2016 – My Year for Crushin’ Health & Fitness Goals! (Part 1: Intro to my Diet and Exercise Routine)
My story begins before I got pregnant with my daughter in 2014. I had always had a distorted body image and an unhealthy relationship with food. But over the years I had convinced myself that “real women have curves” and when I looked in the mirror I didn’t see my true reflection. Instead, I deluded myself into seeing a plus size pinup style figure but failed to see the long term ramifications of my continued weight gain. My seeming confidence was overcompensation for a lifetime of self-esteem issues. The truth is women are so much more than curves and true self confidence is loving yourself inside and out and now that my outside matches who I’ve worked so hard to become on the inside I can finally see that.
You may remember from my skincare posts that when my husband and I were trying to conceive my daughter back in 2014 and I went off my hormonal birth control my hormones went all sorts of wonky. I’m super Type A so naturally I was tracking my cycles from day 1 of ttc (that’s trying to conceive for all you who aren’t familiar with the online vernacular of the ttc community) and I quickly realized that something was not right. It took me months of failed attempts to get pregnant, a miscarriage and leaving an OB who had terrible bedside manner to finally get in with a lovely doctor who listened to me, ran some tests and diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a disorder common in overweight women where cysts form on the ovaries that can affect fertility, insulin resistance and ability to lose weight. With her support and the help of fertility medications we were finally able to conceive my beautiful daughter and got to see those beautiful pink lines on April 19, 2014. To the right is a picture of me and my husband at his cousin’s wedding the day we found out we were pregnant with Lilith. I was on top of the world! I was also 196 pounds.
Now, 196 pounds may not sound like a whole lot in the world of being overweight. And it’s not. I’m lucky that I didn’t gain more weight. But I’m also only 5’4″ tall and have a very small frame. So while my distorted image of myself was as a plus size pinup model I really looked more like a sack of potatoes. But fast forward through the first couple weeks of my pregnancy. I’d had the bloodwork and the first ultrasound and was starting to get really excited about this new adventure. My doctor pulled me aside during one of our visits and informed me that given my age (I was 33 years old when I got pregnant), my family history of diabetes and hypoglycemia, my diagnosis of PCOS, and (you guessed it) my weight I was at risk of Gestational Diabetes and needed to be tested. I was 12 weeks pregnant. I thought that given our clean eating lifestyle that we had adopted while ttc (The Fertility Diet by Doctors Chavarro and Willett was a great read that really helped change the way we ate in our home) that I was a relatively low risk so I figured “No problem, I’ll go drink the little drink, pass my test and then retest at 28 weeks like everyone else.” Yeah… not so much. I was devastated to know that I failed my glucose test at 12 weeks and was officially diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. I pretty much dieted my whole pregnancy to control my blood sugar and eventually had to be prescribed Glyburide for my fasting levels because nothing I could do to change my diet could reign them in. Like it or not, I was a medicated diabetic.
So why do I tell you all this? Here’s the thing, change is HARD. Anything worth doing is going to take a lot of effort and you will have to make sacrifices along the way. I was the Queen of excuses for why I didn’t have the time to exercise so I had to have a really good reason WHY. Your WHY is important when you take on any new endeavor or challenge (going back to school, starting a business, losing weight, etc.) and if you don’t have a really solid WHY then you’re likelihood of success is slim. My WHY for wanting to lose weight was my daughter. I was already an older mom, was overweight, low energy and at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. That’s a serious diagnosis. People DIE from Type 2 Diabetes! And quite frankly, I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live to see my daughter grow up, graduate college, start a family of her own, meet my grandkids! So I took one last hard look at my reflection and said “Enough! I’m ready. Let’s do WHATEVER IT TAKES!”
