A new diagnosis

It’s hard to believe it’s been so long since I’ve written, but we all know I’m not the best at keeping up with the blog. However, I wanted to update everyone and let you know what’s been going on with me and my journey towards a healthier lifestyle.

Obviously the biggest thing that has changed in my life since the last time I wrote is the birth of our son, Luke, on my birthday this summer ūüôā He came a little earlier than expected but was completely healthy and has already become such an important part of our family. Having Luke definitely impacted my life in many amazing ways, but one thing I wasn’t expecting was the impact it would have on my overall health.

Prior to getting pregnant, I was the healthiest I have ever been in my entire life. I was eating great, running 3-4 times a week, doing strength and cross training, and hadn’t really been sick in over two years. I felt strong and powerful and HEALTHY. After a pretty routine pregnancy and birth, I had no reason to think things wouldn’t go back to normal in due time. However, from a few days after Luke’s birth, I could tell things weren’t quite right.

First I developed an internal infection that had to be treated over the course of several weeks. Luke wouldn’t latch plus I had chronic low milk supply (another post on that later). My hair started falling out in clumps, not just in the way that we’re told to expect hair loss after giving birth, but enough to make me look from the front like I’m balding. I was tired in ways I can’t describe, irritable and moody in ways that don’t align with my personality, and had an overall feeling of being “off.” My brain was fuzzy, my words were slurred, and numerous times a day I would be talking and just stop right in the middle of a sentence, completely unable to remember what I was about to say. For someone who is quite the, uh, verbal communicator, this was extremely frustrating. When I tried talking to some people about this, I was told I was just experiencing typical “new mom” stuff and that it would pass. I was terrified of returning to work for so many reasons, but a large one was that I knew I was going to have to go back to being “normal” when I felt anything but.

Within three months of¬†giving birth, I decided I had to trust my gut and made an appointment for a full physical with a new doctor’s office. I didn’t know what to expect but when my bloodwork came back abnormal, I was still surprised. Several rounds of bloodwork and tests later, I have been diagnosed with Postpartum Thyroiditis. I’m going to bypass¬†all of the medial jargon and tell you to feel free to google it if you want more details than what I’m about to give.

Basically, as a result of the changes that happened to my immune system while I was pregnant with and giving birth to Luke, I’m currently experiencing hyperthyroidism, which will most likely shift in a few months to hypothyroidism, which¬†may or may not correct itself within 12-18 months after that. I may or may not be on medication for the rest of my life. I may or may not be able to conceive children in the future. I may or may not experience more, less, or worse symptoms than I am now. I may or may not gain weight uncontrollably when I switch over to the hypothyroid side of things. I may or may not have an underlying chronic autoimmune disease that has been “awakened” by all of this.

This is basically how things were presented to me–in a whole bunch of may or may nots. If you know me, you know that this is just not how my brain works. I want answers, I want definitives, and I want to fix the problem. The endocrinologist I’m seeing is not medicating me during this stage because she does not expect it to last much longer and my hyperthyroid symptoms (minus the hair loss and extreme exhaustion) have been subsiding. I’m currently having bloodwork run every 30 days so that we will know if/when I swing to hypothyroid and she plans to medicate me at that point since it will likely last much longer and have a greater impact on my overall longterm health.

I’m particularly bitter that of all the symptoms of the hyperthyroid phase, I somehow managed to not get the¬†“rapid weight loss” one. What’s up with that?!

Obviously that’s a joke ūüôā

I’m not going to lie, I’m a little bitter over all of this. It seems like I’ve spent my whole life fighting the feeling that my body just doesn’t want to do what it was designed to do. I was the only person I knew who could eat right and exercise like a maniac and still not lose weight. Weight Watchers and a nutritionist¬†helped with that, but it was still a huge fight to drop every pound that I did. Now I’m looking at the very real possibility that I could end up gaining 30, 40, 50 pounds without anything I can do about it (this from both my doctor and the many blogs and message board stories I’ve been reading since being diagnosed). Before getting pregnant, when I was on the insulin resistance diet to combat PCOS, it was the best I felt in forever and I finally believed that I was able to control my body in some small way by how and what I was eating.¬†When we¬†wanted Luke so badly for so long and everyone around me was getting pregnant, I¬†couldn’t help but feel that once again my body was betraying me and not doing what it was supposed to do.

Anyway, now here we are again, with my body not doing the right thing. I’m one of many women who gave birth this summer and I’m the only one I know of who is dealing with this issue. I’m the only one who is formula feeding her kid¬†because something (the doctor now thinks it is tied to my thyroid issues) caused me not to be able to produce milk. I’m the only one who wants so badly to give all of myself¬†to my baby but whose body is so exhausted after spending the day¬†at work that I have to be happy just holding him and giving him a bottle before he goes to sleep. I’m the only one having to live month to month wondering how my thyroid levels are changing and what impact that will have on my body and mind. I’m the only one who is being told that having this beautiful, amazing little boy may have so altered my biological makeup that I will¬†never have another child again.

I feel so selfish saying all of this. I feel like being a good mom means I’m supposed to say that having Luke was enough for me, and that dealing with any disease and its side effects a million times over would be worth it for one day with him. And the truth is that in so many ways it is. But the problem is that I feel like this is stopping me from being the good mom that I want to be. I worked so hard to be healthy, and¬†right now I’m just not. I have asked the endocrinologist, primary care doctor, and OBGYN if there is anything I can do with my diet or lifestyle that can stop my body from attacking itself, and all have told me no and it’s a wait and see game at this point.¬†I’m not good at waiting. I want to be back to normal. I want to take my baby boy for a long walk or get up to feed him in the middle of the night without feeling like I’ve been hit by a bus.

So I’ve resolved myself to controlling what I can control. I can move back towards clean eating and the insulin resistance diet that had me feeling so good before, even though the doctors have said it won’t ultimately impact my thyroid condition. I can work on stopping the “woe is me” mindset and focus more on all that is going well for me. I can be more honest and open with people about what is causing me to struggle right now (this post is a first step). I can stop trying to pretend that everything is ok and exhausting myself even more by acting like I’m not exhausted all the time. I can begin to rewrite¬†that story¬†in my head of what a “perfect” mom looks like and stop comparing myself to everyone else. I can do my best to live¬†in the moment and stop worrying what will happen if I gain weight back in spite of my best efforts. I can thank God every single day for the many blessings in my life that I have stopped taking the time to notice.

Life is not perfect–and neither am I–but that doesn’t mean it can’t be great.

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Apple Pie Smoothie

Who doesn’t love apple pie?! Today I made one of my all-time favorite breakfast smoothies, which I think is about as close as you can get to apple pie in a glass. This is the recipe for two servings, as I wanted extra for later, but you can just as easily make one serving by halving the following ingredients. Either way, it makes a whole lot of tasty smoothie. I usually pair with a hard boiled egg as this is a little less protein and a little more carb than I usually like in a meal. Enjoy!

Apple Pie Smoothie

2 handfuls of spinach
2 fuji apples, peeled and cored
8 oz skim milk
1 serving vanilla protein powder of choice*
2 graham crackers
apple pie spice to taste (or cinnamon and nutmeg, if you don’t have any)
handful of ice
Optional add-in: chia seeds

*I used EAS Lean 15 Vanilla

Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.

