Guys, we need to talk about the holiday gifts we give to those who have perform valuable services for us throughout the year. The physical therapist who got you back on your feet, the hair stylist who squeezed you in … Continue reading
Every 2 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day I will be jumping into a new diet and/or exercise plan *with both feet*.
I’m game for ANYTHING. What would you like to see me beta test for you? You name it – raw, vegan, paleo, juice cleanse, barre, yoga, running, boxing, swimming, rock climbing, I’ll give it everything I’ve got! After each 2-week adventure, I’ll blog about any and all changes I experience – the good, the bad & the ugly!
In the name of well-informed health coaching, I am prepared to guinea pig myself – even with approaches that sound about as fun as a root canal. (Let’s not even pretend a juice cleanse doesn’t sound like pure torture. I’ll be calling on my inner She-Ra for that one.)
THE RULES OF THE GAME:
I will commit to complete any workout challenge 6 days a week (one day of recovery is a healthy & strong choice no matter what the adventure!) for two weeks.
Any diet challenge will be all-day-every-day for two full weeks.
I will share changes in weight, energy levels, mood, overall quality of life, and any unexpected side-effects.
Hit me with your challenge – either in the comments section here, or on this Facebook thread! I can take it 🙂
It is upon us. The season all dieters/fitness enthusiasts dread most: The Holidays.
Oh, God give me strength. No use pretending the holidays aren’t challenging.
On this day 2 years ago, I was not The Girl Who Lost 100 lbs. I was the girl who lost 96 lbs. My 100 lbs goal was so close I could taste it. There was no WAY I was letting Thanksgiving put any extra distance between me and my declaration of success with my very first Before & After picture.
That year I began developing Holiday Survival Strategies.
If you’re closing in on your own goal – or just don’t want some holiday event to send you completely off the rails – then this one’s for you.
All Eyes-On-On-The-Prize, Goal Chasing, I-WILL-Fit-Into-That-Dress-On-New-Years-Eve fitness friends quaking at the thought of a table loaded with trigger foods, never fear! Happy Exhaustion is here to help.
(Note: If your goal is further in the distance and a few lbs don’t matter much in the Here & Now, then dig in! By no means do I believe Healthy & Strong means NEVER INDULGING AGAIN. If a day of “sometimes foods” is just what the doctor ordered, then enjoy the pie! Just don’t forget to get back on track the next day…)
For my friends who need an assist – I feel your struggle. The struggle is real.
Ready to fight?
Here we go!
1: Start The Day With a Workout
Your gym will probably be closed, and you might not have any equipment at home. NO EXCUSES! Get that metabolism up & running before your brain has a chance to catch up.
Start the day with a sweat – feel thankful for a body capable of a working out!
Here is a freebie, courtesy of the trainer I’m married to:
In descending reps 15-1 (15 of each, then 14 of each, etc. until the last set is only 1 of each)
15-1: Mountain Climbers
15-1: High Knees
15-1: Abs of your choice.
(I’ll be doing oblique twists, but if you prefer sit-ups, go with it!)
2: Mentally Prepare For Your Trigger Foods.
We all have foods that light up the pleasure centers of our brains and make us act like junkies chasing a fix. For me, it’s sugar. One taste and I lose all control.
What’s yours? Sugar? Buttery carbs? Fried saltiness?
Psych yourself up to avoid your triggers. I mean COMPLETELY. Best way to avoid falling off a cliff? Don’t dance on the ledge.
I will not be having any pie tomorrow. It won’t be fun, but I’ll go to bed proud.
3: If You Didn’t Make It, You Don’t Know What’s In It.
This tip is for my fellow calorie-trackers. If you think you can guess-timate how many calories are in Aunt Mae’s famously delicious green bean casserole, round up! Chances are good that her casserole is so delicious because it’s prepared with a cubic ton of butter.
