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.

The Effects of Not Eating Well

You probably hear it all time: you are what you eat. The saying implies that if you eat healthy, you’ll feel healthy; if you eat crap, you’ll feel like crap. I am here to back up that claim 100%.

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At this point you are all probably aware of my love for the, er, crappier side of the food spectrum. French fries are my weakness. Mozzarella sticks will never not be delicious. Nachos will always have a special place in my heart. Sure, over time I’ve learned to genuinely enjoy — even crave — salads, kale, yogurt, quinoa, and brussels sprouts (especially brussels sprouts!) but I know that if given a choice, I will always want the “bad” stuff.

ShrimpiesFried Pickles

I should point out that yes, I know there are ways to rework and recreate recipes for junkier foods that makes them healthier. In fact, in order to literally have my cake and eat it too, I try to do this a lot. But underneath the semi-satisfaction that baked onion rings coated with bran flakes may give you, there is always the underlying desire to gorge myself on a Bloomin’ Onion. Them’s the facts.

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In order to arm myself in the battle against these constant cravings, I have to remind myself of the aforementioned adage: you are what you eat. And when I eat poorly for extended periods of time, I suffer the physical, mental, and emotional ramifications of that. Par example:

1. My skin goes the way of the Rockies.

I was pretty blessed as a teenager. Whereas my older siblings battled acne and breakouts through puberty and beyond, my adolescence was barely tarnished with a single zit. Now that I’m an adult (HA!), however, my skin gets seriously messed up when my diet is out of whack. I breakout in varying levels of severity, my skin takes on a greasy quality, and simply loses it’s lustre. Not cute.

2. Despite feeling more tired than usual, I am unable to sleep soundly.

I’m already a fairly restless sleeper — the kind who tosses and turns and goes from side to stomach to the other side throughout the night (I’ve woken up with my feet on my pillow and head at the bottom of the bed on more than one occasion). So what happens when I mess with my already delicate sleep cycle by fueling my body improperly? I become an even, uh, restless…er sleeper. Which makes me cranky and irritable upon waking, ultimately leading to me craving more crappy food. It’s a vicious cycle, I’m telling you.

3. Acid reflux rears its ugly head.

In college, during the worst of my binge eating issues, I had fairly severe issues with acid reflux. The stomach acid that crept back up into my esophagus due to my poor digestion (due to poor quality food… you may be sensing a pattern here, haha) while I slept was doing a number on me. It even started to affect my singing voice at one point, causing my voice teacher to send me to the campus doctor for a prescription to counteract the issue. Nowadays, I can always tell when a bout of acid reflux it hitting me, and it usually comes after a particular weak moment. When my eating is clean, however, I rarely have issues with it.

4. It can (and probably should) go without saying, but my digestive system gets its ass whooped.

I won’t go into detail here, but I’m pretty sure you guys get my drift.

5. So much for that manicure.

Another, slightly less noticeable, effect that abandoning a clean(ish) diet has on me has to do with my nails. They come brittle and break very easily when I’m off the wagon. I generally tend to keep them painted most of the time, but when they’re naked I do notice that I get those little white lines on them upon occasion as well — a sign of lacking nutrition.

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So there you have it! Just more proof that, aside from the whole weight loss jank that I’m always trying to do here, there are many, many reasons to eat well. Of course, this in no way means I endorse completely cutting out junk food indulgences completely. Emotional health too, remember? I just need to continue to work on using the word “indulgence” as it was originally intended, hehe.

What effects of not eating well plague you?

The Spark

Thanks for all your well-wishes and congratulations in response to yesterday’s almost-there weigh-in, friends! I swear, if I’m not in the 180s by this time next week… hahaha. Although, granted, yesterday probably didn’t help push me in the right direction too much. I was going to try to gloss over the fact that I spent yesterday doing nothing but reading/napping/playing video games and had pizza for lunch and Chipotle for dinner but, hey, this blog is about honesty, right?

