Before having kids, no one told me how much time I’d be spending at the park. I knew it was a thing, but I never knew how much of a thing it actually was. It’s like that one time I was hired to be a hostess at a real classy restaurant, but then spent all my time bussing tables. Sure I’ll do it, I just don’t like doing it. It's hot, there's sand everywhere, and now I definitely have to add a bath to the day's agenda. I guess I assumed having babies meant I would forever be entertained, not the other way around.
So naturally, last week, we were at the park.
As I sat there cheering on my three year old from the sidelines while nursing my other daughter, another mother sitting on a bench down from me caught my attention.
Without even a hello, she yells across the playground, “How are you so skinny?”
Tilting my head, making sure I didn’t hear her incorrectly I asked, I’m sorry, what was that?
“How are you so small? Like what did you do to loose your baby weight? Do you diet?”
Um ya know, I just eat healthy and exercise when I can.
But that answer clearly did not cure her curiosity. So she pressed on.
“Do you use weights or something?”
I do, but not that often really. Maybe once a week. I just try to, ya know, eat healthy and exercise when there’s time.
Her eyes cut to the left, then back at me. She hated my answer. I hated my answer. I know that’s not what she wanted to hear. I know that’s what every magazine, fitness video, and Beach Body infomercial have all but proved to her up to this point.
But before I had the chance to fix my answer, my daughter Shiloh ran up yelling “Mommy want to slide with me?”
These were my options.
Option 1: Quickly jump off the bench to play with my kid and get out of answering her question. Option 2: Stay in this brutally awkward conversation and try to please her with a thorough answer.
Regrettably, I chose option 1. I jumped off the bench, Noah dangling from my side, to watch Shiloh play and escape this debate. It wasn’t long before her children whisked her away too, because after all, our attention doesn’t truly belong to us anymore.
I chose my escape because my beliefs regarding these types of questions normally aren’t well received. I could easily have said, don’t ever touch bread for the rest of your life. Carbs are the root of all your problems. Bread is evil. She’s heard this before, but if she believed it worked for me then maybe it would work for her. So she goes home, throws all the bread away and commits to a bread-free life. After a week, her clothes feel better and her self-esteem is lifted. So she “cheats” and remembers the fun she’s been missing. So she adds a cheat day. And then this cheat day turns into a cheat week. After all, Monday is just around the corner. But before "Monday" actually rolls around, she’s back to her normal habits and her clothes as uncomfortable as the day we met on the playground.
That’s not helpful at all. I never want to be the person who feeds this kind of cycle. And that’s easy for me because I truly don’t believe in those quick fixes every newstand puts out. Carbs are not evil. Sugar won’t give you diabetes. An obscene amount of protein will not fix your waistline.
Please here me when I say this… there is no ONE thing you can do to give you the results you are looking for for the rest of your life. I am where I am today because of the choice I made four years ago to truly live a balanced lifestyle.
This quick exchange between me and that mother has haunted me ever since. So today’s post is for her. Today I want to give her the answer I should have said there on the edges of that playground (as if our children gave us our entire brains back so we could start a conversation and finish it without seventy-two interruptions).
I’ve thought long and hard about what I believe is my secret formula to a healthy body. Here we go.
1. EAT WELL
This is the most important thing you can do for your body and your mind. I understand this instruction means many different things to each individual so I’m going to share with you my personal guidelines. Stay with me.
I eat roughly four to six times a day. Breakfast-snack-lunch-snack-dinner-dessert. Sometimes I eat a big enough breakfast that will last me until lunch. Sometimes lunch is an energy bar so I have a big afternoon snack. But if you don’t like to snack, don’t. If you’re like me and make up excuses to eat, then this schedule would work well for you. (*high five*)
I truly believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I don’t think you have to eat six times a day to be “healthy.” However, if you are only eating once or twice a day, your poor metabolism will suffer. I see food as literal energy. Like gas in your car, it’ll roll, but you’re not going to go very far on empty and you will live a hangry life.
