As many women have experienced, I spent years working and taking care of my family and kids, without paying as much attention to myself, especially my health. When I finished a long day at the office, the commute home, dinner, and family activities, I was tired. Reading magazines or watching TV sounded excellent to me. I wasn’t interested in exercising, and I didn’t think that much about what I ate.
There you have it. I developed a lifestyle where the weight began to add up, and I felt even less like moving. My husband, who always liked to work out, had become a personal trainer in gyms as a side gig, and even trained clients at our home. I would refer to them, with both jealousy and disdain, as the “beautiful people.” He would always encourage me to come along, but I had a litany of excuses and didn’t like the larger gyms where he trained.
A visit to the doctor raised the alarm bell. At my annual exam my blood pressure was well above normal. They don’t call high blood pressure the silent killer for nothing. It had been fine the year before, but in just 12 months, it rose to the level where I needed medication. I had no symptoms and was feeling fine. My mom had had HBP so I thought it was hereditary. I tried to change my eating habits and lose weight, but it was so hard. I’d lose a few pounds here and a few there, but I just could not get the weight off and keep it off. Medication controlled the HBP but I knew that I needed to do something more.
This went on for a while, but as the kids grew older, I found myself going with my husband to a neighborhood gym where I’d use the treadmill while he and a small class of about eight “beautiful people” trained on their spin bikes. One of the keys to getting into this new habit was that we would go directly from work instead of stopping at home, where I would have been distracted by whatever may have happened that day. Once I changed my routine, I discovered that I could have been doing this all along!
This may sound small, but it was a crucial change in terms of my focus. For once I put myself before all of the other stuff that could wait and began to do something regularly for my health. I started by walking on the treadmill, which felt so good that it turned into running until… I pulled a muscle in my thigh and had to drag that leg around for three months!
Fortunately, what had become a habit of working out regularly, paid off. During the time that it took to heal, I still worked out at the gym using a recumbent bike which just happened to be positioned where I could watch the spin class. It was then that I saw the “beautiful people” in his class weren’t all 20-somethings. They were like me! I realized that “If they can do it, I can too!” So I joined the spin class and met some of the friendliest and most fun people that I’ve known. I looked forward to being a part of this class three times a week.
That was seven years ago, and my routine has now increased to include not only spinning but weights, rowing, walking and more. I’ve lost about 40 lbs. and a few dress sizes. I feel better overall and recently had a physical with the best numbers that I’ve had in years. I still have the marks from having had three kids and lifesaving surgery last year. Those stripes are okay. Everything is a process. And for the first time in my life, I’m proud to say “62 is the new 42”!
Someone recently asked what I changed about my diet. In my case, I focused on: increasing vegetables, lowering and improving the kinds of carbs, including protein, and drinking more water. To reduce the carbs, I used the visual guides on dietdoctor.com. This site has pictures of common foods and the number of carbs that they have. Once you know how many carbs you want to have per day, depending on your weight goal, the pictures help you to quickly figure out what to eat. For example, I love red grapes and used to eat them every day. It’s fruit, right? Then I found out that by eating them this way, I was taking in way too much sugar. So I switched them out for strawberries and other fruits that are better.
My protein intake includes egg whites (I boil them each Sunday for the week ahead), and chicken and fish. I try to eat fewer processed foods like white rice and pasta. I don’t like brown rice, and I love pasta, so I do eat some white rice and pasta occasionally, but I eat less. For example, if we get Chinese takeout, I’ll eat a little of the white rice that comes with a dish but not the whole carton! Think of these items as being occasional side dishes but not an every night main dish. I eat more chicken and fish, but occasionally we’ll have steak. And I may have a couple of chocolate chip cookies (my favorite) or another dessert. With everything, the portion size is what matters.
I learned from a dietitian that instead of eating three meals a day, that I needed healthy snacks in between. So I snack on veggies mid-morning and almonds mid-afternoon. This keeps me from being super hungry between meals, and grabbing whatever I see in the pantry.
Oh, and water – my doctor recommends 70 oz per day! I don’t drink coffee so my a.m. drink of choice used to be a small can of Pepsi. The sound of that pop top still gets me. I love the taste and it used to wake me up. Now I start the day with 16 oz of water and an energy supplement like Emergen-C’s Blueberry-Acai powder. Its natural caffeine (from green tea) gives me energy and it’s packed with vitamins and minerals that I’m unlikely to find in a can of soda! It tastes pretty good too.
Change Takes Time, But You Can Make it Happen!
It may take a minute to develop the habits and discipline that you’re able to stick with to make a difference. It’s about changing a mindset about not just exercise, but also your food and beverage intake. I couldn’t change everything at once because that simply wasn’t going to work. I like desserts and I don’t feel like working out every day. But give me the right playlist and earbuds, and I forget about the time!
I promise that whatever you encounter going forward, your new you will be able to deal with it in a better way. As you can see, for me, it didn’t happen all at once. It was starts and stops. It probably took a while to get to wherever you are, so don’t expect results overnight. But remember that you can do this. You’re worth it. Do.Not.Give.Up.