On Practicing What I Preach and Asking For Help
As a dietitian who works with weight loss I am often asked if I have ever struggled with my weight. Occasionally the question is delivered in a scornful and disbelieving manner. I always get a little flustered when someone comes at me that way, as I know that what they are feeling is that they can’t relate to me. It’s tough to figure out the right way to explain that yes, of course I struggle with my weight, while not getting defensive and not pushing them further away.
The reality is, eating well and exercising are daily challenges of mine, just as they are to anyone who is concerned about their health. These things have become much easier to me over time as I have figured out which foods and types of exercise work best for me. I am a dietitian, a healthy cooking class instructor and a personal chef. My career gives me the time and opportunity to learn how to make delicious, healthy food. I am also a personal trainer, which allows me time in my day to be active. These factors are huge, as I know that one of the major barriers people have is time. I am so fortunate that my career allows me the space to fit them in. But although I have the time and resources, I still struggle with willpower and motivation.
It took me years to reach a healthy weight and a place where I felt comfortable in my body. Years of training myself to feel fuller with less food, learning how to cook, learning how to moderate my intake of unhealthy foods and committing to exercise no matter what barriers come up. This means always planning my meals for the week and usually having healthy food with me wherever I go, exercising when I’m on vacation, when it’s raining or when I just don’t want to and thinking of creative ways to add movement into every day. I have to think ahead when it comes to most social situations about what I’m going to eat or how I will avoid the unhealthy choices. Being healthy is a constant struggle for me and just like anyone else, sometimes I’m on top of it and sometimes I fall off the wagon.
That brings me to now. I think I felt that I had been on track for so long (and maybe even a little too strict) that I decided to stop caring a little. A little less caring can be healthy, too, when you feel like your rules have become too rigid. So that part was good until caring a little less turned into not really caring at all. I still ate healthy for most of my meals but I found myself never saying no to unhealthy foods and drinks. Here in Portland, we have a very strong food and beer culture. We are surrounded by so many delicious options that are often the center of social events. It’s pretty hard to say no when there are always temptations.
I also found myself getting a little lax on exercise. I was teaching 4 fitness classes per week plus doing personal training, which was leaving me little time to exercise myself. Since I was demonstrating some of the exercises, I felt like I was working out, but in reality I was probably only getting a total of 10 minutes of exercise in. I stepped on the scale, which is something I typically don’t do and that gave me the reality check that I needed to formulate a plan and act on it.
I thought about what I always tell my clients and the tools I give them to use. Accountability, setting goals and tracking are strategies that I see work often. But have I actually done these things myself? I’m embarrassed to say no. Last night I decided to sit down and write my goals out. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely, I said to myself, repeating the SMART acronym I always give my clients. I have set goals in my head before but I can’t stress enough the importance of writing them down. Something becomes more real about them.
I also made a calendar so that I could track when I accomplished my goals. Since many of them were measured in “times per week” I needed a way to visualize whether or not I have met them. This is posted right on my fridge, where I can see it everyday. The next thing I did was something that I had been meaning to do for awhile but kind of dreading; I downloaded My Fitness Pal, an app that tracks fitness and exercise. I always tell people to track because I know it works. I also know it’s tedious and time consuming but I really needed to fully understand what I am asking my clients to do. I also knew this would force me to be more mindful of all of the extras I am putting in my mouth.
Lastly, I called on my support system. I asked a friend to set healthy goals with me and check in with my progress while I did the same for her. I asked my boyfriend to help keep me accountable and not bring beer and sweets into the house as much. I informed my business partner of my plan. I’m writing this blog post, which is really putting it out there to the world. I will write another post in two weeks informing you of my progress. I am also asking anyone else who feels like they need a little accountability and support to join me in my healthy eating challenge for the month of October. You can set whatever goals you wan’t and we can check up on each other. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re up for the challenge!
So here are my goals… what are yours!?
1. Limit sweets to 1x/week
2. Limit alcohol to only on the weekends
3. Log food every other day
4. 4 workouts/week (3 intense cardio/strength workouts like TRX or boot camp an 1 yoga)
5. Ride my bike to work 2x/week