A big part of the message that I am trying to convey with my blog is that self acceptance and self-love are critical components to finding happiness. One of the most important decisions that I made at the beginning of this journey, was to make myself a priority in my own life. Out of that decision came “Operation Eat Right and Exercise”. Many of you have asked for more info about this… so here it is!!
Operation Eat Right and Exercise has a lot to do with common sense and trusting your own instincts. When I see advice regarding diet and exercise, it either resonates with me, or it doesn’t. If it does, I do a little more online research and decide whether or not to incorporate a new habit into my lifestyle. Right off the bat I will tell you that for my situation, I don’t believe in the quick fix, the temporary fix, or extreme fixes where diet and exercise are concerned. If I don’t think the change is something I can maintain for the rest of my life, then it’s not for me.
The Power of the Mini-Goal: I used to be all gung-ho when I started something new. I would make lots of changes, and all at once. And then the first time I deviated from plan – I’d feel like a failure. Now I make mini goals. For example – if I want to add walking to my exercise regimen, my starting goal might be twice a week for 15 minutes. This may not sound like much, but what I’m trying to do is create a habit without sabotaging myself in the process. I’ve created a goal that is pretty easy to achieve which means… (drumroll)… the likelihood of “over achieving” is high!! Because really – what are the odds that I will walk more than 15 minutes, or more than twice in a week? Pretty good actually. However, if I’m having a crazy hectic week – what are the odds that I can still fit this mini-goal into my schedule? Also pretty high!! Side benefit: My self-esteem increases because I can put the gold star on my goal chart! (I think it’s a Virgo thing)
Add a Good Habit – Subtract a Bad Habit: Along with the concept of the mini-goal was the idea that I wouldn’t hold myself accountable for all of my changes at once. There might have been 20 or 30 things that I thought I could do right away, but again I felt like that mindset was a set up for failure. So while I might try to implement a lot of changes at once – I was “officially” accountable for the addition of one new habit, and the subtraction of one bad habit per week (choose whatever increment makes sense for you). For example, one week I added the habit of taking my vitamins every day, and subtracted the bad habit of skipping breakfast.
Make the Goal be About the Habit: My goals no longer revolve around pounds and inches. First of all – this time around, my main focus is health and fitness. I don’t want to be out of breath after climbing one flight of stairs for crying out loud!!! As it turned out, dropping some weight, and losing inches became a very nifty by-product of becoming healthier and more fit. But, in the mini-goal example, my success was not about dropping a few pounds – it was about creating a permanent habit that is good for me. My “gold stars” make me happy – not the scale. (Ok – the scale makes me a little happy too!)
Love Your Body: My body does amazing things for me. It got me through college as an athlete. It produced two amazing children. And now that I’m taking better care of it, everything is more fun! ESPECIALLY SEX!!! So here’s the scoop. In college I weighed 145 pounds. Skinny for 6’2″ and I ate like a horse. When I first started creating new habits for the sake of health and fitness, I was at 205. I wasn’t focusing on weight, and in fact wasn’t weighing myself at all initially. When I finally did, I found that I was slowly losing weight. And yes, I will admit, thoughts of 145 crept into my mind. But then something happened. After a chunk of time, I leveled out at 180. And because of the focus being about healthy habits and fitness, I wasn’t going to make changes for the sake of a number on a scale. I took a good look at myself – naked in the mirror – and had an epiphany! I decided that 180 looked just fine. It might not sound like a “sexy” weight, but I didn’t care about that. I started focusing on the positive things about my body instead of fixating on the negative. This was well before the events in blog post #26 – where I finally achieve being comfortable in my own skin – but it was a gigantic step in the right direction. FYI – over 4 years later, I still weigh 180.
Enjoy Everything You Eat: Eating is a sensory/sensual experience and as such should be enjoyed – just like sex. Food is not my enemy, and I won’t eat anything that I don’t enjoy. And I most definitely don’t eat “diet” food. There are so many delicious and nutritious options!! Experiment! Find new recipes and dishes that nurture your body AND your soul.
Know your weaknesses: Potato chips. If I never ate another one in my whole life, I wouldn’t care. But… if they’re in my home, I’ll eat until the bag is empty!! My simple solution is that potato chips are not allowed in the Love Shack. Conversely, I love dark chocolate. And the big bar that I buy and cut into 24 squares usually lasts me 24 days! Go figure.
Some of Our New Habits: A friend of mine in the health industry and I had a conversation today about a mutual acquaintance who is VERY overweight and unfit. He talked about vitamin shakes and eliminating all grain, dairy, and sugar from the diet. This screams EXTREME and TEMPORARY to me – and is for most people, unsustainable change. Unless that person indeed has gluten allergies, or is lactose intolerant, or has other food allergies that call for extreme measures – in my humble opinion – it just takes the fun out of eating! I do have friends who are vegetarian, or vegan, or do make what I consider more extreme diet modifications, but it is their own choice as opposed to the fad of the week or an internet guru, and they still eat food they enjoy, AND, it’s not “diet” food. That being said – here are some of the changes that Sexy Hubby and I have made:
Eliminated Processed Foods – switched to all whole grain choices. My bulk food canisters hold whole grain white flour,whole grain wheat flour, spelt flour (which I use the most), brown rice, and a 13 bean mix.
Increased consumption of vegetables – stir fried, in salads, steamed, grilled. The ones I don’t like, I don’t eat. Turns out I am NOT a fan of kale, and I don’t like celery or beets either.
