When it comes to healthy eating and exercise, I’m not the best role model out there. Like so many out there, food is my weakness and excuses are my main currency. The toddler kept me up. The baby’s teething. I haven’t got time. Work is too busy. Come anywhere near me and I’ll guarantee I’ll mutter at least one of those whilst wolfing down a biscuit or too and frantically reaching for the Diet Coke.
Back in those heady pre-marriage, pre-child days, I went on a real food and exercise overhaul. I swapped takeaways and biscuits for healthy, fresh meals and forced myself to get in to running. And as much as I hated it at the time, I loved it as well. I loved seeing my body respond, I loved feeling in control and I loved the confidence it gave me. But a marriage, a new home and two children later and those ways have gone by the wayside. Time is limited, energy supplies even more so and my body is suffering. I feel sluggish and tired and whilst my weight is nowhere near as high as it once was, two babies in two years have taken their toll and the wobbles are real.
So the other day, I decided to change. Who wants to waste their time feeling like they’re not entirely happy? Who wants their kids to grow up seeing that kind of role model around them? I want to set a good example of a balanced, healthy life and that, for me, starts with confidence in your own skin and feeling good, which means I’ve got a little work to do to get myself there. Here’s what I’ve been doing to help:
(Re)Finding My Healthy Living Balance After Babies
Drink More Water
We all say it, don’t we. The reality is I’m so busy shoving water down my children’s throats that I barely stop to think about my own hydration. I go from drinking plenty when I’m in the office (thank you drinks round!) right back to drinking naff all at home. The number of times I come down after completing bedtime for the kids and down a pint of water in thirst is frankly embarrassing. With that in mind, I’ve been making an effort to drink more water. To step away from the Diet Cokes and grab a glass of tap instead, to have a good slug when I’m cooking, to drink before I leave the house and to take some to bed for first thing in the morning as well. Good hydration helps so many different things from helping brain function through to brightening skin plus it flushes through your system to help get rid of toxins. A couple weeks in and I’m not perfect, but it’s a huge improvement.
Re-Assess My Diet
Ahhh convenience foods, how I love you. But let’s not lie, they make me feel like rubbish for the next day or so. With both children, after their births we slipped into a phase of convenience foods; frozen or microwaveable with the same few veg on rotation. Hell, if you could put freezer chips with it, I was there. Last year I joined Slimming World and whilst it wasn’t for me long-term (unlimited quantities of certain foods felt like a challenge I could definitely beat!) one of the best things it did was remind me how much I love cooking food from scratch.
These last few weeks I’ve been switching it up again to move toward lower calorie meals. That’s right, I’m back to calorie counting. What can I say, the structure and flexibility suits me well and it’s the only thing that helps me tackle portion size and snacking, my two big weaknesses. I’ve been logging back in to my calorie tracking account (my personal site of preference is Nutracheck but My Fitness Pal works well for many and is free!) and jotting things down throughout the day to help me understand what does and doesn’t work for me and you know what, I’m enjoying it.
Find An Accountability Buddy
One of the real highlights of slimming groups for me is the fact that others are going to hold me accountable. It’s not about shaming or celebrating each week but about knowing that there’s someone there who’s cheering me on and is going to ask how it’s going. That’s why I’ve loved pairing up with a friend who’s also trying to lose weight and get fitter. It’s great to have someone there to moan with when the benefits don’t seem to be coming or to help me get back on the wagon after a week of various celebrations. The power of having someone there in your phone that’s going to ask if you did a workout today is enough to spur me into action – plus a little healthy competition never goes amiss does it? Honestly, I’d recommend it to anyone, especially if you can find one like mine who loves a sweaty selfie for extra bonus points.
Know Where You Are, And Where You’re Going
Understanding what point you’re at currently in terms of exercise and weight and where you want to be is a huge motivator. There are so many different ways of doing this; from a basic weigh on the scales or a measure with a tape measure – memo to anyone out there cotemplating trying to use a metal tape measure… don’t. Take it from me). right through to the ‘gold standard’ being a DEXA scan which will give you a highly accurate insight into your body’s composition.
A DEXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) scan passes low dose x-ray beams through your body’s tissues to determine the distribution of muscle, fat, water and bone (they can also offer a bone density scan to help diagnose the risks of osteoporosis if this is of concern to you). All you have to do is lie still for seven minutes on a scanning bed! As an output you then get various different measurements, from the levels of fat and muscle in key areas through to your total bone mass. I love the sound of this; understanding areas where I store fat and muscle is hugely important as is the concept of taking it again further along my journey to measure progress and tailor exercises. As it stands, my end point is around clothes (typical!), I want to be in a position where the clothes I like (or own, let’s start with that!) fit. I’m not talking skinny, I’m talking toned. I want to work on toning the lumps and bumps up so that I can wear tops without worrying about the wobbly tum or feel comfortable sitting down in a pair of jeans. I don’t know quite what that looks like just yet but I’ve been there before and I’m confident I’ll know it when I find it again!
Find Exercise That Doesn’t Feel Like Exercise
The biggie. I love exercising, I really do. Only I don’t. I love the feeling afterward, the sense of achievement, the feeling fitter with each time. But oh my goodness do I hate the build up. That’s why it’s so important for me to find exercise that’s vaguely enjoyable. I’ve fished out the Fitbit and take part in challenges with my friend to try and beat each other’s steps – I’m not going to lie, I take this far too seriously, just ask Dave about me pacing the house in the ad breaks each night! I try and do the odd dance party with the kids to get us sweating, I’ve dragged us out on more beach walks than I can remember. Gone are the days of going for runs with Dave (thanks to the two hefty lumps we’d have to drag along with us) but I’ve been dragging myself on to the treadmill in the garage at most opportunities in the evening. And you know what, it feels good. It hurts but when I’ve got the music pounding in my headphones and I’m vaguely running on the beat, I feel bloody invincible. Right up until the moment I have to stop and go pee, but still… progress. Next up is to find a pilates class to re-join to help with some toning. I loved pilates pre-kids but the class I used to go to just doesn’t fit our schedule these days so it’s time to find something new. Oooh and maybe some form of boxercise, I feel like something aggression releasing could be well suited to the parent of a toddler.
Catch More Zzzzzzzs
Ending on the hardest one. I am a terror for sleeping well. I sneak looks at my phone or Google unnecessary things until my eyes can hardly open. I can tell you almost every way to exit my house in case of a fire or flood, burglary or swarm of locusts – these are the places my brain takes me as soon as the lights go off. I’m going to bed early but lying there awake until the early hours, getting interrupted by the children along the way and pulling my aching body out of bed just a handful of hours later.. it’s not good. There’s a reason sleep deprivation is a form of torture! It’s the only thing I’m yet to make any progress on thanks to those sleep thieves of mine but this week I’m on it. This is me putting it in writing; I’m going to go to bed by 9.30 and lights off by 10pm. The phone can go on the floor for the evening out of temptation. Heck, I might even do a soothing face-mask or the such like first to help me wind down. But first I’ll need to have about ten wees, after all, all that extra water I’m drinking has to go somewhere!