One Pound Forward, Two Pounds Back

It’s been a few months now since I recommitted to living a healthier life once again, and you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t made too many mentions of it since. Well, there’s a pretty simple reason for that. In a turn of events that shocks absolutely no one, I’m sure, things have not gone super rosily in the healthy living department. ::shrug::

I was doing really well for quite a while, actually: logging all my food, being more mindful of my eating, and what have you. I lost around 10 pounds, which might sound like a decent amount, but while it isn’t anything to sneer at, 10 pounds really isn’t all that much when you’re my size & height. It was a good start. But you all know how it goes: maybe Penny had a bad week sleepwise, or I had a bunch of work commitments, or I went out of town, and little by little I just, I dunno, slid back into my old habits. And things just kind of… settle. I haven’t stepped on the scale in a couple of weeks, but I have a feeling I’ve started to gain back a couple of even the small amount of pounds I lost.

As I’ve mentioned before, having Penny really has changed my perception of my body and given me true appreciation for what I’ve got. So I’m being honest when I say I hadn’t been as bothered by weight the same way I used to be… until quite recently. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been extra bloated this past week, or because my skin has been freaking out on me, or just because I’m whatever pre-Penny mindset I used to have is finally starting to creep back in, but I simply haven’t been feeling very good about myself lately. I find myself groaning at photos of myself, whining to Sean, agonizing over what to wear, and just generally not feeling myself.

 

Regardless of whatever number I see on the scale, I just want to regain the feeling of being happy when I look in the mirror. I want to feel good about myself, to take photos with Penny without feeling self-conscious about how I look, and to focus on how beautiful and wonderful she is instead. I want to look into my closet without my first thought being about how I can best disguise my mid-section today. I just want to reinvigorate my confidence — mostly for my own happiness and wellbeing, but also because I don’t ever want to surround Penny with the kind of negative self-talk (or even self-thought!) that has plagued me for most of my life.

So, you know, that’s where I’m at! Now that Penny seems to have gotten a handle on sleeping all night (for this past week, at least… watch, just typing out that sentence will totally have jinxed it and tonight is gonna be terrible hahaha), it seems like a great time to focus on myself a little bit more again. So it’s back to the basics for me! I’m trying to make sure I stay super well-hydrated, move more, grocery shop, meal plan, and just be mindful about what I put into my body. I actually have been a lot better about getting a smidgen of movement going a little more often, even if it’s cleaning the house (which I think totally counts!) or taking Penny or the dogs on a quick walk around the neighborhood.

 

But my latest greatest problem is constantly waiting too long to eat, so by the time I finally get around to it I make all my food decisions out of hanger and desperation. I also don’t get to the grocery store nearly as often as I should, and so while we have been doing better with regard to not eating out or ordering in quite as much as we were before, it’s still just suuuuuch an easy fallback solution for us. Having real food around the house so I can whip up really is really key to me staying on track.

So my mom was dealing with some health issues at the beginning of this year that led her to go on an elimination diet in an attempt to suss out what’s been giving her grief. It’s been SUPER strict (and she’s just in the phase now of starting to add things back in) but it’s actually done her a lot of good — she says she has more energy, her joints don’t hurt as much, and as a kind of unintentional effect, she’s lost quite a bit of weight as well. She’s been talking to me a lot about her diet and suggested that I cut out sugar since she feels like that’s the thing that has caused her the most issues.

Based on my past history with diets and disordered eating, I don’t think it’s realistic for me to cut anything out of my diet completely, but I will admit that I’m starting to wonder if it might do me some good to cut back on sugar, simple carbs, etc. I mean, this probably sounds like a no-brainer to some of you, but eh, you know me, I gotta do everything in my own time. And since I have been a little extra indulgent in the sugar department lately (regular soda, chocolate, and lattes being specific culprits), I’m wondering if that might be contributing to my skin acting up and feeling as bloated as Jabba the Hut.

I know that I need to cut back on my dairy consumption again too… or at least to frickin’ remember to take my Lactaid since my lactose intolerance seems to have made its unfortunate return as well (it went away during my pregnancy!).