Switched to olive oil and coconut oil – I also use real butter in recipes that call for butter (I believe sugar is the enemy, not fat) but the use of butter is in moderation.
We eat smaller portions of meat and have more fish and chicken than before. We love a good steak, but that’s more of a treat now than a regular menu item.
Sexy Hubby eliminated soft drinks – I don’t like soft drinks.
Increased water intake. We drink tea quite often as well. We’ve become Teavana fans – our source of loose leaf teas!!
Switched to evaporated cane sugar. I don’t sweeten anything and use it in recipes. Sexy Hubby has a real sweet tooth, but has decreased the amount of sugar he uses by substituting fresh fruit when possible.
Switched from peanut butter to almond butter. Google a comparison. I was surprised by the nutritional difference!
Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. Baked, fried in coconut oil, or sliced and mixed with olive oil and seasoning and baked (almost like potato chips!)
I mix fresh fruit, raw slivered almonds, flax meal, and wheat germ into nonfat Greek yogurt every day and it tastes like I am eating dessert!! Yet each ingredient is healthy and the yogurt helps me with digestion issues.
Moderation of treats – Sexy Hubby loves ice cream and used to eat it out of the carton with a serving spoon. Now we have small cones, that fit a small scoop. It’s built-in portion control. At one point he switched cones, until I pointed out to him that the ice cream it held was about triple the portion!! We are back to the original cones. Also, about once a year, I eat a whole bag of Mint Milano cookies in one sitting. Note: Mint Milano cookies do not live in my home – and I’m still more than happy to do without potato chips.
In 2013 we added juicing to our regimen. I’d say we juice at least 5 days a week. These vegetables are in addition to our regular veggie intake, not a replacement. We do it first thing in the morning and we both notice an energy boost from it. (I do like juiced beets.)
I do drink coffee. A latte every morning. Low fat milk – no sweetener or flavoring – which is just how I like it. Sexy Hubby does not drink coffee.
We both take a GNC vitamin pack every day. Mine is a Women’s Over 50, and Sexy Hubby’s is a Sports and Performance mix. I figure it can’t hurt.
… And Exercise
Find Something you Enjoy: This can be a challenge in the beginning and it’s fine to try different things. I started with a body pump class (one hour-long) which is weightlifting to music, an ab class that focused on core strength (20 minutes), and walking around downtown. A couple of years later, I added yoga to the mix. Now I try to do 2 or 3 yoga classes a week (one hour each), 2 body pump classes (one hour each), and two ab classes (20 minutes each). I still walk a lot as well. AND don’t forget about sex!! – which addresses all three areas I try to work on: Strength, Flexibility, and Cardio. You may use videos at home, work out at a gym, do a boot camp class with a buddy – there are many options! Prior to this I had always worked out on my own as opposed to a class setting, but this change works for me. Class times help me with accountability, and Sexy Hubby and I do them together usually. He also plays lunch time basketball at least once a week, and does some running on his own.
Know Your Limitations: In addition to being horribly out of shape when I started, I also had back surgery 13 years ago. I have numbness down my left leg and half of my left foot, and I lack flexibility in general. I also have shoulder issues. Knowing all of this, I modify my workouts to make sense for me. For example, I do not use weights when I do my squats and lunges. I also modify exercises that use my shoulders. Listen to your body. I can tell when I’m experiencing that “hurt so good” work out pain as opposed to the “I’m injuring myself” bad pain. I also am a firm believer in rest. So in my ab/core class, I will substitute exercises whenever planks are done, because I do that in yoga three times a week already. My shoulder can’t handle 5 days in a row of that move. I know my body best and I listen to it.
Something is Better Than Nothing: Sometimes it’s a progression to get where you want to be. I thought that I could do yoga in the beginning – 5 years ago. But it just kicked my ass and I dreaded it!!! I needed more body strength for yoga, and that’s what my body pump class provided. I was also in a class that was 75 minutes long instead of an hour!! I stopped the yoga, focused on the body pump and walking, until I was stronger. When I reintroduced yoga to my routine 2 years later, I found a class that was an hour-long. I’ll admit I still dreaded it in the beginning, but I knew I needed it, and I also knew that it would be most beneficial to my favorite hobby – sex!! I can get through the class fine now, although I do modify and my flexibility is improving at a snail’s pace. Even so, I notice the difference it makes in how I feel, and the slight improvement that I’ve experienced means that now I can be on top!!! It used to be that my hip flexors were so tight, that I couldn’t come down far enough (without pain) for it to be a good experience.
What happened when we decided to eat right and exercise?
Both of us had our cholesterol count drop over 50 points.
Many of my perimenopause symptoms either went away, or diminished greatly!
My mood swings became WAY less frequent. Of course, the endorphin high from all the sex contributed to that as well.
Sexy Hubby was told at his physical that he had the metabolism of a teenager. I’ll vouch for that!!
I was also told during a physical, that I was VERY healthy and fit for my age.
Both of our self esteems improved…. A LOT!
Sex became even MORE fun. There is a lot more that we can do!
There is so much more I can write about this, but hopefully this gives you some ideas to consider. Seriously, I don’t think Sexy Hubby has been in this good of shape since his late twenties, and for me since my early thirties. Considering we are both 52 now – that’s saying a lot!! Our entire quality of life has improved, and the reality is that none of our changes were drastic. No rocket science. What has made the difference is that they have been sustained changes. Permanent habit modifications.