Yield: 2 servings

Est. calories per serving: 250

 

A Little Q&A

Hey all! ¬†We all know by now that I’m not the greatest a keeping up with the blog, so let’s just skip the formalities of an apology and skip right to the updates, shall we?! Chances are you’ve landed here through my Facebook page¬†Asking Why Not¬†or maybe because you’re one of my friends or family members who checks in every so often to see if I’ve actually posted anything in the past few months. Either way, I hope it doesn’t come as a total shock to you when I say that I’m currently about 19 weeks pregnant!¬† I’m writing this post because, as people who have followed along and supported me on my journey to get healthy, I wanted to give you some insight into what’s been going on with me lately and how this latest development has impacted things (other than, you know, making Adam and me¬†really, really happy). ¬†To do so, I figured I would frame this post as a series of questions and answers. ¬†Most of these questions are ones I’ve actually been asked since I started telling people I was pregnant about six weeks ago, and a few are ones I have been asking myself. ¬†I won’t reveal which questions are which to protect the innocent ūüėČ It’s a bit lengthy, but I hope you’ll read through to the end‚Ķor at least take a little nap in the middle and come back to finish it up later!

1.  How do you feel?

Right now, I feel great! ¬†In the beginning it was a little sketchy but compared to many women I got really lucky. ¬†I had a lot of nausea and some crazy food aversions (more on that later) for about 4-5 weeks, then things kind of tapered off. ¬†I never really had “morning sickness” in that I never threw up (like I said, I’m feeling pretty blessed in this department) and I actually felt worst from about 6pm on, so it didn’t have as much impact on things like work as it could have. ¬†I was extremely tired and went to bed around 7:30 from weeks 6-12, but lately I’ve been feeling pretty good. ¬†I am still sleeping more than usual, but generally feel pretty good most of the time. ¬†Apparently I’m at a point where not really feeling pregnant is actually a good thing. ¬†In a way I do miss the first trimester symptoms a little bit, only because they were a daily reminder that things were going as they should.

2.  How is the baby?

So far, so good.  All bloodwork and ultrasounds have come back looking really good, strong heartbeat, growing properly.  Again, we are very blessed.

3. ¬†Do you know what you’re having and will you tell people when you know? ¬†What do you think you’re having?

No we don’t know yet (but we should in the near future!) and yes we plan to tell people. ¬†I have been convinced for at least two months that we’re having a boy, so if we find out that it’s a boy I won’t be surprised at all and will be very happy. ¬†If we find out that it’s a girl I’ll also be super¬†pumped because let’s be honest, I know a little bit more about how girls work than how boys work. ¬†Most of my family thinks it’s a boy, and Adam says it’s a girl because he likes to be contrary ūüôā

4.  Do you have any names picked out and are you going to tell people the name?

We have a few we’ve tossed around, but really we’re waiting to find out what we’re having to start talking about it seriously. ¬†And we don’t plan on telling people because we’re super indecisive and will probably go to the hospital with two or three name options and not make up our minds until we hold the baby and see what just feels right. ¬†It worked with Brady (our dog) so why wouldn’t it work with a kid?! ¬†Also, I’ve had several friends tell their chosen name before the birth and get so much negative feedback that they end up changing it even though they initially loved the name. ¬†Another friend loved a certain name right up until the week¬†before the birth and then changed her¬†mind at the last minute, so¬†for about¬†a year everyone called the baby the wrong name because the original name had been drilled into our heads¬†for so long. ¬†All that to say that we don’t plan on making any final decisions or announcements until after he/she is born.

5.  Was this planned?

OK, I’ll be honest–I’ve actually been asked this one a lot. ¬†At first I was kind of surprised, but then I realized that a) Adam and I have been married for almost six years and hadn’t seemed to be terribly interested in having children, b) My career has always been a big priority for me and hasn’t seemed super conducive to having a family, and c) I’ve been working really hard (and pretty publicly) to lose weight and get fit, and this is definitely having an impact on that. ¬†It seems that all of these things add up to people wondering if this was kind of an “oops” thing, which I can assure you it was not. ¬†In fact, one of my motivating factors in starting on this journey was that I had two different doctors tell me flat out “Do not get pregnant” because it would be dangerous for both me and the baby at the weight I was. ¬†It’s not that I wanted to be pregnant at that point in time, but I really didn’t like the idea that I was being expressly advised against doing¬†something with my body not because my body wasn’t capable of it, but because decisions I had been making for years would jeopardize both my safety and that of an unborn child. ¬†So yes, this was something we prayed about, discussed, slept on (for many, many nights), and finally felt that we were supposed to be parents. ¬†We did not even start trying to conceive until I reached a point where I got the “ok” from both my general practitioner and OB/GYN confirming that I was in place health-wise where having a baby would be safe for both of us. ¬†Although things didn’t happen necessarily in the timing we had first imagined, they did happen as we believe they were supposed to, and now we are due in late July 2015.

6.  How has this impacted your weight loss and fitness goals?

Ah, the million dollar question! ¬†First let me get this out of the way–my GOALS themselves are still the same. ¬†I want to get to a size where I can shop in regular women’s clothing stores. ¬†I want to run a sub-35 (and maybe someday sub-30) minute 5k. ¬†If it works for¬†my body, I want to reach Goal and then become a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers (Aside: We’ll see about this one‚Ķin the three months before I got pregnant, I was in the best shape of my life between running, doing strength training, etc. and even dropped two pants sizes in less than three months. My body was changing and I was getting stronger and leaner, but my weight was staying right about the same. [Aside within the aside: The cool thing about the fact that my body was changing¬†so much and so quickly right before I got pregnant is that I still haven’t had to buy any maternity clothes because everything I had bought in the few months before getting pregnant was totally baggy by the time I got pregnant. ¬†I’m still wearing those pants and shirts comfortably and am hoping to make it to at least five and a half months before I have to break down and buy some new maternity pants. ¬†End aside within the aside.] ¬†If I do a similar training regimen in the future, I don’t know that I will ever reach WW Goal weight without my doctor writing a note for me. ¬†I also have visited a doctor regarding my extra skin and other “never going away” residue, and I apparently have about 12-15 pounds of that, so who knows if I’m ever going to reach that elusive number.). ¬†And my number one goal–to be live the fullest, healthiest, longest life possible–is absolutely never going to change. ¬†I think about it every day, it is still every bit a part of me as it was when I made the decision in August 2013 that I was fed up with letting my weight control my life. ¬†If anything, I am more driven than ever to be successful in this particular goal because I feel like I have even more to live a long and healthy life for now. All that being said, obviously the time table for reaching some of my goals has changed. ¬†A lot of what I thought would happen in 2015 (training to run more than 3 miles at a time, for instance) has now been pushed to 2016. ¬†But the¬†lifestyle¬†changes that I have been implementing over the past 1.5 years haven’t gone anywhere–if anything, I’ve had to become more committed to them. ¬†I still plan all my meals, balance my protein and carbs, take my vitamins, get in my 30 minutes of physical activity, and so on because all of these things are just as important when you’re pregnant as when you’re not. ¬†Does this mean that there haven’t been¬†times where I’ve eaten a little *cough* differently *cough* than I may have back in September? ¬†Of course not (I didn’t believe it before, but pregnancy cravings are real, y’all)! ¬†But it does mean I am not viewing this as an almost 10-month free-for-all where I get to indulge in everything I’ve missed since starting on this journey. ¬†Pregnancy is a happy, exciting part of my life, but it’s not an excuse to throw away everything I’ve worked so hard for. ¬†That wouldn’t be fair to me, to Adam, to our baby, or to all of you who have supported me so much along the way.

7. ¬†So what’s up with your weight?