Penny’s face pretty much sums up how I feel about all that… so I’m still in the “just thinking about it” stage with regard to the sugar thing right now, haha. But I am already dialing back on the dairy, and we’ll see how all of that goes. Pasta is also often our fallback easy dinner (because, duh, pasta is delicious), and while I’m anywhere near willing to say goodbye to noodles, I do think I need to start refocusing on balance when it comes to the meals we prepare at home as well. Ugh, why is there always so much to consider! ANYWAY. The entire point of this useless post is for me to simply say: here’s to getting back to that wonderful place where I feel healthy and happy, but not deprived!

Wish me luck. Heh.

Reprioritizing My Health

Well, I’ve messed up like seven different forms by signing the wrong year on the signature line, so it really must a new year, huh? Happy 2018! If you’re on the East Coast, I hope you’re staying WARM — the temperatures have been insanely low this past week! Like, lows of 5 and 6 degrees Fahrenheit. Brrrr! At least it’s giving me a chance to show off Penny’s clutch winter wardrobe.

I used to live in Canada, so you’d think that I’d be a tough nut when it comes to below-freezing temps, but I guess my body has simply forgotten what it used to go through every winter, because I’ve been shivering a-plenty over the past few days.


Penny be like: It’s HOW cold outside?!
It’s kinda like how my body also conveniently forgot what it was to wake up every 2-3 hours at night with a crying baby, even though that was my life just a few short months ago. Oh, but DON’T WORRY. Penny has been thoughtfully reminding me of what it was like each night this week. We are definitely still in the throes of the dreaded four-month sleep regression, and with the exception of the night after she got her four-month vaccine shots (when she slept for eight glorious hours straight), every night for the past week has been a wild & crazy ride of constant night wakings. ::cry:: ::yawn::

How can one so adorable ’cause so much sleeplessness?

Honestly, the waking every few hours isn’t even the hardest part, really. Not compared to how hard it’s been the past two nights in trying to get her to go to sleep. We were in a really good rhythm of being able to put her to bed awake, pop in her pacifier, and she’d drift off all on her own. Weeeeell, last night in particular was ROUGH. I’m hoping it was just a particularly bad fluke of a night, but hot damn, I’ve never heard her scream and squeal and cry the way that she was last night as Sean tried to get her to go to sleep. I ended up having to nurse her down. It really is just like old times!

I’m tentatively hopeful that now that she’s had a few days past receiving her shots, and also since my sister and her family returned home to Georgia last week (which is sad but at least should help me get Penny back to her regular nighttime routine since I won’t be spending like 92% of my time at my parents’ house, lol), that things will start to get back to “normal.” Whatever normal is.

But then again, she is only four months old, and she is still going through Leap 4, and she is, well, a baby. So there really is no such thing as normal right now, is there? We’ve been talking about transitioning her into her own room soon-ish, but I’m not sure it’s a good idea to start anything new while she’s still regressing (or is it regressed?). Plus, I’m like, weirdly obsessed with my kid, and selfishly I still like having her close by at night… even if she is waking me up every few hours.

For a while we had been kind of successful starting her in her crib at night, and then moving her back up to our room after she woke up the first time, (ahhh, the good old days when that wouldn’t be for a good five or six hours…) but it’s been a minute since we’ve done that. So right now I’m just trying to reacquaint her with her crib for the occasional nap, and we’ll see how things go from there.

ANYWAY. I swear I did not set out to have this entire post be about my lack of sleep. I actually had a very different, and very specific topic in mind: my post-baby health & weight loss plans! Though it may be hard to believe, I didn’t always blog solely about my kid, I swear. If you followed me before I got pregnant, you might remember that once upon a memory, I used to blog quite a lot about food, healthy living, and weight loss. In fact, I started blogging all those years ago (over SEVEN years ago, in fact!) with the explicit intention of losing weight.

And lost weight, I did! With the accountability that this blog provided, and the support I received from all of you, I managed to successfully lose exactly 60 pounds, going from 246 pounds to 186 pounds. I felt good, healthy, and strong at that weight, but for some reason, had it in my head that I needed to lose just a little bit more… but didn’t. And when my weight loss kept stalling out, when I started getting complacent, and when I stopped keeping track of what I was eating and how active I was being… I slid back. And the pounds slipped back on.

I’ve tried kickstarting my weight loss again… and again… and again… with varying degrees of success in the years since. Ten pounds here, twenty there… but nothing too significant and definitely nothing lasting ever came out of it. The pounds always came back on, because I always stopped trying, and life kept happening anyway — I fell in love with a great guy, got a job that I really love, I got married, I got pregnant, and I had a baby that I love, like, an insane, insane amount. And my weight just, I dunno, stopped mattering. Which, to be fair, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since I’ve spent time in the darkness of the other side where I’ve cared much too much, too.

