Healthy Living – Healthy Life – a guest post

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Today’s post is written by Crystal, a friend that I met on Twitter and hope to meet  in person sometime soon.  I needed some advice and encouragement with my healthy living goals so I put out a call for help on Twitter and Crystal responded! She kindly offered to write a post for me while I’m away visiting family in Connecticut.

When Donna posted on Twitter that she was looking for someone to write a guest post about healthy eating, I have to admit I almost didn’t respond to her. Probably because I was on a mad hunt for chocolate. Or pretzels to dip in Nutella {love}.

Disclaimer: I am not, nor do I claim to be a dietitian or health expert. All I can do is share with you what my journey has looked like over the last 3 years, and hope that you might find a nugget of helpful advice somewhere along the way.

The background: My husband and I were married in 2006. We were both recent college graduates, and while my husband (the lucky duck) has a metabolism that keeps him in the same pants he wore in high school (not the icky powder blue cords…I made him throw those away), my body was very much reflecting 5 years of college living. Dinners of mozzarella sticks and french fries at 1 a.m. Beer. Frozen pizzas. Did I mention beer? Bagel Bites in boxes bigger than my head from BJs. Add in the stress of working nearly full time while taking classes, earning a bachelors and masters in 5 years, planning a wedding, and helping to lead a missions trip to Mexico, and this girl was NOT healthy.

The revelation: A picture speaks a thousand words, doesn’t it? I remember looking at this picture in 2007 and being just appalled. “Somehow” (uh..see above?) I had gained nearly 30 pounds over those 5 years and was so insecure with myself and my physical appearance that I had to DO something.

The plan: Hubs and I talked and decided that there some things that we could do to change our habits. I had a membership for a local gym that I hadn’t been using, so I made a plan to go three times a week for 3 months.  Matt does almost all of the cooking in our house (he’s fabulous and he loves it), so he decided to revamp our meals to find little ways to make them healthier. He also agreed to kick my butt into gear if I started to slack (including learning to do yoga with me …so glad laughing burns calories!), and he supported and encouraged me when I hit little goals.

The “how to:”

1.       Don’t try to change everything at once! It’s great to want to eat healthier, but you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment and failure if you get rid of all the food you like to eat! Trust me – we tried to go “vegetarian” at first. Um. Let’s just say we both prefer burgers to portabellas. It’s just how we are.  Not enjoying the food made us hungry and we ended up eating more snacks.

2.       Make small substitutions – your family loves meatloaf? Try making it with ground turkey instead of beef and add in extra veggies and a side salad! Try the lowfat or fat free versions of foods – some taste exactly the same (like cool whip!) and you won’t miss the fat.

3.       Eat smaller portions – I learned that sometimes I just had to have pizza. But I also learned that I didn’t have to eat .. um…half the pie. Hubs also started to find a away to cook dinners that were only big enough for two portions, so once the food was gone, it was gone. No temptation to go back for a 2nd…or 3rd…helping. I also found it was helpful to measure out serving sizes of snacks I liked into baggies or containers as soon as we got home from the grocery store, so that I could “grab an go” (and save money not buying the “prepackaged” individual servings).

4.       Set one big goal, and several smaller goals – I wanted to lose 25 pounds. But I knew I couldn’t do that in one week, or even one month. I was motivated, but realistic. So I focused on losing one pound a week and sticking to my gym schedule. As I achieved those small goals, I stayed motivated and actually began to ENJOY our new lifestyle.

5.       Have fun! Hate to work out? Yeah…me too. If you are motivated enough to work out in your home, get “Just Dance 2” for the Wii and have a dance party! Need to have someone telling you what to do? Find a gym with a Zumba class (you WILL sweat!), or try yoga if you need to relieve some stress. Exercise doesn’t mean you have to train for a marathon – just get that booty moving! Healthy eating is great, but those calories have to go somewhere!

6.       Think of it as a lifestyle – It helped me to stay on track by knowing that the changes we were making to our diets and exercise habits weren’t temporary. Giving up wasn’t an option, but I did need to find a way to make these new habits part of my life. Knowing that I would feel  stronger and be healthier was a great motivator. Knowing that we are stewards of our bodies and that God created us in His image helped me to look at myself with more kindness and love than I’d ever had before. More energy meant I could do more fun things with my husband, and it was a bonus for him, too 🙂

Most importantly, give yourself the grace to have an “off” day, shake it off, and move on and start fresh. We aren’t created to be perfect – if I have a craving for chocolate, I’ll eat some! Just not the whole bag 😉

The Results: I was able to lose the weight I wanted (not sure if that “after” picture is the best, but I do love it!), and have been able to keep it off. By God’s grace, I have worked through many of my body image issues and have more confidence. Hubs and I still eat healthier and he occasionally still does yoga with me 🙂 I’m proud to know that when we have kids, we’ll be able to help them learn how to be healthy and have the tools they’ll need to make better choices than we did when we were in college.

What are your healthy eating tips? I’d love to hear what works for you!

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