5 Ways I Try to Promote a Healthier Lifestyle

posted by Andrea | 09/8/2016
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Over the past 4 years, I have gotten SO many emails (usually from women with small children) asking:

  • how I lose weight after each baby?
  • what I do to keep the weight off?
  • how do I prevent myself from gaining too much weight during pregnancy?
  • what type of exercising do I do?
  • do I diet?
  • do I stay away from any specific foods?
  • etc. etc. etc.

For a long time, I felt like I had nothing to offer in terms of dieting tips or health and wellness advice — I figured I was just blessed with good genes and a good metabolism (obviously these doesn’t hurt anything!)

The truth is, I don’t do any formal exercise program and I’ve never been on any type of rigid diet or cleanse. I don’t stay away from any specific foods and I honestly don’t DO anything to intentionally prevent myself from gaining excess weight during pregnancy.

With Nora’s pregnancy, I barely gained 20 pounds, I packed on almost 60 pounds with Simon, and James’ pregnacy fell right in the middle — around 35 pounds. I don’t think I did anything differently, all my babies were healthy and strong, and I eventually lost the weight again (although it’s not all spread out the same way anymore!)

I wasn’t planning to write a blog post about this; however, the emails and questions just kept coming!

So for the past year, I’ve made a conscious effort to think about anything I do on a regular basis that helps me cut calories, curb cravings, rev up my metabolism, and encourage a healthier lifestyle… I came up with 5 ideas.

I certainly don’t claim to be an expert in this area, and my ideas might not work for your life. But at the very least, I hope this post encourages you to work towards developing a healthier body image — even if it’s just for the sake of the other women and girls in your life.

healthier lifestyle

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1. I don’t drink calories.

I know this might seem impossible for many of you, but I rarely ever drink any calories (besides milk) and I think it makes a huge difference in the number of calories I consume on a weekly basis.

I don’t ever drink coffee, tea, cappuccinos, lattes, or any other fancy hot or cold coffee-type beverage. I will very occasionally have a mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter day — but that’s about it.

I don’t drink a lot of lemonade, juice, or pop (soda) and I almost never drink any type of alcohol.

Of course, if I’m a guest at someone else’s home, I will drink whatever they serve me without hesitation… but when I’m choosing, I stick with water, milk, and an occasional Diet Dr. Pepper! Maybe that’s boring, but it’s my own personal preference, and I really do think it helps me cut out a bunch of extra calories and sugar from my diet.

2. I almost always eat at home.

It’s no surprise that eating home-cooked meals is better for your waistline than eating at a restaurant… but as many of you know, I’m not opposed to eating some processed foods, and we do enjoy fast food and pizza a couple times each month.

However, since we have 3 little kids, we almost always eat the fast food and pizza AT HOME (because it’s easier than going out!) And when we eat at home, we often make a few tweaks to “health-ify” the meals 🙂

For example, if we get donuts for breakfast, I’ll make some fresh fruit and yogurt smoothies to go along with them. If we get pizza, I’ll make salad and pull out our tray of raw veggies as more nutritious side dishes. If we get burgers and fries, I’ll make a fruit salad and serve raw veggies again.

This might not sound like much, but by eating at home, we’re able to fill up on more nutritious options along with the less nutritious fast food and pizza, so we eat fewer calories overall.

3. I eat smaller “meals” throughout the day.

Since I’m home a lot, I tend to eat smaller meals (more like big snacks) regularly throughout the day. Again, this is just my own personal preference, and it’s how I’ve eaten for as long as I can remember (even back when I was in school).

I usually have yogurt or fruit when I wake up, then have my 2nd breakfast with the kids after they are awake and dressed. I’ll eat some crackers and cheese, a muffin, or something small right before I serve the kids lunch because it’s impossible to eat while they eat, and I’m too hungry to wait until they are napping. I usually have another lunch (sandwich or leftovers) while they are napping. We eat dinner really early, and then Dave and I usually have a larger evening snack after the kids are in bed.

From what I’ve read, eating smaller meals throughout the day helps to keep my metabolism going all day long and prevents cravings or “crashes” in the afternoon when my blood sugar gets too low. Also, eating smaller meals throughout the day make me a much more pleasant person to be around (just ask Dave what I’m like when I’m hungry!)

