Dealing With Holiday Weight Gain

I never know how to open (or close) a blog.  It always feels awkward.

Ok, so here goes- My name is Sierra and I am a recovering anorexic.  Bam.

I’ve been in recovery for a long time.  I’ve had babies.  Weight has been gained.  Weight has been lost.  Stretch marks have happened.  So has a lot of hard work and personal growth.

I was at a sweet spot, weight wise, for me.  Somewhere I can be comfortably, at which my body is happy and the crazy is generally kept at bay.

Well, I’ve been enjoying lots of good food and kicking back breve iced mochas at work and a couple extra pounds have appeared as extra insulation on my tummy and hinny.  I stepped on the scale and faced the music and indeed, it wasn’t bloat or my imagination.  Sadface.

Instead of going into pyscho- anorexic mode and beating myself up I’m handling it much differently.  I stared at my body in the mirror and saw all the things I do like.  I (man this sounds so cheesy, but go there with me) affirmed my body.  I bit bigger than I want to be, but it’s still my body and I love it.

However, I don’t want those couple extra pounds to gain long term squatter status so I do have a loose plan in place.  I’m going to hit my strength training workouts hard.  I’m going to cut back on sugar and empty carbs and focus my diet on high quality protein and fats.

I’m not going berserk or punishing my body.  I’m approaching it from the standpoint of treating my body as a temple to be treated with care and respect.

The scale will go back to normal and I’m not going to stress about it.

For many of us who have struggled with eating disorders- a lot of it stems from having an intense (obsessive) personality with a heavy dose of perfectionism.  I realize now that this can be a good thing.  I am probably always going to be obsessing about something.  I’m probably always going to have some discontent in my life, striving to be better.

The times in my life that I have been the happiest have been the times I’ve focused all that obsessiveness on the only one worthy of all my devotion- Jesus.  So while I strive to do well by my body, my main focus is keeping the focus firmly where it belongs.



Body After Baby

Motherhood presents many challenges- each baby rocks your world (in a good way!) and changes your life forever.  Bringing a new life into the world is a beautiful miracle.  Less beautiful though- is the stretch marks, weight gain, and loss of shape that goes with the territory!  I am going to share some of my tips in getting your body back in shape after having a baby.  Men- you’ll probably want to stop reading now!

After my first baby I lost the weight really quickly.  Problem was, I had my first confrontation with the effects of gravity.  When everything gets stretched out with the normal weight gain and then you lose the weight with just dieting, things will saaggggg.  When you drop weight with dieting alone, you also lose valuable muscle mass.  Women tend to lose muscle mass as the get older anyways.  That is what we don’t want.  I was ‘skinny fat’.  You can be thin but out of shape and not looking all that great.  You need muscle to give your body a nice shape and fight gravity.

My mom, who looks great after having four kids, told me to lift weights to fight the ‘sag’ factor.  I started working out with her ‘Firm’ videos and never looked back.  me

I really recommend waiting 4-6 weeks (more after a C-section) before you start an intense exercise program.  After going through the trauma of birth, sleepless nights, stress, etc. you need to be gentle on your body or you risk doing more harm than good.  I recommend making sure your iron levels aren’t depleted.  Also, breastfeed because it is SO good for you and the baby.

You’ll want to ease into exercise.  If you overdo it you’ll feel like you got hit by a truck the next day!  Look for ‘beginner’ or ‘intermediate’ exercise videos you can do at home while your baby naps.  A great tip I’ve learned to prevent killer D.O.M.S. (muscle soreness) is to drink a high quality protein shake and take a tart cherry supplement right after your workout.  It helps a ton.

Make sure the bulk of your diet is protein and healthy fat.  I limit carbs to under 120 grams a day.  You want to eat healthy, especially if you are breastfeeding.  If you try to ‘starve’ the weight off you will be miserable (hangry!) and setting yourself up to binge on junk food.  There are no quick fixes.  If you make good choices consistently, you will achieve lasting results.  And you’ll feel so much better too.  A sample ‘go-to’ meal for me would be a turkey burger cooked in coconut oil with steamed cauliflower with butter and sea salt.