So yeah, for the first time in my adult life, I can honestly say that I don’t really care that much about how much I weigh right now. I mean, sure, I don’t love the way I look in some photos, but generally, I’m, like, happy with my body? It’s weird to actually say that. It’s especially baffling because — spoiler alert — I’m actually at one of my highest weights ever. I’m heavier than I was 7 years ago when I first started this blog, that’s for sure. And yet, miraculously, I’m in this, like, really good headspace with regard to my body. Funny how growing an actual human being inside you changes your self-perception and body image, isn’t it?

Now, that said, the fact that I don’t actively loathe my body at this weight doesn’t mean I’, oblivious to the fact that it’s not healthy either. For the past few months, my lifestyle has become particularly unhealthy. Penny, obviously, takes up a lot of time, and less time means I’ve become accustomed to prioritizing convenience — eating out, ordering in, and drive-thrus — over health. And I hardly think I even need to mention my activity level — y’all can guess where that’s at. Aside from the daily workout I get carrying my 16 1/2 lb baby all over the house, I literally cannot remember the last time I worked out. It was before I got pregnant, I’m pretty sure. So, we’re talking about at least a year? Minimum? Yeesh.

And like, okay, I’m a new mom, right? Having given birth four months ago is, I feel, actually a pretty legitimate excuse for having a little (or, okay, a lot of) extra cushioning. Except, as you may know, I barely gained any weight during my actual pregnancy. I mean, obviously I was overweight when I started, and then I was sick for the first half of my pregnancy, and then Penny took up so much space inside me that my appetite was basically nil for the last third of it. So I waddled into the hospital at 37 weeks having gained like, 5 pounds. Lol.

I did have a secret hope that I’d lose weight from breastfeeding — and since I hadn’t really gained much “baby weight,” I was really hoping that nursing would be the easy weight loss solution I’d been searching for my whole life! But, alas, while many moms do shed the poundage when breastfeeding, I’m clearly not one of them. Nursing may burn extra calories, but it also has made me hungrier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. And between the ravenous ragebeast that is my hunger these days, and all the previously mentioned not-so-healthy lifestyle habits, the weight isn’t exactly falling off.

Alas, I packed on these pounds myself the regular way — by eating too much and moving too little. Giving birth to my daughter really had nothing to do with that part. But has everything to do with this next part.

Because that’s really the whole point, isn’t it? I need to — and want to — do this for Penelope. I want to be my healthiest self so that I don’t have to worry about being strong enough to carry her as she grows even bigger. So I can keep up with her when she starts to run and jump and play. And so she has a strong, happy, confident mom setting a good example for what it means to lead a healthy, balanced life.

So, here I am, jumping back onto the weight loss train for granted, like, the 50th time. And I know, I know, I’ve said before that “it feels different this time” or whatever. But it really DOES feel different this time. I mean, first of all, Penny, y’know, exists this time. Secondly, this was not motivated by some knee jerk reaction to seeing an unflattering photo or not being able to fit into a certain size, like some of my past attempts were. And lastly, I really am trying to set myself up for success right from the get-go by utilizing new tools and strategies to help me reach my goals.

Sean and I both love to cook, but often find ourselves uninspired in terms of what to make and what to buy at the grocery store. So we started getting Blue Apron meals to encourage us to cook more at home. And I signed up for Noom, which is a personalized weight loss coaching app that’s supposed to provide support in a way similar to programs like Weight Watchers. I’ve only been at it for a few days so far, so I’ll report more on how it’s going as time goes on (it’s subscription based, and there’s a free two-week trial period that I’m in right now.) But if you’re curious to try Noom as well, just leave a comment saying so and I can send you a link that gives you 50% off if you sign up and end up wanting to actually subscribe.

If your eyes haven’t completely rolled into the back of your head from the sheer wordcount of this post, congratulations! The tl;dr version is that I’m ready to reprioritize my health and losing some weight is a big part of that.

