Friday, October 30, 2015

How I Lost Almost 30 Pounds in 3 Months

I gained a lot of weight during each of my pregnancies.
Michael and me on our 5-Year Wedding Anniversary, a month before getting pregnant with Ellie.
Best diet? One year without meat or desserts.
I gained 50 pounds with Ellie.

70 with Hazel. 35 with Ruby.

Several days past my due date for Hazel.
Before I got pregnant with Ellie, Michael and I had just spent a year fasting from desserts and meat. I was working a part-time job and had plenty of time to work out. I was in the best shape I'd been in since college.
First pregnancy photo, the week I found out I was pregnant with Ellie.
I tried to work out during my pregnancies. I bought DVDs with former Olympic women who did squats and belly push-ups, and they of course looked amazing. I tried but I still gained much more than the recommended 25-35 pounds. At some point in each pregnancy I told myself, I'll lose the weight after the baby is here. 

With Ellie, I mostly did. It practically melted off with nursing, as I was told could happen. With Hazel, it did not melt off. It lingered and stubbornly refused to go away, and I still had it when I got pregnant with Ruby.

With Ruby I stuck to my goal and was able to gain what my doctor wanted (he was worried about my history and having a big baby, while also hoping to have a normal delivery). However, since the day I left the hospital with Ruby, I hadn't lost a single pound. Even months later, still nothing.

In June we went on Home Leave to the US, and thanks to eating out and enjoying the foods and restaurants we don't have access to here in Guatemala, I gained even more weight.

Also while on Home Leave, Michael bought me a FitBit. If you don't know what it is, it's a watch that counts steps, calories burned, flights of stairs, and mileage.

I am a competitive person. Be it card games or competitions, I want to win (and often do. Ha.)

With this new little tool, I set a goal to achieve, at the minimum, the 10,000 daily step goal preset with the FitBit.

When we got home from the US, I really committed myself to this. I went on multiple walks a day with the girls in our neighborhood. I strapped Ruby in the Ergo and walked after dinner to calm her down before bed (she was pretty fussy at this time every night, and walks were the only thing that seemed to soothe her). I walked and I ran and I snuck in walks whenever I could, and I hit those 10,000 steps fairly easily.

I started losing weight. I started eating a bit less at lunch and dinner (smaller, better portion sizes) because I knew I was going to exercise soon after meals.

What continued to push me is a great feature of the FitBit. You can connect with other FitBit users online, and even compete with them for daily or weekly steps. One week I was invited by someone I know to join a weekly competition with several other people (whom I didn't know personally). My competitive nature stepped it up! I was suddenly competing with other people. I'd get updates throughout the day on my phone of who was ahead and how many steps I needed to achieve my daily goal. A couple other people had similar step counts to mine, and we pushed each other daily and weekly.

Besides eating better, I did my P90X videos in the afternoons while my girls rested (those give me a good 3 or 4000 steps). We'd go for bike rides where I could run with the stroller. Something else that I have never done before in my life: I became a night time exerciser. I have always aspired to be a morning, wake-up-at-the-crack-of-dawn-to-work-out person, and I've done it in clusters, but I always burn out.

This was new. After the girls are in bed (this is still my routine most days), I head outside and run on our street. We live in a small U-shaped neighborhood, and I run up and down one street. It's the only safe place to run at night. But I do it, and am so thankful we live in a space now where I can run. I recently discovered the magic of listening to podcasts while working out. I run so much further and can go so much more time because I'm listening to a story and want to hear how it ends. 10 more minutes, I tell myself. I've always gotten bored running long distances, and one can imagine how boring it is to run up and down the same street for 30-60 minutes, but, with a podcast on, I barely notice.

Lately I've been running 3 or 4 miles a night. Soon after I started in these weekly challenges I changed my daily goal to 12,000 steps.

In August and September I was sick for about 6 weeks, and rarely got half of my goal steps. It was discouraging to not be able to stick to my routine, but finally, I felt better and hit the steps again. I also lost weight during this time, which kept me from getting too discouraged.

I am currently only a couple pounds away from my first major goal. Ironically, my scale broke this week, so I don't know exactly where I fall, but I know I'm close. It's still a work in progress, but I'm continuing to push myself.

I'm proud of where I am now. Including the weight I gained in June, I've lost about 30 pounds. I feel better. I am more confident. I have a nightly ritual that includes quiet time just for me. And I plan to continue all of these things.

I decided to share about my weight loss experience for a few reasons, including that recently several friends have also shared their own weight loss journeys.

For some people, joining a gym works. I know a lot of people who can't join a gym for financial or other reasons. I know some people don't have time or energy during the day to exercise with little kids or with jobs.

For others, joining online accountability groups or other diet/exercise programs work.

For me, living in a foreign country, with three small kids who can be tiring in their own sweet ways, I've had to make my situation work for me. I've had to change my routine. I get steps in when I can. I walk when I can. I became a night runner.