I don’t know about you but I’ve gone from my normal ‘A’ cup to well…. we’ll just say ‘milk jug’ proportions multiple times.  When you are done and the milk dries up, you can end up with what I refer to as ‘deflated party balloons’.  You don’t have to resort to surgery to get them looking *ahem* perky again.  You do have to sweat.  One word- pushups.  You can also do chest press but pushups are the ultimate exercise to lift and shape.  You can start on your knees and work your way up to doing them on your toes.  Pushups are one of the very best exercises you can do.  They target your chest but really work your entire body.

Everyone wants a nice ‘backside’.  Your glutes are a large muscle group.   So that means you need to hit them with heavy weights to really challenge them.  Also, because they are a large muscle group- working them means getting your heart rate way up (to torch calories and work your heart).  I love deadlifts; they really target your backside but also work your hamstrings and low back as well.  Squats and lunges are always effective.  Remember the lower you go in the movement, the more you will activate your glutes.  Start with light weights.  Make sure you have good form before hitting the barbell or heavy dumbells.  You will want to keep increasing your weights as you get stronger.  Don’t worry about ‘bulking’ up.  Women don’t have enough testosterone to get big like a guy.  If you are eating right you will slim down and tighten up.  I squat 90 pounds (including the barbell) and deadlift 50 pounds.

Carrying around your small child all day can mess up your back.  So you definitely want to work on core and back strength.  Planks are awesome for your core region.  If you can work your way up to pull-ups, they are the ultimate back exercise.  Back rows or even doing planks rows are also great.  Keeping your abs ‘engaged’ (pulled in tight) while you exercise will protect your low back and help you get a flat stomach.

For cardio I recommend keeping it short and intense.  Long runs, counterintuitively, aren’t as effective.  When you work out for more than an hour or so your body will start pumping out stress hormones and breaking down your hard-earned muscle.  Not conducive to our goals!  I usually stick with doing HIIT (high intensity interval training) a couple times a week.

Kegels are your best friend.  Unless you want to leak every time you jump or sneeze!  Moms out there; you know exactly what I mean.  Carrying and then delivering a baby puts a lot of stress on your pelvic floor muscles.  Set a time every day to do you kegels and do them.  I do them when I get ready in the morning.  They really do help, so you don’t have to worry about ‘leaking’ every time you work out.

I work out at a gym because I like all the extra equipment and childcare.  But I really recommend starting with some good DVDs.  I learned basically everything I know from the excellent instruction of Cathe Friedrich, Jari Love, and Michelle Dozois.  You can pick up a couple Jillian Michaels DVDs and a set of dumbells for under $50.  If you are short on cash, most libraries do have workout DVDs you can check out.

The point is, just do something.  Do what you can so you can be strong mentally and physically and be your very best for your loved ones.  Feeling good about yourself impacts every area of your life.   We all start as beginners.  Time passes anyways, we might as well put in the time and sweat to be a better version of ourselves a month from now, right?  🙂

Healthy and Lean in 2015

Confession: I am a research junky and especially for all things fitness and health.  Here are some of the things I have learned along the way and incorporated into my lifestyle to stay fit and healthy.  My approach is very much DIY and natural.  When I started running into health problems in my early 20’s (thyroid, digestion, mood swings, chronic fatigue, hair loss, etc.) I just didn’t find much help or relief from mainstream health care.  I had to figure a lot out on my own, and make lifestyle changes- or spend the rest of my life feeling awful.

God designed a marvel when he crafted the human being.

“So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

With proper diet and lifestyle the body will heal itself and good health will result.  Here are my top 11 tips to help get you there:

1.  Cut out sugar.  Yes, I know, many of us balk at this.  Sugar is addictive.  Perhaps as much as any street drug.  There are studies where poor lab mice where exposed to sugar water and cocaine.  The mice chose the sugar over the cocaine.  Want to be shocked?  In the year 1700 the average person consumed only 4 pounds of sugar a year.  In 2009, 50% of Americans consumed 1/2 a pound a day!  That’s 180 pounds per year.  EW!!!  Throughout human history sugar was a rare commodity item.  Obviously, that is not the case anymore.  Cut out sweets, pop, dessert, ‘health’ food like sweetened yogurt, ultra-sweetened tea and coffee and your body will thank you.  That is, after you get past the withdrawls.  I do have a wicked sweet tooth so I allow myself some dark chocolate everyday, fruit, and sometimes some natural honey in tea.  You’ll see a near immediate improvement in your skin, more stable mood, and clearer thinking.  Also, the less sugar you eat, the less you crave it.  It gets easier with time until things like cake don’t even look appetizing.