By this point in my story, it’s March 2016 and my daughter is just over a year old. You may have read my post back in September 2015 on the 10 Day Detox where I shared about my experience and plan to get back to a clean eating lifestyle. I had some success with this. I had lost 12 lbs overall but had gained 6 back over the holidays. At the start of my 2016 Health & Fitness Journey I was weighing in at 190 pounds. Despite the fact that we were still eating pretty clean overall, I had a massive sugar addiction which meant that I struggled with binge eating if there were sweets in the house. Plus, I LOVE food! So portion control was not my strong suit. I had a friend who was a distributor for Saba at the time and I was amazed by the testimonials she would share and the before and after pictures of real people (not these skinny little models who wanted to lose 5 lbs but moderate to significantly overweight individuals) sharing their results and losing 20+ pounds in 60 days on their Saba60 program! I started talking with her about the products and did a whole bunch of research on the ingredients before deciding that I wanted to give it a try. So I talked to the hubby who supported my decision and invested in my first 30 days of products (see Part 2 for my review of Saba and other supplements I’ve tried on my journey). The Saba60 program included a 5 day cleanse with their Co-Clenz supplement, a fat burner/appetite suppressant that you took 1-2 times a day after the cleanse and a meal replacement shake. It did have a meal plan included but I chose not to follow it exactly since my husband is the primary cook and I didn’t want him to have to diet too. So I just followed our clean eating guidelines and used the meal plan as inspiration for healthy snacking. The program also taught me about plate mapping (see image on left), a simple approach to portion control and proper nutrition. This was a huge takeaway for me and I still use this strategy today (also super helpful at holiday parties or potlucks to keep your nutrition balanced when there are so many unhealthy options!). Another helpful resource for learning about portion control, if you’re like me and hate the hassle of weighing your food, is this chart that helps you learn what portion sizes look like based on the size of your hand. Overall, the Saba60 program was kinda pricey but totally worth it for me because I was able to lose 21 lbs in 60 days and it helped build my confidence in my ability to actually lose the weight.
(Before, during and after Saba60 – 190, 175 and 169 pounds)
I also started walking every day on my lunch break because I tended to have a very sedentary lifestyle so even that was huge for me. This has become not only an opportunity for exercise but also a great mental break in the middle of my day. I really enjoy getting out of my office and walking in the fresh air and sunshine around the duck pond on campus at the University I work at. I even started a walking group, called Walk It Out, through the Counseling Center to encourage the students to get out, get moving and share a little about their day. It was around 90 days or so into my journey that I got a FitBit so I could start tracking my steps, started tracking my food again (I use My Fitness Pal to track my food because it can also track “macros,” protein/carbs/fat, and syncs with my FitBit) and then started looking for ways that I could step up my exercise game. That’s when a friend challenged me to the Bring Sally Up Squat Challenge for 7 days from June 3 until June 10th, 2016 which I felt was reasonable. Surely I could do anything for just 7 days! It was HARD!!! But so worth it. I enjoyed the burn after the 3 minutes or so and completing a challenge, no matter how small again boosted my confidence.
I lost 4 more pounds in my next 30 days with Saba but I quickly realized about this time that I needed more nutritional boost than I was getting from their Toppfast shake, which was only 70 calories and 8g protein. So I started looking around at other options. My husband has been diligent about his research and exercise over the years and had full confidence in the products sold on Bodybuilding.com so we started looking to see what options they had. I transitioned at this time to FitMiss Delight Protein Shake as my lunch time shake and continued taking the remainder of my Sabe Ace G2 supplement (see Post 2 for my supplement reviews). At 90 calories and 16g of protein it provided me with a little extra nutritional boost while still limiting my overall calorie consumption.
