Fitness with 3 big kids and a baby……

It’s different then I thought it would be. I have FOUR kids. Four. Four seems wayyyyyyyyyy more then three. I’m not sure why, but it does. After spending most of my life about 50 lbs overweight, when my third child was 3, I decided I could no longer afford to be fat, and unhealthy. My oldest special needs son needed me to be strong, fit, and able bodied to care for him the rest of his life. So I did it, FINALLY. Exercise became a priority, EVERY DAY. I counted calories for over a year, calories in vs calories out. I lost almost 60 lbs. I was at my goal weight, and fitness was my new passion, my favorite thing in the world to do. It was almost an addiction, as I was in a super bad mood if I didn’t get it in. Being in the birth and pregnancy business, (doula and childbirth educator), I imagined how I might mold the two worlds together. I would become a personal trainer, and specialize on pre-natal and postpartum fitness. Because even though I had never worked out through pregnancy and postpartum, I now knew so much, that I just KNEW that EVERYONE should be able to do it, and had no good excuse for NOT being fit. Uhhhhhhhh…………… yeah. Until I got to live it. In December of 2012, we found out we were expecting a new baby, a fourth, our very first girl.

How exciting! I was going to be able to LIVE OUT working out while pregnant and staying fit and getting back into shape quickly and easily after birth!! Um, yeah. Not so much. It wasn’t quite like that at all. During those first few months, I kept my workout regimen about the same, maybe only getting in 4 days instead of 5 or 6. I was tired, and really nauseous, but I kept at it. After-all, I had to be an example for all of my future clients. I couldn’t run anymore, at all. My huge boobs and growing belly would not allow it, or my breath. I just couldn’t breath and run anymore. But I modified. In boot camp, I walked with weights instead of ran, I was an inspiration they said. But man, did I go carb crazy those first few months. My previous non pregnant lifestyle included staying away from things like bagels and cream cheese, Peanut butter and Jelly and pasta. In the first 4 months of my pregnancy, that was literally ALL I could eat. I was queasy all the time, and the only thing that made it better was bread. Usually white bread of some kind. Oh, and McGriddles from McDonald’s. I would go to boot camp, workout, (be that inspiration) and then hit the Mcdonalds drive through from a McGriddle, hash-brown, and OJ afterwards, just hoping none of my workout buddies would see me. I was STARVING all the time. But the ONLY things that sounded good were things I didn’t have to cook, and usually included total crap. However, I did make sure I was getting adequate pregnancy nutrition as far as protein, veggies and iron……….. but just ate too much sugar, carbs and junk food on top of it. Sigh. So even though I stayed VERY active during my WHOLE pregnancy I gained over 50 pounds. Ouch. At the end of my pregnancy I was just over 200 lbs, which was the weight I started my weight loss journey at almost 4 years prior. But I was pregnant, and as soon as that beautiful baby was born, the breastfeeding alone would be enough to shed that weight in the first 6 weeks, as it did every-time with the boys. Nope. Wrong again. With the boys I lost all the weight in the first 6 weeks, but that was always RETURNING to the 200 lb mark, not starting at it.

So without spending hours writing about every aspect of what it’s been like, I just highlight a few things. It’s different. It’s hard to make the time to workout. It’s hard to WANT to make the time. I still LOVE to workout. I still do it at least 3-4 times a week in some form. But I’m not as strong, at all. I’m not as fit or thin, and the thought of someone at my new gym even KNOWING that one day I thought I was fit enough to be a personal trainer kinda terrifies me. Eating well has been especially hard. While breastfeeding, I was starving all the time, so busy being a mom of four kids, (with school and sports to and therapies to manage for each) a wife, an active church member and leader, a childbirth educator and doula, spending time on ME just didn’t seem as important. I don’t have time to make all the amazing healthy food I did when I first lost the weight, I don’t have time or energy to make three different meals every night. I just needed to fill my belly, and if the kids were having PB&J it was just easier to eat that too. I started to NEED chocolate again, in a way only a tired, hormonal, hungry woman NEEDS chocolate. And I started to REALLY relish my time with my kids, especially my baby girl. Times like this morning, when I slotted specifically to work out, I even got all the way dressed down to my sports bra and running shoes to go to a spin class I have been going to regularly on Wed mornings. But after being up with Hannah THREE times last night, and looking at my day, realize the ONLY time I was going to really have with her that was not in the car or making dinner or having everyone else to take care of was indeed THAT morning………… I decided against it. I love to watch her play. To move about, to interact with her world, to dance whenever she hears music, to hug everything with a face, (stuffed) to work hard on puzzles and shape sorters, to stabilize and move forward towards walking…… I just can’t get enough of it.

