My Story – A Look Back at the Last Several Years

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Photo from July 2014

On August 1, 2014, Mike and I committed to each other to, for ONE MONTH, make significant change in our daily lives to see if we were “capable” of really locking down and getting this thing done. We both DESIRED to live healthy lives. What follows is an overview of my story, now several years after that initial *big* decision to be committed once and for all. 

Back in January 2014, I was a completely exhausted mom of two young kids weighing in at 200 pounds. I ate food that was awful for me and collapsed at the end of the night to “treat myself” with sweets upon sweets. I was terrible at making time for myself, asking for help or voicing what I needed in order to achieve some balance in life as a mom. Food had ALWAYS been my crutch, and in what felt the most stressful and demanding season of my life thus far, this was no exception.

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July 2014

I decided I wanted to change the way I felt. I didn’t want to feel burned out and exhausted every day with nothing left over to pour into the people I loved. I wanted to be happy and I wanted to feel more confident, as wearing maternity clothes four months postpartum was NOT helping. I wanted life to feel easier because it felt VERY hard. I wanted to be in a place where I woke up well rested and had enough energy to last me through the day without totally emptying the tank. I wanted to be a good example for my kids and to have good habits to pass on to them, instead of trying to feed them what I wanted them to eat and then hiding in the basement to eat my snacks away from them. My goal I set for myself was get down to my pre-baby weight. I was at least 20 pounds overweight BEFORE I ever got pregnant with my first child, but losing all the baby weight felt like the most logical place to start.

There were a lot of things that made this a difficult process for me. I was struggling with making time for myself. I was struggling with putting myself first before caring for the other people. My past was full of over a decade of stories of yo-yo dieting that involved crashing to lose the weight I wanted quickly, only to put it back on and usually with a little extra too. I told myself this time “there was no back”, and I needed to find a way to lose the weight in a way that it would STAY OFF for good.

Below, some photos showing my struggles with weight over time, even before kids.

two years of progress

I was introduced to the idea of “clean eating” in the summer of 2014. This included foods that were whole and nutritious, with no added sugars, not bathed in sauce, etc. This was revolutionary for me! I loved frozen foods, convenience foods, potatoes in a box you could add milk or water to, etc. Little by little, I worked on swapping one thing at a time out as I unpacked this lifestyle people raved about.


In August 2014, my husband and I really dug into eating whole, nutritious foods and instantly slashed the amount of processed carbohydrates we were eating. We told ourselves it was for just one month. But after feeling amazing and both losing some of weight we wanted to kiss goodbye, one month became two, two became three and we began closing in on Thanksgiving as our “end goal” for our strictest season of being “locked in” with food. We took a trip over Thanksgiving and, looking back, that was the first time I can remember eating “treats” in over three months.

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Before this, if you would have told me I would spend more than three months without desserts and pizza and other things that had been my crutch for so long, it would have seemed like forever. But now, several years later, three months was nothing. A blip. I took that time to rewire my eating habits, lose almost all of the weight I needed to lose to achieve a healthy weight and set my family on a trajectory of a healthier lifestyle for the course ahead. Three months well spent, I would say! I have pizza from time to time now, and treats, too. But I plan for them and they don’t lead me to throw in the towel on all the other healthy choices I make. The next moment, meal or day I’m still on track and the weight hasn’t come back.

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October 2015

It wasn’t until after that Thanksgiving trip I even began working out. Mentally, I couldn’t handle thinking about more than just overhauling my food as that was a big enough task for me. However, once I felt better and was encouraged by my progress, it was a natural next step for me. And THAT is when I fell in love with exercise for the first time in my life. I was feeling good about myself, I was not overwhelmed and most importantly, I felt READY for it.

Nearly 65% of people who lose weight gain it back (source) and in my opinion, they gain a few extra pounds with it and gain it back very quickly. I am determined to be in the minority here. I tell myself “there is no back”. 