This is about the time I stepped up my exercise game. I have often said I thought exercise was a 4-letter word and as mentioned previously I am the Queen of making excuses for why I don’t have time to exercise. But I had to call a spade a spade and recognize them for what they were, EXCUSES! If I was going to get fit I was going to have to make the time. I know enough about myself to know that my energy and motivation at the end of a workday are low so there was no way I was going to exercise then which pretty much left the mornings. So, I joined the 5 am club and started waking up early so I could get my exercise in for the day. It was hard at first but after several months I’ve found I’ve adjusted pretty easily and now wake up at 4:30 am with no problems! “Sleeping in” now looks like 6 am! lol
I knew I wanted to focus on abs since my belly was my biggest problem area and I was getting my cardio in during my lunchtime walks so I started my quest on Pinterest and stumbled upon a Total Abs workout that seemed like a reasonable starting point. I started this routine on June 10th, 2016 and kept it up 5x/week increasing from 1 set to 2 until July 4th. I then switched over to the PiYo Ab Challenge, a 7 day ab workout challenge by Roots Strength Fitness (a BeachBody coach) on YouTube. Here is the link to her first video in the series and you can follow along with her follow up videos if you’re interested: PiYo AB Challenge Day One, Video One INTRO. I realized that I really liked the video format and following along with other members of my amazingly supportive mommy group’s exercise spinoff group (we lovingly call ourselves the Sugar Plumps since all our babies were due in December of 2014). So this led to lots of banter and several other challenges that we did together. And because I’m cheap, I only do free challenges. I haven’t bought a single exercise program so far. So, if you’re like me and not ready to invest your hard earned $$$ until you prove to yourself you’ll follow through, I’ll share the links and descriptions with you below. So read on!
At this point I had reached 160 pounds (30 pounds in 4 months), one of my first landmark goal weights, the weight I was when I married my husband on May 19, 2012. This was a huge confidence boost to me and I felt truly beautiful for the first time in a long time! Now that I had convinced myself I could easily follow through with and complete 7 day challenges and had been exercising consistently for about a month and a half I started a free 30 day #makefatcry challenge by Betty Rocker to really step up my exercise game on July 16, 2016. I liked that it didn’t involve any weights and I could do it in about 15-20 minutes in the morning before I left for work. And you know what? I seriously fell in love with Betty Rocker!!! Sometimes she’s so enthusiastic that I just want to punch her in the face but I love her energy and presence on camera. Plus, she’s got a bod to die for! #girlcrush I lost 2 more pounds during this challenge and I was actually kinda sad when I finished the 30 days. I tried for awhile to make my own workout routine using upper body, lower body and full body exercise plans I found on Pinterest but it just wasn’t the same. I still wasn’t ready to invest in Betty Rocker’s paid exercise programs, although she does offer incredible discounts if you get on her mailing list so I encourage you to do so, so I scoured her blog for other free workouts and stumbled upon her 30 Day Fall Workout Calender and started this on September 1, 2016.
I didn’t make it all the way through the 30 Day Fall Workout Calendar because I started talking to the husband about wanting to incorporate weights into my workouts. He is known for testosterone fueled weight lifting routines with his cousin in our garage and up until now I admit I was really intimidated but knew I could trust him and I was willing to be vulnerable in front of him (because you better believe I felt super out of my element while lifting weights). He taught me several really good exercises for Back and Bi’s and Chest and Tri’s as well as some of the lingo, like what a “superset” was. We also discussed my protein powder and the fact that I was starting to feel hungry again quicker and he convinced me to try the brand of protein powder that he uses, RSP Whey Protein with 130 calories and 25 g of protein. This is the protein shake that I continue to drink daily either as a post-workout or meal replacement shake.
(Progress pics from October 2016)
I kept up this new routine for almost a month, from September 24 until October 16, 2016 before starting a new challenge with my Sugar Plumps group, the free IdealFit 15 Day Mommy Fit Challenge. This one was geared towards moms, with modifications for pregnant moms, postpartum and more advanced. They are short 20 minute workouts with videos for warm ups and cool downs as well. These do use light weights but the exercises can be easily modified with body weight only. The addition of the weights pushed me a little bit harder overall but I admit, I think some of the Betty Rocker routines had me sweating more! I was able to lose another 2 pounds in just 2 weeks with this routine, however! It was also during this same period that I realized my daily walks on my lunchbreak were no longer as challenging. I was already walking between a 14-16 minute mile and couldn’t really walk any faster and I realized, much to my dismay, that I would need to run if I wanted to continue to get some cardio in my routine. So I ran a little here and there on my walks for a couple weeks just to prove to myself it wouldn’t kill me. Then, on September 30, 2016 I got a wild hair and decided to see if I could run a mile during my lunch time walk and I DID IT!!!! First time I had run a mile since I was forced to in middle school PE and probably the first time I’ve ever voluntarily run a mile! My catch phrase has always been “I don’t run. If you see me running, don’t ask questions, just RUN because something bad is behind me!!!” I’ve told this to so many students I’m surprised I didn’t have a crowd running behind me expecting a hoard of zombies! I was so excited it was Instagram/Facebook worthy (see pic to left) and I publicly declared my next goal: to run the National Children’s Advocacy Center’s Super Hero 5K in April of 2017! Between running and the fitness video challenges, I was finally able to break 150 pounds and weighed in at 149 pounds on October 28, 2016! 40 pounds down in just 8 1/2 months!