2.  Cut back on carbs.  Try to think of your metabolism as an engine.  Carbs are fuel.  If you take in more than you need it gets stored as fat.  If you have an active lifestyle you can eat more.  If you are sedentary and eat a lot of pasta and bread it will get converted to weight gain.  Our bodies are nifty like that.  Chose good carbs.  A banana before a workout.  A baked sweet potato with dinner.  Not a huge bowl of lucky charms for breakfast.  Really limit grains- wheat, corn, etc.  Many of us can’t properly digest them anyways.  Most of what you buy in the store is GMO and has higher levels of pro-inflammatory lectins and phytic acid.  If you need to lose weight, cut way back on carbs.  Your body is then forced to tap into all those nifty resources stored on your tummy or backside.

3.  Eat saturated fat.  Lots of saturated fat.  It’s delicious, filling, and….healthy?  Yes!  ‘Shockingly’ the government and ‘experts’ aren’t telling you the truth.  I’ll give you a moment to process your shock….  There are many studies out there disproving that saturated fat clogs arteries or leads to heart disease.  Check out nourishing tradition or the Weston Price foundation.  I eat lots of butter, coconut oil, half&half, and only drink whole milk.  Throw out your vegetable/canola oil, it is complete junk.

4.  Eat protein with every meal.  When possible, chose grass fed meats and free range eggs.  Nuts are great too.

5.  Eat your veggies.  Everyone know that right?  Try new ones.  Put them in soups.  Find different ways to cook them.  Throw greens in a smoothie.  There are lots of way to get in more veggies.  Check out #3- most veggies taste great steamed and covered in butter and sea salt.

6.  Lower your thermostat.  Exposing your body to cold temperatures actually activates your lazy white fat to convert to highly active/calorie torching/insulin level improving brown fat.  Babies are born with a lot of brown fat.  But in our comfortably temperature controlled modern living we lose most of it.  We keep our thermostat at 65 degrees during the day and 64 at night.  You do get used to it and then anything warmer feels uncomfortably warm.  Make your body fat work for you!

7.  Switch over to natural body care/home products.  Conventional products contain petrol chemicals and absorb right through our skin and mess with our hormones.  I love desert essence shampoo, conditioner and lotion.  The crystal stick deodorant takes care of the gnarliest b.o.!  Throw out air fresheners (toxic junk) and scent your home with essential oils.  I threw out most of our cleaners and now use my super simple & cheap cleaner of distilled water, vinegar, and lemon oil to clean just about anything.

8.  Stop running and lift weights.  Long, steady-state cardio actually decreases your metabolism and contributes to inflammation.  Weight training increases your metabolic rate, burns tons of calories, improves body composition, improves insulin sensitivity, boosts mood, prevents osteoporosis, fights gravPhysical Fitness for Women. Jill Coleman. MR.ity (important after having kids!) and obviously makes you stronger.  All you need is a set of dumbbells or even just your own body weight.  I love workout DVDs by Cathe Friedrich or Jari Love for motivation and tips for good form.

9.  Limit screen time.  U.S. adults are spending an average of 11 hours and 52 minutes every day with some form of media.  Shut off the t.v. (or better yet, cancel your cable) and go live.  This is your life and it is slipping away day by day.  I’m all for a good movie or interesting documentary… but don’t use media as escapism from reality.  Conquer goals.  Clean your house.  Exercise.  Volunteer.  Wrestle with your kids.  Crank up the music and dance like no one is watching.  (and uh…shut your blinds so no one is!!!)  You’ll be happier and less jaded.

10.  Supplements instead of medicine.  Or better yet- supplements as medicine.  If you have minor medical problem, spend some time googling natural cures before running to the Doctor for an RX.  I take turmeric, cod liver oil, chlorella, and probiotics every day.

11.  Live life connected to God.  Just from a physical health standpoint- the benefits are innumerable.  Replace worry with prayer.  Be thankful instead of gripe-full.  Practice forgiveness instead of grudge-holding.  Replace negative thought patterns with scriptural truth.  God said that His mercies are fresh each morning (Lamentations 3:23).  Each day is a fresh start with Jesus!  There is a very real mind/body connection.  If things aren’t right in your soul it is only a matter of time before your physical health suffers.

That is it folks.  Here is to a healthier you in the coming year!