I have a confession to make.
I have gained fifteen pounds since March 2020.
For some people, a fifteen pound weight gain is hardly noticeable. But at only 5’2” even a small weight gain – or weight loss – is more noticeable. Except I didn’t notice it until I went jeans shopping a few weekends ago. I had to size up and as I stood in the dressing room with my too-small jeans discarded in a pile next to me, I saw myself in the mirror in a new light.
It wasn’t a negative light.
I didn’t look in the mirror and think “you’re so fat” or “wow, you’re ugly,” the way I would have in the past. Instead, I thought “wow, you need to prioritize your health.”
The last two years have been hard, haven’t they? We went from a normal life of going to the office, the gym, to concerts and movies and shopping without waiting in lines and buying rationed toilet paper to staying at home for long stretches of time, losing access to our gyms and entertainment outlets, and being isolated from our friends and family. Sudden change and isolation does a number on not just our mental health but our physical health as well.
When North Carolina went into lockdown – my last day in an office was March 13, 2020 – I was training 4-5 days a week. I was not only following a custom weightlifting program, I was jumping in on a couple of CrossFit classes a week to keep my conditioning. I was eating like an athlete and focused on dropping a whole five pounds – seven on a bloated day – to fall into the next lower weight class.
And then I was sitting at home, doing what I could with a kettlebell and jump rope and thinking surely my gym would open up again soon. When it finally did, it was only outdoors and class sizes were drastically reduced. Then I moved across the country and life got busy. It’s to be expected that I gained weight. Most of us probably did, didn’t we? I also lost a fair amount of muscle – again, to be expected now that I spend far less time under a barbell.
My weight loss has never been about aesthetics although I can’t deny that it was and is a bonus. It’s always been about my health and health goals. I lost my mom to problems caused by several metabolic diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. She didn’t take the best care of herself and while it’s near impossible to outrun genetics, I can give myself the best chance by eating well and moving my body.
Jeans shopping was the wakeup call I needed.
I know from past experience that I can’t go “all in” on a new diet and workout routine right from the jump. Too much too soon is almost guaranteed to fail. I lost almost a hundred pounds by making slow, maintainable adjustments to my lifestyle over several months and that’s what I’m going to do again – because I know it works, for both me and my clients.
What are those changes you ask?
I started with the most basic of basics, the same place I start most of my clients when we begin to develop health goals: I tracked my food for a couple of weeks to get an idea of what my eating habits looked like. It didn’t take me long to realize I wasn’t making the best choices. There was a lot of food on the go, a lot of “easy” meals of things like chicken nuggets and fries that I could pop into my air fryer. There were also a lot of “extras” – a handful of pretzels a couple of times a day, an extra spoonful of peanut butter while I made a smoothie – that add up at the end of the day and over time. Tracking my food for a couple of weeks gave me a baseline to adjust from.
As I mentioned, I know from past experience that I can’t make a drastic change overnight. I can’t go from eating pretty freely to restricting my intake. It’s not healthy, for one, and it’s also going to increase the chances that I binge later. I don’t allow my clients to go from sedentary to working out six times a week or expect them to go from getting lunch from their favorite fast food joint five days a week to packing all their meals. I can’t do that to myself, either.
I’m going to practice what I preach and start with three attainable actions towards my health goals:
Meal Prep. Pre-pandemic, I meal prepped every Sunday. I always had breakfast, lunch, and dinner prepared for the week ahead by the time I went to bed. I have thrown a meal in the crockpot or else batch cooked some chicken or ground turkey here and there, but I haven’t really meal prepped since I moved to Los Angeles. This weekend, I made my grocery list (something else I got away from doing…) and then took a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon to make a breakfast frittata, turkey burgers for lunch, and Moroccan chicken for dinner. My meals are all set through Friday which makes it easier to stay on track. When the weekend rolls around, I will be mindful about what I choose to eat, not just grabbing a breakfast sandwich on the go because its easier.
Increase Water Intake. I drink a decent amount of water, but not nearly as much as I used to. I noticed this when I started going back into the office a few days a week and caught myself still sipping coffee at 11am while my water bottle remained empty. I’m planning to work my way back to a gallon of water a day and to help, I have this half-gallon water bottle to carry around. Bonus? My skin looks so good when I’m hydrated!
Increase Movement. On paper, I look like I move a lot. I start my Apple Watch before each barre class I teach as a way to track the time, but it goes down as a workout. While I am moving around and demoing, I’m not working out. I’m teaching. There is a big difference. I got a little lazy on the workout front and really leaned into the excuse that our barre classes are full (yay!) and I have limited time with work and school to go to a gym. When you’re looking for an excuse you will find one, right? I’ve set a realistic workout goal – 4x a week – and will focus on moving for at least 30 minutes each time.
These are small changes for where I’m at in my health journey. You may look at these and think “those sound impossible.” You may also look at them and think “wow, that’s it?” We’re each at a different part of our journey. I work with clients on this very thing: your journey will not look like hers. My health goals will not look like yours.
My overall goal is to be healthier. Notice that I’m using the phrase health goals instead of fitness goals or weight loss goals? Numerically, that comes down to wanting to lose around 20lbs this year to get back to my previous weight and then lose the five I had planned to lose for weightlifting pre-pandemic. I’m also going for my annual physical later this week and will request full blood work so I’ll know my numbers.
Health truly is wealth.
And I plan to live a long, healthy, wealthy life.
For the record?
I bought the jeans in a bigger size. And they look really good on me.
More on my jean shopping adventure later this week – it turned into quite the insightful trip…