4. I keep moving all the time.

I know that pushing the stroller around the block, biking with James through the neighborhood, running up and down the stairs 87 times a day, cleaning the house, or playing in the backyard with the kids is NOT the same as formal exercise. However, I’m certain that I burn more calories doing any of these activities than I would working a desk job or driving a semi-truck!

Of course, I sit at my computer at various time during the day, but for the most part, I keep moving all day long — playing, cleaning, cooking, running errands, going for walks, etc. etc.

Eventually, when the kids are a little older and I feel less tired in the evening, I’d like to exercise more regularly — either at a gym or with DVDs at home, but for now, I’m content to just keep moving all day long — I’m sure it can’t hurt anything!

5. I try not to worry, stress, or even think about my weight.

There have been a few times in my life when I actually did worry and stress about losing a few pounds, restricting calories, or not eating certain things. During those time periods, I found that I immediately became obsessed with food and what I looked like.

I thought about what I SHOULDN’T eat, and wanted to eat whatever I wasn’t supposed to eat all the time! I was constantly looking at myself in the mirror, weighing myself, and wondering if my clothing felt tighter or looser. It was totally ridiculous and I hated living like that. So for the most part, I actually make an effort NOT to worry, stress, or even think about my weight or what I’m eating.

Now, I almost never weigh myself, I don’t worry about what size my clothing is (women’s sizes are ALL over the place anyway), I don’t stress about eating or not eating certain things, I don’t track calories, and I don’t have a strict workout regimen.

I know this wouldn’t work for some personality types, but I do think that not worrying about it is one way I’m able to have a much healthier and positive body image of myself — and I’m sure I don’t need to explain how much happier this makes me. In my opinion, I’d rather be a little overweight and enjoy life than super thin and obsessed with every calorie I eat.

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Of course, there are days I wish my pants weren’t so tight, days I wish my abs looked like they used to before kids, days I vow to not eat so much chocolate, and days I wish I could just finally lose that last 5 pounds.

But for the most part, I feel like I have a very healthy body image — and that’s worth more to me than dropping a few pounds or having super flat abs.

One More Thing About Body Image:

I personally make a very conscious effort not to talk about weight, or being fat, or skinny as “good” or “bad” in front of my kids (or really at all). I’m sure my kids will start feeling pressure to look a certain way soon enough — they don’t need to hear it from me!

In fact, just the other day Nora said, “Mom, your belly looks like it might have another small baby in it — do you think it could be a sister for me?”

Dave almost busted out laughing, and if anyone other than our family would have been there, I probably would have felt embarrassed. However, I just said, “There’s no baby in my belly, it’s just sort of stretched out from you guys being inside me.”

To which she responded, “well, you’re probably just growing and your belly is getting bigger since you’re eating all your food and getting older.”

Again, I felt slightly embarrassed, but also proud of the fact that Nora thinks of a “big belly” as a positive result of eating all my food and growing up big and strong — not as a negative result of being overweight.

I think girls especially need to see women who are not ashamed of their bodies and not obsessed with counting calories, exercising all the time, wearing a certain size, or seeing a certain number on the scale. They need to see women who own their stretch marks, their saggy skin, and their “belly that looks like another small baby is inside”!

After all, at least she said it looked like a SMALL baby and not a BIG baby 🙂

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As with all aspects of my life, when it comes to health, wellness, nutrition, exercise, and body image, I strive for “all things in moderation” and “gradual forward progress”.

There is always more I could do to live healthier, eat more nutritiously, exercise more regularly, etc. etc. but I’ve already made many baby steps in the right direction and I’ll continue to move forward.

Who knows, maybe in another couple of years I’ll write a post about how much I love exercising (or maybe not!). In the mean time, there are only so many hours in the day and I personally don’t care to spend those hours worrying about what I’m eating, how many calories I’m burning, or what size my jeans are!

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38 comments

  1. Pat Harris

    10/02/2016

    I’ve lost about 50 pounds over the last 2 years. I’m not really sure when it started. I was morbidly obese but now although I am still very overweight I have a reasonable goal which is not thin and still overweight but it’s reasonable for me. My whole reason for telling you this is that I’m not on a diet. Diets don’t work for me. I’m just trying to eat less. I told my cardiologist that my mantra is “1”, one piece of cake, one cupcake, one serving of mashed potatoes. I never feel deprived and I never feel over stuffed! That’s the best part, never over full! I have donated my larger clothes to Salvation Army knowing there are many women out there who will be thrilled to find anything in their size!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow — good for you!
    That’s a lot of weight to lose by NOT dieting! I agree that dieting never seems to work — moderation and portion control seem like a much better process!

