Over the course of several summer months, I accomplished my goal of losing twenty pounds. The weight crept on during pregnancy and stubbornly stayed as a result of some unhealthy habits: Friday night calorie-laden hors d’oeuvres and cocktails with my husband, for example. I also love to bake, so the holidays were filled with trays of cookies and desserts I told myself I had to sample.
Like many before me, I’d lost weight before and promptly put it right back on. Winter was my nemesis – who wants to drink a weight-loss smoothie when it’s snowing outside? Stew, soup, and huge hunks of bread with butter sounded much more appetizing, thank you very much.
But the sight of that picture really made me take stock of myself. Not only had I put on weight, I’d accepted the new version of myself. I'm a mom-jeans person now, I thought as I shopped in the larger section at Macy’s.
Which brings me to the first and most important item in my list:
1. Mental attitude
I stopped thinking of myself as over the hill.
When I lost the first few pounds, I hit a plateau. For weeks the scale simply didn’t budge. However, I kept at it, drinking my damn diet shakes (Beachbody’s Shakeology in Greenberry) and exercising every day. The workouts helped me to sleep better, and the shakes weren’t too bad if I added fresh fruit or veggies before blending.
Before a lunch date with a friend, I went back to Macy’s and tried my usual jeans on. Lo and behold, the mom jeans no longer fit. Those cute little boot-cut hip huggers, though, were perfect. Even though I’d hit that ledge of not losing weight, my body was still changing.
The realization I didn’t have to wear to clothes to hide behind – that I could actually feel good about my body – was huge. It really was the turning point of my diet process.
2. No more sugar
It’s really, really difficult to give up sugar – especially if you’re a chocoholic like me. During the course of several months, however, I noticed the bloody scale needle stubbornly stayed in one place if I ate sugar the day before. If I stuck to vegetables and protein, however, my diet cooperated.
Not only that, I noticed if I ate sugar I went back to feeling sluggish and bloated. It’s a difficult habit to give up, but in my case it was necessary.
I exchanged several things for sugar. Agave syrup is still glycemic, but a squirt on my oatmeal once a week doesn’t seem to have the same dastardly effect as a spoonful of brown sugar. I also developed a passion for grapefruit – fresh from the fruit stand, not juice in a bottle. (Alas, fruit juice is pure, mainlined sugar. Goodbye forever, mango nectar!)
Along with sugar, I had to curb the carbs and cut down on alcohol. Once a week I allowed myself a few squares of dark chocolate sweetened with stevia. You gotta have something, or else you’ll go insane from all the self-denial.
3. Lots of Exercise
I’m sure you already know this one. There’s no lasting weight loss without good workout habits. For me, the best and easiest were the Blogilates videos by Cassey Ho, all available on youtube. You can sign up for her blog and get a free monthly workout plan, with five or six different videos of under ten minutes each.
Going to a gym simply didn’t work for me. I don’t like traveling to work out, so exercising at home was much better. Along with the pilates videos and my own cardio, I added a pair of ten-pound weights for arm exercises and core strengthening.
4. Lots of Sleep
I noticed if I sat around at night, the desire to go and live in my pantry with all the forbidden foods overwhelmed me. Also, I found if I got 8 hours each night, it was a lot easier to exercise and eat right.
And this brings me to my final point. When I went to bed, instead of surfing the web or playing games, it was soothing to read real paperbacks for a few minutes before turning out the light. This is why my final item is:
Unfortunately, a lot of books feature mouthwatering descriptions of food I’d given up. For example, Eat Pray Love was a no-no with its chapters set in Italian gelato bars and pizzerias. Even classic literature was overwhelming – did you ever realize how much Dickens writes about food?
For inspiration, I looked for novels about weight-loss. However, even those were turn-offs. I don’t like to be launched into diatribes on how slender bodies are so wonderful. After all, some of the most attractive people I know are on the higher end of the scale.
Besides, I wasn’t losing weight in order to become a model. I wanted to be healthy, gain energy, and maybe fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans. So a book beginning with a chunky heroine sighing over svelte women in a fashion mag just wasn’t for me.
There were a few books, however, that hit the right note. Believe it or not, Lord of the Rings is great diet fare. Frodo and Sam never have anything to eat except lembas and a few shreds of tobacco. If a couple of hobbits could do it and survive, so (I told myself) could I.
I also enjoyed She’s Come Undone. Delores Price is such a unique heroine, and the book bravely faces issues such as rape, abortion, and AIDS. Wally Lamb’s writing is engrossing enough to make me forget about the chips I had to buy for my daughter’s sleepover.
Lady Oracle, by Margaret Atwood, addressed body image and mother-daughter relationships in a fun send-up of romantic travelogues. It’s funny and kept my attention through several long evenings of ‘not eating chocolate cake.’
Losing twenty pounds was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. If you’re on the same journey, I’m virtually hugging and fist-bumping you right now. Good luck, friend – and may those abs and quads ever be in your favor!
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