To survive this hurdle, be the one who brings the low-cal options. If you made it, you know *exactly* how many calories to track when you eat it. This is why I’ll be the one bringing steamed asparagus and a dark green salad. That way I know there will be foods that will satisfy me without hitting my tracking with a giant question mark.
4: Beware of Hidden Sugars
Holiday foods can sneak sugar into unexpected places. Keep an eye out for cranberries, pumpkin, squash, and other naturally high-sugar bites. For the holidays they’ll probably be roasted, boiled & reduced with extra sugar and butter just for good measure.
Can’t imagine Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce? “That’s not even Thanksgiving!” Ok. Go ahead. But instead of slathering it all over everything, take a tablespoon-worth and enjoy the bites with a touch of sauce. Let them feel like indulgences.
5: Don’t Drink Your Calories.
Just a sampling of why this one’s important: The average cup of eggnog (ONE CUP!) has 225 calories. Mulled wine: 210. Cider: 175. Know what your body will love you for? Water.
(Don’t hate me.)
6: Eyes On the Prize
Whatever your fitness goal may be, keep it in the front of your brain. Think how far you’ve already come, how hard you’ve worked. Remember how much you want what your goal looks like. You’ve overcome difficult moments on this road. You know you can do it. You’ve done it before. Now do it again.
7: Is It Worth It?
Do a little math. How many minutes will you spend enjoying those calorie-bombs? Now, how many minutes do you imagine you’ll spend kicking yourself for unhealthy choices?
Know how many calories you burn running a mile? About 100. Is that single cup of eggnog really worth an extra 2.5 mile run?
8: Rise Above Peer Pressure
This one’s hard. Especially because it means I’m saying mean things about your loved ones. But the girl at the holiday table who isn’t cheating on her diet is rarely the most popular girl in the room. She might be doing what those around her wish they had the willpower to pull off. This can make her the target of saboteurs.
“Surely you’re going to take today off! It’s Thanksgiving!”
“Seriously, one day won’t make a difference.”
“You have GOT to taste this! I made it just because I know it’s your favorite!”
Diet Derailment: Dead Ahead! RED FLASHING LIGHTS!
No matter what the motivation of your loved ones, they’re not the ones who have to walk in your shoes. They don’t have to burn off your calories. Don’t let them drive your choices.
9: Say No to Left-Overs!
If you’re not hosting, politely decline to take any left-overs home with you (unless it’s those healthy, yummy steamed veggies you came with!). Leave with nothing more than an epic sense of pride.
If you’re hosting, encourage everyone who brought food to take home their own left-overs (as well as anything else less-than-wholesome that you can unload! Unless your guests are on paths like yours… give them props and let them leave with their pride alone.)
Deliver the rest to the nearest soup kitchen without delay.
10: It’s Just One Day
Even if you have to white-knuckle it through the perilous waters of the holiday, you’ve survived hard days before. Regular old Tuesdays when your co-worker had a giant bowl of pasta and eating your baked chicken made you full-on ‘hangry’. Stupid Fridays when your buddies were out pounding beers while you stayed in.
You killed it then, you’ll kill it now. Your pride at the end of the day is worth so much more than buttery gravy with a side of pie.
Enjoy the beautiful parts of the holidays. Enjoy your family, your friends, your health.
You don’t need to sabotage yourself to enjoy a special day.
Good luck! I’m with you!
If you read the article featuring Happy Exhaustion in the August 4th issue of PEOPLE Magazine, you may have noticed a template.
The five of us each had a bikini picture, a ‘Before’ picture, a brief story, an example of what we eat now, and an EXTRA LARGE FONT example of an astonishingly unhealthy food or drink we consumed when dangerously overweight.
DUNKED AN ENTIRE PIZZA IN ONION DIP!
ATE 3 DOUBLE CHEESEBURGERS AT A TIME!
CONSUMED 6 BAGS OF CHIPS IN A DAY!
WENT THROUGH A 24-PACK OF SODA IN TWO DAYS!
