I have had a number of friends reach out and ask a lot of specifics about my wellness journey, and nothing is a big secret–but since I get a lot of the same questions, people must be curious, so here’s my response to a friend that reached out recently:
Glad to hear from you! I can only share my personal experience, so remember–everyone is different, you have to test and try and see what works well for you.
1. How did you stop eating unhealthy? Honestly, it wasn’t my decision. I had a pretty bold encounter with the Holy Spirit as I was praying one day, essentially complaining to God how miserable I was with myself and throwing my own pity party on how unfair it is to be overweight…I was reminded by God that I am created in His image, but I’m abusing His creation. I was challenged to turn this battle over to God and let Him lead the way, because it’s not only about my weight–I had gotten really lazy in my spiritual discipline and wasn’t growing in my personal relationship with Christ, and my emotions (most specifically, negative self talk) had gone far over the deep end and I was desperate to get a grip on myself again. Has it been easy? Not for a second. Are there days I don’t want to be obedient to God? Of Course. I’m human. It all started with baby steps. Testing and figuring out a reasonable plan of eating. Then slowly adding exercise. Finding support, accountability, and encouragement. Building things up one step at a time–I firmly believe the reason I’ve been successful is God’s in charge and I didn’t try to change everything at once.
2. What diet plan did you follow? I actually started using a “medical” crash diet, which worked for like the first 15-20lbs, but I was miserable, it was expensive, and once I wised up to do my research–it was leaving me severely malnourished. I had success using Weight Watchers in the past, so I signed up for their online program for a few months–that’s what helped me “fix my broken eyes” in terms of proper portion size, getting a variety of healthy foods, and learning to eat within healthy boundaries again. Now I just use a food tracking app to stay within a specific calorie goal and reasonable nutrient levels (I track my fat, carb, and protein intake) and for every ten pounds I lose, I lower my calorie cap for the day a little bit.
3. What foods did you eat and which ones did you cut out? I don’t cut out any foods. I eat everything, LOL. I did give up diet soda around the time I started losing weight because it was triggering migraines for me, but I don’t like the idea of off-limits foods. For me (and everyone’s different), if I have a restricted food, I will crave it, fixate on it, and eventually cave and eat it in excess–just not worth the mental strife. That said, I have learned to prolong cravings so I don’t eat too much in a day. I trick my mind–I tell myself things like, “I didn’t plan to eat XYZ item today, but if I still want it tomorrow, I’ll have it then.” Usually, I forget because my head is like a squirrel cage, but if the craving continues, I’ll have the item I want, within reason and proper portion size. What do I eat–I’m a super picky eater, so the typical foods people eat when they want to lose weight (salads, chicken breast, etc) get old really fast. I look for recipes on Facebook and Pinterest that use healthy and filling ingredients and experiment in the kitchen. I also take some of my unhealthy standard meals that I used to eat, and find ways to make them healthier so we still eat our favorites.
4. When you first started out, how many minutes of exercise did you do each day and how many days per week? When I started exercising, I couldn’t even walk to the end of the street and back without wanting to die. And I wore flip flops. Because it just took too much effort to put on real shoes. I’m not happy about that fact. But, I kept walking to the end of the street and back and building distance from there. After a few months, I was in better shape and consistently taking long walks, and wanted more, as did my husband, so we joined a gym. There I started to build my endurance on the cardio machines and started a little bit of toning exercises on the weight machines. We switched gyms to one better suited to our needs and schedule. I still do endurance cardio (45-75 minutes in a stretch with intervals of running or intense resistance), take some group glasses like yoga and Zumba to improve my flexibility, and some toning exercises to build some muscle so I don’t look like a deflated balloon! My husband and I also have started hiking together in the mornings and now with starting to train with a training program for my half marathon in September, I’ll be in the gym less and hitting the pavement more (which is kind of scary since we live in a very hilly place!). I don’t exercise every day, usually 4-5x week now for anywhere from 30-90 minutes. When I started–that walk to the end of the street–was only ten minutes a couple times a week. Find something you enjoy that’s active and go for it. It doesn’t have to cost anything and it doesn’t have to be a formal gym–just get your body moving more than you already are most days of the week.
