Slow and Steady

This picture is awesome


I skipped running yesterday. I have a slight cold, and usually my asthma flares up when I have a cold, and I didn’t want to deal with a flare-up so I didn’t run. I got back on the horse this morning, though, and went for a quick walk/jog after I walked Sienna to school. It occurred to me, for the billionth time, that I probably will lose some weight from running but not all of it because I never, ever stick with a plan. I’ll start something, like the Abs diet, or Nourishing Traditions, or running, or Insanity, and do it for a while and see some results but then I’ll start slacking off and pretty soon I’m up ten pounds and wearing nothing but t-shirts and yoga pants again. I brought it up to the Ogre last night and mused that maybe my problem is that I have an either/or mentality when it comes to dieting and exercise. I either eat whatever I want and lay around feeling sorry for my fat self, or I completely overhaul our entire family’s way of eating and commit to running like I’m training for a marathon. The problem is that neither of those ways of living are sustainable. They are opposite sides of a healthy balance, and instead of finding the balance I keep ping-ponging back and forth between them.

This morning, though I had another thought. I’ve always followed someone else’s plan. I’ll follow a diet in a book, or a way of eating in a book, or an exercise video, or a “run your way to a 5k” program, but they’re always plans thought of by someone else. I’ve never said, “okay, this is what I have problems with, so this is what I’m going to do about it.” I’ve never drawn up my own map, which now seems pretty stupid, because I know my own body better than anyone. I also know my cravings, my weaknesses, my strengths, motivations that work for me and motivations that don’t. So following a generic, one-size-fits-all pattern will never work as well as tailoring my own plan will.

I really want to lose all the baby weight this time around, and be healthy. Part of it is that I am just uncomfortable in my own skin. None of my clothes fit, I don’t like going out in public, and I feel awkward in my own body. But another part of is that I’m really seeing the consequences of living an unhealthy lifestyle, probably for the first time. I’m on about six daily medications, I feel depressed and lethargic all the time, I don’t have the energy or the endurance to keep up with my kids, and the deluge of health problems I’ve had in the end of my pregnancy and the last seven postpartum weeks have just drained me. The idea of another pregnancy terrifies me, because physically, I’m a broken-down wreck. I really need to get my body healthy before asking it to support another human being again.

I’ve decided to make my own plan this time, and to tackle areas where I struggle first, making my goal control and restraint over what I eat and how active I am instead of weight loss. I’m going to move really slow — excruciatingly slow, even, to make sure that these changes don’t fade into the trash heap of “failed diet schemes” but become ingrained as habits. First, I’m going to make 2 small changes in my eating habits a month. Second, I’m going to slowly increase my activity monthly. So for the rest of November, I’m going to do 2 simple things with  my diet: not have seconds, no matter how hungry I am or how good something tastes, and only eat 1 sweet thing a day. Sweets are really my Achilles’ heel, and I’ve done way too much ping-ponging between swearing off all sugar and eating every brownie as fast as I can make it. I know that a sudden, drastic change when it comes to sugar has not ever and probably will not ever work for me, so slow tapering will have to be my strategy if I really want to change. As far as seconds go, I’m honestly not that gluttonous when it comes to meals, but I think it’s just a good habit to get into if my goal is to temper how much and what I eat. Next month I’m thinking I’ll work on cutting out snacking (or at least limiting it) and decreasing my carbohydrate intake.

For exercising, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing: 30 minutes of walking/jogging daily. I’m gradually trying to increase the length of the “jogging” portions of my daily exercise, but I’ll keep the total time the same. Next month I’ll add 15 minutes of exercise and 10 minutes of stretching onto my daily total.

I’m not going to do a regular post series or anything on this, but it occurred to me that some of you might be similarly frustrated in your weight loss goals and might be interested in joining me on the slow and steady path. If anyone shows some interest, I’ll probably do one post on it at the beginning of the month, stating new goals, and then one post at the end with results, reflections and maybe some ideas for the next month. Let me know in the combox if you have any interest. Otherwise, I’ll just muse on how it’s going occasionally. Or not, if I completely implode and fall off the wagon, a la the mayor in Chocolat.



  • A.J.

