Looking Back to Look Ahead

 

A year ago, I was reeling from seeing pictures from my daughter’s first birthday photo shoot. I barely recognized myself. My face was puffy and my clothes were tight—I was far from a picture of health.

 

Over the last year, I have worked hard to reclaim my body and develop new, healthier habits. I joined a gym, pushed myself to challenge my body in new and interesting ways and started seeing a dietician.

 

A year from joining the gym, I’ve lost 23 pounds and decreased my body fat. My clothes fit much better—I’ve actually had to buy a lot of new clothes! I have definition in my arms. I feel and look much healthier. And I’m finally happy with myself in pictures again.

 

I have changed my eating and exercise habits. I have learned about proper portion sizes and how to eat clean, both of which help me feel healthier day after day. When I have a cheat day, I feel it the next day at my GI tract fights against the junk I ate the day before.

 

While these changes were motivated by my desire to shed the baby weight, I have also made lifestyle changes that I plan to stick with for the rest of my life to keep myself as healthy as possible.

 

I have written several articles about my personal healthy, wellthy journey over this last year. As I reflect back on those essays, I am able to boil down what I’ve learned into a few key points that I want to share.

 

Here’s what I learned:

 

Start Small

 

Don’t try to change your life overnight. Crash diets or extreme exercise will not help you build healthier habits. Start by monitoring your calories or portion sizes and go from there.

 

Or make simple changes, like exchanging regular pasta for whole grain or making sure one snack per day is fruit. In terms of exercise, if you don’t already have a workout routine, start with 30 minutes a day and build your way up from there.

 

If you already work out, get out of your rut by trying a new group exercise class or a new cardio or strength training machine.

 

Figure Out What You Love to Do

 

My go to work out is dance based. I love Zumba classes, so I make sure I take one or two a week. I also enjoy spin classes and make sure I take one every week. I’ve tried a few circuit training/boot camp style classes and realized I love how they push my body in ways I never would have come up with on my own. From Body Step to Body Weight Boot Camp, I’ve found classes and instructors that keep me coming back week after week. I have some days where I also really need a stretch and turn to a yoga class.

 

And some days, I just want to catch up on TV or finish a book so I hop on the elliptical and lift weights instead of taking a class. Not only do I love my workouts, I also make sure I listen to what my body is feeling each day.

 

Consult the Experts

 

I’ve read tons of articles written by fitness experts and watched YouTube videos for new workout routines, but nothing beats having an in-person consultation. My gym membership came with two personal training sessions. I had the trainer design workouts for me that met my goals of integrating strength while also decreasing body fat. The gym also has a dietician on staff. Last fall, I learned that my insurance covers six visits with a dietician per year. While I had already made great strides in changing my diet, I loved having someone to check in with who helped me figure out how to tweak what I was already doing. I still see her every few months, which gives me someone to be accountable to. In the back of my mind, I know I need to stay on track because I’m going to see her again soon.

 

Mix it Up

 

As much as I passionately love to dance, I also know that doing the same type of exercise every day won’t do much for me in the long run. I have to challenge myself regularly.

 

For me, that means trying new exercise classes. For someone else, it might be increasing weights on strength training machines or using the treadmill instead of the elliptical. What’s important to remember is that you have to keep your body guessing. If you don’t want to increase weight when you lift, increase the number of reps you do. Or one day, do more reps and the next increase weights. One day, run on the treadmill and the next try a TRX workout. Don’t let your routine get boring because if you get bored, you’ll be less likely to continue working out.

 

You’re Always Losing

 

My dietician said this to me at my last appointment. I’m happy with my current weight loss and am not really looking to lose more. However, if I regress from my new, healthier eating habits, I’ll start to gain again. That means that all the changes I made this year have to be a permanent part of my life. I can now eyeball the correct portion size of pasta or protein, but tend to use my scale to make sure. Because of how sick I tend to get after days when I indulge too much, I try to make an effort to stick to my healthier eating plans. This also means never going anywhere hungry so I’m tempted to binge.

 

Snack Smartly

 

I’ve never been much of a snacker, but with a goal of not letting myself get too hungry, I find myself trying to figure out better ways to snack. I always pack a cheese stick and some pretzels for after the gym. I love peanut butter and jelly on a rice cake in the afternoons. I try to either have a yogurt or fruit around lunch time. My all-time favorite snack is popcorn. I make it myself on the stove top but one goal I continue to have is cutting down on the amount of butter or salt that I add to it in order to make sure it stays a healthy treat.

 

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

 

The biggest change I made this past year is the amount of water I drink. I always drank water, but I was more of a sipper than a serious drinker. My dietician recommended I aim for 72 ounces a day, which she calculated based on my weight. At first, I completely balked at this. Every other change she suggested seemed easy, but I felt like I was going to be spending my entire day in the bathroom. However, since I like a routine, I made an effort to get in my 72 ounces and now, months later, I don’t even think about it. I drink 24 ounces first thing every morning, before my breakfast and coffee. Then I fill up a 27 ounce canteen for the gym, which I try to finish between 12 and 2 in the afternoon. That leaves me with 24 ounces left. I specifically bought a stainless steel mug that holds 24 ounces and use that twice a day. On days I have an event or a movie date, I don’t always finish that third cup, but I make sure I still drink water wherever I am.

 

Accept That Not Everything will Change

 

After having two children, my body is different. My breasts are smaller and my stomach still sags despite my weight loss. I don’t feel like I look that different when I’m undressed. That being said, I’m delighting in being able to wear old clothes again and in upgrading my wardrobe with more grown-up clothes. I’ve also had a professional bra fitting to get a little lift back. I may never have a six pack, but I’m looking at the positive side of things and enjoying the changes I do see, like better fitting clothes, cheekbones and defined arm muscle.

 

Reevaluate Goals Periodically

 

So what’s next? My goal now is reduce my body fat, or transform more fat into muscle. I am always thinking about how to shake up my fitness routine even more. Recently, this has meant trying new weights machines and increasing the weights I’ve become too comfortable with. Over the summer, my schedule will change as I won’t have to worry about preschool pick up anymore, so that means I can explore more exercise classes that didn’t fit into my day before.

 

So much has changed in a year. I’ve worked incredibly hard to change my lifestyle and have achieved much better physical and emotional health. While I’m proud of the changes I’ve made, I know that my healthy, wellthy journey will never end, which is just fine by me!

 

Dorothy

Dorothy Sasso is a Lifestyle Writer for She’s It, LLC. She has written for “Soap Opera Digest”, FitPregnancy.com, TalkingFertility.com and the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. Her work focuses on infertility, pregnancy and parenting, and also includes book reviews, features, interviews and event previews. After leaving a teaching career to raise her two daughters, she has loved returning to her roots as a writer. Currently, she is working on a novel and launching an online support community for people struggling to have a child. Follow her progress and join the community at www.maybebabyclub.com, on Twitter (@maybebabyclub, @dorothysasso), on Instagram (maybebabyclub) and on Facebook. She lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband, daughters and two cats.