I’ve shared my story, sarcastically, of how I gained weight after having babies.
But here is my true story of taking back control with my weight. Not a quick loss. It’s about taking back control over my (busy-adult-life-working-mom) eating habits and making self-care a priority again.
Disclaimer: I used to be a collegiate long-distance runner, so I have nutrition knowledge through my years of training. This is not medical advice. These are ways that helped me, they may not necessarily work the same for you. Also, I was still nursing an infant during my weight loss, so if you are too, make sure you listen to your body and take in enough calories.
How did I get here?
5 months after having my second child I had gained 30 lbs. Add that to the beautiful natural 25 lb weight gain from back-to-back pregnancies.
As I drank a large chocolate milkshake from a fast food restaurant, after finishing my full burger meal + 1/2 of the meal my toddler didn’t eat, I felt disgusting.
Like bloated. And full. And heavy. And tired. Sick and tired of feeling this way.
I did that to myself. Those sleepless nights with an infant and the long days with an infant + toddler.
It was stressful. And overwhelming at times.
I put my kids’ care first and my self-care last.
What’s that saying? The one about taking take of yourself, so that you are ready and able to take care of others? It’s so true.
I neglected to take care of me.
I woke up to crying. I rolled out of bed, peed, and went straight to taking care of their needs. I wasn’t taking regular showers. I was still wearing maternity pants. I rarely put on make-up. I didn’t go to the dentist. I didn’t get a haircut. I didn’t leave my kids for more than an hour. I lived for my kids. I lived for their needs.
So what do I do now?
Like anything else wishful thinking was not going to make it happen.
I made up reasonable rules for myself (that I adjusted over time).
1. No eating my kids’ food leftovers.
I got into a habit of fixing a plate for myself. Then, eating their leftovers. I was making their portions too big and there was always excess.
I now make them a tiny portion, think sampler. If they finish what they have, then they can have more. If there are scraps like bread crust it goes in the trash. You can either waste it (in the trash) or waist it (on your body).
2. No snacking after dinner.
This one was tough. I failed many many times. I was used to going to bed with a sloshy, Cheez-It filled stomach. Maybe a glass of milk to wash it down. Or a mounding bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream with the cookie batter ribbon. Every. Night.
It became impossible to resist the snacks in the pantry and freezer, so I stopped buying them at the store. I started buying a snack-of-the-week. For the whole family to share.
I learned how to portion so that a bag of chips could last throughout the week. Not just for one episode.
How many boxes and bags of snacks do you have curled up with a clip in your pantry?
I didn’t let myself starve though. If I was hungry later at night, I made a better choice like a cup of yogurt or banana.
3. Portion control.
I began plating my food the same way as my kids. Start with a sampler size of everything. If I finish all of that and I’m still hungry, get a little more. Not a lot more.
I stopped stuffing myself. I tried to cook smarter portions for our family size. I stopped cooking 2 pizzas and only cooked one. My family still ate their fill.
4. Water + Coffee only.
My mom trained me on this one young. If we ever went out to eat my mom would tell the waitress, “She wants water.” I’m pretty sure it was because she didn’t want to pay for the overpriced soda or have a sugared-up kid. As a runner too, I know how important water is for your body.
They say “pain is temporary,” but so is pleasure. Even if you sip on soda all day long, everyday, that is a temporary pleasure with long lasting effects.
This one wasn’t hard for me. It’s always been a habit to carry around a water bottle. I don’t obsess over the milliliters that I take in, but if I haven’t finished my water bottle after a work day, I know I didn’t get enough.
I will drink milk, sweet tea, or soda, but it’s an occasional thing. You won’t see it sitting by my plate at every meal.
5. Substitutions & Skips.
You don’t have to eat everything that is laid out, or even everything you cook for your family. I try to find ways to substitute or skip.
Skip the bun on a pulled pork sandwich. Substitute milk for coffee creamer. Skip the butter on your waffle. Substitute a fruit popsicle for ice cream.
Don’t deprive yourself, but don’t indulge at every meal.
Making short-term good choices will result in long-term benefits.
6. Pre-plan breakfast.
Make good choices at breakfast. My staples are yogurt, banana, coffee, and dry shredded wheat cereal (with icing!) I divide the cereal in 5 zip lock bags for the week and eat it in the car on the drive to work. The banana and yogurt I either eat at home or pack in my bag, depending on if I hit snooze or not.
On the weekends I enjoy cinnamon rolls, eggs, toast, sausage, or bacon with my family.
7. Minimize eating out.
We actually went on a “fast-food fast” for financial reasons, but now we minimize eating out to special occasions, if we are out-of-town, or socially if family/friends invite us. That is about 2-3 times a month.
On the occasion that we do go out, I keep in mind portion control and may order a kids meal or skip the drink.
8. Exercise in the ordinary.
I can give you every excuse as to why I didn’t have the time to exercise. I could have made time to go for a run, or do a workout video. But I didn’t. Maybe I will someday.
So I got off my lazy bottom and did what needed to be done as a wife, mom, and teacher.
I made ordinary tasks exercise.
At work, I walked briskly through the halls, squatted down to eye level at students’ desks, and made a conscience effort to circle around the room. The students benefited from my extra attention while my body burned off some extra calories.
At home, chores became my exercise. I used to nag my husband about dragging the heavy trash can up the gravel driveway. Now, if he hasn’t already, I use it as an opportunity to get some leg work.
I lift up my kids as often as they ask. I vacuum more often, squat and lift mountains of laundry, and time myself to see if I can break my personal best time for unloading the dishwasher. For real, like I set the microwave timer and try to beat it.
What a productive work out!
No membership fees.
9. Buy a scale.
I had a number in my head as my realistic-dream-goal. I also had a let’s-get-here-first-weight-goal. I was not going for my collegiate runner weight. I wanted to feel healthy and be comfortable.
I also used the free app, My Fitness Pal (which I heard about from a friend). I didn’t use it just to count calories, but to become aware of how much I was actually eating. On average, I was taking in 3500-4000 calories a day. It told me how many calories to eat each day with a goal of 1-2 lbs loss per week.
That was slow. That would take months, a year even. And it did.
But it’s healthy. And controlled. And longer lasting than a quick depriving diet.
I had to retrain my mind. I didn’t know eating those 4 brownies was 400 calories… each. Or that my fast food meal was 1500 calories. I only “counted” calories for 2 weeks. After that, before I ate something, I asked myself these questions:
Is it worth the temporary pleasure?
Will it make me feel better long term?
10. Be patient.
It took about 3 months of 1-2 lbs per week before I noticed any difference in how my clothes fit.
It took 5 months before I felt better. No more bloated feelings.
It took 7 months before family started to notice.
It took a year to hit my realistic-dream-goal. And it was worth it. It was the sum of all my choices. Those choices are now my habits.
Other than the scale, I didn’t pay a dime. In fact, I probably saved a lot of money by reducing unnecessary foods and food waste.
I feel better. I’m taking care of myself. And now I’m able to take care of my family better.
Take care of yourself.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20