At the conclusion of the 15 Day Fit Mommy Challenge I got sick for a day or two and set to looking for my next challenge. I discovered the free 12 Week Ideal ShapeUp Challenge through an ad on Facebook of all places and decided to give it a shot. While 12 weeks was super intimating to commit to anything, especially through the upcoming holidays, I figured if I had come this far in the past 8 months, why not? So I signed up and started on November 3, 2016. I admit, I didn’t finish this program, but not because I gave up. To be honest, I really wish I hadn’t been afraid of weights and had discovered this program when I started my health and fitness journey back in March. I know I wouldn’t have accepted the challenge then but by the time I found this routine it was just too easy. It did step up the intensity level a little bit as the weeks progressed (I think I made it through like Week 3) but it still wasn’t enough. I wasn’t sweating, my muscles weren’t fatigued and overall it left me wanting more. Although I was still losing weight and hit another landmark goal weight of 145 pounds! This was huge! I hadn’t been in this good of shape or weighed this little since I graduated college in 2002!
At this point there was a bunch of chatter in my Sugar Plumps group and some of the other moms were wanting to start another round of Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. I was previously pretty intimidated by Jillian Michaels and had tried a few of her ab routines and struggled because of the strain on the wrists (I have carpal tunnel that got really bad during my pregnancy and tended to flare up from time to time). But I thought, what the hell, if not now, when? So I committed to my group and here we are! I am currently working through the 30 Day Shred challenge, 30 days of increasing intensity broken up into three 10-day increments. You can find the free YouTube video links here: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3, although I’m pretty sure she wants you to buy her DVD’s and follow her diet plan too. Today was Day 22, the 2nd day of Level 3 and I’m loving it! I’ll add before, during and after belly pics after I complete the challenge around Christmas.
(Edited on 12/20/16 to add the following paragraph and typical daily menu, in italics) It was brought to my attention when I shared this post on my Facebook timeline that in my rush to get it published I left out a portion where I speak about my nutrition over the last 9 months so I wanted to make sure to include it in the final revision. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, we tended to eat pretty clean at our house anyway. What I mean by that is we try to avoid processed foods and fast foods, use sugar(s) in moderation (I try to include fruits, honey or agave nectar if I need to sweeten something but I do use organic sugar in moderation) and no sugar substitutes, and make smart carb choices (wheat vs white bread, sweet vs white potatoes, brown or black vs white rice, quinoa, etc.). The biggest thing that changed when I started on this journey was portion control using plate mapping and the cheat sheet I included earlier in this post. Replacing my lunch with a protein shake and healthy snacks also helped with decreasing my overall calories. Over the past 9 months I’ve tried to eat at a 500 calorie deficit (it’s averaged to between 1200-1500) which is easy to calculate using my FitBit Charge HR. I’ve also been trying to educate myself about macro balance (proteins, carbs and fat). IIFYM has been a valuable resource in learning about macros. They even have a convenient macro calculator that you can use to get a good idea of what your macros should be for your body type, activity level and goals. I started tracking macros maybe 4 or 5 months ago and had been shooting for around 40% protein, 30% carbs and 30% fat. This is changing now that I’ve lost so much weight and my focus is shifting to building muscle instead of weight loss but that’s what it’s looked like while I was trying to lose.