Well aren’t we nosy?! ¬†Kidding kidding! ¬†It’s only fair to wonder since I’ve been posting progress updates for the past year and a half. ¬†And here’s the truth: I weigh several pounds less now than when I got pregnant in November. ¬†Yup. ¬†So here’s the deal with that. ¬†For the first several weeks I¬†was pregnant, I didn’t even know it. ¬†I was just going along, doing my WW thing, rocking out to some Jillian Michaels DVDs, and so on. ¬†Once I found out I was pregnant, I did stop counting points and doing the DVDs, and due to some other small concerns my OB had I went from running to doing incline walking on the treadmill. ¬†The goal she gave me for first trimester was to maintain my weight. ¬†She explained that, even though I’ve lost a lot of weight so far, I’m still in the “obese” BMI range (I hate those stupid BMI ranges bc I think I’d have to weigh about 135 to be “normal,” but whatever) and should only gain about 15-20 pounds total throughout the entire pregnancy. ¬†This will help lower my risk for gestational diabetes, among other things. ¬†So I set out to maintain my weight for the first trimester, which I figured would be super easy and fun with Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years all happening in the next few weeks. ¬†And then I got these strange food aversions. ¬†It started with peanut butter, which is one of my favorite foods of all time. ¬†I couldn’t stand the smell or taste of it. ¬†Like it literally (not figuratively,¬†literally) made me gag. ¬†Then a day later, I couldn’t eat chicken. ¬†I couldn’t even be in the kitchen when Adam was making chicken for himself because the sight of the raw chicken would have me dry heaving. ¬†Pretty soon it was all meat that I couldn’t stand. ¬†Then it was hot vegetables and some cold ones. ¬†I have never in my life experienced anything like this, where I couldn’t make myself eat this stuff if someone had paid me. ¬†I kept thinking I was nuts. ¬†In my head, I would think “Dawn, it’s steak, you love steak” and then I’d try to put the piece of steak in my mouth and my body would involuntarily gag. ¬†It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever experienced. By the end of a week or so, the only things I was eating on a regular basis were pretzels, saltines, and fruit. ¬†I was in a¬†total panic–what about my protein?! ¬†I’ve just spent over a year fixated on getting enough protein, and now I can’t even choke down some beans or nuts! ¬†My OB assured me that I shouldn’t worry, and at that early stage of pregnancy as long as I was taking my prenatal vitamins that the baby would get what it needed. ¬†So I sucked it up and spent about five weeks feeling guilty, not to mention horribly nauseous, over the fact that I was eating pretty much only carbs when I was eating at all. ¬†And during that time I lost eight¬†pounds, which also freaked me out, but which I again found out was not all that uncommon in the first trimester when you can’t eat like a normal human being. Then, as suddenly as it came on, it started to go away. ¬†One day I told Adam I wanted a cheeseburger and he was like well, let’s get you a cheeseburger, and then the next day it was salmon, then chicken, and within a week I was back to eating all the foods I normally would eat. ¬†At this point, because I am being careful and working with my doctor to gain weight at a healthy rate, I’ve gained back about five of those nine pounds. ¬†But if you do the math, -8 plus 5 is still -3, which is how I weigh less than I did when I got pregnant.

8. What have you struggled with since finding out you are pregnant?

OK, no one has actually¬†asked me this, but I wanted to wrap up with being completely honest with you. ¬†We wanted to get pregnant. ¬†We planned to get pregnant. ¬†We were elated to find out that we were pregnant. ¬†But let me be real: I simply¬†can’t just shut off the part of my¬†brain that¬†I¬†have spent hours and days and weeks and now years training to focus on feeling (and, frankly, looking) a certain way. ¬†Yes, this pregnancy is something I wanted very badly, but¬†as any of you¬†who are on your own lifestyle journeys know, the journey¬†is something that really overtakes your body, mind, and soul and becomes ingrained in who you are. ¬†And when something–yes, even something as totally awesome as a baby–throws¬†a wrench into what you’d been living day in and day out for all this time, it can¬†really mess with your head.

Now I will choose to blame a little bit of this on the hormones which are, no lie, simply out of control during the first trimester. ¬†I’m still more emotional than my usual already-emotional self, but it’s nothing like the totally irrational mood swings I found myself going through in those first few weeks. ¬†I would cry all the time about the fact that I was going to get big again (I warned you that it was irrational) and I was convinced I was going to end up looking like all of my “before” pictures. ¬†It’s still a daily struggle to remind myself that it’s ok that I’m gaining weight, that this is natural process, that the person I am and the goals I have won’t change just because my body will.

Honestly though, the most depressing thing for me was the idea that I felt would never get to be a “cute pregnant lady” and that I’d just blow up like I had been 100 pounds ago. ¬†The media so glamorizes the image of the glowing pregnant Hollywood starlet in her adorable awards-show¬†dresses and maternity clothes and bikinis, and I knew this would never be my reality. ¬†I wanted a baby bump‚Ķlet’s be honest, I still want a baby bump and it’s just not going to happen haha. ¬†Baby bumps happen for women like Jessica Biel who have nowhere for the baby to go/grow besides out, whereas I’ve just been getting a little thicker in the waist and stomach. ¬†Most people have told me I don’t even look pregnant yet. ¬†You’re never going to see pictures of me standing sideways holding my bump week by week because right now Baby T¬†is still hanging out under a whole lot of padding that’s always been there. ¬†In the beginning I even spent time¬†on Google looking up pictures of pregnant plus size women and trying to picture what’s going to happen to me, but I give up. ¬†It’s just too hard. ¬†If I wasn’t obsessing about my weight, I was worrying about what I look like, and both of those are things¬†I have worked long and hard to stop doing as I’ve reframed my thinking about health and consciously¬†tried¬†to create a better body image over the past couple of years. ¬†I¬†am also¬†trying to connect¬†with other women who have gone through the same thing (losing a significant amount of weight then getting pregnant) and am finding that my thoughts and fears and emotions are far from unusual. ¬†It’s times like these that I am so thankful for the community that I have found on Facebook and through my friends and family.

9. So what now?

OK, I know I said I was wrapping up with the last question, but I felt like I couldn’t end on such a melancholy note. ¬†Now, I suppose, I keep doing what I’ve been doing in eating right, moving more, drinking a ton of water, and getting as much sleep as my back and bladder will allow. ¬†And I keep supporting YOU in your weight loss/fitness/healthy lifestyle journeys. ¬†I may not be losing in this moment, but trust me I am still so right there in the trenches with you. ¬†For a while I’ve even shied away from posting on¬†Asking Why Not¬†because for some reason I felt like a fraud, like I wasn’t allowed to be posting things about eating healthy when I was subsisting¬†on pretzels and oranges for five weeks straight. ¬†I’ve gotten so many messages from people over the past year telling me that I inspire them, and, while I’ve always struggled with this idea, I certainly¬†didn’t feel like I could be an inspiration to anyone when I wasn’t able to be hardcore for the next several months. ¬†Then I realized that maybe, just maybe, we inspire each other not just because of the weight losses but because we are living our lives together and sharing our ups and downs in this very public way. ¬†I hope that you stick with me, and that you continue to follow my story, as there is so much left unwritten that I can’t wait to see unfold. ¬†I look forward to continuing to share with you this journey, as I work day-by-day to become the woman–and now MOTHER–that God has intended me to be.

Thanks for sticking through to the end.  Lots of love to you all!