    Alos, I’m glad you are donating your old clothing right away. There’s no sense cluttering up your closet with things that will hopefully never fit again 🙂

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  2. Debby

    09/13/2016

    Another excellent article Andrea. I have struggled with body image for years and now that I am in my fifties I decided that I eat healthy. I am constantly moving and I am going to worry about whether I look happy and like I am having a good time in pics rather than what I think my body looks like. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Love this! Thanks for sharing Debby!

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  3. Julia

    09/11/2016

    Thank you so much for this post! With all the pressure from society to look a certain way, it’s nice to see such a healthy perspective on body image. What a great example you are setting for your daughter. Our bodies are amazing and celebrating what they can do always beats being upset over how they look!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    You’re welcome Julia 🙂

    [Reply]

  4. Jennifer

    09/09/2016

    Love this post, and love the comment in which you mentioned gyms creating jobs. Though I have been a teacher and counselor for many years, I have thoroughly enjoyed personal training on the side over the years (in and out of gyms). And, some people thrive in the community of a gym.

    I love your positive outlook and healthy body image. As a counselor and wellness coach I encourage my clients to focus on what their body can do and what they want their body to do, rather than numbers on a scale. Using you for an example, I would encourage you to celebrate the fact that you have enough energy to keep up with three small children, run a successful blog and home business, maintain a home, and maintain your own sanity and health! Energy levels reflect your overall health, and I would say you’ve got it going on. If you felt like there was a deficit in some area, such as picking up that almost five-year-old (I know….I have one, too–an almost five-year-old, 40something pound boy who still loves to be picked up!), or filled grocery bags, then you might work on strategies to improve in that area of heavy lifting, or whatever the case may be. (Now I’m speaking to everyone in general.) Or you might set a goal for something new that you want to accomplish, such as completing a 5K, being prepared for an upcoming hiking trip, keeping up with your kid on a bike ride, or making it through an entire hard-core DVD workout. While working on meeting any of those type of goals you will see changes in your weight (numbers on the scale) and overall health, and oh…you’re self-esteem and body confidence will skyrocket! It doesn’t have to be all about number crunching, dieting/starving, and running on a treadmill (unless you like running on a treadmill). Sometimes people need specific number goals and ways to numerically motivate themselves, but, again, I believe people get better results focusing on what their bodies can do and what they want their bodies to do. They have a lot more fun, too. I surf, and currently I am working on surfing on a stand-up-paddleboard. The activity gives me so much extra exercise, I’m working different muscles, and I can do it with my 5 yr old son life-vested on the board (more bonding), so it’s benefitting me in so many healthy ways. I’m always trying to think of some new way to challenge myself and my body, not a new diet or program to follow.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much for sharing Jennifer!

    [Reply]

  5. Alicia

    09/08/2016

    This is why I love your blog, Andrea! You have this mentality about so many things, and it is SO refreshing. As someone who is almost the complete opposite of you in the healthy eating category, I really appreciate reading this. I have struggled for my entire life with having a healthy body image. I’ve never been overweight, but constantly obsess about it. I have tried just about every fad diet there is, and when I’m not trying a fad diet I’m struggling to keep a balance. I’ve long since realized I need to learn moderation, and like you said, force myself NOT to worry about it, because it causes me to obsess! It’s a work in progress, and I could stand to learn a lot from your perspective. It is sad and exhausting to obsess about things that don’t REALLY matter that much (perfection!), not to mention a waste of a lot of energy that could better be spent elsewhere. Thank you for being inspirational, as always!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Alicia!
    I’ve never been into fads for anything (clothing, diets, hobbies, etc.) and I’ve been so thankful so many times!

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  6. Karen

    09/08/2016

    As always, a great post. I love your perspective on key issues such as body image and weight.