I have an initial goal of getting back down to 220 pounds, but am more focused on adopting healthier habits, cleaning up my eating, and increasing my activity level (slowly, however, as I’m sadly still dealing with some issues from my car accident back in November) than on a goal weight at this moment. And because I am still nursing, and limiting caloric intake can affect milk supply, I know that this may go slowly as I don’t really want to cut calories right now. Honestly, though, with how much I’ve been eating lately, simply tracking my food alone has already led to positive change. I’ve lost 4 pounds!

So here’s to 2018, to Penny, and to being our healthiest, happiest selves! Let’s do this.

Choosing Wisely

So passes the first weekend since my bold declaration about getting back in the weight loss game. Well, kind of, since it’s sort of a long weekend and it’s sort of still going if you’re not working today… but I digress.

Sean and I spent a lot time with his family this weekend, since his brother is visiting. Sean spends A LOT of time with *my* family (we’re a needy bunch, what can I say?) so I’m more than happy to tip the scale just slightly back in his favor, haha. We’ve grabbed a few meals together and took a daytrip up to Baltimore to visit the Aquarium, and so it actually was a more active (and enriching) weekend than I’ve had in a while, haha!

In addition to that, Sean managed to surprise me for the second year in a row with tickets to see Ari Hest in concert. Our very first date consisted of dinner and surprise tickets to see Ari Hest (which I guess, technically, means this is the third year in a row that he’s pulled this off.) Of course, now the joke’s on him, since clearly I’m going to expect this to happen next year now. Which I’m pretty sure means he has to continue doing this every year for the rest of eternity.

Aaanyway, clearly between all the various things going on, it was a pretty boss weekend. But it also, by nature of what went on, included a fair amount of going out to eat. So this weekend was pretty much my first test in seeing how much self-control I could muster with regard to my rebooted healthy living philosophy.

As you may know if you’ve been following this blog from before, I’m pretty lax when it comes to eating out. I’ve never been a proponent of the idea that being on a diet means you have to prepare ALL your own meals, eat at home EVERY night, and reserve going out for TRULY special occasions — it’s just not realistic for some people, and, while I certainly do love to cook, it’s really not realistic for me either. I mean, aside from the fact that I work for Yelp.com and so it is literally my job to know what all the best, newest, and hottest restaurants are in town, when it comes down to it, I just really like going out to eat.

I like restaurants, I like trying new foods, new cuisines, new dishes, and I just generally like the whole restaurant experience. Whether it’s for date night, happy hour with coworkers, or just meeting up for a bite to eat with a pal, I just like eating out. And I managed to lose 60 pounds perfectly fine without sacrificing my enjoyment of restaurants the first time around, so I don’t see why I can’t maintain that this time around! After all, just like last time, it’s all about making the right choices when you’re staring down that menu — and I don’t just mean in the obvious way.

So, let’s say you’re meeting a friend for dinner at some new trendy Mediterranean resto you’ve been wanting to try for ages. But, you’re on a diet. Or you’re watching your weight. Or you’re trying to #eatclean or you’re just trying not to feed into the Standard American Diet stereotype. Whatever the reason, you bypass the dishes of flaming cheese and french fried whatever, and your trained, seasoned dieter’s eyes head straight to the “Entree Salad” section of the menu. But… you already had a salad for lunch. Or, maybe you just don’t like salad. Maybe you just wanted to try the grilled octopus dish that folks have been RAVING about, or you hear the lamb burger calling your name. What do you do?

In ages past, I would probably say that the “right” choice would be to muster all that willpower, ignore the siren song of the slightly “unhealthier” dishes, and go for whatever salad sounds best — dressing on the side plz. I mean, it’s definitely the easy choice, right? After all, calories in < calories out, right? Weight loss! Willpower! Health! But... let's really think about this. Because what happens if you are unsatisfied with your dish? Well, I don't know about you, specifically, of course, but I do know about me. And I know that when it comes to me, ignoring a craving doesn't really work. And passing up something decadent for something healthy, because I think it's the "right" choice, has a nasty habit of backfiring on me. 'Cause what's gonna happen later? I'm probably still going to go in search of something to satisfy that earlier craving, and it probably won't be in a good way. See, eating healthy while eating out is, in my opinion, all about balance. It's about striking a balance between what you "should" have -- what's healthy, what's nutritionally solid, what will leave you satiated and well-fueled -- and what you WANT. I'm not saying that you should have license to eat crap because you say that you want it, though. Of course I'm not. I'm saying that the art (or science, depending on how you look at it) of eating out while trying to lose weight is more complicated than calories in vs. calories out. Scratch that, the art of eating PERIOD while trying to lose weight is complicated. Or, at least it is when you have prior food issues, like I do. Here are some examples, just from this past weekend! Sean took me to an Italian restaurant after the concert on Saturday, and, faced with a bevy of creamy, delicious-sounding pastas, I ended up choosing the dish with the fewest amount of calories off of their "Lighter Side" menu:

