Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Small Steps

I am taking a class at the YMCA right now that was developed by a team of Stanford University researchers to help people make healthy lifestyle changes.  The course runs for 10 months, and yesterday was our halfway point.  We were asked to re-evaluate our long term goals and write about what kind of progress we've made.  The long term goal I made 5 months ago was to lose enough weight to move from the "overweight" category on the body mass index (BMI) scale to the "healthy weight" category.  I am currently in the 170s, and for my height (5' 8") I need to get down to the 150s.  

I have made no progress (at least in terms of weight loss).  I was really hoping that by adding more activity to my day I could lose twenty pounds without changing the way I eat, so the goals I've been working on since the summer have revolved around walking more and swimming more.  I am walking about one hour a day 4 to 5 times a week, and trying to swim for 30 minutes every Saturday.  I get my walking done by marching the boys to school and back M-F.  Each leg of the journey is about 15 minutes, so that gives me an hour for the day.  In the warmer months I was taking Esther on long walks down by the river on the weekends, but since the weather has gotten colder, we haven't been doing that very much.  

What I admitted to my group yesterday is that I don't think that I will be able to achieve my goal of reaching a healthy weight without changing the way I eat.  But whenever I think about restricting my food in any way I am filled with dread.  As a teenager I was in great shape.  I ate whatever I wanted, but I also swam, did ballet, lifted weights, and rode my bike all over town.  I probably exercised 3 to 5 hours a day on average.  As a mother, it has been hard enough for me to get into the habit of walking 30 to 60 minutes a day, with a swim thrown in every now and then.  It is not realistic for me to expect to find the time to exercise as much as it would take for me to lose weight and continue to eat with abandon.  

Our teacher at the YMCA, Diane, reminded me yesterday that to lose one pound a week I only need to reduce my daily calorie intake by 500.  This could be 250 less calories consumed in food, and 250 more calories burned in exercise.  She pointed out that I may be feeling hopeless about changing my eating habits because I'm picturing a much more drastic change than I actually need to make.  I was reminded of a time a few weeks ago when I decided to eat a bowl full of roasted vegetables before eating my normal lunch of rice and beans.  The vegetables were delicious, and I was full after only 1/2 cup of my second course (I would usually eat a cup or more).  I rarely eat vegetables, and I know this is one of the biggest weaknesses in my eating habits.  So yesterday before lunch I ate a bowl full of frozen corn and peas.  And today for lunch I had a bowl full of edamame (soybeans in the pod).  Now I'm not feeling hungry at all, and I haven't even eaten my "real" lunch yet.  

I'm really hoping that by increasing the amount of vegetables I eat each day, I'll be able to reduce my total calorie intake without having to calculate and measure every single thing I put into my mouth.  That is exhausting and does not feel sustainable.  I am looking for changes I can make that are small enough to not be overwhelming, but will still make a difference for good over time.  I want to make changes that will last.  

If you have found any small steps toward a healthier lifestyle that have worked for you, I'd love to hear about them.  


The Rackleys said...


I love this idea! I've been eating like crazy thinking I needed to for milk for the boys. 13 pounds later, that obviously isn't the case. So I exercised this morning! Yeah. Hopefully I'll keep it up. Something I'm hoping to do is eat something raw every hour--carrot, apple, cucumber . . . then I'm not so hungry at meal time, and then cut my meal size down and cut out additional oil. Another thing is that I had this emotional block to losing the weight. Last week I realized that I was holding on to it because I felt like I couldn't be better than my mother. Crazy I know, but since letting that go I've been able to make better choices and be a happier mother.

You can do it Andrea! Besides, all you need to do is get pregnant, You are the only person I know who loses weight during pregnancy!

Potato Girl said...

Thanks so much for your comment Michelle. I like your idea of eating something raw every hour. I hope your mom isn't super in to blogging, because I'm telling you right now, you are already much better than your mom, in my humble opinion. Okay, I know it is not a contest, but you have really learned from her and made important changes for the good. I'm super proud of you. I do tend to lose weight when I'm pregnant because I feel sick to my stomach all the time. But then as soon as I deliver and start breast feeding, I really pack on the pounds. It would be nice to get pregnant one more time, lose 20 more pounds, and not gain it back. It is so much easier to follow a restrictive diet when you are doing it for the tiny fetus growing inside of you. Sigh.

.............................. said...

I love this new blog. It makes me feel like I we are hanging out again. We always were talking about how to get healthy. The vegetable thing works for Josh and I.

Here is a trick that works for me. I don't remember if you are like me and treat yourself to something yummy after the kids go to bed. Well, these treats easily add 400 or more calories to my count for the day. I have tried the Oprah thing and not eaten after 7 pm, but I always give up and go back to late night snacks. So what works for me is to limit my snack to 100 calories. It is really easy to do with all the new 100 calorie snack packs. One of my favorites is chocolate pudding. Keep up the posting, I am excited to see what works for you!

Nan said...

I love this Andrea. We have new health insurance and to get better co pays you have a physical and then have to meet 5 criteria which include weight, cholest., sugars, smoking and drinking. Well obviously I am home free on 2 of them....the others...well you can guess. I have increaed my veggies and eat oatmeal w/flax meal every morning. I also dropped the diet coke. It was painful, but worth it. So I drink tons of water and float my way through the day.

Maybe this is why I started blogging!
I look forward to this new support.

LL said...

V8 before breakfast helped me. Not that I'm healthy or thin, but it helped me get in an extra serving of veggies right at the beginning of the day. I also really like salad, but I'm pretty lazy, so I try to buy a bag of pre-made salad every trip to the grocery store and then I pile on carrots, raisins (weird? maybe), olives, whatever other veggies I feel like. Pretty yummy lunch, and it adds tons of veg to the day.

HW said...

Eating slowly and thinking about whether each bite is worth it helps me eat less. I find when I am gaining weight it is because I am eating out of habit rather than hunger--and the habits are amounts of food more than I need and stuff that doesn't always taste great. I am trying to remember that if it doesn't taste absolutely fabulous and if I'm not hungry anymore (that's the harder one for me) to spit it out! I find that I enjoy my food more that way too. It's a rather exhausting habit to form, but it feels spiritually consistent with the kind of person I want to be and doesn't involve counting of any kind.

Potato Girl said...

suzanne, nan, ll, marizasmom:

thanks for your supportive and helpful insights. i'll try them. i appreciate you for sharing your thoughts. good luck to us all!