Below, my tracker from “My Fitness Pal” of the months I was losing weight. 

weight loss chart

When I first begin coaching someone, I encourage them to “lock it in” with their food for 21 days. I know it sounds like FOREVER without treats or your favorite things but I’m telling you, the time you give your mind and body to rewire and process the changes you’re trying to make is time well spent for your life moving forward. The only thing I would change about my journey is I would have started it a lot sooner if I would have known just how much it would have changed things for me once I did it!

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July 2017

Where am I now? I never expected to be here, at a much more comfortable weight than I was even when I first got pregnant. My energy is through the roof and I’ve fallen in love with fitness so much that I became a group fitness instructor in 2015. I have built a business I can work from home that allows me to help people all over find healthy lifestyle habits, stay accountable and even help others out themselves along the way. I was able to leave my part time job outside the home to focus my efforts on this business and gain even more time with my family at home.

My bucket is full a lot of the time thanks to a regular rhythm of personal development and PLENTY of me time now. I ask my husband for help when I need it and clearly communicate what my goals are and what I need to do to achieve them. My kids eat healthy, nutritious foods and it is all they know. Seeing people truly find their way out from under years and years of unhealthy habits and settling into a “new normal” is an honor and privilege I have as a coach. And I feel the best I ever have, on top of it all.

Are you interested in talking with me about setting your goals for a healthier lifestyle? Click here to send me a message and I’ll be sure to follow up with you in the coming days! 

Knowing how far you’ve come

One of my instructors last week posed the question, “as we enter the last week of the year, make sure to take some time and ask yourself ‘how far have I come this year?'” I thought it was a good opportunity for me to look back on this past year, 2015, because gosh it was an incredible one.

Click back to December 31, 2014 when I wrote this post:

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Coming off of 2014, and the shocking surprise it was (really, I didn’t set out to lose 40 pounds in that 52 weeks last year) I had no idea what to expect for 2015, so I simply set the possibilities wide open – sky high. Here’s a quick recap of things I did this year that never seemed within reach… before this year 🙂

  • Set a workout schedule and stick to it long-term. In January of this year, I started to find my groove with my first “real” workout schedule since I became a mom in 2010. And I stuck to it. That schedule still is fundamental to my week coming out of the year, just like it was, even so new and fragile, at the beginning of the year.
  • Register for, train for and run in my first competitive run longer than a 5K. (The 10K with the Illinois Marathon.) 13528_10104954745636840_7318643304820967340_n
  • TIMG_1320ook a leap and signed up as a Beachbody coach, to help others along their own journey, just as I had several people helping me. I didn’t know what to expect, but coaching has been an incredible ride this year and I can’t wait to keep it going this next year. Oh, and I get to go to Nashville for free next summer thanks to such an exciting start out of the gates this year!
  • “Kicked things up a notch” with my fitness schedule, when it went from something I did a handful of times a week to something that began to challenge and push myself in day in and day out. Mike tells people there was a specific day where I told him “someday I’m going to take these two 60 min classes at the Y back to back”… and then that very day, walked out of the first class just to tell him I’d decided to kick it up a notch and make THAT day the day I tried them both 🙂
  • Began and successfully completed three different at-home workouts, spanning between 21-60 days each, on top of the other workouts I was doing
  • 11707547_10105215014221510_1221497081363800093_nCelebrated one year of healthful living with my hubby when we had our “August anniversary“. We commemorated it by each holding 45 pound weights at the gym, since we’d both individually lost 45-50 pounds at that point.
  • Took what felt to be my biggest leap yet and signed up to go through training to become a group fitness instructor for Les Mills Body Pump. That was back in October, and I managed to survive an intense weekend of training, my first (somewhat nerve-wracking) times teaching in front of a live class, hours and hours of studying and practicing and passing my taping to become “officially official”.

And those are just my “how far I’ve come” milestones related to fitness!

Things I’ve gained this year? Deeply rooted confidence in myself unlike any other time in my life. Way more muscle than I ever thought I’d have on my body 🙂 Improved relationships with my hubby, kids and others, too. Many new wardrobe items.

What have i lost this year? Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly really), not much weight. I’m ending this year just a little less than ten pounds less than where I was when I started it. But I am telling you, the difference in myself (physically, mentally and otherwise) is INCREDIBLE from them until now. While it may sound cliche, I have to say it. You are so much more than a number on a scale. A LOT of change can be happening without even seeing *that* number moving much.