It was a 5 oz filet with grilled vegetables, totaling (according to the menu) a whopping 365 calories. But aside from the fact that it’s a pretty sad-looking plate (incidentally, the veggies were undercooked, the steak tasted pretty good but looked weird, and generally, I would not recommend), even if it had been an excellent plate of food I’m not sure I would have been happy with it… because it wasn’t really what I wanted. It’s just what I thought I should eat.

But in contrast, let’s look at another example from this weekend:

After the Baltimore Aquarium, we dined at Phillip’s Seafood in Inner Harbor, and I opted for the crab cake salad. I knew I wanted a crabcake — I was in Baltimore for crying out loud! I knew that crabcakes are not inherently the healthiest of foods. But I wanted one and knew I would regret not having it later. So I got a single crabcake with a nice salad on the side instead of a crabcake sammy with fries or any number of the other delicious-sounding items on their menu. And while, yes, I’m sure that eating it with french fries and cole slaw would have been even more delicious, I can say that I had a satisfying meal that I don’t have to feel guilty about.

It probably doesn’t even need to be said, but the same goes for eating dessert. If you want a little something sweet, have it. Otherwise you (or at least I) am more likely to end up making bad choices — maybe even binging — later when the craving gets too strong. After my delicious crabcake salad lunch, our entire party split a slice of pie:

Just a couple of bites were enough to satisfy my sweet tooth completely without making me feel laden down, guilty, or regretful at all. And I also didn’t go scavenging for something sweet later on! Win-win.

I’ve been rambling on for a while now, and I’m not 100% sure if I’m still making my point well, so I’ll cut myself off now. I guess the tl;dr message in all of this is: eating out does NOT have to come down to either making a “good” choice and feeling unsatisfied, OR getting what you want and feeling guilty. It doesn’t have to be an either/or, mutually exclusive situation at all. You can make choices you feel good about AND end up leaving the table happy and satiated — you just might have to get a little creative.

Deja Vu All Over Again (Weigh-in)

246.

That’s the number that I found myself face to face with (well, more like face to ground, since I was standing on a scale at that time) back in August, 2010. That is the number that caused my breath to catch in my lungs, the tears to well up in my eyes, and reality to hit me square in the chest. It’s the number that, nearly three and a half years ago, made my life literally come to a halt.

And thank God it did.

Because the life I was living at the time? Just having broken up with my first serious long-term boyfriend (for the first time… but that entire ordeal is, of course, another story)? Fresh out of one job that I absolutely hated, but into another one that was as boring as the last one had been horrible? A couch potato so lazy that I made other sedentary people look like marathoners? The not-so-proud owner of a myriad of serious food issues? That life was not so good.

So, it took me until I reached my highest (known) weight of 246 pounds for me to wake up and finally say, “Enough.” You know the story: I asked my brother to help me create a website, I posted my weight on the internet to humiliate myself keep myself accountable, and I actually — miraculously — started to turn things around.

Slowly but surely, the pounds started to come off and I started to grow up (a little, at least… I think), and one day I found myself 60 pounds lighter than when I started. But I still had the boyfriend issues (shockingly, it turns out, he wasn’t “The One” by a looooongshot), and I still had the boring job, and every day was still a struggle for me not to fall back into my old habits. I had to keep fighting not to backslide.

So when I did finally start to focus on those other, not as stellar parts of my life, it should come as no surprise to you all that I did start to backslide. It was just a little at first. A few extra pounds crept on, and I noticed but I told myself it wasn’t a big deal. Five extra pounds on a frame like mine? Nobody’ll even notice. Except… five eventually turned into ten. And ten turned into fifteen. And before I knew it…

I was almost right back to where I started.

Don’t get me wrong, some amazing things happened while those pounds were silently becoming part of my life again. I found an amazing new guy, I got my dream job, discovered how awesome it is to have unnatural colored hair, and, dude, I wrote a freaking book. But I had stopped making my health a priority — I’d stopped really caring at all. With everything else suddenly vying for my attention instead, the fight for my health just stopped seeming important.

