Get Real With Yourself: Two Simple Tips for Losing Weight

Are you one of the many people who get so overwhelmed trying to decide which diet or exercise program is right for you that you end up spinning in circles, never to make any progress in your weight loss goals? I’ve been there. Look, I’m not a nutrition expert or registered dietitian, but I do have a little bit of common sense. I saw this sign and it spurred me to write this blog.

Beliefs

There have been times when I “believed” I should be in better shape or I “believed” I should incorporate a better diet. The reality is that simply believing in something doesn’t make it happen. Action, however, does. Our behaviors shape our lives, not our beliefs. Behaviors can be difficult to change, especially if you’re caught in a rut of seemingly years of undesirable behaviors.

So here are two super simple tips for losing weight that I try to practice. They are: 1. eat fewer calories and 2. exercise a little more than the previous day.

Maybe you don’t have time to get to the gym or can’t afford some expensive DVD exercise program to watch at home. But I bet you can find a way to do some air squats, push ups and sit ups at home. It’s not neuroscience. If you did zero squats, push ups and sit ups yesterday, but you found a way to do 25 of each today…BOOM! That’s a positive change in behavior.

The same goes for your diet. If today you eat fewer calories than you did yesterday (let’s say you eat your hamburger without the bun as opposed to with the bun like you normally would)…BOOM! That’s a positive change in behavior. Then simply repeat these small, incremental changes day after day to drive new behaviors.

I’d love to hear one or two ways you can incorporate a new exercise or dietary behavior into your life today. Keep it simple, but keep it consistent, and you will see results!

5 things I learned from my 60 Day PiYo Fitness Challenge

How many of you moms out there struggle with the delusional effects on the brain caused from managing a home and kids? I definitely do! I finally got to a breaking point recently that caused me to really step outside my comfort zone to make a radical change in my life. On the surface, the process of transformation I’m about to tell you about gave the illusion that I was losing valuable time that should have been spent giving to my family. But what I found was that all of my responsibilities got done and that everyone’s happy when mommy’s happy!

I usually get wrapped up in the daily mommy grind of changing diapers, cleaning up spills, fixing meals and, of course, the dreaded never-ending laundry pile. As I attempt to type this my 1-year old daughter found a way out to our back porch and sat down in the baby pool. When I scooped her up she had a plastic piece of fake dog poop (from her brothers’ prank kit) in her mouth. Ugh!! Anyway, I’ve realized the chances of ever getting ahead in my “job” are…well…impossible. With the way things were I never felt accomplished because there was always some other demand to tend to no matter how hard or fast I worked.

I finally decided to shift my mindset away from solely stay-at-home mom duties to self-care first, then mom duties. For 60 days I committed to taking care of myself first. I NEEDED to see results somehow! My good friends Rainer and Kristen are coaches for Beach Body’s amazing at-home workout series, one called PiYo. They’re both moms and their homes haven’t imploded…yet…so I decided to do PiYo over any other workout program out there.

Surprisingly, I was able to find hidden time that allowed me to squeeze in a short work out daily, my house didn’t burn down and my kids did not spontaneously combust. Although things aren’t quite in the order I like them to be I am a MUCH happier mom because of this simple switch.

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By putting my personal goals first over the last 60-days I’ve learned these five important lessons that I’d like to share with you:

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1.  PiYo is actually relaxing.

There is a lot of commotion in our home. This video is a prime example of what I’m talking about. The activity and noise levels within our home makes me think I live in a theme park at times. So I didn’t need some super high energy workout. I used my PiYo workouts as a healthy escape to calm my mind and my body. PiYo is actually a combination of Pilates and Yoga so, although physically challenging, it provided me a way to center myself with its flexibility and fluid movement elements. Unlike other programs like Insanity and P90X, PiYo is low impact, requires no equipment and its exercises can easily be adapted to any fitness level.

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2. Consistence is key.

As with any habit, good or bad, it takes roughly of 3-4 weeks to retrain your mind and body to adapt to a new set of standards. I could easily have just done PiYo for 30-days, but I truly felt I needed – and deserved for that matter – a full 60-days of caring for myself in this way. I only missed one or two days, and that was even while traveling out of town for a week. I made up for the missed day by doubling up the next day. But I could tell when I missed a workout. I didn’t feel as relaxed, clear-minded or confident the few days I missed. Once you get into the routine it becomes addicting.