I primarily focus on eating plant-based foods. I’m not vegan. I’m not vegetarian. I’m definitely not Paleo. I don’t do juice cleanses and I don’t eat bark. I eat whole foods. We have animal protein once or twice a week because I honestly love making roast chickens. We do not eat dairy on a normal basis, but reserve this food group for special pizza nights or quick macaroni and cheese lunches. My husband has a gluten intolerance, so we eat A LOT of gluten-free pasta and brown rice in our house. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get our load of gluten-filled foods. Dinners with our friends are routinely accompanied by fresh baked bread and I will never turn that down. Never.
(Side note...if you don't find friends who bake you freshly baked baguettes, then you're just not grinding hard enough.)
One main ingredient to eating well is to cook yourself. If you just cringed, I’m truly sorry. I used to cringe too. But after a few years of learning new recipes, watching my friends prepare insanely delicious (and healthy) meals, I eventually caught on that the process can be fun. And real food, whole food, tastes like ecstasy. If you aren’t moaning after your first bite of a freshly made meal, you just aren’t living.
If you’re still not sure what my “eating well” looks like, here’s an example of everything I ate yesterday:
- Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1 piece of gluten-free bread with Earth Balance butter, sautéed broccoli, half of avocado
- Snack: Green apple and almond butter
- Lunch: Kale salad topped with lemon-garlic-olive oil dressing and roasted hazelnuts along with a bowl of brown rice pasta tossed with garlic, basil, olive oil and sea salt (we’ve literally stayed alive this year because of this one)
- Snack: Iced Almond Milk latte and a RX Bar
- Dinner: Baked tofu, roasted Brussel sprouts and brown rice
- Dessert: Cup of Hot tea with 3 pieces of dark chocolate
2. CUT OUT SUGAR
When I say cut out sugar, I don’t mean you can never enjoy donuts again or that I’m slapping that cookie out of your hand.
People, sugar is in everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything. There is an obscene amount of sugar in your salad. There is sugar in your Starbucks. There is sugar in your pasta. There is sugar in your table salt.
The truth is 74% of packaged foods out there, whether they are organic or not, are pumped full of processed sugar. So even when you think you are having a prepackaged “healthy snack,” chances are it’s pumped full of sugar.
I choose packaged foods based on its sugar content. If the sugar is coming from natural sources such as dates, honey, or fruit puree´ I’m much more inclined to buy that product. If the ingredients show added sugars such as cane juice, organic sugar, or fruit juice concentrate (there are at least 61 different names for sugar on food labels. Please read this article.) I then judge how much is in the actual product and how much per serving we would actually consume. If it’s more than 4g, I typically pass. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25g a day for women, 38g a day for men, and 12g a day for children.
This rule is extremely important to me because I love desserts. I physically don’t know how to not eat the chocolate chip cookie staring at me from the pantry. Cookies are my soul food. So don’t expect me to deny myself the very thing that keeps my soul alive. So in order to maintain this cookie dependency, I ensure my meals are sugar free so I can have my cookie and eat it too.
If you’re looking to Netflix and chill tonight (And I mean literally, get your head out of the gutter), watch the documentary Fed Up and prepare to make a few drastic changes.
Before I became a mother, I made my money by literally torturing people. Also known as personal training. Understanding the human body and forcing it to change was literally my profession. I loved it, but there’s a reason why this category falls into third place for me. Crunches will not give you a six pack. Running will not make you thinner. Remember, a healthy body is born through balance.
I’m a stay-at-home mother. Besides feeding, teaching, and managing our home, there’s not much else keeping me from the gym. Yet I can’t seem to make it there more than 3 times a week at best. Mothers who juggle work, kids, husbands, social events, and still make it to the gym are extraterrestrial beings and I hope to be like them one day.
Listen. There is no perfect workout routine.
I’m fairly confident the woman on the playground who ignited this conversation was looking for the perfect workout routine. But before I share my fitness regimen, I want to remind you all about the balance it takes to create a healthy body. Don’t print out this routine, take it to the gym, and expect a perfect body in a week. Remember, this is only a piece, a very small piece to the puzzle. I used to tell my clients, nutrition is 90% of how you look and feel and exercise is that 10% that just seals the deal.