Of course, all of those things are not an excuse for letting myself go, and I promise, I’m really not trying to make excuses at all. What happened happened, and now I’m back here, with my focus once again trained on my health. But, as my very wise and beautiful friend Cassie pointed out in her comment on my weight gain admittance post, maybe since now all those other things ARE right this time, juuuust maybe the fitness and the weight loss and, most importantly, the health stuff will stick around for the long run.

It took a lot of courage for me to post my weight on the internet three and a half years ago. I was terrified to do it. But, I gotta tell you, maybe it’s because hindsight is 20/20 (just like my vision is now, BOOM! Actually, j/k, my vision is 20/15 now. DOUBLE BOOM!), but it feels 80,000 times more mortifying to admitting my weight this time around.

Maybe it’s because I know I have coworkers reading now, or because there are more people reading in general, or maybe (most likely) it has something to do with the whole “I already failed once” thing… but I’m not going to dive too deeply into that now. This post is already heavy enough. The point is, even in my initial admittance post, I was too scared to admit my weight. I used a couple of vague statements to give a little perspective about how much I had regained, but I didn’t use any actual numbers. And, c’mon, you have to admit that was crappy of me, right?! I mean, I’m the girl that posts her weight on the internet so that God and her mother and all of her high school frenemies can see exactly how much she weighs, every week. I’m the girl that wants to help tear down the idea that a number can own anybody. And yet, I’m a girl who was scared of a frakking number?! Boourns.

Well, since you were all way too nice to call me out for that, I’ll do it myself: Gretchen, that was total BS. Own up to your number, and then take it DOWN. Literally. So, here we go. And, let me just say, that while some might consider this to be a sliiiight cop-out, since I waited until my first actual weigh-in (and thus, loss) to post my digits… Well, at least I’m still doing it.

Deep breaths, Gretchen. Deep breaths…

(Re)Starting Weight: 236.6 lbs
This Weigh-in: 233.4 lbs
Difference: -3.2 lbs

Yes, I gained back all but ten — just TEN — of the pounds I fought tooth and nail to lose. I regained FIFTY pounds. And I absolutely hate that I did. I won’t lie, it’s really, really hard not to hate myself for it. But as much as I wish I could time-travel back to every bad food decision and just straight up slap each hoagie, burrito, and pizza slice out of my hands, I can’t. All I can do is move forward, and hopefully downward, as I continue on this journey.

But hey, at least losing 3.2 pounds isn’t too terrible of a way to start, right?

What is Health? (Baby, don’t hurt me.)

Ha! After reading the title of this post, hopefully all of you have the song “What is Love” by Haddaway (made famous…er by the cinematic masterpiece Night at the Roxbury) stuck in your heads too. WELCOME TO MY HELL.

Also, hi. Happy Monday and whatnot. Today marks the official 1-week-til-baby day for my sister. Her due date is technically March 25th, so this weekend I’m headed down to Houston. Depending on the timing, I’ll either be welcoming the new little nugget (SQUEE! BABIES!), or I’ll helping my sister keep her sanity as she pushes a football out her hoo-ha in any way I can if the baby takes a little longer to come.

babyshower-069

Cue the episode of Friends, “The One Where Rachel is Late.” And man, this post is already full of delicious, outdated cultural references. Go me.

So, my weekend was actually pretty low key. Not a ton to report, which is a good thing for once! I’ve been able to do quite a bit of work on my second book, and get some ideas down for my upcoming (impending?) HUNGER GAMES-THEMED BIRTHDAY PARTY, which will be happening next month. Yes, I have an entire board on Pinterest dedicated to the planning of my Quarter Quell, and it. Is. Glorious. It might even blow last year’s Harry Potter party out of the water.

Man, I love my birthday.

So, somehow the planning of said party has made me mildly (very mildly) introspective about the nature of celebration, and how it relates to healthy living. You’ve probably already noticed a bit of a pattern with me, in that I really love to celebrate things. Blogiversary? Dog’s birthday? Mastered 6 chords on the ukulele? Let’s celebrate! And usually my kind of celebration involves food, as all good things do, which means I constantly am making excuses as to why I can break the “healthy” rules for one meal, one evening, one weekend. It’s a celebration, after all!