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3. Accountability is important.

This was one of the most important elements of my two month journey. When I purchased my PiYo kit from my friend, who is a registered Beach Body coach, I was able to join her Facebook group. I have to admit that I resisted checking in with an online group at first. But I found it extremely helpful to know other women cared about my daily progress and could encourage me on days when I didn’t feel like doing it. It was also helpful for me to be a cheerleader to others.

4. Motivation is a must.

I don’t know about you, but I need to feel cute if I am going to be working out. So what’s the first thing any sane woman does before she starts a workout program? She goes shopping for cute clothes, of course!  I purchased two new swim suits, a new pair of gym shoes and a few funky, upbeat bandannas with my birthday money. My new shoes made me want to work out so I had an excuse to wear them. My new swimsuits made me want to work out because I know that I will be wearing them soon now that it is getting close to the summer months. Heck, I even wore one of my swimsuits to work out in once for extra motivation. I have to say that this trick of working out in a swimsuit made me push myself harder than I normally do because I know the results I want to have.

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5. Keep your eye on the goal.

I think where a lot of people get stuck in making changes to their diet and exercise is that they don’t see immediate results so they quit. I knew where I wanted to go, but I had times of doubt. In smaller moments during workouts when I wanted to quit I had to remind myself how I wanted to feel after the workout – you know, accomplished and exhausted – and not on the uncomfortable pain I was currently in. In terms of the bigger picture, there were several days I did not feel like working out at all. But having my accountability team in place, along with the encouragement from my family, I was able to stay the course I had set before me.

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One of the best moments was when I went to my cousin’s wedding seven weeks into my program. I got so many compliments on how healthy I looked. Those simple words of encouragement helped me to finish my 60 days strong and now I have continued my daily workouts. The experience at the wedding reminded me that I need to be more deliberate in complimenting other people because one simple kind word from someone can completely change someone’s day or even week.

So whatever your goal is I hope my experience has encouraged you to take the first step in committing to whatever is you want to change or accomplish. If you need any motivation just let me know. I’ll be happy to be your cheerleader.

Love, Sarah

And now I give you my BEFORE and AFTER pictures:

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Fitness Success Update

Here’s a look at the fitness successes John and I have had recently. It’s so easy to say that kids, physical limitations and life in general keep us from taking care of our minds and bodies through regular exercise. You have to make the conscience decision every day to choose good health over the poor lifestyle decisions of junk food and a sedentary lifestyle. Join us this summer as we continue to reclaim healthier minds and bodies from the business of life that will no longer rule in our household. Just decide to move and choose better foods today to get started. It’s a one day at a time journey.

What French Kids Eat For School Lunch (It Puts Americans To Shame!)

The way we feed our kids and the lack of time we dedicate to recess and exercise in public schools in America makes me sick! What are your thoughts?

What French Kids Eat For School Lunch (It Puts Americans To Shame!)

I walked into the dining room to see tables of four already set — silverware, silver bread basket, off-white ceramic plates, cloth napkins, clear glasses and water pitchers laid out ready for lunch.

I was standing inside my children’s public elementary school cafeteria, or “cantine” as the French call it, in our local town near Annecy, France. As part of my research into why French kids aren’t fat, the local city council gave me a tour of the public school’s cantine and kitchen and let me ask any question that came to mind.

There are many theories as to why the French, and French children in particular, do not suffer from weight problems, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension like their American counterparts. Eating moderate quantities of fresh and freshly prepared food at set times of the day is definitely one of the most convincing reasons why they stay lean. Daily exercise, in the form of three recess periods (two 15-minute and one 60-minute recess every day) and walking or biking to and from school, is another.

So what do French kids eat at school?

Menus are set up two months in advance by the cantine management staff, and then sent to a certified dietitian who makes small “corrections.” The dietitian might take out a small chocolate éclair and replace it with a kiwi for dessert if she thinks there’s too much sugar that week. Or she may modify suggested menus by adding more or fewer carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, or protein to keep the balance right.

Almost all foods are prepared right in the kitchen; they’re not ready-made frozen. This means mashed potatoes, most desserts, salads, soups, and certainly the main dishes are prepared daily. Treats are included — the occasional slice of tarte, a dollop of ice cream, a delicacy from the local pastry shop. Check out these photos of a school lunch being prepared on premises.

