I've never been the world's healthiest eater or most hardcore exercise enthusiast. For most of my adult life, I've exercised sporadically and grumpily, and never cared much about eating very healthily.
I can remember, when I worked full-time before having kids, thinking to myself that I'd really be able to prioritize exercise and healthy eating if/when I had kids and stayed home with them. Surely I'd have nothing better to do with my day than fit in a great workout, put together healthy salads for lunch, and make amazingly healthy dinners. (manic laughter as reality sets in)
I think it actually might be harder now, as a stay-at-home mom, to exercise and eat healthy than it was before I had kids and worked full-time.
I've taken some healthy baby steps over the past 6 months or so, though, that are making a difference in how I feel and how I spend my day. I can't picture myself ever becoming wildly devoted to ultra-healthy living (I love cookies way too much for that), but I thought today I'd share a few of the little steps I've taken over the past few months that have made a difference for me.
1. Dinner Planning
I'm a big believer in the power of menu planning. On the nights that I haven't planned and shopped for a specific dinner, we end up scraping together really disappointing meals. Cereal. Hot dogs. Gummy worms. I don't feel good after eating a dinner like that, and I don't feel good in the morning when I wake up with a crappy dinner hangover.
I sit down with cookbooks or Pinterest after putting the kids to bed on Sunday night, and write down a menu for the week's dinners. I mix in a few favorite recipes as well as some new ones to try each week, and I make a shopping list. My days go more smoothly when I know I have a plan in place to get dinner on the table, and we end up eating healthier meals since I've planned out an entree and a side dish or two.
2. Drink from a ridiculous water bottle.
I can feel a difference on the days I've tried to drink a lot of water compared to the days I didn't really drink much of anything (or had an enormous cup of soda instead of water). But even though I know I feel better when I make sure to drink lots of water, I still forget to drink it . . . unless I fill up this big water bottle in the morning and leave it out on the kitchen counter all day. I'll take sips every time I walk by, and end up drinking plenty of water without really noticing it.
I don't know why the big water bottle makes a difference. In theory, I could just as easily get a glass and just refill it throughout the day. But that doesn't work for me. I love this gigantic hospital water bottle, probably more than any water bottle deserves to be loved, and somehow, I find myself drinking way more from it than I would otherwise.
3. Set an exercise goal.
If you've been around here the last few months, you know I ran my first ever half marathon last month. And you also probably know that I'm new to running--I only started running last summer, and prior to that, I hated to run.
After Darcy was born, I couldn't figure out any exercise that fit into our schedule and budget. I forced myself to start running--if I could learn to like running, it would be the 'easiest' exercise to fit into my schedule/budget. I stuck with it, something finally clicked, and I started to enjoy it instead of dreading my run each day.
But I secretly suspect that I would have given up on it as soon as the weather got cold if I hadn't signed up for the half marathon. Having that goal kept me going through the winter, and working and progressing when I probably would have taken a break without it.
3 1/2. . . . and change how you think about exercise.
I've always exercised with the mindset that the purpose of exercise was to help me not get fat. It wasn't ever about being healthy, or being strong, or reaching goals, or accomplishing something hard. I only ever really thought about exercise in terms of calories burned. Which destroyed any enjoyment I might have gotten out of exercising.
As I got into running, though, I started changing how I thought about it. After a while, I could run for 5 minutes without stopping, then a mile without stopping, then 2 miles without stopping, and so on . . . and I started actually feeling stronger and more capable. Running wasn't a struggle of me vs. impending weight gain. Running was making me feel strong and capable and confident.
Last night, I was talking to a friend who has run dozens of half and full marathons, and she said she hasn't ever finished a race without crying at the finish line, because she feels so powerful, and like she can take that strength and endurance and tackle anything else that's hard in her life. And that is so spot on for me, too. Thinking of exercising in terms of strength and power makes it something I want to do instead of something I feel like I'm supposed to do.
4. Feed yourself like you feed your kids.
I wouldn't let my kids skip lunch and eat an entire box of crackers and a soda 2 hours later, or hide in the pantry to have brownies for breakfast. But I'll do exactly that. I'll sit them down for a normal, balanced meal, then I'll get distracted by laundry or emails, forget to eat, and gorge on something totally unhealthy later.
I've always prioritized the kids' meals, but not my own. So I've been trying to feed myself with the same care that I feed the kids. Their meals might not always be the healthiest (and they might selectively eat the least healthy items on their plates), but at least they are sitting down and eating an actual meal together. I've been working on preparing myself meals that I'd want them to eat, and not eating things that I wouldn't let them eat, either.
5. Fill in nutritional gaps.
It's pretty easy for me to pinpoint what I need more of in my diet. I'm good on fruits and legumes. I probably eat too many unhealthy carbs. I need more protein and dairy. Knowing that is one thing--doing something about it, though, is kind of harder.
I've been trying to add more protein to my diet, especially after discovering that I don't feel nearly as tired after long runs when I'm getting more protein. And I've had doctors tell me multiple times that I'm not getting enough dairy, and I ought to be either eating yogurt (which I don't like), or taking a probiotic supplement.
I've been taking Align Probiotics every day for the last few weeks to try and fill in this gap in my diet. It helps maintain your digestive system's natural balance*, and I actually have been noticing a difference as I've been taking it. I've gotten fewer stomachaches, and it's definitely helped with . . . um . . . regularity (*intense blushing*).
I'm still trying to convince myself that yogurt isn't so bad . . . but I'm not making much progress on that front, so I'm sticking with the probiotics for now. If you'd like to try Align Probiotics, check them out at Target HERE.
I'd love to hear some of your healthy baby steps--what are some of the little things you do to make your life healthier?
*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.