A couple of years ago, my husband deployed with the National Guard. About a month into the deployment, I took my kids to my brother’s house for our family Christmas celebration. My rambunctious son wanted to play tag in the back yard, but about five minutes in I found I was winded! While I stood there huffing and puffing like I’d just run a marathon, I decided that I wanted to be able to keep up with him and stop saying “Sorry, buddy, Mommy’s tired” all the time.
My weight had continually fluctuated over the years, with kids, work and stress all playing a part. But that day, when I couldn’t keep up with my son, I was at the heaviest I had ever been. More than wanting to lose weight, I just wanted to feel better, physically and about myself. So, I decided to change. A super-fit friend of mine told me that diets rarely work because they are so temporary. The only thing that works reliably is a total lifestyle change.
I started out small by opting for healthier choices at meal times. I found that little substitutions led to more awareness about what I was eating. Then, I started getting active. I started paying more attention to that little app on my watch that tracked my number of steps and my physical activity. I saw some small improvements and I lost five pounds, but it took a while and I found that I still wasn’t in a place where I could chase my kids around. I knew I had to do more, but I live 30 miles from the nearest gym and didn’t like going. Pair that with having two small kids and a full-time job, and it started to feel like my goal was hopeless. But, if I couldn’t drag myself to the gym, maybe I could bring the gym to me.
I searched around and found someone selling a used elliptical machine for $100, which I set up in my bedroom. Now I could watch my favorite shows while working out, and it made it feel less daunting. At first, I couldn’t go for very long or use the high resistance options, but I got better with each day. I also started looking for self-paced workout programs to supplement my elliptical routine. I finally found one online that was Pilates-related, and I was instantly hooked. All this time I thought that workout routines were boring, too hard or too complicated. But for whatever reason, I found that Pilates spoke to me. Maybe it was because the idea behind Pilates is not to lose weight but to get stronger. For the next six months, I did my cardio on the elliptical a few days a week, did about 20 minutes of Pilates a day and made healthier eating choices. I wasn’t obsessed with weight, and I still ate my fair share of cheesecake, but by consciously trying to get stronger I was able to get to the point that I could not only play tag with my son but beat him in a foot race. During my husband’s deployment, I lost 45 lbs. and never went to the gym once. I found a spare 30-40 minutes in my day to work out at home and replaced a bowl of sugary breakfast cereal in the morning with an apple.
Once I started down this path with intention, it was so much easier to maintain it. Even now, I still work out five days a week and choose salad instead of fried food for dinner. I am not obsessed with fitness, but I have maintained my healthy self through a conscious lifestyle change. My motivation was getting healthier for my kids, not how I looked in a swimsuit. With simple goals – and a bit or hard work – I was successful. And you can be, too!