    I am TOTALLY interested! Never been pregnant, and not overweight, but very much out of shape and not on any particularly healthy food diet. My goal is to be “in shape” (whatever that means) before I turn 30, which is 5 months away. I’m all on board and in need of encouragement! :)

  • Mary Kate

    Brilliant! I’m very interested!

  • Cindy

    Funny that we came to the same conclusion without collaborating. I am doing something similar but have been eating raw veggies for lunch with hummus and a spinach smoothie for for breakfast. It has helped cut my sweet cravings. I exercise 3-4 times a week, so we will see, like mother like daughter!!

  • Kristin

    My plan started after child #6: Don’t change my eating, just start exercising. What I found was that the diet changes came much easier after the exercise became a habit. All of a sudden I looked at a brownie (or whatever tempted me) and thought, “That doesn’t taste good enough for me to blow all the calories I burned exercising today.” Now, after child #8 and 50 pounds lighter, I have the habit of exercise and, although I’m conscious of calories, I can splurge occasionally without ill effects. My mantra: nothing tastes as good as fit feels. Blessings to you in your endeavor!

  • MelanieB

    Sounds like a very sensible plan. Manageable. Have you seen Bearing blog’s series on weight loss and weight maintenance? I suggest it because it’s not a diet or exercise plan so much as her musings while doing as you’re proposing and designing something that works for her own needs. What I like about it is her thinking about the process and her focus on the spiritual aspects of the problem. Even though you are rightly set against adopting someone else’s plan, I think you might find her writing inspiring as you do the slow and steady thing. She’s all about slow and steady and building habits that are maintainable over the long term.

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      I second Bearing’s blog series. It’s the most common sense (yet somehow I never thought of it) writing on the subject I’ve ever read.

  • Janet

    Calah, I have similar issues with increasing my healthy food intake and exercise. I make big plans and then they very easily crash when I see how totally insane they are. I like your plan, but the only thing I worry about is something I don’t know anything about. I eat many more than 2 sweets a day, most days, depending on what you would call “a single sweet.” So for myself, I know cutting straight down to 1 would blow up after probably 2 days. Maybe 1. So, I’m just saying maybe if you eat as many sweets as I do, you can cut down to 2…then 1? Slow and steady, right? I cut down my cookie intake drastically by swearing off of store-bought cookies. (unless I get them for my birthday, then all’s fair!). That way I have to work for my yummy. Just a thought is all. I know I’m super weak in that particular area, so I’d have to move super slowly.

  • Betsy

    I’d definitely be interested to hear your musings on this subject. You sound so much like me – swear off sweets for a time then eventually give up and go back to eating sweets like they’re the most important food group. The same goes with exercise. Although, I’ve recently started setting a weekly goal for exercise instead of a daily goal (I aim for 150 mins/week) that way I can get ahead or make up time without feeling like I fell off track 2 days into the week (and therefore see no reason to even try to exercise the rest of the week).
    Good luck with the changes!

  • MeggieE

    Sounds like an awesome idea! I am just starting my second trimester and feeling a little sad because my plan was to loose weight BEFORE getting pregnant :) That didn’t exactly work out, so I think I’m going to try prenatal yoga now and go back to Zumba after. My child has already decided to start modifing my diet for me (somehow I know crave salads and fruit! who am I!!??) I’m loving your idea of small changes to diet, I’ve always been a “ping ponger” too and its never been possible for me to cut out something just like that, I always end up EXACTLY like the mayor in Chocolat. I can see how that will really be beneficial and I hope to try it out too. Keep us updated!

  • Erica

    I would love to join you! We had #8 in June (she is gorgeous), but the month before I got pregnant with her I miscarried #7, and since I am an emotional eater, I gained pregnancy weight, on top of pregnancy weight, on top of grieving weight! I cannot find the ambition to start taking it off now, but my body hurts and as you said, I’m just uncomfortable in my own skin. Anyway, that was rambling and comma filled, but I would love to see more posts like this. What a great idea!

  • MrsDarwin

    Another vote for Bearing’s weight loss series. Her emphasis on gluttony as a root problem is transformative, and everything she says is so common sense and well-written that you feel like you have a friend on the journey.