D

Cruise Control

About a month ago, Adam and I went on a cruise to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary (yes, it’s hard to believe but oh-so-true). ¬†I was excited for this trip for a number of reasons, but there was also one big thing causing me a lot of anxiety in the days leading up to it: how in the world was I supposed to go on a cruise and not gain a ton of weight? ¬†Confession time‚ĶI have been on five cruises and, prior to this one, I have never come back having gained less than five pounds in one¬†week. ¬†Twice I gained more than seven, and once I refused to weigh myself at all until several weeks afterwards. ¬†How does one gain weight at a rate of literally a pound a day?!?! ¬†Let me tell you.

Buffets.  Inactivity.  Two dinner entrees.  Elevators everywhere.  Buffets.  Lots of booze.  24-hour access to food.  Buffets.

You get the picture. ¬†Essentially, a cruise ship (or at least the ones we’ve been on) is a floating ode to¬†gastronomical excess coupled with what I like to call “relaxation” aka exerting as little effort as possible. ¬†And knowing that I was about to spend a week in this mecca of munchies had me searching for ways to avoid a major setback. ¬†I had been doing far too well with my weight loss to get derailed by one week, especially when I knew it would take me weeks and weeks to lose what I could easily gain in one.

So I set myself a goal: I was going to come back from this 10-day vacation having gained no more than three pounds. ¬†And guess what? ¬†I only gained 1.4, which I’m considering a major success since I can breathe wrong one week and gain 1.4 pounds ūüôā I also lost that 1.4 and then some the following week, leading me to believe the 1.4 was mostly water weight from all the sodium in the food.

How did I do it? ¬†A little research online before I went (there are lots of cruise/vacation message boards out there and many have tips on trying to stay healthy while traveling) and a lot of trying to make the best possible choices while away. ¬†None of it was rocket science, but I thought I might share it anyway in case someone could benefit from having it all together in one place. ¬†Normally I would give lots of disclaimers like “this is what worked for me, what will work for you might be different” but a lot of this is just common sense. ¬†I will say that I don’t guarantee if you do these things you won’t gain weight on your next vacation, but I think it certainly can’t hurt.

However, there is one thing I feel like I need to say before getting into the nitty gritty of the post. ¬†You have to understand that so much of this all¬†is about mindset. ¬†There’s something that most people (myself included) have that I like to think of as “vacation mindset.” ¬†It’s the thinking I grew up with,¬†the thinking that says “I’m on vacation, so I have to indulge in everything I don’t normally have” or “I’m on vacation, so this doesn’t really count.” ¬†It’s the thinking that leads a person (not ME of course) to buy two packages of Double Stuff Oreos, multiple family size bags¬†of chips, two 12-packs of soda, and a jumbo bag of Swedish fish for a weekend trip to the beach. ¬†I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone on vacation and from the time I leave until the time I come home, I order every possible bad-for-you thing I can find on any menu. ¬†Things I wouldn’t even order on my birthday (*cough* Hyman’s fried seafood platter with seven types of seafood and hushpuppies *cough*) are suddenly fair game, and I start to get this almost panicky feeling that if I’m not eating, I’m not enjoying myself. ¬†Most of my childhood vacation memories actually revolve around food–whoopie pies from the Amish bakery in Lancaster, Snickers pie at a mom and pop restaurant in Vermont, and literally everything I could get my hands on as I’d eat my way down the Boardwalk.

The thing I’ve realized in the past year though is that vacation doesn’t have to mean overindulgence, and it doesn’t have to mean giving up everything you’ve been working on for the past weeks, months, or years. ¬†I firmly believe that, in the same way that you can deal with the stresses of everyday life at home without the use of food as a coping mechanism, you can relax and even indulge on vacation without going overboard. ¬†If you think this is crazy, if you are thinking right now “Oh come on, Dawn, you’re taking this a little too far. ¬†Vacation is my ONE time to let it all go,” then you probably won’t want to read the rest of this post because I truly don’t believe that anymore…and I definitely don’t believe that you have to throw your healthy lifestyle out the window in order to have a good time while away.

So without further adieu, here are some of my suggestions for keeping up your healthy lifestyle on a cruise (or any vacation).

1. ¬†Employ as many strategies that have worked for you¬†all along while you are¬†away. ¬†For example, I tried never to let myself get so hungry that I was going to eat whatever the next thing was that I saw. ¬†This is something I do every day in regular life as well. ¬†This is tied closely to the next suggestion which is…

2. ¬†Don’t be afraid to do whatever works for you, even if it doesn’t make any sense. ¬†I brought snacks onto the ship, including granola bars, nuts, and protein bars. ¬†Seems crazy to bring your own food to a place where you have 24-hour access to food, right? ¬†The thing is that I knew sometimes–on the ship or even on an excursion–I would want to have a snack. ¬†If I can eat a snack that I know only has 100 calories or will keep me fuller longer rather than grabbing something¬†like a cookie or¬†pizza (two of the most commonly available foods between meals on our ship), why wouldn’t I?¬† Obviously, I’m not a masochist so I didn’t count points while I was on the cruise, but some of the little “brain drills” that come along with having been counting points for so long are still there, and I’d find myself thinking “Well, if I eat this two-point granola bar now instead of that cookie, I will have a lot more points available for dinner.”

3. ¬†Keep up your routines. ¬†It’s hard work to make good habits, and it seemed counter-intuitive to break them just because I was on vacation. ¬†I eat breakfast every day, thus I ate breakfast every day. ¬†I work out four times a week, thus I worked out while on the ship (more on this later). ¬†I think too often we view vacation as a total departure from anything remotely resembling our normal lives, when it’s really more like living a more relaxed and enjoyable version of our normal lives.

4. ¬†Make good choices every chance you get, even when they’re small. ¬†Soups. ¬†They are served every night in the main dining room on the cruise, and man do I love soup. ¬†My favorites are the cream-based types of soup like lobster bisque and baked potato. ¬†However, these are also the worst for you in terms of fat and calories, so I made the decision early on that unless it was something I had never tried before/couldn’t get back home, I wasn’t going to do any cream-based soups and save those calories to enjoy whatever dessert¬†I wanted. ¬†This also applied to items¬†I saw¬†whose descriptions included the words “garlic butter sauce” lol I will say, Adam always got all of these things, so I would sometimes take a taste and never once did I feel like “oh man, that would have totally been worth it.” ¬†And if I had, I honestly would have called the waiter over and ordered my own ūüôā ¬†Which leads to…

5. ¬†Don’t completely deprive yourself or you’ll flip out pretty quickly. ¬†Just pick and choose what you’re wanting to indulge on. ¬†I skipped cream-based soups so I could order other things like dessert. ¬†I ate chicken, beef, and pork on the cruise along with lower-calorie seafood. ¬†If I had ordered a piece of fish and steamed vegetables every night, you would would have found me head first in a vat of chocolate pudding by day three.

6. ¬†Exercise, both formally (if that’s your thing)¬†and just by being more active. ¬†Yes, I worked out in the gym on the ship a few days, but nothing crazy. ¬†I also made it a point to walk as much as possible any time I could. ¬†In port, we would walk places that were within walking distance¬†rather than taking a taxi, and would often walk the length of the ship and back if we had a few extra minutes before a show or dinner. ¬†It’s so easy to put your butt in a lounge chair and just stay there, especially on a cruise where they’re constantly coming up asking you what you want/need. ¬†If you’re not intentional about moving, you could go hours being completely sedentary. ¬†Again, I knoooooow it’s your vacation and you deserve to relax, but you’re reading this post because you want to know how to be as healthy as possible on vacation, right?

