Sunday, August 14, 2011

Livin' Lean

I'm over my funk; my allotted annual mourning period for summer is over; I'm ready to press on with my school year mission.

This isn’t baby weight.  I've been thin post babies, not like I was on my wedding day or in college, but acceptable for a woman in her 30’s with a couple of kids.  Whenever I’m not paying attention, I go up a couple of sizes, my face starts to closely resemble the shape of a pumpkin, and before I know it, I’m living in drawstring pants.  Somehow, the Chihuahua Mexican cheese on my fajitas is just too hard to refuse, those glasses of sangria go down REALLY smooth, and did I mention that I detest exercise (especially cardio)?   My goal is not the cover of Fit Magazine or even to revive a two-piece but practically speaking, I don't want to spend the money on a new wardrobe and fitting in my clothes like sausage casing is frankly uncomfortable.

The 3rd Jack-o' Lantern is a near perfect match to my head right now
My DH and I have attempted to varying degrees all sorts of things over the years:  
--Walked 10,000 steps a day, worked out like crazy, worn a HR monitor, done Tae Bo, Denise Austin (seems like a dear woman but her optimism makes me want to throw my fist through the TV),  joined good gyms, joined crappy gyms, bought a home gym;
--We have done South Beach, green tea pills, a variation of the cabbage soup diet, gone vegetarian, whole body cleanses, juiced our meals, had liquid lunches, sworn off sugar, salt, & carbs;
--We have tried every health app out there (Lose-it, iMap fitness, the calorie counter, etc).

In the end, nothing works better for us in the long run than a balance of good old-fashioned exercise and diet (tracking calories, carbs, protein, fiber & lots of water).  Everyone has their own theory and I am not licensed in anyway, but after trying all of this stuff and talking to all sorts of people, dietitians, and trainers, this is what I have found works (for us):

DIET:  I download a good calorie counting program, install it on my iPhone, and make my initial goals.  Basically, it is a bit of a pain in the arse, but I enter EVERYTHING that I put in my mouth, even that bite of cheese left on the pizza cutter. When I run out of calories, I need to earn the rest with dreaded cardio.  (I will say that we adhere to a “cheat meal”.  Once a week, we don’t track a meal.  We eat whatever the heck we want.  It is usually Friday but we will adjust it for a special event if necessary - it helps us not fall off the wagon entirely and gives us something to live for). 

I’m currently loving the Health app My Fitness Pal:
  1. It is free, has very few ads, and a clean easy to understand interface.  
  2. You can SCAN BARCODES to enter food (GENIUS)! I make a lot of food at home but we still eat: nuts, tuna, milk, coffee, bagels, granola bars, yogurt… ALL of it is just a quick bar-code scan away. 
  3. Food & Exercise can be entered online on the computer or on the iPhone (it automatically syncs).  When I’m making dinner, sometimes I like to be a helpful wife and add my DH’s food when I add mine.  
  4. Adjustments can be made in the program to have up to 6 meals a day (I like 3 small meals and 3 snacks; My DH likes one section of "beverages" that is different from snacks)
EXERCISE:  I like 2-3 days of yoga (60 minutes) and 2-3 days of a 5k.  I map out the 5k and it motivates me to try to get it over with faster and faster every day, that and I can't work-out in my house.  I have too many distractions, like the laundry or the phone or the room that needs to be painted or the fact that I hate exercising.  We also work in a family activity, like a bike ride or a long walk through the arboretum each week.

I know that the exercise part is tricky if you still have kids at home but it is manageable.  For awhile we were at a gym that had the best childcare ever.  My kids BEGGED to go to the gym (I will admit to sitting in the foyer with a latte and a good book from time to time).  As they got older, I would sneak out for quick walks/runs when I was waiting for them at gymnastics/soccer/baseball or on my lunch break at work instead of reading or my DH would watch them while I ran out for an hour. I have friends who get out before everyone wakes up (that takes a special kind of person).  I have another friend (take this with an ocean of salt because she also does Boot Camp as "me-time") who can hop on her treadmill or do P90X while her kids (x4) nap/play.  Some people can even put their child in a stroller and have another ride their bike beside them (yeh, not with my kids).  The point is, it works, it isn't easy, but it can happen. 
The First Step
This method isn't complicated but it does take a level of dedication.  It isn't a quick fix.  That said, it is rewarding to live lean.  It is empowering to eat only what my body needs and to do it cost-effectively.  It makes every bite, every sip, and every moment of down-time something genuinely appreciated and savored. Within a couple of weeks, I have a routine and realize very quickly how I got to where I was.  It takes A LONG time to forget these new habits and I tend to stay healthy for a good chunk of time --Basically, until life gets busy, there are too many parties (how can that be true?!), not enough self-discipline, and then, I’m accidentally in draw-string pants again.

So... Anybody ready to start 
livin' lean with me
for the school year?! 
or at least until the holidays :0)

Cost - $0 (honestly-- and eating less is cheaper)
Time - entering food is about 20 min a day & add some exercise 
Difficulty – a huge pain at first but very worth it

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