When it was my turn to provide an example, I first thought of the dessert buffet I indulged in while pregnant with my daughter.
That wasn’t quite ‘gross’ enough.
After waxing poetic about my hot & heavy love affair with cheese fries dipped in ranch dressing (*cringe*… also, *drool*) I finally struck magazine copy gold. Cookie dough. Not even good, homemade cookie dough. You know those tubes of raw chocolate chip cookie dough found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store? THAT kind of cookie dough.
Now THAT was gross enough. We had found my giant font.
ATE A TUBE OF RAW COOKIE DOUGH FOR A SNACK
(I don’t have the rights to the image of that page, or I would post it here. Just imagine me in a bikini with that giant font next to my face.)
Quite an evocative statement, right?
Can’t you just see me? Size 24, utterly despondent, feeling powerless to improve (so why even bother to try?), ripping open the tube and eating it raw? Heaping fistfuls of dough being shoveled into my big, fat mouth until I pass out in a filthy heap?
Here’s the thing…
That happened. It did. My wonderful new friends at PEOPLE did not tell you lies.
But despite the huge-font text, you really shouldn’t blame the cookie dough.
My peak weight wasn’t cookie dough’s fault. My peak weight was the result of my consistent, long-term failure to prioritize my health.
Were there crazy high-calorie binges on deep fried treats and raw dough in the mix?
Yes. There sure were.
But is that all I ate? Of course not!
I did not reach 243 lbs because I was a pathetic slob.
Whenever I ate something I knew was bad for me, I felt guilty about it. I detested my own obesity, and I knew the way I ate was making a bad situation worse. But I ate processed crap anyway. It was quick, it was easy, and it tasted good. It was there, so I ate it.
Because I felt hopeless.
Because I was an emotional eater and comfort foods felt good on a bad day.
Because I simply didn’t care enough.
Not because I was a slob.
If you’re carrying some extra weight, I bet you’re not a slob, either.
You’re probably like me. You move through life like everyone else. You take care of the people you love. You’re good at your job. You’re a good friend, good co-worker, good parent.
You have priorities around which you organize your life, and you tackle them well.
Manifesting your healthiest self just hasn’t made the cut yet. It has fallen behind the other issues that consume your day-to-day.
I was only able to get fit because I made my pursuit of health a higher priority than it had ever been before.
My shift of priorities didn’t change who I am. I’m the same girl, just with a reprioritized lifestyle.
Would I eat an entire tube of cookie dough today? No. Since giving up sugar and processed foods, those kinds of things make me physically ill. The few decadent minutes of yummy flavors aren’t worth the horrible indigestion I’ll suffer for the hours that follow.
But, I DO occasionally release the reins and eat as many calories as you’d find in a tube of cookie dough in a single sitting. Usually it’s a date night with my man.
That doesn’t make me a slob now any more than it did back then. But I know that I live in a culture that equates an overweight woman eating raw cookie dough with a pitiful mess. I also know that such judgment isn’t applied to a fit woman seen eating a gigantic bowl of ice cream. And that’s just stupid fat-shaming.
I celebrated the completion of the PEOPLE photo shoot with a bowl of pasta, a cocktail, and two scoops of ice cream. It wasn’t sloppy of me. It wasn’t something I had to be ashamed of. It was a treat.
2,000 calories all at once is 2,000 calories all at once no matter who you are or what kind of shape you’re in. All that matters is what role those 2,000 calories play in your lifestyle. If it’s a regular event, and it’s not burned off with an active lifestyle, you can’t help but gain weight.
These days I don’t stress the rare calorie-bomb, because now I crave my daily cardio. I am a full-on endorphin-junkie. So, when a celebration or a date night create a major spike in my calorie count, I burn it off within days. Because I prioritize my fitness. Because I need physical activity and clean, whole foods for my healthy and joyful life.
