How I got started
For myself, this post is a reminder of what got me interested in getting healthy. For others, maybe it will serve as motivation.
To be quite honest, deciding to get healthy, lose weight, exercise, get fit, or whatever your goal both is and is not something you can just “wake up and do.” The main key is that it requires a change in mindset. That change is often gradual. Over a period of time you become more depressed about your favorite jeans feeling tighter. Or maybe you begin to notice those chin rolls in pictures. You know that to change the direction you’re going you are looking at a diet and exercise program in your future. But what’s one more piece of cake right now..?
You absolutely CAN wake up one morning and say, “I’M GOING TO CHANGE THIS!” It’ll be that morning where you pull yourself out of the self-defeating depression and instead are fed up with it. You get angry. You realize you respect yourself more than the way you’ve been treating yourself. You realize you deserve better and you can tell the rest of the world to go fuck itself because you know no one is going to hold your hand through it. YOU and YOU ALONE are responsible for making a change.
I really think that was the biggest step in changing my life. You have to get so pissed off at where you are that you’ll do anything to change it. When you hate the way you look, the way you feel, the way your clothes fit, etc. you can either just accept it, or face it. Facing it is harder. But when you do, and you drop that first pound or do that first push-up, it feels so rewarding. Seriously, get angry. Don’t hate yourself for making bad choices, but hate the fact that you’ve made bad choices. And remember, those bad choices are in the past. This very minute you can make a good choice that will change your life forever!
The catch is coming up with a plan. This is where you can’t just “wake up and do” as easily as you’d like. You have to figure out how to eat again. You have to determine what kind of exercise program you can do that you will stick with. Sorry folks, both food and exercise are required. Eating better without exercising may help you lose weight, but you will likely lose water, some fat, and a lot of muscle tone. Who wants to be “skinny-fat”? (That look of a person who is thin but very soft because they also don’t have much muscle.) And yes, you can exercise without changing your eating habits, but you may likely undo all the hard work and effort by taking a trip to the all-you-can-eat buffet every day. In addition, your body will respond better to including certain foods and getting rid of others in your diet.
As you research this, chances are you may get overwhelmed. I have been there. I have given up and decided that it’s easier to not do anything and hope for the best.
Some people turn to specific programs, like Weight Watchers or Nutrisystem. I’ve been on both. They both work for the right people. If they are not for you, then you won’t stick with them, and all that money will be wasted.
So some people turn to coming up with their own plan. That’s what I did this time around.
Deciding what to eat was pretty easy. My main problem is that I usually don’t eat enough, and when I do, I go overboard. That starvation-binge-starvation cycle screwed up my metabolism. I could tell during the holidays on days when I ate WAY too much (like Thanksgiving…and I even held myself back pretty well!) that my metabolism kicked into high gear and my body temperature was higher than normal as my body was trying to burn it all off. I want to be able to do that every day without requiring a feast that really was too many calories.
So I decided that I wanted to “eat clean.” To me, that means eat foods you can recognize, avoid foods with chemicals and preservatives, and organic foods if possible. I shop around the outside of the store, mostly hitting the produce and meat/seafood departments. I’ve been experimenting with different veggies (who would have thought I could prepare eggplant!?), treat myself with fruit (mangoes, strawberries, and cantaloupe are my faves) instead of ice cream, and chose good cuts of meat, high-quality ground meat, and lots of fish and shellfish.
I know I am a carb addict, so I try to avoid pastas and breads. I will eat carbs in the form of fruit, veggies, and even rice and oats (steel-cut oatmeal is DELICIOUS), but going back to my original statement: I can’t identify pasta or bread according to its original form. Believe me, eating more fruits and veggies gives me the carbs I need and crave without me needing to launch myself into a huge bowl of cereal.
I also learned that eating healthy fats is required for a good diet. I’ve come to love avocados, usually cook in olive oil now, and keep nuts and olives on hand as snacks.