Jason and I were talking the other day, and he said, “If you had two hours with no responsibilities, what would be your absolute favorite thing to do” My answer, was “Go the the gym, or exercise”. He agreed, and knew it was true. We both felt good about the fact that I had such a healthy hobby. But I realized this morning, that has changed. I think watching her play, and interacting with her, is my new favorite hobby. Even on top of exercising. Because I know all too well, that I will never get these moments back with her. She will grow, and grow, and soon she will be a sassy 6 year old who’s friends are more important then her mommy. I’m starting to be more okay with it….. I’m starting to believe even if I’m not the super fit and thin and healthy eating Willow I was before I got pregnant with Hannah, that I still can be someday, and committing to myself that I WILL BE. I’m starting to accept the fact that I can still be beautiful and healthy with 15-20 more lbs on me then before. I am thankful I can still run, (jog), can still lift, and squat, and have God willing many years to get my optimal health and fitness. It hasn’t been easy, and check with me tomorrow because I might be back into the self doubt negative self image trash talking, (about myself) Willow that I have spent too many days in the last 13 months being. But for today, I’m thankful for the day. I am enjoying every minute of my baby girl, who is quickly growing up. Going to my big boys baseball games, and laughing with Benjamin. Turns out, there is more to life then being thin. There’s living. I’m just thankful the passion is still in me, and looking forward to the day where I can say……. I knew I could get back there……eventually.

My Fitness Journey

It was Dec. 31st, of 2009. I had just turned 34 years old.  I was working at Mary’s.  I was about 205 lbs, and between a size 16-18. This was a pretty typical weight for me. I had been down to 190 doing the south beach diet before right before Micah, even around 180 something after Elijah with Weight Watchers, but I always went back up to around 200.  It was my body’s happy place.  But I was not happy with it, I never had been.   People might have been surprised to hear I struggled with insecurity and self loathing because of my weight.  I have always come off very confident and happy with myself.  And luckily, that has always been mostly true…….. until I looked in a full length mirror.

With three small children at home, new years was not a party night as it was for some, just another night at the shack.  People ask me, what was it that changed for you? What was that big ah ha moment? I think it was several things really, but I’m not sure that is relative to you, the reader.   It has to be your OWN ah ha moment.  My “Why” won’t be your “Why”.  I remember exactly where I was in the restaurant though; it was that big of a thing. The thought went through my mind, tomorrow, I’m changing.  I’m going to do south beach diet, (again), because I know it works for me, and regardless of all the  other times I said I would start and I didn’t, I KNEW this  decision was different.  I usually did best following a plan, a book, or weight watchers or something like that.

And so, that’s what I did.  The next day, I woke up, and I did not touch carbs, bread, sugar or sweets for about 3 weeks.  That’s what I needed to do, to have the confidence, rid the sugar cravings and achieve a weight loss booster that I needed to get started.  Today I would have called it a Detox.   At that point, I knew something had changed in me.  I felt powerful, I felt like really COULD NEVER eat sugar again, and be totally fine.  I remember walking into church one morning and someone offering me a donut.  I said, “No, I don’t eat Sugar remember?” they said, “Still, how long are you going to do that for?” My response………… Forever if I can. J

After about 3 weeks, Jason told me about this app for the iphone/ipod touch called Tap N track, that he heard from his favorite talk show DJ’s was helping people lose weight by tracking your calories in vs. your calories out.  I downloaded it.  Why not check it out……… it was 3.99 I think.  By tracking, I came to realize, that the whole idea behind south beach, was that meat, and veggies and staying away from processed carbs was really just eating low cal.  For example, ONE cup of pasta was 300 calories.  I stopped eating pasta.  Who eats only one cup anyway?  So I switched my eating plan……. To just tracking my calorie intake and energy expenditure, (exercise)  On Febuary 1st, I had lost 10 lbs.  Wooo Hoo.  For my birthday the previous year, I asked for money to pay for a $2year membership at 24 hour fitness that they sold at Costco.  At the time, it was $200, that equaled only $12 a month.  So on Febuary 2nd, with the money I got for my birthday and some I had saved up from tips,  I got the membership.  I remember a big moment for me, was that a friend of Jasons that we had not seen in a while came to visit.  Jason bragged about me and how I had been exercising and losing weight.  I think I had only lost like 15 lbs by that point.  But I remember saying to this friend, “Watch, next time you see me I will look different.  I might not look that different on the outside right now, but I AM different.” It was a confidence in myself that I had never had before.

Now, it’s important to know a few things.  I was 34 years old.  I had always been chubby…… since high school, 200 pounds was normal for me.   This was NOT my first attempt at weight loss, or exercise.  I went on my first diet when I was 12 years old. This would be the third time I would be a 24 hour member, and I had been a YMCA member when Elijah was little as well.  Exercising was something I felt like I was good at, and enjoyed, but it just  never worked for me.  And I honestly have lost track how many times I started Weight Watchers. At one point when I was an older teenager, I cried so hard to my mom about being fat, she paid for me to go to a personal trainer who had a gym out of her garage.  I lied and said I went when I didn’t, canceled appointments and just didn’t do it.  Looking back, that kills me. What a great opportunity I had, and I wasted it……. AND my moms hard earned money.   I had even recently decided that since I was always a big girl, that I would just never be healthy or thin, and that I should just accept that about myself.  The only people who were ever REALLY successful at weight loss and fitness were people who had been thin before kids or aging just made them gain weight.  Enter, the show, “The biggest  loser”.  Watching that show, shut down every excuse I ever had for why I couldn’t exercise and be the fit person I had always known I could be.  If they could do it, I could do it…….. Definitely.  It was the year our local heros from Rohnert Park, Sam and Koli Palou were in the show.