When I avoided physical exertion at all costs, all of those calorie spikes added up and compounded themselves.
What this (often exciting, frequently harrowing) adventure has taught me is that I was never A Fat Girl (although for a while there I was pretty sure that I was) any more than I am now A Thin/Fit Girl.
I was a girl who didn’t prioritize lovingly caring for her own body. That’s what has changed.
It’s not about the cookie dough.
It has been brought to my attention that I should write about food more often.
After all – how can the girl who preaches “Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym” neglect to discuss what she eats?
*Cue blogger breaking out in hives*
As I said in The Food Part – I suffer from a profound deficit in confidence when it comes to food. Food is my bugaboo. Food kills me. If I was an alcoholic, food would be my vodka tonic.
When my grip on fitness starts slipping, it’s never because I couldn’t bear to work out anymore. It’s always because of a plate of brownies, or an open bar, or a mountain of cheese fries… *drool…*
But when I’m on the right track, I have strict food rules, and I should tell you what they are.
Today’s lesson is this: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS – MAKE YOUR OWN FOOD.
It’s so important to start with raw ingredients and go from there. When we eat things we can’t pronounce, we sacrifice our knowledge of what’s fueling our systems. How can we manage our nutrition when we don’t have our arms all the way around our understanding of what we’re consuming? Achieving and maintaining fitness is hard enough without any extra elements of mystery.
Controlling my fitness generated a fixation on foods made from scratch. When I make an exception, it’s because there’s a special occasion involved. Never more than once a week.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m no raw-foods-vegan or anything. I have tons of variety in my diet, I just don’t generally eat anything that comes out of a box. I take pride in preparing all of my family’s meals from whole foods. I can name every ingredient, and tell you why I used it.
It hasn’t always been this way.
For 20 years, I was technically a vegetarian, but it would have been more accurate to call me a junk-food-itarian. I lived primarily on processed carbs. I was very… fluffy in those days.
When I got married, I couldn’t cook my way out of a paper bag. While getting my MA in Budapest, my BFF and I often ate something we called ‘veggie mush’ – mashed canned veggies in a pot. It was a hot mess.
Committing to nutrition inspired me learn how to cook.
If you don’t know how to cook yet, you can use your fitness goals as your excuse to learn! It’s a fantastic feeling to be able to prepare whatever you might be in the mood for.
The trick is to add a step between your mood and your consumption.
When a craving creeps into my brain and my kitchen is stocked with easy-access processed foods, it’s WAY too easy to snack. When these options are not available, I have the chance to assess whether or not I’m really hungry.
Whenever I think I might want to nibble on something, I know I can either eat something whole (say, carrot sticks – not exactly crave-worthy) or I have to take the time to prepare something. If I’m not really hungry, I won’t have the motivation to go through the motions of prep. If I’m motivated enough to prep, then I’m hungry enough to eat.
Making your food slows you down. It makes you think about what you’re eating and why you’re choosing to eat it. When I was heavy, I ate without much thought. Now that I cook, food is no longer about instant gratification.
Your food doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be gourmet. But it really should be actual food.
Ok guys… Here we go. The holidays are officially upon us.
The holidays can make fitness hard, but don’t throw away what you work so hard for the rest of the year. Enjoy yourself, but keep your eyes on the prize. You can do it! Will of steel!
This might help:
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Blog disclaimer: Always drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Don’t drink more than you can handle. Know your limits. Know when to say when. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Ok – so: What’s your hooch of choice?
At the occasional leisurely brunch I enjoy a Bloody Mary. At a sporting event? Corona. Coors Light in a pinch. Classy evening soirée? A nice white wine. And my true love? A modest serving of top-shelf vodka. Cheap vodka hurts my head, but I do adore the good stuff.
All of us who like to unwind with a drink have our favorites. I’d wager you can probably list not only your own, but also your spouse’s, your college roommates and best friends’. And, while it is important to step away from the bar if you begin to develop a dependence, lots of us look forward to our drink of choice at the end of the day.