5. How do you deal with cravings, being at somebody else’s house, being on vacation, having to eat out with not many healthy options? Cravings–covered that one above. Being at someone’s house–this isn’t a big one too much because we prefer to have guests to our house, but if it’s something that’s not particularly healthy, I may just only take a little bit or just eat side dishes, etc. I don’t go to events super hungry, because I will overeat–I make sure to have snacks often. And it’s okay when you have plans with people to ask ahead of time what they’re serving so you can plan that into your day, or ask the host about possibly serving something different, or even just bring a dish of food that’s good for you to eat to share with everything. I always remind myself I don’t have to eat it because it’s there, and if I’m hungry later because I’m not indulging in an unhealthy meal, I can eat something else later and I’ll survive until that time. Vacations–we’re cheap when we travel. We book hotels with fridges and in a cooler pack all of our snacks and breakfast foods (because hotel free breakfasts lack anything healthy!) to travel with lots of healthy options. Lunches are usually small snacks or like on our last trip, we were close to one of our favorite stores, so we got some specialty cheeses, meats, and fruit and made up our own gourmet cheese plates for lunch. Dinner was always a splurge meal, but that’s okay, because we were very active through the day and had eaten light at our other meals. Eating out–don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. Ask for things baked, not fried; sauces on the side; steamed; etc. I try to avoid restaurants where I can’t get a meal that I can enjoy. It just kind of sticks in my mind that I’m not going to pay for food I can’t enjoy, and if I’m feeling guilty because I ordered something out of obligation to eat, then it’s just not worth it. We also eat out a lot less…from 2-3x week to maybe once every week or two. When making every food choice, my almost automatic response in my mind is the scripture verse that speaks of “everything is permissible but not beneficial.” It keeps my choices in check.
6. Do you have to eat salad all the time? Good heavens, no! I like salad (mostly because I’m a dressing freak and found some healthy low-calorie yogurt based dressings that I adore) a lot, and I eat really huge salads, but I don’t eat them everyday. On the average, I probably have salad at one meal a day four times a week. Sometimes I’m not in the mood and go a week without many, others will be salad overload. That goes in spurts. Remember though, not all salads are created equal–especially prepackaged/restaurant ones–know your ingredients. Especially in restaurants, you’re better off ordering a meal than most of their fancy salads.
7. How do you stay motivated when you’re tired or sick or discouraged? I do a lot of things for motivation. It may seem a bit narcissistic, but I look back at a lot of photos of me at my largest to remind me of how far I’ve come–because now I can see past the fake smile on my face and see how truly unhappy I was with myself. I follow a couple hundred wellness pages on Facebook (I don’t interact with them all!), but by “liking” that many, my newsfeed is always full of positive encouragement of healthy habits that keep my mind in a good place. I pray. Constantly. Sometimes it’s praise, but sometimes it’s a cry out to God in misery because I’m not motivated to make a good choice. I have my husband and some close friends that are loving enough to accept my whininess when I am discouraged. Discouragement happens, I’d love to tell you everyday is sunshine and roses, but it’s not. I struggle. I rebel against God’s will for me. I have days where I don’t want to eat well, where I eat everything in sight, where I don’t exercise–but it’s all about balance and the good days have to outweigh the bad. I find that public accountability gives me a lot of motivation too…not going to lie, people frequently poo-poo the idea of being honest on social media, and I realize I probably do it more than is necessary, but when I post things like comparison pictures, weight loss, and non-scale victories–the feedback is encouraging. I’ll just throw in my word of caution there–you need accountability too of people that will be real with you and you can be real with them, even in the tough moments. I’ve got people that privately give me the kick in the pants I need and remind me and hold me to my goals, even those goals and areas I’m working on that I don’t publically share.
My best advice sums down to this:
-Make goals. Small tiny ones and large grandiose ones. Figure out the logical steps to make them happen. And just do it!
-Start small, don’t try to change a lot at once. Work on one area and start building on things from there.
-Focus on your whole self. When I am focusing on my spiritual growth and bettering myself emotionally/mentally, it is easier to make healthier food and exercise choices. At least for me, my track record shows that losing weight for the sake of losing weight doesn’t work–but when I look at it as treating my physical body well because it was created by God and it ties into my pursuit of living a holy life, that changes everything.
I hope that helps. Don’t hesitate to reach out anytime for questions or support. I will be the first to admit I’m no expert, but no one should ever feel alone. I love you!