    [Reply]

  7. Elena

    09/08/2016

    Hi Andrea! What beautiful pictures of you and your family! The one where you’re kneeling down with the flowers behind you is gorgeous 🙂 James is looking so much like Simon these days. I always enjoy reading your posts and seeing how the kids are growing up. I love Nora’s view on your belly….shows you’re doing a great job raising her. Take care, Elena

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Elena! That picture with the flowers is probably one of my favorite pictures of the entire summer!

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  8. Melissa

    09/08/2016

    Thank you for so vulnerably sharing your conversation with Nora. That was my favorite part of the post!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    glad to make you smile 🙂

    [Reply]

  9. Debbie

    09/08/2016

    Is it weird that as soon as I read the first paragraph of your post I wanted to order some pizza for tomorrow night’s dinner? Haha! I love your thoughts about weight, eating, and being active. You do look great pregnant or not. I wish I had your genes and metabolism too but I also think you not obsessing about it makes you feel more comfortable about your body. If I didn’t have a desk job I would most likely be moving all day long at home. Just over the Labor Day holiday I don’t think I sat down once except to balance the checkbook before lunch. I do feel better when I get some exercise in the morning or evening and sweat it out with some workout viideos . I hope to keep that up until I’m 70. I stopped weighing myself too, and it’s one less thing to be worrying about . Recently, I thought of switching to the Paleo way of eating. It’s very healthy and it couldn’t hurt. I love my chocolates though so this would be one of the things I couldn’t give up totally.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I could go for some pizza now too (or maybe a brownie sundae!)

    Personally, I know I could NEVER do Paleo as I believe it cuts out all dairy and gluten (2 of my biggest food groups). Plus, cooking for a family would be so challenging — either that, or I’d end up making 2 meals every time! That said, if you think you can do it, I don’t think it could hurt anything!

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  10. Sue

    09/08/2016

    Genes do help.. In all aspects.. along with diet and exercise..

    I have a sister.. she has always been skinny..would eat junk all day.. i have always been bigger than her, no matter what I did… I am loving it now that she is in her 50’s and it caught up with her.. Ha ha … I have to be very careful what I eat since day one.

    I do think you are right with Drinks.. wasted calories..

    we are teaching our kids every thing in moderation.. and even their Doctors say.. it is fine if their weight is not perfect.. They are healthy. being TOO Skinny is not a good thing either.

    I have one child that has never had teeth problems. The other always has something.. Dentist said.. it is just that way some times. no matter what you do.. the luck of the draw..

    sue in NJ

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, obviously genes play a huge role in things… and yes, I laughed out loud when reading your comment!
    Just think how much healthier you are than your sister — after all your years of eating more nutritious options. Plus, you’ve established healthier eating habits (and most likely instilled those habits onto your children as well) Go You!

    [Reply]

  11. Shan

    09/08/2016

    Andrea,

    Nora is hilarious!!! You’re doing a fantastic job caring for your family in providing yummy home cooked food and lots of fun activities!! By the way, everyone in your family, including you :), looks super healthy and happy. Keep up the great work. Not drinking calories is paramount to a healthy lifestyle! I trained my children to do that and when we took them out to eat, that gave us the added benefit of saving money! I agree with and practice Tip #3 also. In fact, my husband and I feel like we eat food rather than meals 🙂 By the way, we watch our grandchildren on Saturdays and I tried both your Pepperoni Pizza Slider and Mac and Cheese recipes. The boys loved them! Thank you.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yay — thanks for sharing Shan! I’m glad the grandkids approved of my recipes 🙂
    And yes, not drinking calories saves A LOT of money when dining out!

    [Reply]

  12. Avia

    09/08/2016

    Another great post! I think I have been at my healthiest during pregnancy and breastfeeding and I attribute that to drinking A LOT of water. For some reason I can get myself to do while the health of my baby is at stake but struggle otherwise. Off to get a glass of water….

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I drink a TON of water — and considering I’ve been pregnant or nursing for the last 5.5 years, that’s probably a good thing!

    [Reply]

  13. Tracy

    09/08/2016

    Hi Andrea. Thank you for this post, especially Tip #5. I am working on recovering from a lifetime of what I have realized is disordered eating. You describe being a ‘normal eater’, something that just about no one knows how to do anymore. I have unfollowed so many people because they promote food rules in the name of ‘health’. I also appreciated your thoughts on body image and body positivity. It’s hard living in a 60 billion dollar a year diet culture that one has to intentionally ‘recover’ from. Your children are blessed to have you as their momma for so many reasons. Blessings to you!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Tracy — and yes, I somehow escaped the dieting crazy many of my highschool and college friends “experimented” with and I’m thankful for it. Also, WOW — 60 billion a year. I know it was a huge industry, but that’s crazy!