You can probably relate.
How do I know you can relate? Because you’ve sent me your emails, texts, and carrier pigeons, all asking the following: How can I lose weight without giving up my cocktails?
I have heard from dozens of people who feel frustrated because they’re ‘doing everything right’ and CANNOT shake the last 5-10 lbs. They work out at least 5 times a week! They eat clean, whole foods in limited quantities! They drink soooo much water! WTF?!
Wow – that’s tricky… Well, what about booze?
That’s when we usually get down to the real issue.
Those soothing glasses of yumminess are maddeningly jam-packed with calories. Yes, even if they have ‘skinny’ in their name.
If you simply weren’t factoring your alcoholic beverages into your daily calorie count, TA-DA! Simple fix. Mystery solved.
But for the majority of people who consult with me, when we get down to the brass tacks, the truth is that weight loss just doesn’t rank above their nightcaps. Lots of us want to drop a few pounds, but if we’re being honest, we know that we don’t crave a smaller number on the scale as much as we crave our cocktails.
That’s fine. Just stop beating yourself up over what’s not working! You know what’s not working, it’s just farther than you’re interested in going – at least for now.
I wish I had a magic solution, but…
If you’re going to keep drinking, I can help you figure out how to maintain your weight.
If you’re ready to put the bottle down, I can help you lose weight.
But, if you aren’t blessed with the metabolism of a humming-bird, I know of no way to allow you to kick back with a beer every night and lose weight at the same time.
Is it physically possible to lose weight without giving up alcohol? Sure. You just have to all but starve yourself throughout the rest of your waking hours.
Over the summer, I discovered the following: If I want to maintain my sweet spot of 140-145 lbs, I can’t drink. At all. I just don’t have the willpower to eat so little during the day! To make the math work with liquor added at the end of the balance sheet, I need to spend all day feeling hungry and cranky. It’s not worth it for me.
I can, however, enjoy a cocktail a few days a week if I’m ok with maintaining closer to 150 lbs. It’s just a question of priorities. When I want my personal best, I need to avoid alcohol altogether. When I’m feeling relaxed and groovy and don’t mind carrying an extra 5 lbs around, then a nice glass of wine is invited to the party.
Need one more fitness-related reason to avoid the Devil Drink? Drinking tends to make you feel ever-so-slightly less strongly about your sober goals. The girl who drunk-dials her ex after one too many glasses of wine is the same girl who says ‘eff it – let’s order pizza!’
Not that I would ever be inspired to blog about the Devil Drink by a minor hangover mixed with humiliatingly tragic, blurry-around-the-edges memories of mindless late-night consumption of handfuls of stale candy corn…
I’ve always pulled back from everything labeled as ‘supplements’.
I think I associate ‘supplements’ with protein shakes, steroids, and other body-building products. A-Rod takes supplements, not me.
When I hear ‘supplements’, I think this:
But in reality, I have something of an obsession with supplementing my diet. It’s getting a little out of control.
The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?
Yeah. That’s what I take before bed every night. Finding a pill box large enough to hold this many pills took some serious shopping around.
I can’t help myself! Have you ever read what vitamins claim to be necessary for? It’s very compelling stuff.
“Tell me,” I hear you ask “why Magnesium?”
Oh, let me tell you:
‘Magnesium is an essential mineral and plays an important role in energy metabolism, protein synthesis, neuromuscular transmission and bone structure.’
Holy crap! How have I held myself together without magnesium?? Better be sure to get a healthy dose every day!
And have you heard about electrolyte water? It’s my new drug. I know it might be a full-scale placebo effect, but I’m loving every minute of it. Ever since I started drinking electrolyte water during and after my workouts, I feel far less dehydrated, meaning I have a lot more stamina.
Who cares if it’s all in my head if it makes my head say I can push my workout a little bit harder?