I’ve been trying to work on this. Trying to be “better” about my food choices, about eating out, about constantly “breaking the rules.” However, as I pinned yet another Jell-O shot recipe to my birthday party board, I started to wonder if I’ve been condemning myself for the wrong thing. Yes, this is a weight loss blog, and I am someone who is constantly trying to shape her life around healthy habits. But what IS health? Is it really just down to the nuts and bolts of what I put into my body, how much exercise I do, and the like? Of course not. Health is much more complete and complex–at least when it comes to total health, not just nutrition and fitness.

Okay, sure, I don’t think anybody’s going to give you license to eat a dozen cupcakes in one sitting cause it’s OMG!so healthy. But I wonder instead if the truly unhealthy thing about me right now is my mentality. I shouldn’t be getting on my own case about eating a cupcake, I should be scolding myself for always looking for an *excuse* to eat a cupcake. If I want a cupcake, I should have a cupcake (well, not right now, since I gave up desserts for Lent, but you know what I mean).

I’m struggling with a similar thing when it comes to revamping the ratios of my diet. I’ve said a few times now that I’m trying to focus on protein and healthy fat, over carbs and sugar. But I have an entire lifetime of thinking “fat is bad” to overcome in doing so. So yeah, it doesn’t really feel “right” when I’m ordering a steak instead of a salad, or eating half an avocado with my breakfast. I’m still trying to break my old thought-process when it comes to “dieting” (low-fat! Nonfat! Skim! Low-cal!) and it takes time. But I think that my overall health and happiness deserves that.

Nobody is going to make the argument that it’ll be healthy for me to get schwasted and have an epic time at my birthday party (at which, I should mention, there will also be cupcakes, hahahaha). But it IS arguable that the minor “damage” I’ll be taking that night is outweighed by the happiness and personal satisfaction that might come out of it. I’m sure I’m not really phrasing things correctly, but I think you all kind of know what I’m getting at by now.

For me, healthy living as I think a lot of us think of it–whole grains and kale salads and running 3 miles a day–is not something that will ever come naturally. Yes, I am a more informed, more restrained person than the 250-pound, binge-eating version of myself, but I am simply never going to be the girl who would honestly rather have a piece of fruit over a slice of cake. I will NEVER want to go for a jog, when I have the option to sit on my butt and watch episodes of anything on Netflix. I mean, I *might* do those things anyway, but it wont be because I WANT to. I’m just not hardwired that way. So instead of trying to completely revamp my life, deny myself the things I know that I like–and will always like–and leave room for deprivation to lead to unsatisfaction, and unsatisfaction to lead to unhappiness, and unhappiness to lead me right back into binge eating (or some other equally destructive behavior), I make smaller changes. I try to make good choices, and still leave room for the occasional bad one.

Consider this my official statement saying that I’m done trying to constantly fit my life into whatever standards of “healthy living” I’ve worked up in my head. After all, it’s not some all-or-nothing kind of thing. It’s not like once I stray outside the boundary lines, I’m gonna get kicked out of the healthy living club. The healthy living police aren’t going to come take away my domain name. From now on, I will work healthy living into the kind of lifestyle I know that I want, which means that, yes, there will be TV-watching the occasional plate of cheese fries. But there will also be brussels sprouts and long walks with adorable schnauzers and good times spent with great friends.

A lifestyle that is mostly healthy, but more importantly, sustainable. Which, in my opinion, is better for me than a year of stringently healthy dieting and running, followed by a burnout that causes me to backslide even further down. I think I’m *finally* getting the concept of the whole 80/20 thing that healthy living…ers sometime preach. While, granted, my ratio might be more like 70/30… on a good day… I finally get the idea that I don’t have to strike for the 100% perfect ideal. I can allow myself “permission” to have it both ways. Kind of.

So, yes. My birthday will likely be the epitome of UNhealthy living. But after my night of Capitol-inspired debauchery, I’ll get up. And hopefully I won’t making proclamations about my need to start all over again, or how I need to “undo” the damage I did the night before. I’ll just pick up where I left off. I’ll continue on.

What is health to you? When you think of health, do you only think about your body, or do you account for your mind and emotions as well? When it comes to “healthy livng,” do you feel like it’s more important to set a high standard for yourself so you constantly have something to reach for? Or is forming a realistic lifestyle the key to long-term success?