7. ¬†Watch the booze. ¬†Seriously. ¬†Yup, this one sucks. ¬†Adam and I had $300 shipboard credit on this cruise, and six months ago I was pretty sure I wanted to spend all of that on drinks. ¬†Having cruised five times now with the same cruise line, we were also comped drinks several¬†times at different events. ¬†Say it with me: It doesn’t matter that I’m on a ship and it’s so special and fruity and just fits in the atmosphere so well. ¬†It still has the same nutrition information as it does back at home, and there’s a reason you don’t see people who are losing weight walking round¬†drinking Malibu and pineapples all day at home. ¬†If you are going to drink, stick to wine or maybe light beer. ¬†Less sugar, less calories, and most of the pours seem pretty standard compared to some of the mondo drinks I saw being served.

8. ¬†Drink water constantly. ¬†Another one that falls into the category of good habits you have back home that you shouldn’t break on the ship. ¬†A) It keeps you hydrated, which is really important when you’re spending so much time in the sun, B) It might help flush some of the sodium out of your system from the food, and C) It helps you stay fuller so you avoid unnecessary snacking. ¬†I’m starting to see a pattern here regarding avoiding eating “just because.”

So those are some general things that apply to cruises as well.  These next few are pretty cruise specific:

1. ¬†Take the stairs whenever you can. ¬†Someone at WW told me this before I left and said she rarely gains weight on cruises even though she eats whatever she wants, and she swears it’s because she never takes the elevator on the ships. ¬†There are many benefits to taking the stairs, but honestly the best one IMHO is that you don’t spend half your day waiting for the stupid elevators that the other 3,000 people on your ship are also taking to¬†arrive. ¬†We walked a lot of stairs during that week, and sometimes if we were going from say 14 to 4 or 3 to 11 and our destination was directly above or below us, we’d walk up six flights then walk the length of the ship, walk up four more, and walk the length of the ship back to the end where we started. ¬†If you’re a cruiser, you’ll know what I mean by this, and it all plays into that being intentional about working in extra movement wherever you can thing.

2. ¬†Ask for what you need when ordering in the Main Dining Room. ¬†I wanted an extra plate of veggies every night at dinner. ¬†The first night I felt silly asking for a whole plate of vegetables to go along with whatever I was ordering as my entree, but it was a much better option than eating four dinner rolls. ¬†By the third night, my waiter just brought it for me with carrots, broccoli, squash, and asparagus. ¬†The one thing they couldn’t get right was that I kept asking for them to be steamed and they were always saut√©ed (could tell by the traces of oil on them). ¬†I stopped trying to fight that battle after a few nights and hoped I was making up for it by eating a bunch of veggies instead of three desserts or the aforementioned rolls.

3. ¬†Eat in the MDR instead of the buffets. ¬†The portions for the most part seemed really reasonable in our MDR and because you’re eating more slowly as you wait between courses, you tend to pay more attention to your body’s signals. ¬†I know I ate substantially less in the MDR than when I would peruse the 150 item buffet and try¬†pick decent food. ¬†It’s also a lot easier to avoid french fries when they’re not even on the menu (as opposed to always available on the buffet).

4. ¬†Ask yourself “Is this worth it?” about literally everything you eat. ¬†Some of the food I’ve eaten on cruises is hands down among the best I’ve ever had. ¬†Some is honestly among the worst. ¬†Previously I have always had the mindset that “I paid for this” so I would eat as much as I could at every meal to get my money’s worth. I also always finished what I started, even if it wasn’t any good. ¬†This was particularly true of desserts for some reason. ¬†I’d eat a huge slice of cake that tasted like it had been sitting out for three days even though I knew after one bite it was not very good. ¬†Not this time. ¬†I was very particular, and if I tried something and it wasn’t awesome, I stopped eating it. ¬†It also helped that I learned about how Royal Caribbean creates dolphin and fish food from their uneaten food, so I didn’t feel like I was being wasteful (true story‚Ķyou can apparently even see them release it at different times off the back of the ship and watch¬†dolphins jumping out of the water to get at it).

5. ¬†Try to do something active in the ports instead of just laying on the beach all day. ¬†Or at least consider splitting it 50/50 (this is what we did, as I couldn’t completely give up my beach time haha) so you get both movement and relaxation in during the same outing. ¬†Similarly, look for activities on the ship that will keep you moving. ¬†You don’t have to pay for the yoga or circuit training classes offered by the fitness center to do this. ¬†On this past cruise, there were tons of free options that could keep you¬†moving including salsa dancing lessons, a Zumba-esque class, line dancing, and even scavenger hunts. ¬†Just read your activities guide and ask yourself “Does this sound like something I’ll be sitting for the whole time?” ¬†If the answer is yes, and you’ve already done five of those types of activities that day, maybe choose something else.

Anyway, so there you have it.  Take it for what it is and please do feel free to share YOUR tips and tricks for staying healthy and active on cruises/vacation.

What I buy at Aldi

Everyone has their favorite places to go food shopping. ¬†For me, it’s Trader Joe’s and Publix. ¬†However, when push comes to shove, there are just certain foods that I eat a lot of now that I’m doing WW, and a number of these foods are cheaper at Aldi. ¬†Adam has always been a big Aldi fan, although his foods of choice for years were frozen pizzas and burritos ūüôā Over the past few years we have been trying many of the foods at Aldi and seeing what we think. ¬†Some things we’ve tried have been as good as the comparable name-brand product. ¬†Others have been‚Ķless than tasty. ¬†I started doing some research about Aldi and found out a couple¬†interesting things:

1. ¬†Aldi and Trader Joe’s are owned by the same company. ¬† Some¬†of the foods you can get at TJ’s are sold under a different label at Aldi, although there’s no formal list of these online (that I can find).

2. ¬†When you look at the brands sold in Aldi, you can actually start to figure out which are the relabeled national brands.¬† For example, something like Baker’s Corner¬†is used as a label for products that are actually Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, etc. ¬†You can often tell which brand the product actually is by looking at the label as they don’t change up too much of the artwork. ¬†And yes, what I mean is that it is literally the same product, just in different packaging. ¬†Googling can help you start to put together a list of what’s what, or if you’re willing to spend the time, it’s not too hard to figure out.

Anyway, all that being said, after a lot of trial and error we have come up with a list of items that we usually buy at Aldi. ¬†We have taken both taste and price into consideration, and are still actively working on the price piece and seeing if we can find them cheaper. ¬†One thing I do like about Aldi is that it allows me to get a lot of my “staple” WW items at a decent price when they’re not on sale elsewhere. ¬†This is especially true for certain perishable things (nonfat Greek yogurt, for example) that are not always going to be on sale at the regular grocery store.

A quick word about Aldi produce: You won’t find any produce on this list because I have really found the produce here to be hit or miss. ¬†A few weeks ago I got a container of the exact same organic grape tomatoes Pubix had on sale 2/$4 for $1.49. ¬†I’ve also gotten cabbage, zucchini, squash, and carrots here successfully. ¬†I’ve had less luck with fruit as most of it didn’t taste great or spoiled very quickly. ¬†However, you can’t deny that there are some awesome prices on the produce, so I always take a look at things and if it looks good and I know I’ll eat it within a few days, I buy it. ¬†The exception to this is bagged spinach, which I almost always buy because it’s a good price for what you get (slightly lower than the sale price at most stores we visit), we go through it so fast, and the quality seems good. ¬†We have noticed that it goes bad much more quickly than the Publix brand or Fresh Express, so if you plan to buy it, make sure to use it within a few days.

