Knowledge is powerful, but only when we are strong.
I love to read labels, and can recite the calories, protein, fiber, and sugar contents of many foods, along with the recommended serving size. I've spent time telling you about moderation when it comes to portion sizes.
I know the recommended lengths and intensities of exercise, and how many calories I burn walking for 30 minutes pushing a stroller. I've even blogged about the importance of exercise.
I know how many calories I should be eating each day.
I even know the recommended weight for my frame and height. And unfortunately, I wasn't in it. Wait -- why did I say "unfortunately"? After all, I get to choose what I eat.
Oh, yeah... the missing component: self control. Discipline. What, you mean reading about weight loss won't take the pounds off? I have to cut back on my... food intake?
Okay, time for a little background. :)
I had never really had much concern about my weight for the first 20 years of my life. I wasn't raised on health food and rarely exercised as a child, but being homeschooled and living on a farm provided room to move around, hard work to do, and lots of fresh garden food.
I got married when I was 20, and we lived in a small (<700 sq.ft.) apartment. While I definitely kept busy as a homemaker, most of my work was indoor activities... and I was still adjusting to cooking for 2 (not 8+!).
I was also more "on my own" than ever before, meaning that I had a lot of freedom when it came to eating. If I wanted to make a bag of microwave popcorn and eat it, I could. Any time of day. We had a microwave back then, and no little children to ask "Mommy, what are you doing?! Hey, I want some too!!"
On our wedding day, I was a normal weight for my body/height. When we finally purchased a bathroom scale 12 months later, I had gained 20 pounds. No wonder my clothes was tight and I felt chubby!
Seeing such a high number on the scales was a depressing shock, and I immediately started eating better. I eliminated all desserts, all fast food, and started walking every day. I lost those 20 pounds in a matter of several months, and felt great!
And almost right away, we found out that we were expecting our first child. They say that women tend to keep 10 pounds of baby weight with each child they have? Well, that was me. I gained 37 pounds when I was pregnant, and kept 10.
Nursing made me hungry, and I took advantage of the fact that I could eat a lot of food without gaining weight. I also told myself that nursing moms needed a lot of calories, and that I could lose those last 10 pounds after Yehoshua was weaned. After all, I knew exactly what to do to lose weight because I'd done it before!
Before Yehoshua was weaned, I was pregnant again. Since I started out 10 pounds heavier than the first time around, I only gained 27 pounds. (I actually don't try to limit my weight gain during pregnancy. Pregnancy is about the only time in recent years that I have felt as though I was pretty and not fat -- because pregnant women are supposed to be heavier! Just one of the things I love about pregnancy... the extra sense of self-worth.)
Anyway, I ended up keeping an extra 10 pounds after having my second baby. I used every excuse imaginable to not exercise regularly and to not watch portion sizes. I didn't like being 20 pounds over my ideal weight, but I also didn't (and don't) enjoy denying my flesh.
Then, relief: I was pregnant again! I instantly went from feeling "fat" to feeling "cute and pregnant"! Hmmm. :)
After Ruth was born, I got within 7 pounds of my pre-3rd-pregnancy weight. Then the weight stopped coming off... but I kept eating. I started actually gaining weight (while exclusively breastfeeding -- so you can imagine how much food I was consuming!!!).
I didn't want to step on the scale because it was too depressing. I weighed as much as I did when I was 9 months pregnant with Yehoshua! I was okay with the idea of being a chubby mommy, and besides -- everyone looked at Ruth, not at me. I could just hold her in my arms and become invisible...
However, none of my clothes fit me very well. Most of the excess weight was in my stomach, which is very unhealthy - besides making me look 3-4 months pregnant. I would look in the mirror and think, "Next time I get pregnant, I'll be able to take pregnancy pictures the first month!" I was no longer at the top of the"healthy weight" scale -- I was considered overweight.
Thankfully, my husband helped pull me out of "feeling depressed and ignoring my weight while eating more to help me feel better" and in early July, I started making some changes.
Since that time (about 3 months now), I've lost more than 15 pounds through watching what I eat and exercising. I still have about 15 pounds to go, but I already feel much better than I did before. I think I've lost at least 6 inches around my waist (like I said, the weight was all collecting there!) and a lot of my clothes that was too tight is now fitting me. Yay! :)
So here's what I did to get started.
