A guest post from my sweet friend, Stephanie. She's changed her life through healthy habits and you can too. Read about her story below. A few Amazon Affiliate links are included in this post. Thanks for your support.
Have you ever implemented a new habit that eventually changed your life? This is the story of a gal named Stephanie who determined to change her exercise and eating habits leading her on a six and a half year journey of health and feeling better than ever before!
The Back Story
It all started back in 2010 when I miscarried for the fourth time. I had picked up weight over the two years of failed pregnancies and desired make some kind of healthy change to experience something positive. I had exercised fairly regularly in the past, but it would be easy for me to miss a day (or weeks) of exercise before getting “back on track”. Though I enjoyed exercise, vegetables, and other healthy foods, I also loved breads, desserts, and many processed foods, while paying little attention to portion sizes. I ate when I wanted to or when I felt stressed enough to eat.
Discipline Is Essential for Change
Since I was at the beginning of “overweight” on the BMI charts, my original goal was to lose about 25 pounds over 12 weeks’ time. I began using a fitness app to record calories, focusing nutrient-dense calories versus sugar-laden or bad-type-of-fat calories of the same quantity. Maintaining my resolve and consistency, over 12 weeks, I lost 2 pounds a week. Since then I have maintained the philosophy that changing the body isn’t exactly hard because honestly following a healthy plan truly works, but the hard part is sticking with the plan. A guiding quote that I have hanging so I can read it each day is “Live with the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” (Andy Stanley) It can be “painful” either way, but I’d rather reap the rewards of discipline while saying “no” always or sometimes to certain choices than reaping the negative consequences of regret because I said “yes” to the wrong things or said “yes” too often. Things like turning down a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts—a gift my parents had lovingly bestowed early in my journey and could have easily derailed me—was hard at first, but seeing progress in how my clothes were fitting and viewing friendlier numbers on the scale helped me maintain my goal. Turning down cupcakes topped high with frosting—MY FAVORITE—at a meeting is another example of turmoil in the moment (“the pain of discipline”) and the resulting empowerment upon walking out of the room without having eaten one.
Combined with healthy eating, I also aimed to exercise 5-6 days a week for 40-60 minutes. It was late winter when I began this journey so I was mostly confined to indoor activities. I decided to complete aerobic DVDs that had intervals of cardio and weight training alternating with treadmill running and walking on other days. As the weather warmed up, I was able to run outside and was surprised by my aerobic endurance. I remember running one day and noticing how I’d run two miles and wasn’t even tired. I was amazed. Because I had been exercising without fail for a month, I no longer felt like I was going to die mid-workout. This added more variety to my exercise and I could run four miles at a time. My steadfastness over the years has allowed me to now average 20-30 miles a week, even reaching 35-36 miles some weeks. Likewise, the aerobic/sculpting DVDs that were challenging to even finish I can now perform with ease and have continued to increase the intensity of the workouts.
Results! Tangible and Intangible
Nowadays, exercising early in the morning is my “morning coffee”, my “me” time, and is often a time of worship or spiritual growth as the Lord speaks in the silence of those early morning runs. This part of my life is now as integrated into my daily schedule as brushing my teeth—I do it without much consideration. Yes, I do sometimes fight the mind game of getting up in the morning, but that has waned over time too. I am always glad that I got up and exercised and I always regret when I do not get right out of bed and have to carve some other time out of the day to exercise. Within ten minutes of working out, I’m awake and glad I got out of bed regardless of not wanting to get out of bed minutes before. Then, I have set myself in a healthy frame of mind and I'm ready to face the day. Consequently, I am inspired to make healthy eating choices. Along with enjoying my increased aerobic endurance and muscular strength, my blood panel (cholesterol, triglycerides, etc.) has improved dramatically over the past few years, which has been SUPER rewarding.
Another choice I’ve made to improve my knowledge of good health and to continue to motivate me is reading books and listening to podcasts about food and wellness. I’ve read a book or two about every year. Some titles I would recommend to others are: Made to Crave (Lysa TerKuerst), The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite (Dr. David Kessler), In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (Michael Pollan), Forks Over Knives (Matthew Lederman & Alona Pulde), and Eat Dirt (Josh Axe). All of the books have opened my eyes and reminded me why I’ve made these healthy changes, therefore, providing encouragement for me to stick to them in our culture where sugar is in most of our food supply and is pervasively advertised.
Admittedly, backsliding has occurred. However, it has occurred increasingly less. For instance, in 2010 when I first began this journey and lost the original 25 pounds, I didn’t exercise as consistently the following 12 weeks—it was more of an average of several days a week, with less focus on eating. Each year I’ve focused on it a little bit more and slid backwards a little bit less. For example, in 2015 I missed less than 10 days of exercise and so far in 2016, I’ve missed two days. In the earlier years, I may miss a day or a few days before getting back on track. What I still struggle with, though it is waning as the struggle with exercising daily did, is eating only what I need to eat and limiting sugar and treats. I still struggle to eat only what I need to eat to feel hungry no longer. (I naturally drift to wanting to eat until I’m full to the brim.) I combat this with logging what I eat using the same fitness app—well at least most days of the year. The good news is that in my efforts, I have also gone on to tone my body, losing 10 more pounds. I've tried to be a good steward of this season in my life when I have more flexible time as a stay-at-home mom. I have had time to plan healthy meals and snacks, record what I eat, and take time to exercise. I am pleased with my results and trust that these are now lifestyle habits I’ve created and will follow them more naturally when I don’t have as much time to focus on this area. A sobering thought for me when I’m making life’s choices, also applicable to making healthy choices, is “You reap what you sow, more than you sow, longer than you sow.” (Charles Stanley)
There you have it. That’s the story of how implementing a habit has changed my life. Like I said, I still struggle sometimes, but I’m in a much healthier place. I hope my story provides inspiration for YOU to develop a routine of exercise and healthy eating.
A picture is worth a thousand words...
So where are you in your wellness journey? What action will you take this week to take the next step toward healthier living? Let us know in the comments below.