How I Got To A Healthier Me

I am a child of the ’80s. Growing up my family ate: hamburger helper, chef boyardee, beenie weenies, tuna noodle casserole, vienna sausages, mac n cheese, ramen noodles, banquet tv dinners, spaghetti o’s, captain crunch, fruity pebbles, count chocula etc. cereals. Food came with some sort of sauce or from a box, basically. Turkey loaf…meat loaf, condensed cream of chicken/mushroom/golden mushroom/cheese/celery/tomato soup plus some rice of some sort to soak it up a bit. Fried chicken, chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes with CREAM gravy. In fact, my MOST favorite meal was mashed potatoes with cream gravy, chicken fried steak (also with cream gravy-lots o’ pepper) and some fried okra or green beans.

That my friends, was a dream come true for me. My paternal-Grandmother would make GIGANTIC Sunday post-church meals for the family and they usually looked like fried chicken, baked beans, mac n cheese, fried okra or fried green tomatoes and maybe some pudding or some cottage cheese with pineapple slices/apricot halves over the top. Oh! And don’t forget the maraschino cherry!

I remember LOVING food and being so hungry when I was a kid. I was always bugging my Mom about what I could eat next. As a kid getting a snack after school, one of my most favorite things to eat was a slice of white bread with butter and a slice of cheese warmed up in the microwave just a scooch, until it was nice and gooey.

I wrestled with my weight beginning around the time I turned 11. Before that, I had always been a very thin child. From then on and especially into junior high and high school, I was a fat chick. I was more ahem “developed” than the majority of the girls I was classmates with and I was reminded and teased about it regularly. Sometime in high school, things began to smooth out a little bit. I think I was a junior in high school. I am not sure if I got taller, busier or what. I think it was about the time that all the other girls in the lunch room were eating at the salad bar for lunch.

However, I still had a picture of what I looked like in my head. Now, I LOVED food (and still do!) but I just couldn’t seem to figure things out back then. The best I could do was force myself to eat less. It worked for a while but was still a challenge for me.

I was never on any sports leagues. I never exercised unless my friends asked me to do it with them on a video or a class of some sort. I was ungraceful, uncoordinated and just felt fat and clumsy. So any attempt at exercise just made me cringe. I mean, people, my body jiggled all over! EW! I would get out of breath easily and I was not strong.

Fast forward to my early twenties. I got a bit older,snagged a guy (who thought I was beautiful??) and got married.

Before the wedding I was the “lowest” I’d ever weighed as an adult. But still, it was just reasonable and by the charts I was still considered “overweight”. After the wedding, we both ballooned up pretty quick. We were happy, we had time, we ate out often and we both loved to eat! I loved to cook but I didn’t really know how nor did I have a recipe repertoire other than what my own Mom had made for us growing up. (Which I liked and frankly, EVERYONE I knew grew up that way and ate that way. It was not some sick thing. That was totally normal!)

I think it was some time after my first child that I became truly miserable. We got one of those church directory pictures taken and I just wanted to die over how fat I was! But still, I just didn’t get it. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I didn’t want to eat salad the rest of my life! I am not a rabbit!

Eventually we moved out to the west coast, to Washington State. I met my best friend, Crystal. We had children the same age and we were both frustrated with our weight (though she had just had 1/2 of her thyroid removed!). She began a dramatic weight loss journey (losing over 100 lbs!) and just through doing life together and hearing/seeing/experiencing what she was doing that was right, I decided I wanted to do that too and I tried to learn as much as I could from her experience.

I began slowly to change how I ate. I figured out that I needed to lay off the carbs, eat more veggies and fruits and I desperately needed to move my body. In that time I began to train for a number of races and started running. Things finally started to come together for me. I started getting it. And what a perfect place in the country to get it! Every where I looked fresh veggies and fruits were at my disposal.