It’s been a huge year. How far have I come? I go back to what I said almost exactly a year ago: “… I have no clue what I’ll be capable of in the new year and I won’t be limiting myself.” Yep. That’s exactly what happened 🙂

My BODYPUMP Certification Adventure

11082618_10104827889183190_1297740662901646353_nSo… where to start this story? I guess it began almost a year ago (as of tomorrow). Mike and I made the decision after much consideration to join our Y here in Champaign. Neither of us had any sort of regular workout routine going, though we had both just embarked upon significant weight loss during the second half of 2014 thanks to some major changes to our diet and eating habits. I was excited at the prospect of exercising regularly again, knowing how important it was for my health. My first stop was the cardio equipment, as putting some earbuds in and getting on an elliptical, treadmill or bike was the “comfortable” thing for me to do.

One Sunday afternoon that December, I was on the elliptical, earbuds in, when I watched a bunch of people (seemingly in kick-butt shape) lining up outside the group fitness studio. A group of 20 or so people flooded out shortly after, and the new group poured in. I realized the same class was being offered back to back, and was completely packed out for both hours. Quick consult of the schedule on my app, ok they’re doing something called BODYPUMP. I’d never heard of it. I made a point to creep over pay a few visits to the water fountain that hour and think, “how on earth do they lift that many weights?”

I’d never lifted weights before, except for a small handful of times with Mike several years prior.

One night that week in late December, I found myself walking into that studio completely unplanned when I saw it starting up again. I walked up to the instructor and said, “I have no idea what I’m doing. Please don’t be offended if I walk out half way through.” I wish i could remember who that instructor was because she was incredibly kind, got me all set up and encouraged me before she hopped up on the stage.

I walked out of that studio completely sucked in. Less than a month later, I’d fallen in love. People talk about “soulmate workouts”. This was mine. I felt so STRONG and the fact that this was so far out of my comfort zone made me feel amazing every single time I made it through the sixty minute class. I was completely addicted to the way it made me feel. And not too long after that, I thought “I’m going to teach that class someday”. “Someday” in my mind was when I had older kids (you know, like school age, like YEARS from now).

Then someday became sometime in 2016.

Then a training popped up right in Champaign in October 2015. Opportunity, present yourself. I went back and forth for a looooong time and then one random morning I talked it over with a friend (and new instructor of another class) and I decided to go for it. In the two days that followed, a number of people found out I was planning to do it and my own accountability on actually following through with registering was getting pretty solid!

Training weekend happened. Saturday and Sunday, all day, 8-4. I think we did the equivalent of five or six Pump classes. I lifted heavier weights than I ever did in the class before in our BODYPUMP “challenge”. I held a four minute hover for the first time. I ached like I didn’t know I could ache. But I made it through…

And I passed!  

That’s not the end of it though! Passing your certification training is just the first step. Then you are released to team teach with instructors at your gym, before teaching the entire class start to finish by yourself, filming it and sending it in to Les Mills for review and the ultimate “yay” or “nay”. I have some INCREDIBLE instructors and one of them reached out to me during my certification weekend and said I could join her on stage later that week. I knew right away that was just what I needed, so I could jump right into the next phase and get over THAT hurdle in and of itself. To date, I think that very first class I led three tracks in was the biggest class I’ve been in front of with over 30 people! So thankful for the opportunity to do that fresh out of the gates!

You have an 8 week window in between your training and your deadline to submit your video, but I wanted to knock it out before Thanksgiving so I upped my time to be about 6 weeks to prepare. Lots of team teaching (shout out to those INCREDIBLE instructors again!) and then some solo prep time in the studio on Saturday afternoons. And I was ready (I hoped!) to go…

I borrowed a camera and planned a small “off schedule” class one afternoon. Some of my friends came to support me and participate in my class. Filming went smoothly and teaching went pretty well, all things considered. I’d never taught 60 minutes straight and schwooo was that a wake-up call!

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Two short weeks later…. THIS arrived! I was THRILLED!

