Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Reality and Realizations of a Working Mom

This next guest blogger hails from across the hall from me at work. THIS story is from a person with real resistance to eating well and exercising.  In fact, you will read below that she working out.  She is a mother of two toddlers, a school professional, wife and she has talked for a couple of years about wanting to feel better.  She gave me full reign to reveal that she's an excuse maker, that is......she would tell me day in and month out why she could not do something different with her diet or exercise when the reality was just too hard for her at the time.  In fact, her excuses were about as full proof as an adolescent's reasons for not turning in their homework.  Well.....she reached her breaking point recently and here is her story.  I'm quite proud of her accomplishments (and not b/c she's much more easy to get along with at work now!)  

Eating, Exercise and Feeling Better According to a Busy Mom and Wife
When my friend, colleague, co-worker asked me to write “my story”, I thought…”What story?” I have no story when it comes to dieting, eating, etc. But then I thought about it some more and I guess I do. 

Where did my eating habits start? Well, I thought back….My parents come from ethnic backgrounds, mom Italian, dad Polish/Lithuanian. Both sets of grandparents right off the boat at Ellis Island. Therefore, I grew up around A LOT of food. Yummy food. Home-cooked food. Real food. Fattening food. (not all, but some).

A few things stand out in my memory about how I was raised eating-wise and what has shaped (or hindered) my eating. First, I cannot remember a time, not one, that we did not have a basket of Italian, French, or some type of bread on our table with any meal, be it dinner, lunch, snack or otherwise. Bread was an absolute staple in our home. My mother could not even eat Chinese food without bringing out the bread. I remember her saying, “I just need a little bread with it”. That was my mom and her sisters (my aunts). We. Ate. Bread. Yummy, delicious Italian bread, often homemade. My mom and aunts would make bread and pasta from scratch. Big huge sheets of dough they’d roll out and put through a pasta maker “thing” that cut it into noodles. They grew tomatoes in our garden, canned them, then used them for the pasta sauce. It was great, whole food. But, it was carbs, carbs, carbs. 

Secondly, I cannot remember a time (other than Lent, which was when my mom and aunts gave up sweets) that a meal, particularly dinner, did not end in coffee and sweets of some sort. It could be pastries, pie, cookies, something. It was considered rude, an absolute travesty, bad manners, unthinkable not to have sweets and coffee in the house. Additionally, when you visited people or people visited you, you HAD to present sweets and coffee for the guests. To not do so was, by all accounts, ill-mannered to say the least.

So, my point---we ate white, delicious bread ALL THE TIME and sweets ALL THE TIME. The “craving” for something sweet after a meal runs deep in my veins. It’s all I knew. It’s what I “participated” in my entire life.

So, all that suggests I probably struggled with weight my whole life. Actually, I was the smallest kid for my grade, always trying to gain weight, look “bigger”. I couldn’t gain a pound when I tried. I was active—a dancer, gymnast. All through college this was the case. I would eat whatever I wanted, however much I wanted and not gain a pound. I went to college weighing a 100 lbs. Left college weighing maybe 108 lbs. and was about 108-110 lbs. the rest of my pre-child bearing life. Never considered “dieting” or even changing how I was eating. It just never occurred to me.

Pregnancy with both my children was hard. Lots of restrictions, preterm labor scares, no exercise, not a lot of stairs, had to be off my feet, blood-clotting disorder…yada yada. Point is, I let myself gain a lot of weight particularly with my second pregnancy—almost 60 lbs!! So, after my second daughter I weighed a whopping 135 lbs. Which for me, well, I had never seen those numbers on a scale before! It didn’t melt off like I thought it would. I was tired. Not just tired, exhausted. I did end up being diagnosed with an underactive thyroid and medication helped me start to feel better. However, I knew I needed some semblance of a plan for my eating. I just sort of felt like I was “flailing” when it came to eating. I know how to cook, even like cooking. I knew what I liked and what I didn’t, but as far as what I should be eating to achieve some kind of goals or what I should be eating to make X, Y, Z happen…no clue. I’d read a lot, hear a lot, talk and listen to my coworker a lot about food, eating, etc. but never put anything into action. I had always felt too overwhelmed by it all.