I began using Spark People to try to track my calories and my exercise. I began experimenting with “healthy swaps” and trying to lower the calories in some of my favorite recipes. I practiced portion control. <gasp!>

My biggest struggle has always been that if you tell me I CAN’T have something, then that’s when I want it and I’ll obsess over it until I just give in. However, I figured out that I could still eat fun and exciting things if I worked for them. I learned the difference between quality calories vs empty calories. I learned to say no and to tell myself that this isn’t the last good meal I will eat on Earth. (I needed a reminder that I would eat again soon!)

Eventually I got pregnant again and I was determined to have a more healthy pregnancy than my first. I succeeded in that endeavor and even managed a successful VBAC as a result. I did better at shedding the lbs post baby too because I gained less in my pregnancy and I knew what to do afterwards to help shed the weight. I’m not saying it was easy! I’m just saying that for the first time, I knew what to do!

My progress continued on and after we moved back to the mid-west, I even had a third baby. It was my best pregnancy to date! I gained a healthy amount of weight and lost it in a decent amount of time. Again, it was NOT easy, but I knew what to do.

My weight is still something I am working on, however it’s more of an overall desire to be healthy and honor God with this body than it is an opportunity to be some thin and lovely woman (though that is a nice thing too). I want to be comfortable in my own skin and with what my body is capable of achieving. I want to be strong!

I now use My Fitness Pal to help me with my daily calorie intake. I also use Map My Run to help me track my fitness. The show The Biggest Loser has helped me so much actually to be inspired and encouraged to not just change how I eat, like some fad diet, but to change my whole life for the better. I’ve learned what a danger Type 2 Diabetes is and all the horrific things that come with the disease.

I’ve learned SO MUCH about food too. My cooking has radically changed. Don’t get me wrong, I love food and I love to eat. I love to prepare it and think creatively about it also – and that has revolutionized my life. Once I began to realize how much I was capable of doing with the food we eat in our family, it became a fun game and a competition against myself! I’m always trying to improve and educate myself and my family.

So today, my fitness goals look like this:

-move more. Go outside as much as possible! (this is big for me because I love to be outside)

-eat a plant-based diet as much as you possibly can. think creatively about how to get veggies and fruit at breakfast and at lunch!

-exchange unhealthy fats for healthy fats and go high protein

-look for ways to cut out processed and refined sugars

-drink more water than you drank yesterday, every day

I still eat chocolate, cupcakes, waffles and pancakes, cake and pie. I still go over my calorie allotment some days. I still eat out! But if my fitness goals are in the forefront of my mind, then I still see all the benefits.

I recently cleaned out my closet and got rid of so many clothes that don’t fit me. I actually tried stuff on so that I could SEE the difference. Wow. I was astonished. I am in single digit sized pants today. I NEVER thought I’d get there. It hasn’t been fast. It hasn’t been dramatic. But I’m happy with both the journey and where I know my goals are going to take me.

This is one of those journeys that only leads to good things! There are not very many journeys like that in this life. 🙂

Conversations with my Kids

I’ve gotten into the habit lately of unloading the dishwasher immediately after I wake up in the morning (and while I wait for my coffee to finish steeping). It’s a good and productive reason for me to stay in the kitchen while the kids are eating breakfast. No-I don’t eat breakfast with them because I need a little time to wake up before I eat. That’s a separate post someday…

This morning, while I was unloading the dishwasher, the kids witnessed me pulling out the whisk attachment for my Kitchen aid mixer. Cecelia said, “Mommy, what are you stirring?!” as I leaned over to put it away. I replied, “nothing sweetie, I’m just putting it away, I’m all done with it” to which Cooper responded, “um, yeah, it’s been a really long time since you’ve used that mom.” I smirked at his innuendo of some sweets to eat because Cooper has a sweet tooth like the Grand Canyon. “Sweet heart, I used the mixer yesterday. So no, it hasn’t been that long since I’ve used it.”

“Yeah,” said Cooper with a very down-turned mouth, “but it has been a long time since you made cookies”.

Have I mentioned I have a foodie blog?