What I ACTUALLY do to stay in shape

Can I be straight up with you for a second? I’ve said a lot of sarcastic things about diet and exercise (most notably this and this). And I am not, by any means, saying this to imply that I have a killer bod or that I’m in amazing shape IN ANY WAY (I’d say I am extremely average, shape-wise). However, I’ve been consistently, slowly losing weight for the past 8 months or so, and I generally feel pretty great these days. I’ve lost a total of about 20 pounds so far, and I’m proud of myself. I’m not going to now, and will never, post “progress pics” (nor do I have progress pics”), but I thought it might be genuinely helpful to share what’s actually worked for me: a normal, lazy woman who loves to eat all kinds of food and and drink beer. I’ll never do some kind of intense workout plan like Beach Body or Crossfit, and I honestly don’t feel the need to be that cut or jacked. I don’t think that fad diet plans work, at least over the long-term, and to be frank, I feel like I’ve gained better, faster results doing what little I’ve been doing than a lot of people I know who follow very specific, rigid plans.

As a disclaimer: I’m not going to claim to know a lot about the science of fitness, and it’s extremely possible that I’ve just been lucky, or that my specific body type just reacts better to the way I’ve been doing things than others’ might (or that I have some kind of terrible disease that’s causing me to slowly waste away). If you’ve found something that works for you (even some crazy fad nonsense), by all means, keep doing it. I just know that I’ve personally thought it was frustrating seeing all these cuckoo for cocoa puffs fitness regimens and lifestyles and feeling hopeless and not knowing where to start. I just want other women to know that it’s possible to get into decent shape while maintaining a normal, low-key lifestyle.

So, here’s what’s been working for me over the past several months:

Walking: Aaaand I sound like my Grandmother. Seriously though, I attribute a good chunk of my weight loss to simply taking more steps during the day. I take my dog on a long walk every day the weather permits (we walk for a minimum of 40 minutes each day), I park comically far from whatever store I’m going to, I purposely walk around excessively while running errands.

My Fitness Pal: I think this app is 80% of the reason I’ve continued to keep the weight that I’ve lost off, and gradually lose more. I log everything I eat, every day. I’ve read so many times that keeping a food diary is essential to weight loss and I was always skeptical, but it honestly makes a huge difference to see what you eat every day in writing…especially since the app tracks your actual calorie intake measured against your daily steps and activity level. I’ve been slipping a little lately and not logging things that I count as “little things” (a starburst, a cup of coffee, a bite of ice cream), and it makes me feel more guilty than I’d prefer to admit. I’ve decided to give myself a little leeway over the holiday, but once January hits I’m full steam ahead strict until the wedding. I’ve been about a million times more mindful of what I eat since I started using this app. Highly, highly recommended.

Eating what I want in moderation: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…if you’re going to be successful at maintaining any sort of healthy lifestyle, you have to be realistic and kind to yourself. Yeah, I log everything I eat, and seeing the calorie count staring me in the face makes it a lot harder to eat a 2 pound bacon cheeseburger. But, I still basically eat what I want to eat – I just try to be reasonable about it. “Everything in moderation” is a super cliche thing to say, but it’s so, so true. I try to eat healthfully the majority of the time, but if I’m out having fun, I eat what I want. Maybe I only eat HALF of the two pound bacon cheeseburger (MAYBE). Either way, I don’t feel (very) guilty about it. Life is to live.

Not eating until I’m sick: Speaking of maybe only eating half that cheeseburger…I’ve come to realize that it’s not necessary to eat an entire huge portion of everything that’s given to you. I realized that I’m usually satisfied with half to three quarters of what I’m served at restaurants. Home girl loves to eat, so at first it kind of killed me to not scarf down everything in front of me, but once I realized that if I eat slowly and enjoy my food, I can stop when I’m full and feel good about it. It makes me feel less bloated and uncomfortable, and it makes me feel better about letting myself indulge occasionally in less healthy foods. That said, there are days when all you need is to eat a whole pizza by yourself. And that’s okay.

Limiting meat intake: I’m not a vegetarian by any means, but I don’t eat a lot of meat. I eat a ton of fish/seafood, and I eat some kind of poultry or red meat maybe once or twice a week. This isn’t really something that I’ve done on purpose; I just happen to like a lot of naturally meat-free foods. I think it helps, though.

Moving around: This sounds ridiculous, but I just try to move more in general. I’ll dance in the shower, or do little exercises while watching TV or listening to podcasts. I’ll walk to the grocery store if I only need a few things instead of driving. I get really bored while doing traditional exercise or going to the gym, so I try to fit in activity in other ways. I do still go to the gym, but I don’t spend a ton of time there and I’ll go weeks or months without going at all…so if I use the gym as my end-all be-all, I usually end up failing pretty quickly. Come January I’m going to sign up for a personal trainer (my work offers them for free with our gym membership), but that’s a wedding-specific situation.

Cooking: Cooking what you eat instead of eating prepared or restaurant food is just healthier most of the time. You know exactly what you’re eating and how much, so there are no surprises. Cooking is therapeutic to me, and I enjoy making the majority of our meals. We order takeout once a week on average and go out to eat a few times a month, but I try to cook as much as possible.

Weighing myself on a regular schedule: I weigh myself every Tuesday morning before I leave for work. I think that consistency is key here – weighing myself at the same time of day on a regular schedule prevents me from seeing fluctuations caused by water gain or loss, and it prevents a lot of frustration. As a result, my weight is pretty consistent each time I weigh myself – I usually lose between a half pound and a pound a week. Sometimes I maintain the same weight or gain a little bit, but the consistency over several months has kept me from freaking out when that happens.

That’s about it. I do run a little and I dabble in various plyometric exercises (by “dabble,” I mean I follow a workout I found online a few times a month), but I’m not very consistent in my “workout” schedule at all. I eat ice cream more days than not, I love cheese, and I watch a lot of TV. I’m hesitating to post this because it’s probably dumb. But I like to see real, honest advice from real people who have full-time jobs and a life. If this was awful and annoying and you hated it, please let me know and I’ll never ever post anything like it again (it’s likely that I won’t anyway, haha).

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