    [Reply]

    Chris Reply:

    “Your children are blessed to have you as their momma for so many reasons.” I totally agree with Tracy that Nora, Simon and James are so lucky to have you as their mom because of your common sense and love for “everything in moderation”. And by the way – your family looks so cute in the photos 😉

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Chris!

    [Reply]

  14. Ruth

    09/08/2016

    your daughter is so funny lol!

    I think you should give her a sister!

    I do not drink anything but water and I kept that going with my kids. When they entered the pre-teen and teen years, it was so hard keeping that line. Other parents and adults would tell me I was being too controlling and my kids would rebel. But I didn’t care. They can and do eat junk food but there is something about soda, fruit drinks and fancy coffees that shock my senses when I consider the sugar, chemicals and calories. They are now 20, 18 and 18 and are healthy and trim. No cavities and have never had acne. There are a lot of benefits to not consuming that stuff!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha 🙂
    So far, Nora and James only drink water — but Simon LOOOOOOOOOVES juice, lemonade, and even pop (soda)! It’s crazy how different he is compared to the other two (who will not touch anything but water based on their own personal preferences).

    [Reply]

  15. April

    09/08/2016

    Awesome post. Nora is lucky to have you for a role model. I love the pictures of the two of you.

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  16. Mara

    09/08/2016

    Awesome post, thanks for sharing!!

    [Reply]

  17. Chris

    09/08/2016

    You seem to have such a well-balanced view on many aspects of life. I could learn from you. 🙂

    [Reply]

  18. Beth

    09/08/2016

    Your family reminds me of the way families in the U.S. used to be in the 50s, 60s, even into the 70s. Basically they ate at home mostly, and weren’t on diets and no low fat stuff. If you look back to that era, most people’s weights were healthy, without resorting to extreme diets and low fat eating and even excessive exercise. People were active but practically no one went to a gym. Fast forward to the 80s, when people started adopting the low fat trend as healthy living, and you see diabetes and obesity do through the roof! They say people who eat low fat end up consuming more carbs because of it and it effects insulin levels as well. I am not overweight but like many I feel like what I eat effects my blood sugar. If I eat a low fat meal, I get hungry much sooner! My kids are the same, there is a huge difference between when they eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast and when they eat eggs/toasts. I say keep doing what your doing, I think without realizing it, you way of eating works great!

    [Reply]

    Karen Reply:

    I agree! I tried the low fat thing because I was told it was healthier, I wasn’t trying to lose any weight. 58 pounds later (plus menopause and an under active thyroid) I quit. I had never been overweight in my life before that. I then tried several diet/exercise plans and got nowhere. Finally I went back to full fat, cut back on carbs (no counting). Bingo. No calorie counts, just back to what I grew up with. I had already lost most of the weight by the time I got the thyroid issues resolved, and that sped the loss of the last 15 or so pounds. It took nearly a year, but no “effort”. Have maintained a healthy weight for the past three years.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Wow — that’s actually really interesting to me. The fact that you immediately put ON weight while trying to cut out fat — and the lost it again when eating more fat. I’ve heard it’s true but I’ve never heard such a dramatic “real life” story before! Good for you!

    [Reply]

    Beth Reply:

    Good for you Karen! I think you bring up another good point with the thyroid thing. The way I figure it, look at what other people around the world are eating and how they fairing. The U.S. wasn’t always like this, most people crave and need that fat to balance out the meal, many cultures eat that way intuitively. Keep up what’s working for you, that’s good news!

    [Reply]

    Jane Reply:

    Karen – I have a similar story. How did you resolve the thyroid issue? I would love to get off the prescription medication but don’t know how.
    Thanks.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for your kind words Beth — but to be fair, I think fastfood became HUGE in the late 70’s and 80’s as well (most likely as a result of more women going back to work and needing faster dinner options). Those lifestyle changes probably facilitated the need for gyms and dieting programs… which then spiralled into a multi-billion dollar industry.

    On the bright side, the fast food + gym + personal trainer industries have created a lot more jobs 🙂

    [Reply]