Over the month of August, for women’s month, I thought I would share my personal journey back to Health, or my journey so far. I am committing to a post on my eating plan, my sleeping plan and my exercise plan… Beginning with how we have over the last year and a half learnt to eat rainbows almost every day…
For all the mom’s out there who have kids growing up and they are kind of glad that are out of the toddler years and they are trying to navigate through the teen years… who think that it is all “downhill” from where you are standing. I am categorically saying it is not… as my biokineticist says every time I see her, “You’ve got this!!!” You can get up off the couch, you can race up mountains and you can feel better, you can definitely keep up with your kids, in fact you may even be able to run faster than some of them. Don’t ask me how I know that!!!
When I began my parenting sojourn I was strong, I was healthy and I was enthusiastic about everything. While I didn’t lose all my enthusiasm, over time I lost a lot of it. From sleepless nights, to too many cups of coffee and treats to go with them, just to survive the day… I was really unhealthily overweight and exhausted. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was more than a little lost… I knew that I had lost my inner “zing” and thought that it would never return… why should it? Time was marching on and things were getting harder to accomplish and (silly me) I kind of thought that was normal.
In fact, I thought I was fine… because it took twenty years to get there, the gradual creep goes unnoticed. Of course I should puff after climbing a flight of stairs, of course I should be tired at the thought of an evening walk along the beach… and of course it would be insane to try anything harder than that. I was so totally wrong!!!
The one indicator of health that folks always look at first is their weight, but there is far more to healthy living than that. Rest is as important as exercise, and exercise is essential to healthy living. Everyone always talks about a healthy diet and exercise… nobody ever mentions sleep. Well my sleep habits were quite appalling, my exercise that I thought was okay, was actually negligible when I started to monitor it. And the healthy diet that I was feeding my kids was not the same diet that I was eating myself. So I have made a few changes and gotten the spring back in my step… I have more energy than I have had in years and quite honestly, I cannot believe my luck that 8 weeks of working out and me thinking it was all impossible, have become almost eighteen months and now there is nothing that I don’t think I can do, given time and the right help. I am in a sweet spot right now… I am sleeping better, eating much better and loving exercise like I never thought I could ever imagine.
In an ideal world we would all eat perfectly healthy food, only when we are hungry, and all our choices would be the right choices. In fact in the ideal world we would sleep 7-9 hours a night, we would exercise everyday and we would never want to put something into our bodies that wasn’t wholesome. In the real world, we like to treat ourselves, we like to stay up late and we love nothing better than a lazy day.
Creating an Eating Plan
Right at the start of the programme, I met up with the dietician and we chatted about what we ate, which it turns out is not what I was eating. We are given an eating plan to refer to and to be honest I never treated my eating plan as a diet sheet, but as tool in the direction towards more healthy living. I am far from perfect in my eating plan, while I never eat takeouts, I do love rewards. But I have noticed this year that I am veering towards healthier eating for all of us, and even my starving teens are tending away from just bread as their go to source of food. Over time I had to recognise bad eating habits and change them.
One of the tools of the Healthy Weight Programme is a quick weekly meeting with a dietician, this is the person in the programme that gets to know what is in your head… she knows when to encourage and when to push and most of all she says, “Don’t give up.” The dietician is the person that spends a few minutes each week saying: “How are you doing? What is working, what isn’t and how can I help?” These weekly chats have been instrumental to the changes that I have made not only to what I eat, but to our family meals.
let me just say right up front: No one ever says that you may or may not eat anything. But as you get healthier, so you feel better when you eat healthfully and so you eat better.
Se7en Easy Eating Changes You Can Make Right Now.
- Reduce your Serving Size: Simply change to smaller dinner plates, we have beautiful side plates that I am happy to eat off and it is more than enough food for me.
- Drop Some Snacks: Treats used to be that multiple times a day, everyday that I would have rewarded myself for a job well done, and that may have been getting the laundry up to date… those days are over I don’t need rewards to get through my day. My kids never had “I’m hungry” as an excuse to graze through the day, well neither do I anymore.
- Change Your Snacks to Healthy Snacks: Fruit pieces or baby tomatoes or cucumber slices are actually a snack! Just don’t have biscuits or baked goodies available. Don’t even buy them. What you don’t buy, you can’t eat.
- Spend a Lot Less Time Preparing Food: Another bad eating habit I had was tasting the food as I cooked… literally the whole time. Cooking batch dinners, two or three dinners ahead of time, means less time spent preparing and a whole lot less time grazing.
- Make Sure That There is a Healthy Snack on Standby: really carrots sticks will do, apple slices… something, anything that doesn’t mean that I eat a second dinner before dinner. A simple fix like.
- Only Eat the Food That You Really Want to Eat: I know this sounds painfully obvious… but how often have offered your kids a snack, they didn’t want it and you ate it yourself, how often have you cleared the dinner table and just eaten those little leftovers, rather than bother to find a small container… or even, how often have you been out and there is something on the plate that you are served that you really don’t enjoy… epiphany alert: You don’t have to eat it!!!
