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This happened in 8 weeks and it wasn’t because of a 21 day fix, eating an “all or nothing” new diet plan.

It happened because I made a decision that I was ready to find out how much better I could feel and yes, LOOK! I am a 47 yr old perimenopausal woman that survived 3 pregnancies. There is permanent damage to this little body that will never go away unless I resort to surgery (never), but I still have a desire to look my best and why shouldn’t I?

There are times in our life when we put ourselves in the backseat because we have other people and things that demand our total attention. We focus on these things and we slowly lose sight of our own needs. Most experts advise us to re-prioritize and move ourselves to the front of the line. It makes sense, how can you make others happy if you’re not, how can you give to 200% if you don’t take time to re-energize. The only problem with this idea is that unless YOU really want to make a change, it will never stick.

The concept of “fixes and challenges” is that if you give yourself a specific amount of time to commit to a healthy lifestyle, then you will form a habit that will stick. We hear so much about “21 days”, but  unfortunately, the magic number is different for everyone and it’s different among the habit you are trying to form. In an article, by Ben Gardiner at University College London, researchers found that 66 days is more the average needed to form a habit. They advise not to even put a number on it, but to focus on consistency in practicing the behavior for success. This leads me to an interesting story that really threw me.

I was with a friend recently and we were catching up on things. She is a strong, happy person that works in a popular service industry. She is constantly talking to other woman and always has great stories to share. Knowing that fitness is a big part of my life, she announced that she and her co workers had started a New Year’s challenge. They have to lose 1lb a week and if they don’t they throw $10 into a pot. At the end of 6 weeks, the person that has the greatest % weight loss wins the $! Great idea… fun, having support of coworkers and a financial reward as the dangling carrot. The problem, in my mind as I listened, is that there are no guidelines on how to lose the weight, so the chances of permanent weight loss is low. I, of course, kept that to myself so I didn’t sound like Debbie Downer and instead said something along the lines of “that’s great, what are you doing to lose it and is it realistic for long term”. Not getting a strong answer from her I proceeded to explain what I had been doing for the last 10 weeks. Eating more protein, lots of good carbs, reducing high intensity cardio and more weight training. Here’s where the shocker came…..she said, “So now that your at an ideal weight, you’re going to keep doing the program?” My heart dropped to my stomach and I belted out, Hell Ya! THIS IS A LIFESTYLE NOT A QUICK FIX KINDA THING!!!!! So maybe it wasn’t that harsh, but in that moment I realized that I owe it to my fellow woman to help change this mindset and teach as many as I can the true benefits of moderation and consistency. Think of it this way, you work hard to pay off credit card debt by cutting up the card, adjusting your spending and sacrificing in ways to make larger payments than the minimum. You might even get a second job and finally pay it off, only to reward yourself with a shopping spree. You’ve experienced and practiced living within your means and then throw it out the window because you love the feeling of buying stuff. Now that I think of it, this so similar to eating behaviors. We work so hard to choose healthy options all week and then overindulge on the weekend as reward for our willpower.

So back to the why and how of my “before and after”. Over the years, I have studied and been involved in many areas of fitness and have enjoyed trying a lot of new styles and fads, but I got to a point where I felt I could do better.  For the amount of exercise I do, I should be more lean and defined. I have the typical pear shape and wanted to try and reduce my thighs, waist and love handle area.  I have been a healthy eater and KNOW what constitutes a balanced diet, but the one concept I have resisted until recently is that what you eat has a much greater impact on your physique than exercise. You’ve probably heard the expression, Diet is 80%, Exercise is 20%.

I adopted a more focused approach and read many articles and books. I learned that my protein intake was insufficient for my workouts. I also realized that some of my carb choices were keeping me from getting more lean. I was a healthy eater, but refined carbs like pretzels, breads and cookies were part of my daily foods. I would combine all these with a low protein source of peanut butter, nuts or cheese and thought it was ok. As soon as I cut them out and ate more protein at my main meals, I needed those snacks much less. I cycled through 8 weeks of low calorie/low exercise and more calories/more exercise weeks while keeping non negotiables like coffee with cream & sugar and wine(2-3 times a week vs. 5-6 days a week) until I had lost approximately 10-15 lbs and dropped from a size 4/6 to a zero….I never thought this was possible for my body type…DENIAL at it’s best!

There is a lot of talk these days about personalized nutrition and that the “one size fits all” approach to weight loss does not work. The most important lesson for anyone wanting to lean down is, DO NOT restrict calories if you are going to start exercising more. Lowering your caloric intake while asking your body to do more is contradictory and your body will revolt, holding on to anything you give it for fear of not having enough later. What you can do during a lower calorie time is concentrate on movement. Fitbits are all the rage right now. Use it to track your daily steps and start focusing on moving, especially if you sit most of your day. Once you master this, the most effective next step is to start adding in weight training. In an article published by Eat to Perform, they discussed that most people don’t have weight problems….they have a muscle problem. Lean muscle helps support a functional life while also keeping our metabolism strong. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn throughout your day! So take advantage of opportunities to increase your lean muscle by taking a weight class or a personal training session at your gym or check out my Facebook video post on the 5 basic exercises for strength training. Finally, give yourself the ability to decompress, lower your stress and find balance with your new lifestyle changes. It’s so easy to revert to a high intensity cardio workout when you have little time and a negative image looking back at you in the mirror. Many of us hear that voice in our head saying, “I gotta burn calories, go for a run or take a pumped up cardio class”. If that’s how you de-stress, fine. Get out there once a week and go for it, but also experiment with reducing the amount of high intensity workouts and see how your body responds. It’s all about reducing cortisol, the stress hormone responsible for increasing fat storage around our midsection as we age.

Take some time to see what’s out there, I highly recommend the book Lose Weight Here by Jade and Keoni Teta because they give you the science simply and advocate finding what’s right for you. Try a Paleo recipe that focuses on protein and good carbs. Remember, one small step can net huge results if you are consistent and practice it often!