I knew I needed to work out and would sporadically here and there (this was true before kids as well). However, two children, full time work, really takes its toll and I don’t love working out. So, it was easier to let this piece go and just not fit it in. I wasn’t obese. I wasn’t even “fat”, really.  So, while I wasn’t where I wanted to be (wearing my pre-baby clothes) at 125 lbs. I wasn’t really someone people would look at and say “she needs to lose weight”. So, motivation was not coming to me. 

This past summer  I got motivated to begin shedding the last 10 lbs. or so of “baby weight” or whatever it was keeping me out of the pre-baby pants I wanted to wear.  Enter Crossfit, which I started do July-October upon the recommendation of my friend/coworker.  It was hard, different. Results were amazing and quick—which was good for me b/c I’m not patient.  People noticed. And while I dropped only about 4-5 lbs, I definitely looked better and felt pretty good (minus all the soreness, pain, etc.) I didn’t change my eating much, although did more portion control.

Once the fall hit, I couldn’t keep up with life, so to speak….and the cooler weather, kids’ activities, birthdays, etc. got in the way. I dropped Crossfit altogether. Enter the holidays! Cookies, cookies, cookies.  I basically binged and ate whatever I wanted. So, mid-December Craig begins talking to me about doing the 30-day Paleo Challenge in January. I agree. Realistically, and in my mind, I planned for 2 weeks max and I did not truly believe that I would see/feel results. Plus, I thought it absolutely ludicrous that I would make it through my daughter’s birthday without eating a cupcake!?

Nonetheless, after a major Costco and Whole Foods run, I planned meals to a T-esp. for the first week. I was “religious” minus a couple dinners/gatherings here and there. I have no will power and usually do not stick to “restrictive” diets. I had no desire to return to the rigors of Crossfit so I chose to start doing Hot Yoga at a place near my house instead.

A few amazing things happened:
1) After the very first day, I noticed I wasn’t hungry and I wasn’t fatigued at 3 pm.

2) I realized I can stick to something and even when I “cheated”, the very next day I went back to my “program” and it worked! I didn’t want to “fall off the wagon” completely. I actually t I would---sweets, I still struggled.

4) I found alternatives for things I like that are better for me and my body but which still satisfy an “urge” for that food such as Paleo Pancakes. Most importantly, I was still eating stuff I loved…meat, seafood, vegetables…Plus, there was fun and satisfaction in finding alternative ways to make things (at least for me).

5) I lost 9.6 lbs.

Some challenges:
1) Planning and time. The food prep/time for that is taxing esp. with my family situation. I had to commit to spending time on the weekends making sure I had food prepared or very close to ready to prepare for the week-specifically, my weekday morning breakfasts. However, I’ve gotten into a bit of a routine on that and now it’s a little easier.  No planning, meant NO GOOD FOOD. Period. Lack of planning for me meant I would fall off the wagon.  So, I really had to work and commit to that part. There were many Sundays I wanted to just take time to do nothing, but instead cooked in the kitchen all in the name of having food for the week. I was always glad afterwards, but the during part was often a struggle.

2) The sweet cravings—reminiscent of my past.

Lastly, I have to respond to a post by Craig about how finding Paleo substitutes for things is not the best idea/method—one should stick to it or eat the “real thing”. While I understand the sentiment and reasoning, for me, the substitutes have all but saved me from continuing to eat white flour, bread, gluten, processed sugar, etc. For example, I don’t have the will power to eat “real” pancakes just once a week in moderation. I don’t. However, I’ve learned to love and prefer Paleo Pancakes and they are so much better for me. I’ve found an alternative for something that is so much healthier. For me, it is not about sticking to “Paleo” just for the sake of doing so or because I think eating strictly Paleo is the only healthy way to go. It is about being healthier, getting away from the starches that were overwhelming my diet and keeping me from making progress towards my weight goals, and feeling better eating more lean protein and vegetables and fruits. That being said, I have eaten some “non-Paleo” things and still do occasionally. On things that I can’t “control” well, I eat substitutes that I like and don’t feel cheated. I think the substitutes are a good thing and have worked for me. 

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