This is an example of the type of schedule I follow:
Day 1: Strength
- 3 rounds/30 sec intervals of Jumping Jacks, Mountain Climbers, & Burpees
- Circuit 1: Deep Squats, Chest press on Exercise Ball, Side Planks
- Circuit 2: Deadlifts, Rows, Pilates Teaser
Day 2: Rest
- Walk to the park
- Play pretend monster while running up and down slides with one kid
- Pretend to “chase” the other kid whilst running in place for 20 minutes
Day 3: Cardio
- 40 minutes of cardio on the Stairs
- Two different 20-minute programs so the speed is continuously changing
- 5-10 minutes stretching
Day 4: Rest
- Drive around town “running” errands with one kid strapped to your chest while lifting the other in and out of carts
Day 5: Strength + Cardio
- 20 minute Circuit: Step Up & Over on Bench, Hamstring Pull on Ball, Triceps Extension w/ Balance on one foot, Leg Lifts,
- 20 minutes on the stairs
Day 6: Rest
- Clean 2 bathrooms
- Pick up the toys that have been sitting in the hallway for the last week
- Vacuum the entire house
- Mop the entire house
- Unload the dishwasher
- Reload the dishwasher
- Fold all the laundry
Day 7: Rest
- Do literally nothing.
Set realistic goals for yourself. If you’ve just had a baby, it is not realistic to fit back into your pre-pregnancy jeans three, six, 12 months postpartum. In fact, I say throw those jeans into the consignment pile and invest in some Madewell jeans right now because have you tried those on lately? Sisterhood of the traveling pants is real. (side note: If you bring them any old pair of jeans, any brand, they give you $20 off a new pair)
Stop weighing yourself. Stop measuring yourself. Sure numbers are great indicators of physical progress, but I believe they are extremely poor indicators of true fitness. You know when you feel good about yourself and when you don’t.
One of the biggest excuses I hear is the “but you don’t understand, I don’t have time!” excuse.
I get it. Life is busy. Hell, it’s taken me months to get just one blog post out because of how busy life has been for us lately. But I’m here right now because I realized I had to simplify.
I started off the year reading the book Present Over Perfect and the words of Shauna Niequist changed my life forever. All of us want to appear perfect. We all want to look and feel as though we’ve got it all together. We say yes to it all because we fear failure if we say no. But when your health is collapsing, when your relationships are breaking, or when the attitude you have towards yourself is that you are a failure and aren’t good enough, then something is wrong. Your plate is too full and you probably don’t have the time to take care of yourself.
So one of the only solutions to this problem is to simplify. Start saying no. Start listing out who and what are the most important pieces to your life. Write it down if you have to. But one thing I will encourage you to know is that YOU should be at the top of that list. Before your children. Before your husband. Before your work. Because what good are you to your children if you are sick? How do you produce good work if you aren’t good? The airline industry already figured this out for us. Should the cabin pressure be too much, put YOUR breathing mask on first before your children.
So if your goal is to work on your health and fitness, simplify your life so you have the time and energy to plan healthier meals, make it to your spin class, cook at home, and actually enjoy the process. If you hate everything about what I’m saying, you’re moving too quickly and you’re hanging onto things that absolutely don’t matter. But I promise, if you slow down, you might actually find the beauty in the process.
So there it is… my four steps to healthy. I’m sure it’s not exactly what you were hoping for but I hope you took something away from this one example of what “healthy” can be. It’s taken me a long time to find what works for me, so I hope at the least this article is a piece of information that adds to the formula that works for you.
I’ll leave you with this. Four years ago I stopped allowing my physical state of my body to have power over me. Meaning, I stopped obsessing over the extra pudge on my inner thighs, the little pouch on my belly, and the jiggly backside of my arms and started focusing on my heart. Yes my body was not perfect in my eyes, but I came to this conclusion:
If I don’t know how to love myself at this imperfect stage, then I will never learn to love myself.
You have to love where you are today to appreciate where you are going tomorrow. You have to love yourself enough today to treat your body with the care and attention it deserves. If you don’t love who you are and what you look like today, please believe me when I tell you that you will loose the weight, and it still won’t be enough.
Love who you are now, and the rest will follow.