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So… now on to the next thing. When I signed up for training, I wasn’t even sure of what the next steps would be. I had tried to talk myself out of certification training because I “wasn’t ready yet” and needed to get in even better shape. Turns out I really needed the intensity of training to help push myself to the next level in whatever my fitness journey is. Things are starting to come together now and any time I get the chance to teach I’m always excited and filled with anticipation… plus its just FUN. This photo to the right is from our training weekend, when we did an exercise where we listed every word that Pump made us think of.. and yep, this pretty much sums it up for me. I’m so thankful to have found my “soul mate” workout and pushed myself to a whole new level in exactly one short year… whatever will the next year bring!?!?

 

 

“I could never…”

I wrote this in my head during my ten minute plank today…

About a month ago, one of my friends issued a challenge to simply hold a plank (or hover, or whatever you want to call it) for as long as you could. Pretty straight forward. At the en12087784_10105526834775620_8643606839552998021_od of the month, you go back and try it again and see how much your time improved by. Sweet. I’d never done such a thing before. And so I issued the same challenge to my challenge group and gave it a go.

Results? Not bad at all! I stayed on my toes for two minutes. WOW! I was so glad I could do it!

Then what happened? People all over started planking. It felt like every day that first week someone was planking every time I opened up my Facebook feed! And their times kept CLIMBING! First ten minutes, then I saw some people posting 12 or 15 minute times. What?! I only did two minutes and I couldn’t imagine going ten.

Fast forward to my Body Pump training adventure just a week later, which included a MINIMUM of four minutes on the toes. Ok, I did that. And that was DOUBLE the time I had just done a week prior. I fell to my knees as soon as I hit the minimum of four minutes though.

Until today. Its the last day of the month so I thought I’d give it a go before my shower. And….

SWEET! I made it all the way to ten minutes! My “goal” for myself was to make it to five (further than that four minute mark earlier this month) but as soon as I crossed the seven minute mark my new goal was ten 🙂

Here’s the thing, and here’s what I’m writing this post.

  • Had my friend not posted this challenge in the first place, I never would have even tried it.
  • Had another friend not posted the “trick” to take it to a “side hover” when you need a break, I would have fallen to my knees around the six minute mark.
  • Had I been intimidated by all the people holding it for ten minutes or more and thought “I could never…”, I would have never seen the possibility (and would have probably made myself feel pretty bad in the process too).
  • Had I not worked HARD this month, in fact, harder than I have EVER worked at my own physical fitness in any other month of my life, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
  • And had I not taken the time to celebrate where I was starting from and push MYSELF (competing against MYSELF) further, this wouldn’t have felt so good.

Celebrate where you’re starting from, my friends. Find people who will ENCOURAGE you to dig deeper and push harder. Commit to it, GO for it and see what you can do. Compete against yourself and yourself alone. You’re going to surprise yourself, I guarantee it.

I don’t share this to brag on myself or make you feel like you have to do this precise challenge too. You don’t. You can try whatever you want. Figure out what your “I could never…” is and decide you’re going after it. Maybe yours looks like one of these…

  • I could never workout at 5am.
  • I could never run a race down the street against my kid on his bike.
  • I could never wear a size medium shirt.
  • I could never kick this sugar addiction.
  • I could never stop smoking cigarettes.
  • I could never walk or run a 10k.
  • I could never stick to something longer than a month.
  • I could never stay on my toes for 10 minutes…

I am not superwoman

no-supermanI am not superwoman.

There, I said it. Post over. Kidding.

A couple of weeks ago at our mom’s group, we were talking about the “modern mother” and how we can judge based on first impressions. Social media, where we put our “best foot forward”, only perpetuates some of these first impressions, as we’re not seeing what’s behind people’s closed doors and they’re only sharing their highlight reel. And first impressions are powerful stuff.

