I was a little late to the motherhood party.
I had been single for long stretches of time as a young adult and had an intense career in medicine before I decided to get married and have kids.
I had been very fit for most of my adult life as I had a lot of time to claim as my own. I finished five marathons as an adult and was a varsity track athlete through most of high school.
And then I had twins.
And then I had a baby when the twins were barely three.
So began my parenting journey with three kids three and under.
It was survival of the fittest for a long time. Not a lot of time for self care or exercise or healthy eating going on in my life.
And that was okay for awhile.
But then my kids started to get a little bit older and parenting stated to change. One of my twins really loves to run too and when she was six we entered her in a local race series.
It was truly competitive and times were recorded. After the six week series was up she had won her age group.
Part of the final week and victory party was a parent’s mile run. My daughter desperately wanted me to participate.
So I dusted off my running shoes and squeezed into my old leggings and lined up at the starting line. I could barely finish.
I came in last and was struggling the entire time.
I could tell my daughter was a bit embarrassed watching me go by as she held her first place trophy.
That was it.
I didn’t recognize myself and I decided to change.
It was my lightening bolt and an a-ha moment. Time for a plan!
I got on the scale. I looked at the number.
I figured out that to be at a healthy weight I would need to lose 40 lbs which seemed daunting, but not impossible.
I had to get honest about what I was eating. I thought I was eating pretty healthy and would have told that to anyone who asked.
As a physician, I also hear that from a lot of patients.
So I got my Fitness Pal loaded on my phone and I started to count calories. I logged every single thing that I ate for a week. I was eating between 500 and 2000 calories a day in office treats!
Specifically, Oreos and Peanut M&Ms.
I just couldn’t say no to them when I was going in and out of my office. I asked my office partner if we could stop putting the food out and she agreed right away, which helped a lot.
I did not need to log forever either, after a few months I had a much better idea of what calories were in different foods. If I went up a few pounds over the holidays or on vacation, I would log food again to get back on track.
I had to figure out a realistic plan that was going to work for exercise.
I am someone who won’t go back to the gym after going home.
Exercise needs to either be in the morning or before I go home after work. I had to be honest about that too.
There was a YMCA in the parking lot by my clinic so I joined and committed to going there five times a week. Five times !!
Sometimes it was for 15 minutes and sometimes longer, but I would go there and do something five times a week.
I stopped slogging miles on the treadmill.
I had run marathons and actually gained weight as I was losing muscle while eating too many calories with the extensive mileage required to train. Also, there was no variation in my workout intensity.
Instead, I used Pinterest and found HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts on the treadmill that would last between 15 and 45 minutes.
I started burning calories more efficiently and getting much better results. I then committed to weight lifting. Weight lifting is necessary for women.
Muscle mass will increase metabolism and is the key to healthy aging. It needs to be incorporated into a successful work out regimen.
I started with more weight lifting classes and before long, I was confident doing exercises on my own in the regular gym area. I like lifting back and biceps together and triceps/shoulder and chest together and then doing a day of legs.
If that seems too intimidating, it is also OK to reach out to a trainer. One day a week can be affordable. I did that about a year after the original weight loss. The Lauren Simpson package is also a good, cost effective option.
It is also important to look at your schedule at the beginning of the week and schedule your work outs. They have to be as important as the other appointments in your life.
4. Healthy Eating
I was making sure my kids were eating healthy, but I really was not paying attention to myself.
The first step with this was food preparation and menu planning. I made food and packed lunches on Sundays. My breakfast was one egg mixed with egg whites and scrambled with a piece of whole grain bread.
I would make turkey meatballs, chicken breast or fish for lunch. I would then add some greens and a low calorie salad dressing.
I would add a piece of fruit and also a few pieces of dark chocolate and a high protein/low sugar yogurt. I never completely cut out carbs, I just made them about 20 to 30% of what I was eating on any given day. I did stick to wheat bread or a sweet potato instead of processed foods.
In general, processed foods have a lot of sugar in them and tend to derail progress.
That would include cookies/white bread/ice cream/chips etc. Once you get to your goal you will be able to add in your favorite treats a few times a week, but try to avoid them during the initial process.
Dinner was more complicated. I decided to get Hello Fresh delivered 3 times a week and order a lower carb option and eat a reasonable portion size.
Often, I would check my servings on a food scale to make sure I was staying honest. My kids really did not like the new way of eating, but they eventually adapted and it has helped them as well.
It was really important to figure out how to eat as a family. I was aiming for between 1200 to 1400 calories a day but everyone is a little different and it may take some experimentation to figure out your best number.
It took me five months to get to my goal weight. I have been able to stay within a 10 pound window of my goal weight for four years.
I no longer need to be as structured as I was in the beginning and can now eat two to three cheat meals a week and not gain. It is critical to learn that a few bad days or a bad meal cannot turn into a week or a month of over eating.
We need to recognize our bad spirals when they are happening and stop them before they get out of control. For accountability, I do need to weigh myself once a week. If I start going up I need to pull back the calories and make sure I am getting my workouts in.
I also want to highlight that when people are stressed and upset it is really hard to lose weight.
It is also difficult when we are not sleeping well.
Try really hard to utilize meditation or counseling or coaching and sleep therapy services if life is hard.
There are real benefits to those services and can keep things going in the right direction for your overall life and subsequently for weight loss.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when searching for balance. It’s not only about calories in and out – the brain is definitely a part of the equation.
The benefits to starting this journey have been tremendous for me and my family.
My husband started to lose weight too and get back into exercise and it was fun to do that together. It helped with my anxiety and irritability level with my kids as well. My girls are also looking at an example of healthy eating and exercise that I hope they can carry into their adult lives.
I was able to enter a 10K race at the end of my initial loss and was able to complete it in 54 minutes.
That was an incredible feeling! I even got a medal for my age group and a personal PR. This plan really can be done and it is worth it. I now swim. I skate. I write. I participate physically with the family instead of sitting on the sidelines.
I am grateful I was able to turn that negative moment with my daughter into a reason for change and a different life.
You can too.