Below are photos and a description of one week’s worth of school menus, taken during the last few weeks of this school year in June. French elementary school students don’t go to school on Wednesdays, so that’s why there are only four meals!

Monday

First course: Cucumber and tomato salad

Main course: Veal marinated with mushrooms, broccoli

Cheese

Dessert: Apple tart

Tuesday

First course: Cabbage and tomato salad

Main course: Roast beef, potatoes, baked tomatoes with herbs

Cheese

Dessert: Kiwi

Thursday

First course: Tabouleh (made with bulgur)

Main course: Sausages, zucchini

Dessert: Ice cream, apple

Friday

First course: Potato and pickle salad

Main course: Breaded fish, cauliflower

Cheese

Dessert: Peach

Where does the food come from?

“All our fruits, vegetables, fish and meat are sourced locally, some of them from local farms,” according to Dany Cahuzac, the city counselor in charge of school matters, including the cantine. The local bakery delivers bread, a staple of every French meal, fresh every morning. And every two days, there is at least one organic item on the menu. Once a month, an entirely organic meal is served. The only drink offered at lunchtime is filtered tap water, served in glass pitchers.

Just as important: how the kids eat.

As the children come streaming into the cantine, they sit down at tables of four that are already set and wait for older student volunteers to bring the first course to their table. The child who sits at the designated “red” chair is the only one who is allowed to get up to fetch more water in the pitcher, extra bread for the bread basket, or to ask for extra food for the table. After finishing the first course (often a salad), volunteers bring the main course platter to the table and the children serve themselves. A cheese course follows (often a yogurt or small piece of Camembert, for example), and then dessert (more often than not, fresh fruit).

“We do our best to vary our menus throughout the weeks and months, but sometimes children don’t like certain foods,” explains Cahuzac. “We ask children to at least to taste everything and have a few bites before they give up on a food they don’t like.”

“Eating a balanced meal while sitting down calmly is important in the development of a healthy child,” adds Cahuzac. “It helps them to digest food properly, avoid stomachaches and avoid sapped energy levels in the afternoon.”

What about exercise?

What the French specialize in is moving all the time, not just during a bi-weekly gym class. For example, elementary-aged students throughout the country have three set recess periods during the day: a 15-minute run-around in the morning, a 60-minute recess after lunch, and another 15-minute break in the afternoon. On top of these designated times, children are encouraged to walk and bike to school, although this depends largely on the proximity of home to school. Bicycle parking spaces are usually all used up in the morning at our local school, and while younger students ride to school next to an adult, the older 5th graders often cycle on their own.

Aside from two hourlong periods of gym during the week, kids often walk during school outings and field trips (which can include anything from an hour to the local library, a visit to local farms, to the lakeside for paddleboard lessons, or a hike up a local mountain). Walking is emphasized in even younger ages — indeed 3- and 4-year-olds in preschool will walk up to 2 kilometers in an afternoon to go visit the local library. Sometimes they walk to the local retirement home to sing songs for the elderly.

“Even the youngest children in preschool walk together every week, “ explains Cahuzac. “Those who want to complain usually just follow the pack, and eventually get in the habit of walking.”

Elementary-aged school children in the big French cities walk just as much — it’s often easier for them because of sidewalks. Or they use a trottinette (micro-scooter). “My first-grader loves his so much, his father went and bought one for himself,” says Tina Isaac-Goizé. “It gives him another reason to like going to school, plus it is exercise although it takes only half the time of walking.”

Making the French attitude work for us, too.

So what can we do to promote better eating and moving habits for our children stateside?

It all starts at home: We know what healthy foods are, and we need to use our positive influence to feed our kids healthier foods and and teach healthy eating and exercise habits by example.

Home-cooked meals based on plenty of fresh produce, and a weekly family walk, hike or game of tag are simple lifestyle habits that make a difference in a child’s life over time.

What about school? Two suggestions: If healthy options are not available in your school, get in the habit of packing a healthy lunch for your child and boycott the cafeteria’s fast foods. Then, reach out to local, state and national elected officials and demand better nutrition in your school. To learn how to take specific action for better food at your child’s school, visit the official website of Fed Up, a documentary about America’s sugar addiction and obesity epidemic.

Lead Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Photos of food: Carine Duflos