Awhile back, someone left a request in the combox for a bit on exercising, making a very kind comment in regard to my appearance post babies. Well, I've been thinking about it since November and I am going to write this super long post instead. I won't feel bad if you find you can only manage it in installments...
A little background... Since my teen years, eating and weight and body image have been an issue for me. When I gained a bit of weight around the age of 13, I panicked, and started to get strict with myself about what I ate, thus beginning a long, painful struggle with my body. I have been both twenty pounds lighter and twenty pounds heavier (not talking pregnancy or post-partem here), and I have truly never felt more comfortable with myself than I do now. I'm sure it has something to do with the miracle of bearing and feeding another human being (or three), and of being in a loving and supportive relationship with the man of my dreams. But I don't want to go on a lengthy tangent here, maybe some day I'll write about it and how healing came, but not today. Today I just want to share some of the habits and ways of thinking about food and exercise that help keep me healthy, happy, and at peace with my body. Maybe you will find them helpful, or maybe not, but I'll throw them out there to satisfy enquiring minds and just in case.
First, eating is for nourishment and pleasure. Eating is for living. Living is not for eating. Guard against constantly thinking about eating, not eating, what you shouldn't have eaten, or what you won't let yourself eat. You are more than this, and life is more than this!
Second, have healthy expectations. Your ideal weight for health is probably different than Victoria Beckham's.
Third, believe in your body. It will gravitate towards its best weight if given a chance. Your body will let you know when it is full, so eat if you are hungry, and don't if you're not.
Your body will "speak" more clearly if you feed it well and avoid major sugar crashes. I love sweets, but I try to eat them once I've already eaten a good meal and in a reasonable portion.
In my experience, counting calories makes it difficult to hear one's body.
And finally, eating well for a couple of weeks will alter your tastes and cravings. You may have to grit your teeth through those two weeks, but your tastes will change and you will enjoy healthy foods. I don't eat healthfully because I have super human will power (I don't), but because it's natural and pleasurable.
And a few particulars:
I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, usually raw, sometimes steamed.
I eat unlimited (meaning as much as I want) amounts of true whole grains. If there isn't at least 2 grams of fiber listed on the nutrition info, it doesn't make the cut for the "unlimited" category.
I eat unlimited amounts of healthy proteins such as eggs, lean meat and nuts.
I eat some dairy, usually cheese and whole (yep) milk, in reasonable portions.
I love coffee and alcohol and dessert. If I'm not going to enjoy them and I am just consuming out of habit, I skip it (don't worry, I truly enjoy my coffee daily). Pleasures should be pleasures.
Have some treat everyday, and have a day every now and then when caution flies to the wind.
If I overeat, all is not lost and thinking so only makes it worse. If I accidentally foray too aggressively into the pan of brownies at lunch time, I just try to keep the rest of the day healthy.
In regard to exercise.... Go for the slow burn. Stay active all day. Walk. Take the stairs. Clean your house. Do the laundry. Chase your kids. Stand up straight, put those shoulders back, chest up, and suck in that gut. Really. It's so good for your core. Don't overdo it at the gym; the "rebound eating" and your inability to move for the rest of the day will cancel out any benefits achieved. I used to be a personal trainer, trust me on this. Stay active in ways you enjoy.
I hope that you have found something worthwhile in this excruciatingly long post. I will finish by recommending the book French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano (it came out in 2007, so there is probably a copy at the local library); she talks more about food as ritual and gives a step by step plan for losing weight while eating for nourishment and pleasure. Now I'm hungry...