged me to the point of not even being able to focus and offer the Lord a praise offering. 

So I sat down and pulled out my Bible and knew exactly where I needed to open it. 

"Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. " Lamentations 3:22-23

When I was in Weight Watchers my senior year in high school, one night the facilitator gave us each a small piece of paper during the meeting after we'd already weighed in.  On the piece of paper, it simply said, "Begin Again." The leader explained that the piece of paper was to be a simple reminder to us that we always had permission to "begin again" whenever we had messed up in our weight loss efforts.  Now, please know that I'm not encouraging you to seek out your local Weight Watchers meeting for theological wisdom because, quite frankly, I think it's all gotten a little "New Age-ish" for me and my personal convictions regarding the renewing of your mind, but the little slip of paper said a lot more to me than just "Begin Again."

Regarding weight loss, I am very guilty of an "all or nothing" mentality.  For example, on Sunday morning if I fall into temptation and eat a 300 calorie donut, rather than just getting back on track and making wise choices for the remainder of the day and maybe doing a few extra minutes of cardio or something to make up for the extra calories, I'll just fall into the slippery slope of "well, I've already blown it, so I might as well blow it big!" And I'll make poor choices at lunch, eat an unhealthy snack, and then eat something good and greasy and for dinner.  So 300 extra, useless calories turns into probably more than 1,000 useless calories.  Great logic, huh? This example happens to me ALL THE TIME, especially regarding food, and I'm daily praying that God will change my heart and mind to honor Him through my food choices this year.  In my head I always think, "Well, I've already blown if for today (even though it may have only been 9:30 a.m.), I guess I'll just start over tomorrow."  Then I'll continue to make dumb choices for the remainder of the day.

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" Romans 6:1

(By the way, there is a point to all this, and maybe I'll get to it if you're still reading...)

Such a dangerous mentality mine is, ESPECIALLY regarding our walk in obedience with the Lord.  We are not "unredeemable."  I wish I would have truly known that during my four years in college.  I felt like I truly was unredeemable, and so I continued to sink further and further into sin, and one led to another to another, because I felt like I couldn't start over, anew and afresh.  I certainly didn't think I could "begin again."

Just because I allowed my mind and heart to fall into a trap of sin this morning, my goal for 2011 is not ruined or void or unattainable. 

I'm thankful that our God allows us to "begin again." And I'm pretty certain that I don't even have to wait until in the morning or 2012 for that matter. 

P.S. I'll certainly need to cash in my "Begin Again" card on January 6th because I plan on eating a piece of Red Velvet Cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory on or around my birthday.  And I don't plan on sharing.  And if someone would like to share my plans with my hubby, that would be great because I'm fairly certain he has no plans of ever reading this blog.  So thanks in advance for passing along this little tidbit of info to him. :)