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So speaking of honesty, I’m curious to know: for those of you on weight loss or health journeys, what was the “spark” that caused you to want to turn your life around? What was the catalyst that made you finally decide that there’s no use in putting it off any longer? A recent exchange I had with a reader has caused me to think about the fact that I didn’t really have a specific thing happen to make me decide to change. No fat photo, no unkind remark, nothing like that. It was just more of a general “hallelujah” moment. I guess what I want to know is, is that weird?


One of the many unflattering “before” pictures that did NOT spark my lifestyle change

I’ve touched on how I got to my journey’s starting point in the past, and how I’ve started and stopped more diets than I can even count at this point. Every Sunday night was a new resolution, and every Monday by lunchtime I’d failed. Being healthy, vibrant, and able to enjoy my life was a pipe dream at best, and diabetes, high cholesterol and a general deterioration of my health (at 22!) was a terrifyingly all-too-close nightmare. Some of you ask me how I finally got the courage to break the cycle of binge eating, food hiding, and occasional purging and I honestly wish I had a more concrete answer to give:

I saw THIS picture of myself, and I knew it was time to change.
I went shopping and realized I was officially THIS size, and I knew I couldn’t let it go any further.
Someone made THIS remark, and I knew it was time to start over.
My doctor told me THIS, and I knew I couldn’t lie to myself anymore.

But… I can’t really say that’s the case. Because I was 22, 246 pounds, a size 20 (I know I say that I was an 18, but I think we all know the truth here), outrageously out of shape, probably pre-diabetic for all I know, and I saw pictures of myself, went shopping, had family members tell me things, and went to the doctor just like any other person. And still didn’t have the motivation to truly change.

Grizzly Gretchen.

Aaaaand yet, here I am today. 23, 190 pounds, a size 12, a 5K finisher (and working towards my first 5 miler at the end of September!), feeling stronger and healthier than, well, EVER. I guess, for me, it was just all about the culmination of stuff: the number on the scale, the clothing sizes, the remarks, the pictures, the way I felt about myself… all of it. Eventually, finally, thankfully I just hit my breaking point.

So, I reiterate: what sparked your journey? What was is that led you to where you are today? Or are you, like me, unsure of exactly what it was that caused you to change, but either way are eternally grateful that you did?

Living Healthy

Healthy living means a lot of things.

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It means salted edamame.

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It means tofu that is, yes, smothered in sauce.

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It means good-for-you sushi…

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…and not-so-good-for-you sushi, too.

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Hehehe.

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But hey, it’s okay. After all, you’re sharing with a friend!

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Recycled photo of Ania and me at the Falls Church Memorial Day Parade

After furnishing my pantry with some supplies from Trader Joe’s yesterday, Ania and I had a decadent sushi dinner at Koi Koi — where else? The cuisine, company, and conversation was just what I needed. Healthy living does, after all, extend beyond what we put in our mouths and do with our muscles! Mental and emotional wellbeing is just as, if not more, important than physical health (and failure to attend to all of the above inevitably results in a rapid degeneration of general wellness, as I know all too well.)


Unhealthy: physically, emotionally, mentally.

Grizzly Gretchen.
Getting there…

Between the evening and yesterday morning’s weigh-in, this week has kicked off surprisingly well! So I’m going to take my good mood (180-degrees from last week’s Gloomy Gussery) and do something potentially frightful:

Ask me anything.

No, really! This is your opportunity to ask any questions you might have for me regarding my journey, my methods, my habits, my food, my past… heck, even the dogs are fair game! I figure it’s about time I compile a good old-fashioned Q&A/FAQ page anyway, so this is where I’ll start. Not comfortable leaving your question in the comments? Feel free to DM me on Twitter or email me at [email protected] instead.

Ahhh, true pandering to my conceited and self-centered nature at last. 😉 Knock yourselves out! This evening I’ll be auditing a culinary school class at a local institution. I’m really excited, so stay tuned for a report on that. Hopefully the chef won’t mind me bringing my camera…!