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?  🙂

Coconut Oil

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This was the cup of coconut coffee I just enjoyed.  I got the recipe from http://wellnessmama.com/5673/healthy-coffee/  I used closer to just a tsp. coconut oil and a tsp. organic butter and I added a tiny bit of natural bliss sweet cream creamer.  I believe, like chocolate; coffee needs a teensy bit of sweetness to be truly delicious.  The coffee was really surprisingly delicious, smooth and satisfying.  Great for people who don’t eat breakfast.

There are tons of good resources out there on the benefits of coconut oil.  I’ll just share a bit of my experience with this increasingly popular superfood.

I think I first heard of the health benefits of coconut oil when I was researching to find answers to my digestive problems (that has been a journey in itself!) and I learned that many of us have candida overgrowth.  Candida is the yeast/fungus that causes thrush and yeast infections.  It can also overpopulate the intestines and cause all sorts of problems like sugar and carb cravings, bloating, mood swings, weight gain, etc.  It is exacerbated by the fact that our water is treated with chlorine and our medical system over prescribes anti-biotics; both of which kill off healthy gut bacteria that would keep candida under control.

Coconut is high in lauric and caprylic acid which kills off candida and other yucky junk in our systems that shouldn’t be there, without damaging healthy bacteria.  The effect is so strong that just a spoonful can cause massive die-off symptoms.  My husband tried a spoonful and felt gross for 3 days.  You need to work your way up to feeling the positive benefits.  When you kill off candida you can get flu-like symptoms.  You may do some ‘cleansing’ as your digestive system is freed up to work more effectively.  It doesn’t last forever though and trust that you will feel so much better when you get your gut healthy.

Coconut oil, while technically a fat, actually helps your burn fat.  It is highly thermogenic and your body can easily use it for energy instead of storing it as fat.

Coconut oil is a superfood in that it has a wide range of benefits and contributes to over all health and well-being.

I struggled keeping up my milk supply after my third child.  I made oatmeal cookies with coconut oil and ate them every day.  I was able to breastfeed for the full 18 months that I had planned.  I also saw a great improvement in my baby’s health as I incorporated large amounts of coconut oil into my diet.

Coconut oil also works well used topically on skin and hair.  It is great for treating sunburns (especially with a couple drops of lavender!) and heals skin overnight.  It makes a great hot oil treatment for moisturizing damaged, dry hair as well.

It works as medicine when melted and gently poured into an ear to treat an infection.  It is also a gentle and totally natural cure for yeast infections.  One of my children has cradle cap.  I treat it by massaging coconut oil into his scalp, letting it sit for 20 minutes, and then washing his hair.  His scalp is also 100% smooth afterwards.

I take a spoonful every morning and I do believe it has improved my health.  I use it often as medicine and food.  It works well in baking, and imparts a slight coconut flavor.  For cooking savory dishes (or making popcorn) I use refined coconut oil.  It still has a lot of the benefits but no coconut flavor (and it’s cheaper!).

Have you tried coconut oil?  What great uses have you found for it?

Buzzkill

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I saw this at my local Starbucks.  Who wants to know that 3-4 bites of a decadent brownie has nearly 400 calories?  I was shocked because it wasn’t very big either.  Back in the day I would have happily eaten this, along with a mocha, and called it ‘lunch’.  I can’t eat stuff like this anymore unless I want to feel awful for the rest of the day.

It got me thinking though of how we all have our little vices and temptations.  Brownies, overspending, t.v., whatever.  It is simply human nature to want to indulge without carefully considering the cost.

I’ve had so many people say to me, “You’re skinny now but just wait till you hit age (insert random age here) you’ll instantly gain (insert weight gain here).  I used to be thin too and then I hit that magic age and this weight suddenly appeared.”  Followed with a knowing nod.  What?  I totally agree staying fit and at your ‘fighting’ weight gets harder with age.  I’ve especially noticed after my 3rd child my body wanted to stay 10 pounds heavier than it used to be.  But you can stay fit and healthy, regardless of age, with a little work… if you are willing.

I’m not going to just throw in the towel and settle down with chips and ice cream though.  Well, ok I have been lately.  You know how it goes- a treat turns into a daily thing.  Before you know it you have replaced hard-won healthy habits with not so healthy habits.

I don’t personally struggle with motivation to work out.  I love working out, I really do.  But I also love Mexican food.  And chocolate ice cream.  And popcorn…you get the drift.  😉  And I realize I’m at an age where I can’t eat that stuff all the time without gaining weight and feeling awful.  Buzzkill.

I had made a lot of progress and gotten to my goal size.  Then I slowly (ahem quickly) stopped logging my calories with fitness pal and lost my progress I had made.  I had been avoiding the scale and in a bit of denial.

A couple days ago I forced myself onto it and yep, I had regained the weight.  It was actually a bit freeing to just face it.  I am back to tracking my carbs and calories and armed with motivation, I know I will succeed.