End result? I don’t follow a low-fat or low-carb diet, even though it may seem like it when you glance at my plate. My favorite dinner is a piece of fish (like salmon) or meat (yes, even red meat), and a HUGE spinach salad topped with fruit and avocado. With fruits like strawberries and mandarin oranges on my salad, I never needed any kind of dressing…which is good, because I don’t like salad dressing to begin with. Lunches were often something like my broiled tilapia, salad, and an apple. I always kept apples and almonds on hand for snacks. Breakfast was always the hardest, but usually involved eggs of some kind, a piece of fruit, and either veggies in my eggs or V-8. I’m still trying to find more breakfast options because I have never been a good breakfast eater, and that’s the #1 way to kick-start your metabolism in the morning.
With this in mind, I got started by going to the store and wandering the produce and meat sections, while avoiding the siren’s call of the pre-packaged foods sections. I’ve found recipes that involved cooking meat and fish in different ways, and have avoided all the “pasta bake” type recipes. I use ground meat in foods like chili and meatloaf, as well as for salmon and other “meat” muffins and burgers. It’s more satisfying to me to bite into a piece of meat than eat a spoonful of pasta melange. Heck, I’m not even that fond of soups and stews for that reason, although when you make your own you have more control over what goes into it. I will admit that becoming familiar with the slow cooker has been wonderful!
Deciding on an exercise plan is the hardest for me. I started with the 100/200/200 plan and got thoroughly hooked! I found it easier to make a challenge for myself: 6 weeks of a plan that happens on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday was do-able. It didn’t require any special equipment. I remember the feeling of finishing each week and saying I only had X number of workouts left. On the off-days, I’d hop on the stationary bike for a pre-determined amount of time, distance, or calories burned depending on how I was feeling that day.
If I didn’t have a bike, I’d probably go for walks. I might even jog an interval or two. We have a great trail system around here, and I really want to take advantage of it. Of course, there’s always that embarrassment of wondering what people will think of you when they see you. Honestly? I realized what I thought when I saw them jogging past me: “Good for them! I want to be like that some day!” And maybe it’s because I live in the South, but I’ve noticed that while they often mind their own business, usually they smile and say hi.
So the key for me was coming up with a plan, making sure that plan had a challenge to it, making sure it had a determined length (it’s easier to say I’ll stick to it for 6 weeks than doing something until…I can’t take it anymore), and sticking to it.
Blogging about it also held me accountable, and it was helpful to tweet about it too. On days I didn’t feel up to doing a workout, I’d tweet for someone to motivate me. I’d get multiple responses of “You can do it!” as well as challenges (“I’m about to go on my run, so let’s see who works the hardest!”) and words of encouragement (“I can’t do my workout today for a valid reason and feel bad about it…don’t make yourself feel bad when you can do this!”). The next thing I knew, I was pumped up to do my workout.
And hey, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting to brag that you did 100-something pushups! Or saying that you FINALLY mastered a move that had been giving you trouble!
If you have a social network, take advantage of it!
In addition, hop onto Google. Do image searches for “fitspo” (a variation on “thinspo” which was a mixture of “thin” and “inspiration,” only this is emphasizing “fit”), or look up recipes. I love Allrecipes.com and Sparkrecipes.com to come up with tasty new things to cook.
Join a community, even online. I love SparkPeople.com since it’s free and an amazing resource for all the things I’ve talked about here. When you are feeling down about how you feel, there are plenty of people willing to lift you up again. And I love the personal challenge of collecting points and getting higher levels just by doing (and tracking) the healthy things you should be doing anyway.
Make your own goals, too. It’s great to have long-term goals of what you want when you reach your ultimate goal, but those can feel so out of reach when you get started. So set rewards for losing 2 pounds in a week, or every 5 pounds, or getting through 6 weeks of your exercise program. Heck, even a “I got through this week and am going to reward myself with a long soak in the tub” reward gives you something to look forward to.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, that pretty much sums up what I did. Changing my food habits was pretty easy, setting rewards kept me going, and the hardest part was deciding on an exercise program and the 100/200/200 was a great start that got me interested in doing more.
Hopefully this will help others as much as it helped me by serving as a reminder as we launch into 2012!