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... :)