This discussion was really impactful for me and quite timely. You see, just a few days before, I’d had a freezer meal prep event at my new home of three weeks and as my friends and co-freezer-mealers arrived I received comments such as, “didn’t you JUST move in here?” and “how on earth did you manage this?” I wasn’t sure what my house was *supposed* to look like three weeks after moving in but we’d made it a priority to slam through unpacking our major living spaces so we could start enjoying them. That’s all. Not every nook and cranny was set up. Just the places we spent 90% of our time as a family. And honestly, I felt a little badly that I was projecting some image that we were completely settled in when we totally weren’t. i still can’t tell you where half the stuff is in my kitchen, let alone anywhere else in the house. Don’t ask me for another stick of deoderant. No clue where it is.

And that’s not the only thing. It’s not uncommon for me to get remarks like “I don’t know how you manage all you do.” Of course there’s the one that inspired this post, “you must be superwoman!” And I’m here to say I’m not superwoman.

Sure when you look at my list, if you will, of things I’m involved in or are currently on my plate, it DOES look like a lot. And somehow it DOES all get tended to. And (hopefully) not at the expense of the most important job on my plate right now, which is to pour into these two little people that I am blessed to spend hours upon hours with week in and week out. Even if they do suck every bit of patience out of me i didn’t even know I had to draw from.

Here’s the scoop. The only way I’m able to do what I do is through the grace of God. I don’t understand it myself. And in an effort to be authentic and real, you have to understand that I have moments just like you do, too. These are JUST FROM TODAY, folks.

I have moments where my kid eats chips. While watching the iPad. At 9:30 in the morning.

My daughter has an obsession with goofy nursery rhyme videos on YouTube. I don’t get it. But she loves it. And so I let her watch ’em.
That “getting it all done” facade I may or may not be projecting looks something like this in reality. After a crazy week, I realized I hadn’t folded a single load of laundry in about 8 days. Maybe 9. I DID wash things. Here’s a week or more’s worth of laundry. You can barely see my son’s head in the background. Some days, we don’t make it out of pajamas for awhile. Here’s my daughter crashed out for an early nap, in the same pajamas she slept in the night before. Guaranteed that was the comfiest she’s been during a nap in ages. I didn’t hear any complaints from her. (As a bonus piece of info, it was around this time that I retreated to my bedroom while my son watched a movie downstairs so I could watch Grey’s Anatomy. I got through everything but the last four minutes before he came looking for me.)
And this. Brought my kids to the Y, where I get up to two hours of childcare daily included in our membership (and as of late, use every last minute of it, if not for working out, then to catch up on life.) I went into workout mode and YES I felt strong. Yes, I felt like I had it together in that moment. But I did NOT feel like superwoman. That’s not me. And I hope you know, that’s not what anyone expects you to be, either.

What I see in the mirror…

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High School Junior Prom, Spring 2001

Like most high school girls, I spent a LOT of time in all things hair and makeup-related. In fact, once I discovered the “magic” of make-up and a hair straightener, I spent so much time at the local beauty store (Ulta) that by senior year, I had secured a part-time job there. My friends and I spent hours and hours sorting through the things we were putting on the racks that inevitably every night I would make some purchase before heading home, and upon returning to my parents’ house, my mom would shake her head at the zebra print bag that (often) represented almost as much spent as I had earned working that night!

And if you would have asked me at that time, I would have told you, I still didn’t love what I saw in the mirror.

Fast forward a couple of years…

College days, circa 2005

Now I’m in college. In addition to my normal college things, like going to class and studying and having Grey’s Anatomy marathons, my friends and I enjoy power sessions of kickboxing at the gym before heading back to our apartments to primp (more hours…) before “going out”. Working out was literally an effort to offer some counteracting of whatever we were going to eat and drink that night…

And if you were to ask me at that time, if I looked in the mirror, I definitely wasn’t satisfied with what I saw.

This is how I see myself today…

One more fast forward to today (well yesterday actually)…

I’ve just wrapped up 90 minutes of working out and stopped in the bathroom before picking up my kids because I’m going to be going to the grocery store when I get them and I know its a good solid hour before I have the opportunity to go to the bathroom again 🙂 It feels like such an average day for life these days. I’m so freaking sweaty thanks to my hardest cardio workout of the week. I haven’t showered (obviously) and am wearing zero makeup (not knocking the moms who wear makeup to the gym but that’s just not me).