A typical day for me looked like the following:
- 6 Tbsp of Egg Whites + 1 whole egg, scrambled (I have an awesome ceramic skillet so I don’t need to add any oil, I only add pepper while cooking, no salt)
- 1/2 cup of Daisy Regular Cottage Cheese
- 1 slice of Dave’s Killer Organic Bread (21 Whole Grains and Seeds), toasted, plain (no butter or jam)
- 2 Tbsp PBFit powdered peanut butter, rehydrated
- Celery sticks
- 1 heaping scoop Whey Protein in 12 oz water (my Blender Bottle is my best friend)
- Organic Gala Apple and Babybel cheese wheel
- OR 1/4 cup Kirkland Extra Fancy Unsalted Mixed Nuts
- 4-8 oz lean meat (organic chicken thighs, ground turkey, wild caught fish, etc.)
- 1-2 green veggies (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, kale, frozen Normandy veggies, etc.) usually prepared with healthy fat like Olive Oil or Coconut Oil and/or seasoned with dried herbs and spices (we don’t use prepackaged herb blends because they usually have a lot of added salt and preservatives)
- sometimes 1 starch (sweet potato, Butternut squash, brown or black rice, quinoa, etc.)
- if I use butter I try to stick with <1 Tbsp Kerrygold Grassfed Butter
OR we usually do Taco Night once per week. For me that looks like 1/2 cup refried black beans or fat-free refried beans (canned), 6-8 oz ground turkey with Mexican seasonings (we make our own taco seasoning with a little salt, pepper, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and lots of cumin), and about 3 Tbsp of homemade pico de gayo on a bed of romaine lettuce (I use about 3/4 of a head of the artisan romaine lettuce they sell at Costco) and some Mexican hot sauce. Sometimes if I’m feeling fancy I’ll add 1/4-1/2 an avocado.
- 1 cup Kirkland Vanilla Greek Yogurt with 1 Tbsp organic strawberry jam
My biggest advice to anyone wanting to start their own health and fitness journey is to start small with goals you can manage then see what your body needs and increase gradually. I’m usually a go big or go home kind of person but I found that I tended to burn out quickly. Over the last 9 months I’ve lost 47 pounds and have more confidence than I ever have before! For the first time ever I’m actually sporting a little 4-pack (because we all know the best things come in 4-packs, like KY Bourbon Ale or Guinness!) and comfortably fit a size 6 pants (that’s down 4 pants sizes from the size 14 I was wearing at the start of this journey!!!). My confidence is through the roof and I feel sexy, which is an amazing feeling! Because we all deserve to feel sexy! 😉
Now my goals are changing and I’m having to rethink my nutritional needs and fitness goals. 2017 holds the promise of big things! I plan to start bodybuilding, not to compete but to build lean muscle and continue to boost my confidence and feel secure with my appearance! Plus, who doesn’t want to look sexy in a bikini during summer vacation!?! I’ve eaten at a caloric deficit for so long I’m now having to conquer my fear of calories and carbohydrates to ensure that my muscles get the nutrition they need to grow. While I still would like to reach my ultimate weight goal of 135 pounds (what I weighed when I graduated high school in 1999) my focus will be less about the numbers on the scale and more about the shape of my body. I’m very excited to see where this journey takes me and blessed to have the support of my amazing husband and my Sugar Plumps mamas on this journey! I couldn’t have done it without you!!!
Be sure to keep an eye out for Post 2: My Supplement and Protein Shake Reviews and Part 3: Oily Tips & Tricks to Help You Reach Your Goals!
Also be on the look out for an invite to my 2017: New Year New You online class about using essential oils to help meet your health and fitness goals! If you’re not my friend on Facebook, or aren’t one of my usual suspects, and want an invite, comment below with your email and/or Facebook name or PM me on Facebook and I’ll be sure to add you to the guest list!
Disclaimer: I am not a health professional, certified trainer or nutritionist. I am merely an average girl just like you who got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I have been asked about what I’ve been doing to have the results I have been blessed with so wanted to share the love! Please consult with your medical professional to ensure that you are healthy enough for increased activity levels and/or a nutritionist to ensure that any dietary needs you may have are being met by whatever nutritional program you choose.