Also, a few disclaimers: A) we don’t do much with coupons (will use the ones that come in the mail and in-store, but don’t have nearly enough time to do all the online searching/printing/organizing that we used to), ¬†B) we don’t have a bulk store membership, so most of what we are basing our price comparisons on are the prices we get¬†on sale and/or BOGO¬†at Publix/TJ’s/etc, and C) I try to eat as many whole, unprocessed foods as possible but right now time just doesn’t allow me to do things like make my own crackers or granola bars, so you’ll see a mix of “clean” and “not clean” items on this list.

Items we usually get at Aldi:

Friendly Farms Nonfat Greet Yogurt

Friendly Farms Nonfat Greet Yogurt – $3.89/32 oz (3PP/cup)

I eat a heck of a lot of nonfat Greek yogurt, and this is the best price I can find for the quality. ¬†I like TJ’s brand a little better, but¬†the closest one is half an hour away, so this works for me.

Friendly Farms Lowfat Cottage Cheese

Friendly Farms Lowfat Cottage Cheese – $2.29/24oz (2PP/half cup)

I just can’t bring myself to eat fat free cottage cheese, and the points difference is minimal. ¬†Adam loves this stuff too so we go through at least a 24oz. container in a week. ¬†I usually add fruit to it, but¬†he likes it plain with salt and pepper.

Friendly Farms Unsweetened Original Almondmilk

Friendly Farms Unsweetened Original Almond Milk – $2.49/half gallon (1PP/cup)

I don’t drink regular milk anymore because I get prefer to get my daily dairy via yogurt and cheese. ¬†I have been using almond milk for over a year now and half always had to get it at the regular grocery store because I am very particular about wanting unsweetened original (if you buy just “original” it’s actually sweetened and about 30 calories more per cup). ¬†Aldi recently began carrying this in addition to their other “original” and “vanilla” almond milk, and I hope they never get rid of it. ¬†The price is about what I pay for Silk on sale at Publix (although I do¬†try to have a coupon to bring it down around $2), but it only goes on sale about once every six weeks, so this holds me over in the meantime.

Fit & Active Light String Cheese

Fit & Active Light String Cheese – $2.69/12 (1PP/item)

A nice 1PP snack to have with an apple to add in a little protein.

Priano Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Priano Shredded Parmesan Cheese – $1.99/5oz (3PP/oz.)

This is one of those things we’ve priced out all over the place to see if this is really the best deal. ¬†As far as I know, it is (and that includes buying a block of store brand on sale and grating it yourself).

Happy Farms Spreadable Cheese Wedges

Happy Farms Spreadable Cheese Wedges – $1.29/6 wedges (1PP/1 wedge)

Obviously this is Laughing Cow cheese. ¬†It tastes exactly the same and LOOK AT THE PRICE. ¬†Seriously. ¬†You can’t even get this price when it’s BOGO at Publix (which is usually cheaper than Aldi on most things). ¬†Seasonally, they will also have it in different flavors including jalepeno and garlic herb.

Little Salad Bar Hummus

Little Salad Bar Hummus – $1.99/10oz (1PP/Tbsp)

This is actually Sabra hummus. ¬†I found that out when I scanned it with the WW barcode scanner and it came up as‚ĶSabra hummus ūüôā TJ’s has more variety but I don’t get there much since it’s so far away. ¬†I have actually found six different varieties of this hummus at Aldi at any given time, so while it’s not a given that they’ll have what you are looking they will have original and at least one or two others.

Savoritz Original Woven Wheat Baked Crackers

Savoritz Original Woven Wheat Baked Crackers – $1.25/9.5oz (3PP/6 crackers)

I’m obsessed with Triscuits and these are Triscuits lol You have to be willing to spend the points on them but I like that they are only three ingredients and seem to fill me up. ¬†Six of them with a wedge of the Happy Farms cheese mentioned above is a great little snack. ¬†This is another product that is cheaper at Aldi than when it’s BOGO at Publix with a coupon (unless you have a $1 off 2 boxes coupons, which I can’t find much anymore).

Fit & Active Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth

Fit & Active Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth – $1.49/32oz (0PP)

Cheaper when it goes BOGO at Publix but that only happens every 6-8 weeks, so if we need it for a recipe this is a good substitute and we usually have some on hand.

No pictures:

Eggs – $1.49/dozen (2PP/item) – I’ve gone back and forth on eggs and have finally decided I’m in the pro-egg camp. ¬†However, I do limit my egg consumption to one egg per day at most. ¬†At any given time we probably have a dozen and a half eggs in the fridge, half hard boiled and half raw. ¬†The savings aren’t huge here, but they’re enough that we pick up a dozen every time we’re at Aldi.

L’Oven Fresh 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread (this is Nature’s Own 100% Whole Wheat) – $1.29/loaf (3PP/2 slices) – I don’t buy the 1PP breads anymore bc I learned that the only reason they’re 1PP is bc there is a lot more air put into the loaf. ¬†Essentially I was¬†paying the same or more for air, so I decided that since I only eat bread once or twice a week anyway, ‘ll take the points hit. ¬†Adam eats a sandwich pretty much every day, so we go through about a loaf a week and this is the same as the BOGO price at Publix (which comes once every six to eight weeks).

Fit & Active 93% Low Fat Ground Turkey – I forgot to write down the price but I’m pretty sure it’s $2.49/pound (1PP/oz) – Ground turkey is so integral to a lot of our cooking but just so darn expensive. ¬†I recently¬†bought some Jennie-O on sale for $3.50/pound and didn’t think the taste was all that different, so I’m sticking with the F&A for now.

Old Fashioned and Steel Cut Oats – Can’t remember the price but it has always been good for the amount you get.

Items we sometimes get at Aldi:

Priano Sauces (many flavors)

Priano Sauces (many flavors) – $1.79/24oz (2PP/half cup)

I don’t eat pasta all that often (just doesn’t fill me up long enough to justify the points) so when I do I want the sauce to be pretty good.¬† I don’t really care for Preggo or Ragu, and this is a good substitute that is comparable in my opinion to Classico or Bertolli.¬† Good variety but not nearly as many options as what they have at a regular grocery store. ¬†The price is better when Classico or a similar brand goes BOGO at Publix, but if we’re needing some decent sauce in a pinch, we’ll get this. ¬†The Reggano brand at Aldi is also ok, but it’s very standard jar sauce (think plain, meat, and marina) and we prefer fancier flavors and chunkier sauces.¬† Sometimes in the “Special Buys” section–denoted with red lettering on the signs instead of black–there are fun and different flavors.

Little Salad Bar Greek Yogurt Dips

Little Salad Bar Greek Yogurt Dips – $1.99/8oz (1PP/2 Tbsp)

These are nice to have on hand for when I don’t have time to make homemade dip that week, but it’s definitely cheaper to make your own. ¬†There are two flavors (Spinach and Red Pepper) and they are very good.

Clancy's Baked Potato Crisps

Clancy’s Baked Potato Crisps – $1.79/9oz (3PP/oz)

Ah, I wish I could give up chips entirely. ¬†I don’t eat them often but when I do I will usually have baked chips or Bugles. ¬†These are the cheapest baked chips out there and are usually available in plain and barbecue. ¬†They are Baked Lays.