My motto for this new change was, “If you try to do something, the  exact same way, and expect different results, that’s insanity”. So how had I tried to do it before? Honestly, I never tried to change the way I ate, AND exercised at the same time.  That was one different  thing.  I always felt like when I exercised I was more hungry, (true) and so exercising was counter productive to losing weight for me. I also felt like if I followed the recommended 3 times a week for 40 minuets of cardio rule, I would be good.  That had not worked for me in the past, because even if I tried 3 times a week, it was usually two.  What was different this time?

I woke up EVERYDAY and thought about how I could get my workout in.  It was not the same time of the day, ever, but it WAS almost every day.  In the beginning it was usually about 6 days a week…. Cardio and abs.  I would not understand the benefits of body weight exercises and weight training till later.

I was blessed to have Jason home and in school during that time, so even though I had a little one at home, I was able to leave him with Jason during the day, or get my workouts in at night.  I was very lucky to have the amazing support of my husband, who although never thought for one day I was anything but the most beautiful woman he knew, He saw how great I felt about myself, and continually encouraged me to find time to get my workouts in.

I bumped my cardio time up to 1 hour.  I did 20 minuets on the stair stepping machine, 20 minuets on the elipticle, and 20 minuets on the bike…….. and did sit ups.  I needed to break it up, or I would get bored easily.

I HAD to have exciting, invigorating FAST music in my earphones….. the faster the music, the faster I moved, the faster I moved, the more calories I burned.

I ALWAYS  wore a heart rate monitor.  I was there to sweat and burn calories, not to dilly daddle on the machines and make myself think I got a workout in.

I tracked EVERYTHING I ate.  I was soooo attached to that ipod touch, I almost had a panic attatck the few times I lost it.

I ate a lot of the same things, so it would be easier to track.  When I got to 4pm and realized I hardly had enough calories left to eat dinner……. It encouraged me to get to the gym and work out at night.  Those workouts from 9pm to 11pm were the hardest to get to, and the most rewarding to complete.

In May, I started Spinning……. The more spin classes I could get in that week, the more weight I would lose that week.

In July, I bought a pair of really good running shoes, that finally made it so I could run and not be in pain. They had the right kind of support for my pronated feet.  I started to jog, first 1 mile, then two, then 3, in a few months, I was regularly jogging 4-5 miles at a time.

I worked out no matter where I was, or what I was doing.  I figured out how to get a workout in.  In July, I went to a wedding in Oregon, and I was teased for my late night workouts in the hotel gym.  But I was a changed person, and nothing was going to stop me.

I did not lose weight super fast.  But it was happening, and I wasn’t going to stop anytime soon.  Looking back, I would have lost weight faster if I incorporated weight training into my regimen, but I didn’t realize that then.

My goal was 148 lbs. And a size 8 seemed like a dream to me back then.  I never really set that goal, but in my mind, that’s what it was, because at 148 lbs, on the BMI scale, I would no longer be considered Overweight.  I started the journey, in the Obese category.

I think I reached my goal about March/April of 2011……. 15 months after I started  148 pounds, and size 8.  And then I stayed there.  I even went up a few pounds, then down again.  It was as if my goal was enough for my body and I didn’t go any farther.  Since then, I have been to personal training, and lost more weight, but then gained it back.  I have changed the shape of my body with weight training and muscle definition, but haven’t lost any more weight.  There are days I’m okay with that……. And days I know I can do more.

Most importantly, I am now the fit person that I always knew I could be.  I can do 20 real push ups on my toes, and squat 100 times without hardly breaking a sweat.  I have allowed sugar back into my diet, and have had a hard time saying goodbye to it again, but still, I am fit, and my body works with me.  The hip pain I once dealt with on a daily basis is gone.  Working out is my greatest stress relief, and “me time” activity, and eating healthy is something I enjoy doing when I give myself the gift of cooking for myself.  It’s been hard focusing on my diet, since I have had to focus so much on Benjamin’s diet, but I give myself grace, knowing that if I chose, I could be and do anything I want to be.

My next goal is to help other people love working out, and show people they too can be successful, even if they once thought they would always be stuck in their old habits.  I am a natural coach and encourager.  My work as a doula and childbirth educator has shown me that my skills lie in encouraging people, and teaching.  And so it seems a natural progression to me to get involved in personal training.  I want to blend my love for the childbearing years and exercise, and become a fitness coach for the pre-natal and post partum periods.  I am slowly but surely studying the science behind it all, and plan to be certified to train by the end of March 2012.  I struggle with the fact that I am not, “perfect” in the eating department yet, and not “skinny”.  I wonder if I or others will be able to take me seriously as a trainer.  But I believe in fitness, I believe in being the best you can be, and living a healthy life is not all about being skinny or perfect.  It’s about doing your best, and constantly striving for life long health and fitness.  I hope you’ll come along with me on this journey,  imperfections and all.