I catch myself in the mirror. And realize THIS is who I am. This person, the one without makeup and pretty sweaty and in workout gear that badly needs a shower, this is the person my kids know me as. This is who I am to the people at the grocery store. This is who my husband sees when he comes downstairs in the morning showered and dressed for work. If you would have asked 17 yr old me, or 21 yr old me, if the above description would make me feel “pretty”, I would have laughed out old. And you know what? For the first time, I honestly happen to like what I see.

Do I wish I would have embraced the message that beauty doesn’t come from hair and makeup products a long time ago? Of course. Or imagine the hours I could have spent doing something, ANYTHING, else other than primping. Yea. I wish I would have loved my body in those first few postpartum months the way I do now. I AM thankful that I grasp this NOW, that I’m able to embrace who I am, how my Creator has made ME to be, and to run with it, literally and figuratively!

all together beautiful

Why It’s Important to Be Creative

think_outside_the_boxI’ve been having some great conversations in my current challenge group about making new habits long-term changes to my challengers’ lifestyles, not just a one-month or two-month thing. One of my best pieces of advice I can give is to be creative with what you’re doing and keep it fresh. Realize when you’re starting to get bored before you actually derail and fall off course.

More than a year into this journey and I’ve had to ask myself this question many times. Is what I’m doing still working? When I was in the mode of losing the weight I needed to, I would ask myself that question if I stalled out for several weeks. Now that I’m in “maintain” mode, it’s even trickier because not only do I not expect the scale to move much anymore but I need to be sensitive to when I adopt some of my not-so-great habits back before they turn into a problem. And I have to be open to change, which is hard when you get into a routine and are used to the ease of your “normal”.

Here are some practical examples of how I keep it fresh to stay committed to my healthy lifestyle:

  • If my workouts are boring me, I throw a new one into the mix. Because I love the workouts I choose, it’s always a disappointment when I start to grow tired of them. Rather than abandoning them all together, working a new one in one or two times a week usually helps me pull out of a rut and not only enjoy my new workout, but the one I used to love, as well!
  • Rewrite my meal plan if I’m not excited by the options on there. I usually meal plan about a month at a time, so if I pull up that week’s plan and grocery list before going shopping and I don’t know what’s on there, I make the time to re-write it. Is it a good use of time? Some would say not. But I’d rather have a good week of enjoying well-balanced meals than a week where I feel less-than-satisfied by what I’m eating for my meals and turn to “off plan” items to fill that void.
  • Take my measurements instead of hopping on the scale. While the scale doesn’t move much any more, I’ve continued to lose inches and go down sizes in clothes thanks to the workouts I’m doing. And if you need SOME sort of tangible “progress”, this is the one I tend to favor over the scale!
  • Switch my “go to” flavor of Shakeology. I like to toggle back and forth between chocolate and vanilla, and since I drink it once a day, if I start to get bored, this is an easy switch I can make!
  • Set up a walk or something with a friend. Usually doing some form of lighter activity makes me appreciate the more physically demanding workouts I do throughout the week and serves as kind of a “bonus”. Plus, friend time is always a good thing!
  • Switch up the way I distribute my food throughout the day. Dinner is my time to be creative but the rest of the day can look pretty boring. Nobody wants to have the same exact thing for lunch every single day, but as a busy mom, sometimes that’s all I can plan or grab for myself that stays “on plan”. Just recently, I identified the afternoons as turning into prime “snacky” time for me. So this week, I re-worked what breakfast looks like for me and introduced a morning snack, therefore pushing back my former early lunch and WAY curbing my afternoon snack cravings! Success!

And a few ideas from my challengers when I posed this question to them:

  • “One thing that motivates me when getting bored is something new to flaunt with my exercise program. New piece of clothing, swimsuit, socks, goggles, shoes. Motivates you to want to sport your new duds.”
  • “Every once and awhile I try on jeans I haven’t worn for a few years to see if they fit! It’s super exciting when they do fit! It’s always nice to get back into some of those smaller sizes you used to wear!”

So what about you? How do you stay committed to your healthy lifestyle so you can live it long-term!?