So now, please allow me to share with you:
Thirteen Things I'm Doing to Get In Shape
1) I set goals I'm sure I can stick to.
Seems pretty obvious, doesn't it? And yet, everyone has, at some point in their life, set a goal without thinking about what will actually be required to reach it. I've done that many, many times, and as a result, I fell short all too often.
This time has been different, in part because when I decided to make some changes I didn't do it with a particular goal in mind. That worked for a while, but when I resumed my efforts after a "holiday break", I decided to be a little more focused, and set an actual goal, which I've just about reached already.
That new focus and having a goal led me to the next item on the list.
I have to say this was a significant step in my progress, because of the accountability factor. If I'm keeping track of what I eat, I can't "allow" myself to nibble or indulge carelessly. Knowing how many calories I'm allowed per day (the amount is more than I would have expected!), and knowing how much extra I can eat after exercising is helpful, too.
With this in mind, I use two different programs at the same time (it works for me, but most folks would probably prefer to use only one): MyFitnessPal and SparkPeople. I started with MFP in January and SparkPeople in March. I use them both because of the slight variations between them, and the different nature of both sites. I find recipes and exercise suggestions on both sites, too.
SparkPeople has been more useful in regards to finding exercises I can do, and they have video demonstrations/guides to help you work out more efficiently and correctly.
MyFitnessPal is a slightly more intuitive site as far as the interface goes (in my opinion, at least), and just easier to navigate and enter information on.
As a result of keeping track of my meals and exercise efforts, I find it much easier to judge what I'm doing right - and wrong - in my efforts all around. I also know when I can allow myself a wee bit of backsliding without beating myself up about it.
I searched the internet for reasonably easy, lower-fat versions of recipes I love. While I still eat butter, and sugar, and bread, I just don't eat as much. I barely add salt to anything I cook. I don't drink soda unless I'm dining out or am eating at a family meal. I drink one glass of green iced tea at dinner, and rarely drink more than that (it's not as bad as soda, but still, moderation is key). I make a point of drinking water each day - as much as I can stand - especially if I'm on the bike.
4) I cook more at home and eat out less.
Sometimes this bums me out a little, because I love dining out. Still, I've found a few new recipes where I've sat down to eat and have literally been amazed to realize I could make something that tasty.
5) I don't diet.
As I said above - I still eat butter, sugar, bread and other little no-no items. I have a piece of chocolate almost every night. I allow myself treats and don't deny myself anything. Also, I refuse to cut out any one food group. I don't trust any "diet" which says I can't have fruit, or bread, etc, etc. Moderation and balance is key.
This was vital in getting things jump-started. Last spring, I started riding my bike on the paths near my home in Italy. Then, that summer, when I visited my mother in the US, I took advantage of the fact she has a recumbent exercise bike. At first, I rode a couple of days a week. Then I rode every other day. Then I rode every day, Monday to Friday, and took the weekends off. At first I took short rides, just fifteen minutes or so each time, and then I started riding more and more. I kept track of my rides, noting the length and distance and estimated calories burned, and tried to increase my endurance each week.
After I got back to Italy, my hubby and I decided to purchase an exercise bike so I could continue riding in the winter. It took me a while to do it regularly - for all the usual reasons - but by the end of December I was hopping on to ride a couple of times each week and loving how it felt to do so.
For April (at least, until I leave for the US again), I'm participating in a modified version of the 30 Days of Biking Challenge, wherein I've pledged to ride my bike every single day for at least fifteen minutes. I'm allowing myself to ride my exercise bike because we started the month off with some serious rain and cold, and I don't have the right clothing for riding in those conditions.
It's no secret I love riding a bike, so this is quite easy for me to do. I also have the time to dedicate to doing it, which is vital. The thing is, any time spent exercising is good - even if it's just a walk around the block after dinner, or parking farther away from the mall entrance than one normally might. If you can do anything at all - aerobics, weightlifting, walking, whatever - for just a few minutes a day, that helps.
As much as I love riding my bike, I do sometimes need a little variety. I looked into other exercises I could do, without equipment (or with minimal equipment), and made a point of doing them on the days I didn't ride the bike (which for me was usually Tuesday and Thursday). I do wall push-ups, lift small weights and do a few other aerobic exercises I found on SparkPeople. That way I'm active on days I previously hadn't been before, and I use parts of my body that I don't really use when on the bike.
I saw that I was an emotional eater, and keeping the food diary pointed that out in greater clarity. I had a substantial weight gain a couple of years ago, during a difficult period, and as I've lost the weight I gained then, I realize I'm also shedding the negativity of that time.
And that encourages me to keep going.
Another by-product of the online tracking is the little ticker there which shows me the weight I've lost. I do love seeing that number go up. I also love seeing how much longer I can ride my bike each week. Every time I see those numbers, I see how far I've come and I'm determined to go that much farther.
When I stand in front of the mirror each week (more on that later), I note the physical changes. I take my measurements once a month and note those on the websites, and I also really look at how I am changing, physically. I see how my muscles are increasingly toned and my skin softer and clearer. I have more energy than I used to, and I fatigue more slowly.
I make a point of noticing these things, so when things level out, I know what to watch out for.
Sure, it can be frustrating when I'm keeping within my limits and suddenly nothing is "happening". I'm not losing weight and I'm not looking any different than I did before. I feel like I'm moving on a plateau of sameness, in spite of my efforts.
I just keep doing what I'm doing, and soon enough, how I feel and how I look is different. Sometimes it's not a physical change, but a mental/emotional one which comes along, and it's usually for the better.
This isn't just about diet (in the overall sense of the word) or exercise. It's about being happier and more at ease with myself and the world around me. I still get fired up about things, I still get angry or frustrated, too. But as a general rule, I'm doing my absolute best to get rid of negativity and just be a more positive person.
This, for me, has been one of the most challenging parts of the whole enterprise.
It might sound contradictory to number eleven, but it really isn't. I allow myself to feel my emotions, whatever they may be. Even negative emotions need to be felt and permitted when they arise. The trick is not to lose control and not give in to dwelling on them for hours on end. Some people want to be angry, or hurt, or sad and refuse to let the emotion go, because (in some cases) they might feel they're allowing whoever/whatever to get away with it if they stop feeling their initial reaction.
If I can, I try to really feel whatever emotion is stirred, for whatever reason. When I feel it leaving me, I let it go. I try not to hold on to it, and I make a point of not channeling it into emotional eating (which is part of why that online food diary helps - if I have to write it down, it makes me think more about why I'm eating, and whether I'm eating for hunger or emotional stimulation/dampening).
This was a challenge, I admit. I spent some time this winter looking at myself in the mirror and I realized that this chubby, imperfect body was the only thing that has been with me every single step of the way in my life. This body, which I have joked in the past "doesn't like me and I'm none too keen on it, either", has stood by me to the best of her ability from day one.
We've had some disagreements, my body and I. There's no doubt about that. I haven't always been kind to her, and she's taken every form of abuse I could throw at her, from eating and sleeping poorly to ignoring her cries for help, to blaming her for all my unhappiness, when all she was doing was trying to keep me upright and moving forward.
Now, when I look at myself - all of myself, without any pretense and without hiding behind anything - I see that I can undo some of the damage I'd done, so thoughtlessly. In fact, I've gotten to know her better in the last year or so. We've had a lot to say to each other. I've been pushing her pretty hard at times, and she's held on with all her might and done her damnedest to keep going.
And she's done it. And she's still doing it.
And there you have them: Thirteen Things I'm Doing to Get Back In Shape!
Were they what you expected?
Do you have other suggestions to add?
I don't know about you, but...
I really need to get on the bike, today!