I didn’t start 2019 with grand fitness goals. I simply wanted to feel better, eat better and look a bit better in a custom-designed swimsuit from Heidi Fish Swimwear. I had two summer trips on the horizon, both of which would involve getting into a swimsuit of some kind, so that helped me get on track starting in January.
Returning to Dallas after 3-1/2 years in Seattle, WA was a good, happy change. Therefore, I knew I had to change a few things that were detrimental to my overall well-being. There’s no sense in making one change for the better if you aren’t going to mirror that positive change in other areas of your life.
I knew, however, I had to make changes that were doable and not drastic. I was not going to set goals I could not sustain. This, I knew, would be defeating and would spell doom.
As 2019 began, I resolved to go to the gym three days per week, enough to see a difference but not so much I could not keep it up. All during the fall of 2018, yoga kept pushing itself to the front of my mind. I have never regularly practiced yoga, only taking an occasional class. But I could not get it out of my head. I knew I needed to breathe more and reduce overall stress in my body. My subconscious mind knew yoga would deliver this for me, and my conscious mind finally surrendered. I identified two early morning yoga classes (5:45 a.m.) at a nearby YMCA on Tuesday and Thursday, and I started there, followed by a treadmill work out on Saturdays. For a gal who always thought you had to beat yourself up to get results, pursuing “easier” work outs was a revolutionary change. The early morning was the other shift. After years of trying to squeeze in workouts at other times of the day, I knew I had to get it done first thing (very early) because the school bell rings for my kids at 7:45 a.m.
Diet was the next change I made, both with foods and with drink. Diet is 75% of the equation. You could be working out like a madman, but if your diet is bad, you won’t see the results you want. As I blogged about earlier this year, I was concerned about a loved one’s drinking habits, which forced me to look at my own. Drinking exponentially less, I was shocked at the change I observed in my body. My stomach was flatter, I was sleeping better, which improved my energy-levels, and my skin looked more radiant. Sold! Eating cleaner, but not perfectly, was the next step. I am not super picky about what I eat as long as I don’t get hungry. (I’m one of those hangry people. It isn’t pretty.) Whether it’s lean chicken or fried chicken makes no difference to me. I may as well eat lean.
I still eat dark chocolate every day, and I still cheat a bit with sugar, but my aim this year has been “better, not perfect.” When I do extremes, I fail. If I feel like having a margarita and chips on a Friday night, I have it. The biggest diet change I made was my breakfast, and I just learned from A.J. Tucker’s newsletter, this is the best diet change I could make for my fat loss. According to A.J.: “Most Americans are getting less than half of their daily protein requirement, and it starts with breakfast. This protein is crucial for burning fat, fighting cravings and getting fit. This means getting a minimum of 20 grams of high quality, super clean protein in your breakfast in order to reap the benefits.” A.J. recommends a protein powder with no sugar, no carbs, and pure protein isolate, which is exactly what I introduced into my breakfast. Previously, I was drinking a shake using Carnation Instant Breakfast, which contains 19 grams of sugar. Add to that 13 grams of sugar from one cup of milk, 4 grams of sugar from natural peanut butter and 14 grams of sugar from a banana, and I was consuming a whopping 50 grams of sugar in my “healthy” breakfast shake. WOW.
Now, I use Jay Robb Chocolate Whey Protein powder, which contains 25 grams of protein and less than one gram of sugar, two spoons of PB 2 (6 grams of protein; 2 grams of sugar), unsweetened almond milk (0 grams of sugar; 1 gram of protein) and a banana (14 grams of sugar; 1 gram of protein). Just like that, I cut 34 grams of sugar from my breakfast and added 13 grams of protein! I won’t bore you with the rest of my diet, only to say this one change made a huge difference, and it kept me on track for the rest of my day.
If your diet is where you struggle, make one change and do that one thing for a month or so. Once that change is established, move onto another diet change, and so forth. As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race. This is how I did it with my workouts. I simply attended the two yoga classes and jogged the treadmill for three months. See the results below from January to March. (I can’t believe I am posting underwear photos of myself!) The biggest change you’ll see is in my thighs where I “store” my extra.
After the third month, I switched one yoga class for a mixed cardio/weights class, and I began to increase the intensity and speed of my treadmill work outs. I’ve never tried to go to the gym more than three days per week, and some weeks I don’t go at all because of travel, schedule, or illness (mine or the kids). That’s okay. I’m “on” more weeks than I’m “off.”
The photo at the left is where I landed by June, a good place to sustain and maintain. If I were to summarize what I did this year, I was nicer to myself. My workouts were less intense, I worked out less often but more consistently than in the past, and I left room for imperfection. The result: a super lean body at age 47. I’ll take it. I did not give myself a hard time when I missed a workout or cheated on my diet. A positive mindset is huge in reaching a goal. Feeding my brain with kind words and encouragement was key.
I was reading an article in Porter Magazine this summer, which confirmed my strategy was the right one. In it, it said we are harming ourselves with extreme work outs and that those who are working out less strenuously and leaving room for recovery see better results. The article said orthopedic surgeons are performing more knee and hip surgeries on patients in their 30s and 40s than ever before. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of a workout? It seems to me you are better off not working out at all than working out so extremely you injure yourself.
I’m going to continue my better fitness into 2020. I’ll admit to sliding back a bit on my diet these last couple of months. It starts with the Halloween candy and doesn’t stop until January 1. I’m okay with that. I need wiggle room. Trust me, I’m not completely tossing out all the good I’ve done. I may introduce workout changes in 2020 because the body needs to be challenged in different ways. But, overall, I plan to stay the course. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
As for that fabulous custom swimsuit. Well, my butt is still too big for it, but you can see how much leaner I am from the photos on the left (top and bottom) to the photos on the right (a 12-month change). (Once again, I can’t believe I am posting these!)
So, that’s it. Be kind to yourself, make small changes a little at a time and be consistent. You will get there, too. Don’t aim to look like me. Be your best you.
The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.—Socrates
(Photos of me in the Moschino dress by James Edward Photography.)