fitness health

A Journey Towards Health

Saturday, June 06, 2015 HALFSTACK MAGAZINE

Remember, way back in January when I talked about resolutions? Well, one of the resolutions I vowed to stick to this year, was to just be healthier and focus on a lifestyle change. Whether this included losing weight or not was irrelevant. The goal was to be able to be healthier so that I can keep up with my kids and be the best woman possible. I wanted to wait a few months before I shared all of this. So, keep in mind this is just what has worked for me and what I have been able to maintain.

I'm happy to say that I've been able to maintain this goal over the last 6 months. As an adult, being active has been the main struggle in my twenties. In high school, despite what people who know me may think, I was quite athletic. Playing on my high school basketball team and running cross country or track were what kept me in a healthy state of mind. As an adult, it's been hard to find the balance between work, life, family and my health.

I'll be honest - I've had a tendency to get into a health kick phase and then slowly taper off. That's not to say I've been completely unhealthy, but rather I haven't made it a point to change my lifestyle and factor in taking care of my body on a daily basis. The goal this year was to change that.  I wasn't completely out of shape - Just about 2 years ago I ran a half marathon and finished under 3.5 hours which was great to me considering I had just had a baby 6 months prior. But, with age came runners knee for me and I had to slow my runs. My slowing down turned into a total stop. Then about a year ago - I was doing yoga at home and a few times a week at a hot yoga studio. I will say I have grown to love yoga, but the expense of the studio was quite high and so once again, I had to cut back.

So, with the slow down came the bad decisions, the poor diet, the bad self image and the weight gain. Around December I just got to the point where I was fed up with feeling crappy and I decided I needed to kickstart my goals and factor in better eating choices and adding even just a bit of activity into my life each week. I also wanted to do so in a manner that wasn't as expensive as paying for a membership. I really enjoy running - I can run for free outside. I really like yoga, I can continue my yoga practice with my mat at home.

I started slow and I've worked my way up when it comes to being active. Starting with just 15 minutes each day where I could spare or longer time spans every other day or on the weekends. I made it a point to not beat myself up if things didn't go according to plan. Yet, I have been trying to hold myself accountable for my goals. What started off as small choices like choosing to walk my daughter to and from school every day or use the stairs instead of the elevators at work, has led into 3 mile runs a few times a week, yoga in the morning when I can get myself up earlier than the kids and hiking at our local prairie path on the weekends. The goal is to work up to weight training this summer using my body as weight and incorporating resistance type training during my yoga practice.

The other part of my changes included my diet. I started using the Protein World Weight Loss Collection to help kickstart my metabolism. A combination of protein shakes, vitamins and supplements helped me get on track to making better food choices. I started to cut back on sugar and refined carbs and pull in more vegetables, fruit and foods rich in fiber. The Protein World shakes were great post workout meals and rather than just drink them plain, I would mix in fruit to create tasty smoothies. The mixes and vitamins are vegetarian, gluten free, soy free, diabetic suited and even kosher. I don't use protein much lately as I like juicing or smoothies post workout as I am not trying to bulk. But, this is a great option for those of you weight lifting and looking to make gains.

These small changes helped me see and feel a difference within 2 months. The weight-loss was a byproduct of me wanting to feel better. After 2 months, I finished up the the protein world regime and continued on with my good decisions for my meals. I think the important thing to note is that I have a sweet tooth and from time to time I let myself indulge. Life is too short in my opinion to restrict and not enjoy the best creations in the world: Chocolate and Ice Cream. These little indulgences from time to time don't make me crave and binge and overindulge at one time.

During times, when I feel like I've been making exceptionally poor food decisions, I have found that a detox is in order. I don't restrict food, but I eat cleaner, use a detox tea and up my water intake. Water has been one of the hardest things for me to change my ways. I don't know about you all, but I just never drink enough water. I found that keeping a water bottle with a straw (I don't know why, but it's easier for me to drink with a straw!) on me at all times and filling up periodically during the day has helped me to keep hydrated. Often when we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty. So, maintaining hydration is probably the best decision you can make when trying to make better eating decisions. The tea I used for detox was Newport Skinny Tea. I usually only use this for a week or two.

