New LIFE Resolutions

The New Year has come and with it many have made New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight and get healthy.  It is a great time to make a fresh start and setting goals is never a bad idea. The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that they often get pushed aside after January or maybe even mid February. Every day in my practice I discuss weight, BMI, and goals for lifestyle changes. All of us want to be healthy but the American lifestyle makes that goal very difficult. Over 60% of Americans are overweight or obese defined by a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 25. Heart disease is the number one killer of American women. The two correlate very closely.  Most of us over eat and over eat by a lot. We are literally killing ourselves (myself included) with our sedentary lifestyles and our eating patterns. Plus, it makes buying a freaking bathing suit really depressing.

I am also a product of the American lifestyle. Overall, I was a net positive approximately 20-30 lbs over the last 6 years. Let’s face it, women’s bodies get put through the ringer. My story includes gaining weight through residency, then pregnancy number one, a move across the country, a husband deployed a few times, and a new job. After pregnancy number one, I was able to lose most but not all of my pregnancy weight then came pregnancy number two and a 9 lb 3 ounce baby followed by another cross country move and another new practice. I made goals several times to lose weight but always had very good excuses including but limited to the following: Well, I am too busy with the kids, work, and home. Well, I am too tired when I get home. Well, I am stressed and working hard so I deserve the 6 mini snickers I just consumed. I had them all. I tried several times and failed. I even buckled down and tried a personal trainer and did not lose a single pound. Why is that? Well, I did not change my eating habits. You cannot lose and maintain that weight loss without changing your ugly diet. I refused to go up a clothing size because you know if you don’t go up a clothing size you can remain in blissful denial of the weight gain. So, let’s just say I got really good at picking out really stretchy things in the same size. Then, one day I started looking through pictures for my 10 year wedding anniversary and started wondering what happened. You know the drill. Most of us remember thinking that we were not skinny enough in our 20s and then we get older and dream of the days that we were that small again. Youth is wasted on the young, right?

One day, I just got fed up. I was fed up of having a closet full of clothes I could not really wear. I was fed up with feeling tired. I was fed up with feeling self conscious of wearing a bathing suit to my neighborhood swimming pool. I was tired of being asked if there was a baby in my tummy by some very sweet innocent youngsters (and honestly I did look pregnant). So, I did it. In August 2016, I decided enough is enough. My attempts in the past failed over and over. You know why? Because I had to be mentally ready. I had to want it. I wanted to set a good example for my young children and I wanted to just feel good in my own skin again. So, I made a NEW LIFE Resolution. I made a plan to include calorie restriction/counting and adding in exercise.  We know that diet is 80% of the battle.  You cannot compensate for bad eating by exercise. It is just impossible particularly for... ahem a 30 something year old body. What worked for me may not work for everyone but here is what I did. I found an app called “Lose It” for my iphone. This app calculated for me how many calories I could take in daily to meet my weight loss goals. For me, we are going on a big 10 year wedding anniversary trip in January so that was the time limit to achieve my goal.  After that, I started logging my meals daily. At the same time, I also started a couch to 5K exercise program again using an app. I needed a goal as motivation to continue exercising. The couch to 5K slowly builds up the time you are running. For example, walk 5 minutes and run 1 minute. Believe me, I had to start at the most basic level which left me out of breath and ready to sit down. It had been a while since I had engaged in regular exercise. The difference in doing this regimen versus all the failed attempts I had done in the past is one very simple one. I stuck with it. If I fell off the wagon, I got back on the next day. I took it literally one day at a time, overcoming one temptation at a time. I have come to acknowledge that I was addicted to sugar. I could not eat just one mini snickers. I would eat 4. So, I had to go cold turkey on those little suckers. I have not had one in 5 months. I just cannot allow myself. You have to figure out your weak points and find a way to persevere. Over the course of the next 3-4 months I weighed myself daily and watched the weight come off. In December, I had lost 20 lbs total. My clothes started fitting better and I felt like I had a whole new wardrobe of clothes that had been just sitting in my closet! I also started having more energy, I slept better, and it didn’t hurt my belly to bend over and tie my shoes anymore.  I have now worked up to running 3 miles 3 times per week. I have not been as strict with my diet but I have been able to maintain.

The other key point I want to address is that when I made this decision to be more healthy, I did something I had not done since my children were born 6 years ago. I made ME a priority. We, as moms, wives, and woman in general, tend to put all others above ourselves. We make our homes, kids, jobs , and husbands a priority but many times we put ourselves dead last. YOU MATTER. Your happiness and health matter. My husband sees how much better I feel even though oftentimes this means I am leaving him with the kids to go run in the evenings. Something has to give. What do you need to say “No” to in order to be healthier this year? Maybe one less kids activity or bake sell? Maybe you leave the house a mess a little bit longer? If you are not healthy, then you cannot take care of others and live the life you want to live.

I get asked a lot about my opinion on different health drinks or supplements. In my opinion, there is nothing that trumps old fashioned healthy diet and exercise for weight loss. It is not a temporary state. It is learning to eat right for life. While I do not have a problem with those who take them or sell them, I am a huge advocate of just biting the bullet and getting control over the very huge American portion control problem along with our addiction to processed foods with too much sugar.  Don’t get me wrong I still indulge in the oreos and milk every once in a while but it has be in moderation. Reducing calories, eating healthy, and being more active can be a one size fits all solution to America’s obesity epidemic however finding which program to achieve that goal needs to be tailored to what will work for you.

Are you ready to feel better? I share my journey because I care about women’s health and quite honestly if I can do it after years of failed attempts, I believe you can too. Of course, if you have health problems, I always recommend seeing your physician first before starting any exercise program.  As physicians, we talk about your weight at exams not because we want to make anyone feel bad but because we care. We know how much better you can feel and how much less disease you will encounter if you can maintain a healthy weight.  Believe me, I know. I have been there.

Beverly Vavricka, MD