Here are some things I have learned over the past few years:
- Small changes - replace the unhealthy food items with healthy choices slowly - this takes time and patience as you are trying new things. Not everything you try will be a home run for you.
- Research ingredients and what you are feeding your family. For years, I was obsessed with calorie content, fat, carbs, etc... But now the most important thing to me is that ingredient list. Learn to read labels. Learn where your food comes from. If it contains chemicals, GMO's or is highly processed, it doesn't make into my shopping cart. I shoot for mostly organic when possible.
- If you don't like what the store has to offer, make it yourself. One of the things I decided to make at home a couple years back is bread. I make all of our bread now from scratch weekly. It doesn't take long and I can control what ingredients are in it. I also make my own salad dressings and other items that are usually highly processed or loaded with chemicals in the store. I will occasionally buy bread (when crunched for time) from the Great Harvest Bread company, who makes the most delicious organic whole wheat, white and cinnamon bread (they post their ingredients online and in the store).
- Plan your week! I plan our meals out a week ahead of time, usually on a Thursday night, and do my shopping list (and online order) at the same time. Then it's done - no wondering what's for dinner every night.
- Where do I shop for food? I will start by saying I am not a 'couponing' type person - I just don't have that time. I break up my shopping between 2 or 3 stores mostly. I do my online food order (for pickup) from Harris Teeter, and buy my basics there - mostly organic basics and lunch essentials, paper goods, etc. Then, first thing on Saturday morning, I drive to Whole Foods for produce, meats, organics and other specialty items I can't buy elsewhere. I also love their bulk bins there. This is my favorite food store in the entire world, hands down. The Whole Foods '365' brand, by the way, is extremely budget friendly. We will also go to the Farmers Market every so often as time permits. Sometimes I will hit Earthfare as well if they have good sales - Earthfare is sort of like a Whole Foods-Lite. (Both stores are within 2 miles of my house). I just recently started going to Aldi for some items - and while I just don't love Aldi like everyone else does, I still have found a few things there at a very good price like our sparkling water that we go through by the case, and the kids school snacks. I am cautious with Aldi because I am skeptical where some of the food actually comes from and they have a lot of processed packaged food which I do not buy anyway. I also recently tried some coupon apps like Ibotta and Favano... the jury is still out on those ... I will let you know how much I like them once I have had enough time to use them thoroughly,
- The easiest way to keep things in check is write down and record what you are eating daily. It's an eye opener to say the least.
- You can, unfortunately, only control what's eaten under your roof. Not all situations are ideal. You can't control everything outside of your home when it comes to food or the choices that will be given to your children. This was one of the hardest things for me to accept is that I can't control every scenario. I feel like our lifestyle at home rubs off on my kids and I hope it will benefit them long term without them even knowing it.
- Get the entire family involved with making food. Julianna loves to help me put recipes together and now Tyler loves to help as well, even if it's just pouring in the measured ingredients. When I get the stand mixer out, they ask "Oh are you making bread?". This is the stuff I hope will stay with them down the road. Learning to cook and the ability feed yourself (other than 'take out' food) is an important life skill and requirement for kids as they get older.
- Move. It doesn't matter what you do, but just make sure you move. Get off your butt and go! Go for a walk, jog, take a burn bootcamp class, go to the gym, walk on the treadmill, or dance around. Whatever works for you. It has taken me a couple years to finally realize that eating 'healthy' by itself will no longer keep the weight off or keep me as healthy as I should be. Up until a few months ago, I haven't done any sort of exercise in 10 years other than walking a few times a week. Just under 3 months ago, I started working out at home before the kids get up in the morning 5 days a week doing Beachbody on Demand. It's super awesome! I feel like I hit the ground running to start my day. In addition to my morning workout, I try to walk daily and lately have started jogging, which is something I have always wanted to do but was too scared to try. I manage to somehow squeeze it all in and I feel better than I have in years at 46 years old! I would love to run a 5k - maybe I will work up to that.
- Don't 'ram' the 'good food/bad food' down your kids throats. Lead by example. For instance, we use certain terms in the house like 'this is healthy for our bodies' and "I feel good when I eat this because it gives me energy", and phrases like that. Salad is good for your body! We don't ever say anything like "french fries will make you fat' because I feel it is not something the kids need to hear or put preconceived notions in their heads. We try to word it like ' lets try something different today other than french fries' or if they insist on them when we go out to eat, we will say "Let's have something healthy with it like fruit!" and they go for it... most times. Their favorite thing to eat before bedtime is strawberries while we read books. Don't tell them "If you eat that, you will get fat" and surely don't let them hear you saying how fat you are feeling today - save that for when you are out of earshot and go ahead and curse yourself out then! haha. And we do buy ice cream - I just buy the kind with real ingredients and without carrageenan and other nasty ingredients in it (Yuck!).
- Believe in what you practice. There is more than one right way to live a healthy lifestyle. Don't preach friends or family about how they should be doing things since it's a touchy subject. I talk to people about what we eat and our beliefs but I don't force it on anyone. Everyone else has their own way of doing things. You can only control your own. Do what you think is best for your family. Stand by your values. I pack my kids lunch every day before school, and I personally do not mind doing it because I do not care for the food served in school. But I play it up as mommy likes to pack lunches and surprise them daily - they love it too.
- Find something that inspires you, no matter how little it may be. For me, I like to read the Fitbit Community posts on my Fitbit app - they motivate me because I see that I am not the only one out there struggling some times. Find your inspiration and let it motivate you.
- Does junk food make it into our house? You betchya! Once in a while it does. I would like to blame my husband but he's not always the culprit. My kids go to school and sometimes bring things home like candy given to them in school. Sometimes you just have to pick your battles and say we'll do better next time.
- Weight loss or being healthy is a journey. Don't beat yourself up. Everyone has bad days (OK, bad weeks even!) and good days. Sadly, I had 10 bad years! Ha! It's a journey and a marathon - not a 50 yard sprint. There is no miracle pill or magic diet. Being healthy takes thought, mindfulness, willpower, want, and longevity. You have to do it for yourself because no one is going to do it for you. I have learned to accept the fact (recently) that no matter how hard I try, I may only lose a half a pound every 2 weeks, or none at all. And I am finally OK with that. My goal is to wear a bikini by next summer... Let's see if I can make that happen! :)
And finally, here are some pictures from this summer for anyone that still reads and follows my sad little lonely blog anymore! :)