The daytime tea is a stimulating blend (which helps convert your food into energy & increase metabolism/calorie burn) and has ingredients that are appetite suppressants to help you control that snacking. The nighttime tea is a colon cleanse that cleans out your entire digestive tract removing unwanted, built-up toxins that may be preventing you from losing weight. The detox has helped with bloating and overall digestive health.

So, now onto some stats. Last year, I wasn't at my heaviest, but I was definitely still carrying around my baby weight. Just for measure - before I had sophia, my weight fluctuated between 120-125lbs. At my absolute heaviest - after I had my oldest Bella - I was at about 158 lbs. After I had sophia and up to about 6 months ago I fluctuated between 145-150 lbs. Right now I am holding steady at 130. I dropped about 20 lbs and have maintained by being active at least 3 days a week, finding small ways to add activity to my day (stairs vs. elevator) and adjusting the way I eat (cooking at home vs. eating out).

At my lightest - before baby #2 was born

5 months after baby #2 was born (chaperoning the Fashion Dept. LA Trip)

Around 150 May 2014

May 2015 - you can definitely see a change in my face

Hiking at Starved Rock National Park in May 2015

Hiking a 7 mile path by our house (Sophie has her stroller, but decided to walk a bit) June 2015

When it comes to meals, I want to make sure that I am not having to make something special. Healthy meals need to be easy and appetizing not just for me, but for the family too. We do about 3 main meals and 2 snacks (paleo style - high protein, veggies and complex carbs). So, five small meals a day.  I have a sweet tooth and try to keep it satisfied with fruits, smoothies and chocolate and ice cream when I feel the need. I also try to eat my biggest meal at breakfast or lunch and keep my lightest meal for dinner and I eat before 8PM. This is just what has worked best for me. I notice now that if I eat heavily in the evening I have weird dreams! The 21 Day Sugar Detox book has been a go to for recipes for us. I don't follow it to a tee, obviously, if I have an ice cream with the kids here and there, but overall I've made sure to cut way back on sugar. I upped my water daily and replaced juices or soft drinks with ice cold water.

Now, this has not been an easy journey and I am nowhere near perfect. I constantly struggle, but I try my best to make sure that I have the energy I need to keep up with my girls. I can run around and pick them up and not feel out of breath. I would have to say the biggest struggle of all has been trying to get enough sleep. WebMD explains, "Skimping on sleep sets your brain up to make bad decisions. It dulls activity in the brain’s frontal lobe, the locus of decision-making and impulse control."So it’s a little like being drunk. You don’t have the mental clarity to make good decisions. Plus, when you’re overtired, your brain's reward centers rev up, looking for something that feels good. So while you might be able to squash comfort food cravings when you’re well-rested, your sleep-deprived brain may have trouble saying no to a second slice of cake."

This is and always has been hard for me. By nature I am a night owl. I tend to get the most work done at night after the girls have gone to sleep. So, that means I will start to work again from 8PM to as late as 2AM sometimes. Yet, I will have to get up between 5-7AM depending on what time I may have to teach classes or have to get the girls ready for school. I'm lucky in the sense that I have a partner (Dwight's the handsome stud in the pics with me) who will let me sleep in and get our daughters ready, but ultimately I may only end up getting between 3-5 hours of sleep a night.

I noticed on particularly busy months when I would get the least amount of sleep, I struggled with hormonal issues like breakouts, bloating and I would end up seeing weight gain. I have been working really hard to really balance out my sleep patterns. This in turn has helped to balance my attitudes and overall mental health. This whole journey is a lot different than "diets" I have done in the past. I am really pushing to make a lifestyle change that will involve not just me, but my family as well. I think it is so important to begin to instill in my girls, the ideas of taking care of their health, eating well and being active. Illnesses such as diabetes and high cholesterol are quite common in my Hispanic culture. It's important to take control of my health now in order to create better habits in my family as a whole. The best examples I can set is to be a leader for my girls and show them, not just tell them why it's important to be active and eat their veggies.

Are any of you on a health journey? I would love to hear about your stories and what you're doing. Tell me, what has worked for you or what hasn't? Feel free to leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Please keep comments constructive and kind, we are all on a  journey and I hope this post gives you all insight that will help kickstart your own journey!

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