And finally, there’s the fish oil and probiotics (which are only grouped together because that’s how I associate them. They’re the supplements that live in the fridge.) I’m totally hooked on fish oil and probiotics.
Gentlemen – you’ll want to skip the next paragraph.
Ladies – True story: Ever since I started taking fish oil and probiotics daily, I haven’t had any PMS (and I have a long, storied history of crazy-lady PMS). After the first month of taking fish oil and probiotics daily, I actually suffered a momentary pregnancy panic. It was time for me to be getting PMS-y and I wasn’t bursting into tears for no reason even at all! I have no idea if it’s the fish oil, the probiotics, or the combination of both, but I’m a happy camper (and so is my husband!) so I’ll be sticking with this magical cocktail.
Ok, guys – it’s safe to come back now.
If you decide to try fish oil (and my herbalist insists on liquid, not capsule) I recommend finding one with peach or mango flavoring. The lemon variety is pretty gross. I find that the tropical flavors do a better job at masking the fishiness.
Do you take any supplements? If so, what kind of glorious health boosts do they give you?
With all the supplements I take every day, I expect to develop x-ray vision and super-strength any day now.
Within the community of formerly-obese fitness junkies, there is a common mantra. We tend to go around mumbling about ‘Lifestyle Change’ to anyone who will listen.
I’ve touched on this theme several times in passing, but it deserves its own discussion.
“Lifestyle Change” is code for ‘if you think you can only diet and exercise until you reach your goal, you’re going to gain it all back. The change has to stick… forever.’
We don’t want to scare you off, though. We reference “Lifestyle Change” to soften the blow.
But, what we have learned is this: No one who keeps significant weight off is ever able to return to their comfy-cozy, curled-up-all-day-eating-their-favorite-foods lives.
Know those Biggest Loser contestants who go back home and gain it all back? They didn’t get the memo on Lifestyle Change. They thought a quick fix was possible. I can’t blame them – I yo-yoed for years because I avoided the Lifestyle Change. Lifestyle Change felt way beyond me.
When I got started, I couldn’t even think about tackling forever. When I got started EVERYTHING felt hard, painful, and deserving of my constant animosity. The thought of enduring such torture for the rest of my days was WAY more than I was prepared for.
I didn’t want to be heavy anymore, and I knew something had to change. Beyond that, I couldn’t even process.
I was ready to consider a few months – maybe even a year – of hard work, but I didn’t think I had anything more than that in me. I certainly didn’t think I’d ever actually embrace the hard work that is fitness.
I still wanted to believe the infomercials. CHANGE YOUR LIFE IN 60 DAYS!!
If you’re where I was when I was thinking about getting started, if yo-yo dieting feels normal to you – then you’re the person I am talking to when I hint about the importance of a ‘lifestyle change’.
I don’t want to feed you propaganda about how quick and easy shedding obesity and adopting fitness can be. But I don’t want you to fear that such a change could mean biting off more than you can chew.
The benefits of Healthy & Strong far outweigh the comforts of sloth (oh, I do adore sloth… it’s easily my favorite deadly sin), but you need to feel them for yourself.
None of my sporty friends were ever able to convince me that I’d be happier if I got fit. I hated dieting, and I hated exercise. How could working things that I hate into my daily life POSSIBLY make me happier? Nonsense.
But, of course, they were right.
These days, if I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and the children have me wanting to tear my hair out before 8am, I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. As much as I would never have believed it one short year ago, the light at the end of the tunnel lies on the other side of a good workout.
I know that if I work an hour of sweating into my day, I’ll be as right as rain on the other side.
I still find fitness to be hard work, but now I know that it’s worth every struggling minute. It’s worth the full-scale lifestyle change, because this lifestyle is happier, more confident, less stressed-the-eff-out.
Healthy & Strong had to become integral parts of my identity.
So, go ahead. Don’t be afraid. Change your whole identity.
It’s the stuff of superheroes.