Fit & Active Vitality Cereal Bars

Fit & Active Vitality Cereal Bars – $1.89/6 bars (2PP/item)

Another thing I wish I could give up entirely. ¬†The convenience is just too great and my time is just too little, I suppose. ¬†These are essentially Special K cereal bars (not the protein bars, although Aldi has those too and they’re 4PP). ¬†I haven’t figured out yet if these ARE the Special K bars or just REALLY close, but they’re good and low points and come in strawberry, blueberry, and chocolate pretzel. ¬†Maybe someday when we add another three hours to the day, I’ll start making my own bars with no refined sugar.

Benton's Honey Graham Crackers

Benton’s Honey Graham Crackers – $1.39/14.4oz (3PP/two whole crackers)

This is the closest we come to keeping sweets in the house and we don’t even buy them all that often. ¬†Something in my head makes me feel like graham crackers are better for me than cookies. ¬†Probably the only thing that’s better about it is that I won’t go on a binge and eat 12 graham crackers which let’s just say it may or may not have happened in my past with a package of Oreos.

Specially Selected Dill Havarti Cheese

Specially Selected Dill Havarti Cheese – $2.99/8oz (3PP/1oz)

Clearly I love my cheese, so I’m always looking for ways to cut down the amount of it I eat. ¬†I’ve gotten a lot better by picking really flavorful cheeses like this one or really sharp cheddar where I only want/need an ounce of it to be satisfied. ¬†That being said, this cheese is so gosh darn good. ¬†It’s creamy and has just the right amount of dill in it. ¬†I have found that the vast majority of the Aldi “Specially Selected” cheeses are the same as ones I get at TJ’s and are of a very good quality (better than just their regular Happy Farms brand). ¬†The other reason we get this every so often is because it’s $6.99 for the same amount at Publix and it just feels kind of good to pay that much less for an equally good product.

Something we never get at Aldi:

Aldi has decent prices on chicken, and will often have family packs of boneless skinless breasts (somethings we go through about as fast as toilet paper around here) on sale for as low as $1.49 or so per pound.  However, we NEVER buy Aldi chicken and this is why:

Aldi Chicken Breast Tenderloins - Note what it says at the bottom

Aldi Chicken Breast Tenderloins – Note what it says at the bottom

All of Aldi’s chicken contains between 12% and 15% chicken broth. ¬†That means that 12-15% of what you’re paying for is just liquid that is added to plump up the meat and give it more flavor. ¬†In the meantime, it adds a lot more sodium to the chicken as well. ¬†However, it’s not just Aldi that does this. ¬†Look carefully at the chicken the next time you’re at the store. ¬†MANY brands add broth or other “solutions” to their chicken, and they are required by law to disclose it on the label. ¬†For Adam and I, we have decided we’d rather spend a little more to ensure our chicken does not have this added liquid/sodium, so we do not buy Aldi chicken. ¬†We usually get the Publix brand of¬†chicken¬†when it goes on a good sale. ¬†Personally, I wish we had the money to get free range chicken from a local farmer, but so it goes.

One more tip about shopping at Aldi–keep your eye out for these red signs:

Aldi While Supplies Last Signs

Aldi While Supplies Last Signs

This is the Aldi equivalent to a sale, and a lot of times these items aren’t items that are regularly on the shelves but are there for a short period of time until they’re gone. ¬†The BEST deals are when they are on the While Supplies Last sign and it’s been crossed out with a marker and a new price has been written in (sorry no pic). ¬†Usually these extra savings are put onto seasonal items that are about to expire (two weeks ago¬†I saw a Valentine’s day ice-cream cake that had originally been $8 marked all the way down to $2). ¬†Here’s the thing though‚Ķsometimes they’re great deals, sometimes not so much. ¬†You still have to do the math. ¬†For example, the sauce advertised in the sign above is the Aldi Priano sauce I was referencing above. ¬†Even though it’s $.30 cheaper for these two kinds this week, it’s still not as cheap as when Classico goes BOGO at Publix. ¬†It’s important not just to go grabbing up things because they are on a While Supplies Last sign. ¬†An example of something we did get recently at a great price was some Bugles for $.99, which was way cheaper than when they go on sale or BOGO. ¬†But we had to know how much they would normally cost and how much they would cost on sale to be able to take advantage of that. ¬†Similarly, I saw these on sale today for $1.89 and stocked up:

Simply Nature Unsweetened Applesauce

Simply Nature Organic Unsweetened Applesauce – $1.89/14oz (0PP)

I usually get this at TJ’s and knew that this price was awesome, especially for something I use so often. ¬†All that to say don’t just assume because it’s on a red sign that it’s a great deal and you should grab a ton of them. ¬†Check the expiration dates, do the math, and if it’s a good deal and you know you’ll use it, stock up.

So I do believe that’s the end of a post that I hadn’t imagined would be quite so¬†long. ¬†Hope you have found this helpful and let me know: Do you shop at Aldi? ¬†If so, what are your “must get” items? ¬†What do you tend to avoid?

Updates

Well hey there‚Ķit’s been a while ūüôā Life happens and all that blah blah blah no need to explain, let’s just jump into the post.

After a nearly year-long hiatus from Facebook (the reasons behind which could be a post in itself), I got back on last month and have been so happy to reconnect with people who I hadn’t been in contact with for a very long time. ¬†I also have posted a few pictures over the past couple of weeks and have gotten a number of messages asking me what I’ve been doing to lose weight. ¬†If you used to read this blog back when I actually tried to post more than once a year, you know that I made a very public declaration of beginning the journey to better health, then promptly failed to make much of a change at all. ¬†It was the same old story, lose 10, gain 10, lose 5, gain 10, etc. ¬†I kept trying to figure out what wasn’t working for me, and late last summer the pieces finally started coming together. ¬†So, since inquiring minds want to know, here’s what I have been doing to have lost (as of this past Thursday) just over 57 pounds since August:

1. Allowed myself to be my number one priority.

This has been THE most difficult thing about the entire process so far. ¬†It honestly goes against my entire nature at times to put myself first. ¬†So much of who I am is wrapped up in doing the “right” thing or the thing that will make someone else happy, and I’ve had to really reframe my thinking to understand that just because I say “no” or stand up for my own needs doesn’t make me a bad person. ¬†It has meant walking away from unanswered emails at 5pm on a day when I’ve committed to go to the gym, and turning down social events when I have a Weight Watchers meeting to attend (more on WW in a minute). ¬†I could list 20 other examples but you get the point. ¬†I’ve been making decisions based on what I know is best for me and my family (aka Adam), and sometimes that’s meant that my choices don’t align with someone else’s priorities. ¬†Does this mean that I never stay late at work and finish a project that is due the next day or skip the gym to attend an important event? ¬†Absolutely not. ¬†It just means that I’m cognizant of the fact that I DO have control over my choices and that I AM allowed to choose to prioritize my own health and happiness.

2 & 3. Found an eating plan that works for me and (concurrently) found accountability and a support system that works for me.

I have talked about Weight Watchers before and about how I couldn’t find one near my house. ¬†Then, this crazy thing happened where I was sitting–get ready for this irony–in the Chick-fil-A drive through here in Rock Hill and looked across the street to see a Weight Watchers sign in a strip mall. ¬†I hadn’t seen it on the website for some reason but apparently there was a WW location not more than five minutes from where we live. ¬†I didn’t join right away for a variety of reasons: the money, embarrassment, and more than anything, the fear that I just couldn’t do it. ¬†However, I was already fed up with the life I was living (or not living, depending on how you look at it), so once the seed was planted I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that maybe this was my opportunity to turn things around. ¬†I had been trying to count calories for over a year and for some reason it just. wasn’t. working (for me). ¬†I have had lots of friends find success counting calories and using tracker apps, and it was incredibly frustrating that this method wasn’t working for me, but I kept doing it on and off throughout the summer. ¬†I realize now that the reason it wasn’t working is because I need two other things besides a plan for my eating: accountability and formalized support.