Having a FitBit really has made a huge difference for me. (I should say I am not getting any compensation for this. I just really like the idea and the product.) The accountability with strangers, and also friends and family, combined with my own competitive nature, has really pushed me. I realize that for people who aren't competitive or who could care less what strangers are doing, this might not work like it did for me. But every week I start with a clean slate. I compete and check in and can track my steps and others'.

There have been countless days when I wake up utterly unmotivated. There's a fat chance I'm not going to get my steps in that day. But then I focus on it one hour at a time. I convince myself to take a walk with the girls. After the girls are in bed my husband does the dinner dishes so I can feel free to go for a run. Watching those steps add up pushes me to add more.

During our last week in Oregon in June, we had a friend take some family photos. Though he is a talented professional, I wasn't thrilled with the photos. Not because of the quality of the work, the photos were wonderful, but because by the time we saw the pictures I had already started losing weight. The photos are me at my heaviest non-pregnant self that I've ever been.
June Photo Shoot. Still wearing maternity pants, 5 months after Ruby was born.
This is probably my favorite photo.
Bonus points if you spot the spit-up on my clothes. 
These photos, and others in this time period, are my base. They are evidence of how far I've come, and will go. So I'll keep them and share them. And I'll keep pushing myself.

Studies prove that when you write down a goal, you are exponentially much more likely to achieve that goal. I'm hoping that by sharing my experience, I will continue towards my final goal, and maybe encourage others to share their goals.
3 months ago, and today (wearing my FitBit, of course).

In conclusion, get a FitBit and join me! I need more competition and would love to encourage you too.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

We're Halfway There

It's been a big week.

The girls ended their school year with their Clausura (end of school closing program). They dressed in costumes (a scuba diver and a seahorse) and did a dance they've been rehearsing at school for weeks. It was so fun to watch them and remember a year or two ago (check out the links for a fun reminder), when they weren't nearly as comfortable up on stage.
Ellie dancing
Ellie and a couple of her amigas
A proud Mama
The process to buy tickets was intense. One morning a few weeks ago Michael had to wake up early, walk to the school and stand outside the front doors in line. At 6:30 AM the doors opened, and then he had to wait in another line until the ticket booth opened at 7:30. But, it was worth the early morning because we were in the second row, right up front. (And we had already decided not to shell out the big bucks to pay for the school-produced video of the year's events, so being in front was even more essential). We learned our lesson from Mother's Day when we were in the back row and could barely see their faces.
My little seahorse
You would never know that the week she brought her costume home for us to try on she cried and screamed for a week and refused to put it on. But finally, the moment she put it on, she loved it.
We celebrated Ellie's 5th birthday this past weekend. We went bowling with some friends, took a piñata to church, had the Chapman family traditional birthday pancakes, and went to Pollo Campero for a special birthday dinner (her favorite).
Friends at church ready for the piñata
Bowling with some friends.
Ellie got Legos for her birthday and has played with them every day for hours.
Five feels like a big milestone. It's usually the year of starting kindergarten in the US, although because of the school year here she will start Pre-K in January, followed by what's seen as Kindergarten the following year. It's a bit arbitrary, since this year she was learning to write in cursive, learning letters and numbers, 2 years before Kindergarten.
Birthday pancakes for the 5-year old!
Somehow, my baby is 5.
And then yesterday marked another significant milestone in the Chapman house. We've officially been here two and a half years, out of a five year contract. Half way done. That means every day we are here marks more time that we've been here than what we have remaining. That feels a bit surreal.

Granted, 2 1/2 years is still a huge chunk of time. Our girls will do a lot of growing and changing.

I can't help but notice a few things and think about expectations I've had, and things I did or didn't know 2 1/2 years ago.

I didn't know we'd have another baby (though it was a possibility in our minds).
I didn't know that in may ways Guatemala would feel like "home," especially to our girls. Ellie has now lived half of her life here in Guatemala, and of course Hazel has lived a huge majority of it here. This is "home." This is normal for them.
I didn't know I'd fluctuate so much with my Spanish. Some days I am confident in my ability to speak and understand, and other days I feel frustrated with my lack of full comprehension.
I didn't know how hard it would be to make friends, especially due to language and cultural barriers/expectations.
I knew it would be hard to work alongside my spouse, but I didn't know just how hard.
I didn't realize we'd get to travel so much as a family, a big bonus.

Though the workload is still intense, we've figured out a rhythm. The first year was hard. Super hard. Really, really hard. But we pushed through. I look at Ruby, who is now 9 months old, and I remember Hazel, the same age when we put her in daycare. It breaks my heart. It probably always will, knowing of all three of my girls, Hazel was in daycare at the youngest age, purely out of necessity for this work and my opportunity to study Spanish.

Fun Comparison Time:
Ellie at 9 months
Hazel at 9 months (our first week in Guatemala)
(So much hair!)
Ruby at 9 months

We've entered another phase of work and life here. Our team has changed drastically in the last year, and we have a relatively new team. We don't foresee any changes to the team for the next year, and that's a change for us, and one we're looking forward to.
Out on a walk with these beauties.
The girls and I are now at home for a 3-month break, and I'm looking forward to having time with them, a throwback to my full-time stay-at-home Mom days of Fresno.