Right after Ridley was born last February, my friend Heather set up a meal plan for our friends to bring us food when we got home from the hospital. Since Ridley was born early and we were packing to move into our new house, these meals could not have come at a better time. For almost two months on every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday friends showed up at our rental house with a home-cooked meal. At first, I was embarrassed to invite them into our space full of boxes, laminate floors and floral walls. Holding the baby, I'd show them the way to the kitchen, apologizing and thanking them at the very same time. Looking back, I know nobody cared what my house looked like, all they really wanted to do was drop off their food and get a peek at his soft, newborn skin. The girls were always so excited when the doorbell rang and the friends that brought them gifts were especially adored. It felt so good to be loved by these people while we were transitioning into life with a baby and moving.
A common theme that I saw in the meals brought to our home was comfort food. Chicken and rice casserole, pasta with spaghetti sauce, and roast were all eaten more than once. One friend brought over sauteed kale which was fun to try and another grilled pork chops and it was a perfect Friday night meal. Raleigh especially loved all the sweets - we had strawberry cupcakes, chocolate pound cake, and caramel-dipped apples. We even had one friend whose family owned a local restaurant who brought over tons of casseroles that we froze and ate six months later. Even if the food was slightly outside our normal realm of recipes, we ate it.
While on maternity leave, I didn't count calories. For twelve weeks, between nursing and unpacking, I ate what my friends prepared for me. But, as my days at work approached, I knew it was time to start using my new kitchen and I knew we needed to pull back from comfort food and ease into lighter foods. It was also time to start working out again. Once I was cleared at six weeks, I threw on a gym shirt over my nursing sports bra and began to go back to the gym. Before I was pregnant, I had briefly tried Crossfit, but I wasn't ready for that at six weeks. Instead, I hit the elliptical and did light reps with handheld weights. I stretched on my yoga mat as my friends did burpees on the other side of the gym. Watching them, I knew I wanted to get back to that intensity level of exercise. At that moment, I made up my mind to get healthy.
Before having a baby, I was not well-educated on what foods to eat at what time. I'd heard of different diets like Weight Watchers and Atkins but I'd always approached food with the mindset that I'd eat half healthy and half unhealthy and if I exercised it would all be okay. But now, with three kids, I wondered if there was a way to eat foods that would fill me up, give me energy, and also be good for me. I also wanted to, you know, lose the baby weight and fit into my bathing suit that summer without feeling like a nursing cow.
I contacted my friend Chris who is a football coach and whose wife Sandy, had just had a baby. She'd put on Facebook that after one month, she'd gotten back to her pre-baby weight and was feeling great. *I found out that she had followed a 24-Day Challenge for Nursing Moms where she ate healthy, took vitamins and supplements, and also drank some protein and fiber shakes to help her body lose the weight. After doing some research and talking to other moms, I found out that this program was not one of those quick-fix diets but was actually intended to be a lifestyle change. I decided to try it and I'm so glad I did.
This meal plan came with a food portion chart that told me exactly what qualified as a protein, fruit, vegetable, low carbs, and healthy fats. It also taught me how to eat different combinations of these foods as small meals throughout the day. I wouldn't necessarily say I was full (like I would be after eating a pizza) but I did feel satisfied and most importantly, healthy.
So, for twenty-four days, I did my best to follow this plan. I had to say no to stuffing my face with my dad's famous barbecue ribs one night and I also resisted Easter cupcakes but I did slide at times with a glass of wine or Chick-Fil-A fried nuggets instead of grilled. But, for the most part, I was able to eat healthier and I learned what to eat when (I'll show you a chart in just a sec!). To make eating healthy fun, I experimented with several different recipes for my three main meals and two snacks. I landed on a few favorites, like broccoli slaw and taco salad, and also became an expert maker of strawberry jello. :)
When I began my nursing mom challenge, I also signed back up for Crossfit. I was intimidated to begin this program again but it helped that I did it with a friend. She and my trainer encouraged me to exert myself but also modify the workout as needed. Going to Crossfit humbles me because I'm seriously one of the weakest girls in my class, still to this day. Even though I'm one of the worst Crossfitters ever to exist, I still try to do a pull-up, overhead cling, and rope climb. Training my body is training my mind to believe that I can do more than I think I can do. Even though I'm terrible at it, I'm motivated to keep doing it because I can tell by my muscle-definition that I am slowly, ever-so-slightly, improving.
Eating healthy and exercising was hard but once I figured out what my limits were, it became easier and more natural. I know now that a great breakfast for me is two egg whites with spinach tossed in it and a side of oatmeal. And, it's okay to eat fruits like grapefruit with a healthy fat nut mix at snack time. Sweet potatoes are delicious at lunch and fill me up until my afternoon snack and grilled chicken and asparagus with lemon is a guilt-free, feel-good meal after working out.
I'm becoming more aware that what I put into my body is what comes out of me. My mood and energy level is so related to what I eat and how often I exercise. Sometimes, when I need to rest, I slide back into a season of comfort food eating but I'm keenly aware that I don't need to stay in this place where I depend on food to help me cope with my circumstances. So, I choose to pack the gym bag and crack open another egg for breakfast the next day. A year after eating well and exercising, I'm attempting to eat healthy eighty-percent of my week but giving myself some margin for chocolate and bread and fried food. For me, this works.
If you'd like to try to eat healthier and exercise, here's a sample of the food chart I followed, my meal plan, and an exercise plan. Know that this is just an example and daily we have to choose what we are going to put into our bodies and how we will strengthen our muscles. But, maybe this can help you lose the weight and feel better about yourself too.
Also, for the next two weeks, I'm offering The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle. Y'all this bundle is rocking it and I love it so much. Already, I've checked out Supermarket Ninja's by Beth Ricci which is helping me conquer the grocery store aisles and purchasing unprocessed, real food for my family. If you are looking to lose weight and be healthy, I encourage you to buy your bundle today to start living well!
Here's to healthy eating and exercising, even on the days that are hard.
Till next time, let your light shine!
*The 24-Day Nursing Mom Challenge is from Advocare. I was not paid to endorse this company, but it did help me to lose my baby weight and get healthy.