- You Can Just Take Tastes: So many blogging and media functions have large tables spread with all sorts of delights, obviously, they are trying to impress you… and here’s a thing: you can just taste things, you don’t have to eat it all!!! Tasting is fine, and then you can move on.
- Keep a Food Diary: Biggest lesson… keep a detailed food diary. Keep a food diary folks and be honest, somehow seeing what we eat in writing is very different to what we think we are eating. When I wrote out a meal plan and compared it to what I was actually eating… Hello, I constantly tasted while I cooked. I have had to break so many unhealthy eating habits that I never would have noticed without a food diary. Lots of little tweaks like cooking more meals at once, or giving my kids dinner duty two or three nights a week… they eat, while I run… it is a win, win!!!
- Eat for Fuel: I work out almost every day and I need to eat accordingly, there is no point in choosing not to eat between lunch and dinner and then going for a run in the late afternoon and getting home famished and eating half the house while you prepare dinner. So, now I make sure that I have a pre-run snack on a kiwi fruit. It is my pre-running encouragement and its a kiwi fruit, not the whole world.
- Let the Non-Nutritious Food Go: Let the food you shouldn’t be eating go, some foods are just bad for you… I have never understand good fats and bad fats before, now I am quite clear… the bad fats can go and the good fats reduce. Sugar gets a lot of bad press for a reason, let it go… I don’t eat added sugar with anything, I never have… but I did eat treats. There are a ton of things I will not touch now, because after reading the labels I just don’t want them in my body.
- Watch Out For Food That Claims to Be Healthy: So much packaging is marketed to trick us into thinking it is good for you… a health bar that has more calories than the daily intake of a professional rugby player, is probably not the best snack – ever. Things that sound healthy, that clearly are not… you have to read labels, all the labels and understand them. For example, sugar free and no added sugar are definitely not the same thing. Fat free products have added sugar as one of the highest ingredients, to improve the flavour. Fat free is not always the best choice.
- Avoid Diets That Look And Sound Unbelievable: They are unbelievable, it is better to talk and think about about an eating plan, rather than a diet… because whatever you are eating has to be sustainable. Anything that requires you to eat just one type of food, or ignore a particular food group, is probably not a diet that you want to be pursuing.
- What About Supplements? This is a question that I get asked a lot, and the simple answer is that supplements cannot correct a poor diet. At a recent Triathlon Workshop, it was mentioned that correct use of supplements may affect your performance between 0-3%, while a structured nutrition plan can improve your performance by 20-30%.
- Healthy Eating World Wide: Most countries have a guide to healthy eating that pertains to the people living there, and their particular environment. All countries around the world encourage a variety of foods, plenty of fruit and vegetables every day, drink plenty of fresh water, as well as getting active every single day.
A Food Day in the Life
For breakfast I have a ramekin of yogurt, with a squirt of honey and chia seeds. And then lunch, we have been eating our way through many rainbows and dinner, I have been adding tons of fresh veg. And can I just say, nobody has noticed or said anything… what used to be a dish of pasta with sauce on top is not that at all anymore. I do eat treats, I have a hot chocolate on a Saturday after the ParkRun and dessert on Wednesdays. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t have to roll out gourmet salads everyday… you can keep it really simple and eat a rainbow everyday.
Se7en Tips I Learnt From Online Learning and Nutrition Revisited.
I mentioned in a post last week that I had been doing a couple of online courses at the Sport Science Institute, well in this post about healthy eating, I thought I would tell you a little bit about the online course: Nutrition Revisited. I have to say, while we instinctively know the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods, I learnt a lot from this course. There is so much about nutrition that we take for granted, heresy that we just believe and unless an eating plan is scientifically based, chances are that it is unrealistic and plain unhealthy.
Let’s go back to the first question everyone asks, “How much weight have you lost?” And the quick answer is just over twenty kilograms, and the only measure of healthy living was your weight I would have given up long ago… the scale goes down very very slowly, it plateaus, it levels out, you lose a bit and then it levels for weeks and then you lose a bit more. I will be honest, slow and steady crawl down in weight can be dishearteningly slow. But the all-round benefits to my life are unmeasurable… I have lost inches everywhere, I have literally changed shape. I enjoy working out so much that it is off the charts madness to think that would never be able to run again… but this is the truth. I was convinced that I would never ever be able to run again. The point is not how much weight I have lost, or anyone has lost for that matter. Everyone knows I had to lose weight, I still have a ways to go, the point is that I am so much healthier… and so much happier for the changes that I have been able to make in my life. This post is really just to encourage you. This might not be your season to get up and go, your get up and go may in fact feel gone… but when you make that decision to change… do something, get started and you will be pleasantly surprised.
As the Brand Ambassador for the Healthy Weight Programme at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa I receive free access to the gym and their programme, however this is not a sponsored post and all opinions are truly my own.