I know there are lots of people out there who love Weight Watchers and lots of people who think it’s a an evil corporate money pit. ¬†I actually agree with both groups (although not necessarily that it’s evil per se lol). ¬†WW provides for me the accountability of stepping onto the scale each week and not being able to lie to myself about whether I’ve done what I should be doing over the past seven days. ¬†I don’t get to skip my weigh-in day because I made poor choices over the weekend (or I suppose I could, but it would bother me a lot that I’ve just flushed the money for that week’s meeting down the toilet) the way I would when I was doing my own weigh-ins at home. ¬†And it’s funny, the more the weigh-in has become part of my life each week, the less I find myself worrying about what that number is going to be because I know that I’m making the right choices for long-term success and the number will continue to change if I continue to make those choices. ¬†WW also provides support via the weekly meetings, where I get to be surrounded by people who are dealing with the same struggles and frustrations and victories that I am. ¬†I’ll be honest and say that 90% of the content of the meetings I already know–so much of it is common sense or info you could easily find online–so I’ve accepted that I’m basically paying for the accountability and support pieces. ¬†As for the corporate piece, yup, it’s a business, and it’s not cheap to join, and they will sell you $500 worth of WW paraphernalia and food in two minutes if you ask for it. ¬†It also can be a total waste of money for you if you join and don’t actually follow the plan. ¬†The only way I feel like I’m actually getting my money’s worth is by going to the meetings, making use of all of the online tools/recipes/etc, and then following the plan.

All this to say, I’m convinced there is no one thing that is going to work for everyone. ¬†For me, I needed more structure in my eating plan, accountability, and support. ¬†I found those things in WW, but I fully believe that everyone needs to try and find what works best for them.

4. Found an exercise plan that worked for me.

I work out at 9Round in Rock Hill four days a week. ¬†It is literally the only exercise plan that I have ever kept up with for more than a few weeks and is a thirty-minute hybrid kickboxing/circuit training workout. ¬†I don’t get bored, and from the beginning the trainers have modified the exercises for me so that I don’t hurt myself but still get a good workout. ¬†As I’ve gotten stronger, they’ve re-modified to allow me to continue to improve. ¬†Again, this is something that works for ME. ¬†Some people like running, others are into Zumba, but none of those have kept me coming back the way that this has. ¬†The main thing is that I am moving more than I ever have in my life, and I now schedule my workouts on my Outlook calendar because if it’s not on my Outlook calendar it’s not gonna happen. Because Adam and I each commute over two hours a day, fitting in consistent working out has meant giving up some other things I enjoy like watching TV and going to happy hour. ¬†I joke and say that working out has become my hobby, but it’s kind of true. ¬†I’ve had to make the conscious choice that, with the little free time I have, I’m going to do this thing to improve myself. ¬†Sometimes I’m resentful of it, and sometimes I walk into that gym with the absolute worst attitude (wouldn’t it be great if we could be walking, talking motivational Pinterest quotes all the time?!), but I have never once walked out thinking “Man, I wish I hadn’t done that.”

So there’s lots of other things that I could get into (meal planning and food prep, a major fridge/pantry overhaul, being honest with friends and family, connecting the spiritual aspect of health with the physical) but I’ll save those for another day. ¬†Those four things I just described are the biggest parts of how I’ve been able to find weight-loss success over the past seven months. ¬†As I’ve mentioned numerous times, this is what is working for me. ¬†I am pretty convinced now that for anyone to find health and balance you need to prioritize it (and, by proxy, yourself), find an eating plan that works for you, figure out how you’re going to hold yourself accountable, develop a support system, and move more. ¬†However, what form these things take for you may be totally different than what has worked for me. ¬†I would love to talk to you about where you are on your journey as I am certainly still in the process myself and have so far to go. ¬†I’ve always found inspiration in hearing about the challenges and successes of others, so shoot me a message on Facebook or comment below if you want to chat. ¬†Don’t forget: #eatrightmovemore #onedayatatime

P.S. If you have a chance, check out the “Goals” page where I’ve updated to reflect some of the goals I’ve met and added in some new ones ūüôā

Pants on fire

After a (longer than anticipated) hiatus, I’m back with the third theme that emerged from the emails and conversations I had with people after my request for healthy lifestyle tips. ¬†This one is particularly relevant to my journey lately, so I decided to bump it up in the order that I had planned to share and make it the topic of tonight’s entry:

Stop lying to yourself

It’s so easy to tell ourselves the same lies so many times that we start to believe them. ¬†For me, it usually has to do with how “good” I’ve been on a particular day, as I tell myself “You ate so healthy today” while conveniently forgetting the grande carmel vanilla latte I drank during my afternoon slump. ¬†Even worse is when I don’t weigh myself (as I haven’t in two weeks) because I tell myself “I don’t care what I weigh as long as I’m living a healthier lifestyle.” ¬†Truth be told, the number on the scale or the tape measure does mean something, at least at this point in the journey. ¬†If I’m not weighing myself, it’s because I don’t want to know what the number is, and if I don’t want to know what the number is, it’s because I know I haven’t tried as hard as I know I could have that week.

The lies I tell myself usually come in the form of excuses.

I was too busy to work out this week.

These pants are too tight because I left them in the dryer too long.

I’m not being fair to Adam if I take time away from our dinner to weigh and measure everything I’m eating.

Seriously. ¬†I can rationalize any bad (or lack of good) choice that I make. ¬†In the end, if we call a spade a spade, it’s lying to myself, and it’s something that has to stop if I’m going to be successful in turning my life around.

To this end, I do need to add a second part to this particular theme, at least for me, so that it reads:

Stop lying to yourself, and find yourself one person who won’t let you lie to them either.

I love my husband more than I ever thought I could love another human being, and I know that he feels the same way about me. ¬†However, it’s because of this love that he’s not able to hold me accountable or call me out on my BS the way that I need. ¬†For a long time, I wanted him to be that person for me, but over the past few months I’ve come to terms with the fact that he would never want to hurt my feelings or make me uncomfortable in the least. ¬†Adam is never going to question me when I say things like “I added up the calories and this hot fudge sundae comes in right under my daily total” or challenge me on the fact that I said I was going to work out after dinner but am watching The West Wing instead (seriously though, who could blame me?!).

I believe that everyone who is actively trying to live a healthier lifestyle needs to have a person who doesn’t let them lie without calling them on it. ¬†For some people, this might be a nutritionist or personal trainer who can say “If you’re really eating what you say you’re eating, there is no way you’re not going to lose weight, so fess up.” ¬†For others it might be a family member or close friend, and for still others it might be someone like a Weight Watchers group leader. ¬†I think this has to be a special person in that you have to respect them enough that their opinion matters to you, they can be honest with you even if it means hurting your feelings, and they won’t grow angry with you as you inevitably struggle to stop making excuses for yourself.

I’ve been working on finding that person for me; I have LOTS of amazing people in my life who are supporting me in my weight loss and healthy lifestyle goals, but I know it’s a tall order to ask someone to confront you when you’re not being honest with yourself but do it from a place of love and support. ¬†Seriously though, does anyone know what I would have to do to get Bob Harper to come live with me?!

P.S. Make sure to check out Themes One and Two when you have a sec.