1. I used an online calculator to determine how many calories I needed to consume each day. Since I'm breastfeeding, I added 300-500 calories to that number.
2. Each day, I keep track of how many calories I am consuming. This sounded tedious to me, but I was determined to know how much I was eating in order to lose weight while eating healthfully.
Counting calories is actually easier than I expected and really opened my eyes to the huge portions I had been eating! It's also helpful when I have consumed the full amount of calories for the day but am still hungry before bed -- to tell myself that I don't NEED to eat more.
It's also nice because even when the scales sometimes jumps up a number or two, I know I couldn't possibly have actually gained weight because I wasn't over-eating.
3. Once a week, I weigh myself and write that number down on a list. It's encouraging to see how far I've come! At the beginning, the thought of losing a pound a week for 30 weeks is just overwhelming! I did sort of set an initial goal of 20 pounds and a secondary goal of 10 pounds.
Also, the first week I lost 4 pounds (for some reason, that seems to happen the first week... probably all that undigested food that was constantly sitting inside me!) which was an incredible motivator!
4. Since I had been having difficulty with self-control (the reason I needed to lose 30 pounds!), the best thing for me was to avoid desserts and junk food. I know it's okay to have a bite or two, but for me, "a bite or two" almost always turned into a whole lot more than that. So for now, I'm pretty much cutting out the desserts and junk food. I've made a few exceptions, but in general this is what works the best for me!
5. Since I now have a calorie "budget", spending my calories wisely is really important. If I want to feel satisfied and healthy, then I need to use my calories on good food. Some of the things we like:
Bananas -- a quick, filling, 100-calorie snack
Other fruit -- whatever's on sale or in season
Lots of veggies -- I've been making at least 2 with each meal
Less of the main dish -- double the fruits and veggies!
Soup -- healthy veggie-based soups are great!
Water (I always have drank lots) and caffeine-free teas
Anything with lots of protein and fiber -- whole wheat bread, scrambled eggs, a cheese stick, etc...
6. I also exercise at least several times a week. Often, I walk with the children to a nearby park (about 15 minutes away) and while that's not aerobic exercise, it's still exercise and we're all getting some! :)
Other times, I ride our recumbent bike while watching a DVD -- though this requires Joshua or someone else to babysit while I'm exercising. (My children wake up early!! I'd need to get up before 5am to exercise while they're asleep, but I can't get to bed early enough for that...)
7. I always eat breakfast, but I try to skip the evening snacks. If I really must snack, I try to eat a banana or something similar. If I'm a little hungry at bedtime, I try to just go to bed.
By the way, I think it is pretty sad that so many people are literally starving in this world and yet it takes so much effort on my part not to over-indulge. I feel very spoiled and selfish writing about this topic! Yet, I know there are others who have similar struggles, so I hope that my ramblings are motivating and encouraging.
8. While we haven't changed what we eat for meals (aside from mothing too sweet or junky!), I've re-arranged my portions so that I'm eating twice as many veggies as usual, but only half of what I would normally take of the main dish. And if I'm feeling full half-way through my huge plate of food, I simply stop and save the rest for a few hours later when I'm actually feeling hungry again!
Before starting this diet/lifestyle change, I had difficulties with low blood sugar. Frequently, a couple hours after eating, I would start to feel weak (not really tummy-growling hungry, just weak) from low blood sugar. Initially I was concerned that eating fewer calories would exacerbate the issue, but it's actually dramatically improved. Hmmm.
So, that's where I'm at! I've pretty much adjusted to consuming about 2,000 calories a day instead of the 3500 I had been eating. It's still difficult at times to maintain self-control, but I'm encouraged when I get dressed or look in the mirror, because I'm on my way back to feeling great again! Actually, I already do feel great! :)
I've hinted about my weight loss endeavors, but was reluctant to write about it until I had actually made my plans a reality -- since I am known to make great plans and never follow through.
Oh, one more thing -- lots of people recommend Spark People, a free fitness website. I did sign up there (actually, at their pregnant/breastfeeding companion website where they directed me as I was applying), but really am not able to use the computer to keep track of everything. It's easier for me to note things on paper! But the website had some great checklists for keeping track of calories, glasses of water, etc... so if you're into that sort of thing, check it out! :)
I'd love to hear your weight loss stories and tips! Are any of you on this journey with me right now? :)