I think it is human nature to over-indulge and then actively stay in denial.  Huge debt usually doesn’t just ‘happen to you’.  Failed marriages don’t just happen.  Ruined reputations usually don’t just happen.  Granted, there are exceptions.  But usually we ruin our own lives and sabotage our own goals with a lack of self-control and the elaborate self-deception that keeps us heading the wrong direction and head simultaneously in the sand.

“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” Proverbs 25:28

Living a life of balance and exercising self-control (the only fruit of the spirit involving ‘self’) can protect us from so much unnecessary heartbreak and so many problems.

Our flesh balks at discipline.  Every day I face the internal struggle of ‘I want chips or sweets or whatever food I shouldn’t be eating’ usually paired with ‘I deserve it because of this or that’…but then I remember I am going to have to enter that into my food diary.  Buzzkill.  I previously solved that problem by eating said food and then just not entering it in!  And before I knew it my jeans were suddenly shrinking again.

I realize my food intake and weight aren’t super-important in the long run.  But you know we lose or win the war in the daily little battles.  I want to live a life guarded against the destructive schemes of the enemy by daily practicing the discipline of self-control.

Paul said, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” 1 Cor. 9:25-27

Self-control is difficult in the short run, true- but it yields such incredible rewards.  Let’s embrace it’s daily discipline today and enjoy its fruits tomorrow.

Lower-Carbing Update

So far, so good.  I have been gluten-intolerant for years so being on a funky diet is not a big deal for me.  I am feeling better and seeing results.  I am still tracking with my fitness pal every day.  I am a pretty active person so I am still eating around 2,000 calories and 110 carbs a day. I’ve discovered some new low carb snacks-

-lightly roasted pumpkin seeds.  Delicious, filling, super healthy.

-salad of spinach and hummus for dressing.  Again, filling and a decent way to eat hummus without corn chips.

-detour protein bars.  I know, protein bars taste a little card-boardy but these aren’t too bad and great on the go.

-fast-food option of a cheeseburger sans bun.  You can get it wrapped in lettuce or eat it with a fork.

-filtered, high-protein milk.  So good, lactose free, and a lower carb option.  I use it to make lattes (so good) and protein shakes.

-dark chocolate.  There is no way I am giving it up!  Traders Joe’s has an awesome low-carb bar.  Even regular 70% chocolate can fit into a low-carb diet.  Yay!

…and the old standbys of hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese, almonds, cheese, and chicken.

I’ve been hitting the gym almost every day too.  I mostly focus on training with my body weight (isn’t that usually enough?) or weights really heavy enough to kick my butt.

Diet Update

A bit over a week ago I saw a very unflattering picture and decided to tackle those last five pounds head-on.  They weren’t going away on their own!  In my early 20’s I could be lax in my diet as long as I worked out and be very thin.  Now, not so much.  I know I am also very prone to insulin resistance (baby diabetes).  My blood sugars were super high in my pregnancies.  Eating sugar or refined carbs really negatively affects my mood and energy levels.  I am also type ‘O’ blood which does well with a diet of mostly meat and veggies.  I’ve seen from experience that I feel best when that is the bulk of my diet.

So, I’ve been tracking calories and carbs with the fitness pal app on my phone.  It isn’t nearly as much of a pain in the butt as I thought it would be.  It has brought much needed structure to my eating and it takes out the guesswork.  No more mindless munching on my ‘healthy’ chips or acting like my kid’s leftover eater-upper.  😉  I take a deep breath and assure myself it is ok to throw away their last few bites of food.  The world won’t stop spinning.

So, I am down 1 1/2 pounds.  Jeans are a bit looser.  Most importantly, I am feeling much better.  I am so much calmer.  I haven’t been yelling like a psycho at my kids for acting like, well kids!  I haven’t even been craving the junk.  It really dawned on me yesterday cause I did over-indulge in sugar.  I felt like I had taken a hit of crack and craved more sugar for hours.

I am keeping calories around 1,500 and carbs under 100 for days when I don’t work out.  When I do I eat about 1,900 calories and like 120 grams of carbs.  Nothing too crazy or extreme.  I’ve been eating lots of high quality protein (about 100 grams a day) and usually up to 90 grams of fat.  Also, lots of low carb veggies like broccoli, spinach, and cauliflower.  I’ve noticed as my eating habits are changing it is positively affecting my family as well.  We are all eating more veggies and less junk.  🙂

Much love, Sierra

New Leaf

Low-Carb-Diet-Food-ListSo I have downloaded (and deleted!) the fitness pal app on my phone like 3 times!  I need to be more disciplined but it is a irritating having to enter everything you eat.  So, I re (re!) downloaded it this morning and started tracking calories and carbs.

I know I don’t need to lose weight, it is more of a vanity thing (keep it real!).  I hung on to an extra five pounds after having Shiloh that just don’t want to go!  I’ve lost and regained the same few pounds like 6 times.  Five pounds on me means not fitting into most of my pre-baby jeans.  And a nagging irritation at not being where I want to be.

So, I am going to do this for accountability and discipline.  I am going to try to keep carbs under 100 grams a day.  I am pretty active so I don’t want to do too low-carb.

Has anyone had success with low-carb before?  Any advice or tips?