I love the holidays. I love hosting parties for family and friends. I love going to parties. I like baking and cooking and bringing dishes to friend’s gatherings and chowing down while we watch football playoff games. But all this social activity comes with a price. Like snow building up on the roof, winter weight is padding my hips. It happens every year as we’re cooped up inside for three months, but this year I’m fighting back.
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I’ve resolved to live healthier this year and I’m dragging my family along with me. I’m doing it not just to lose weight, though that’s part of it. I want to eat healthier, eat more organic foods and less processed foods. I want to move more and sit less. I want to rely less on take out and do more cooking from scratch. We’re taking a beach vacation in May, and while I don’t expect to look like a swimsuit model, I do hope to feel good about my appearance in a swimsuit.
If you have similar goals, I’ve listed a few tactics that have worked for me and some that haven’t turned out so well—and several that I really had to fight for to make them work.
Tactic 1: Purge. Not like a day spent in the bathroom purge, but more like clean out the pantry purge. Eat up what you have and vow not to buy more. If it’s not in the pantry, you can’t eat it, simple, right? No one “needs” chips or candy bars. If the kids want to buy an extra treat with their school lunch, there are plenty of high calorie foods waiting for them in the cafeteria. And that’s a topic for a completely different discussion.
Measure of success: 50-50. The kids live on peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, though I snuck in lower fat brands. I’ve tried to ignore the jar sitting in the pantry but it calls to me nevertheless. (Note to self: improve willpower!) The kids and my husband have been good about switching to lower calorie snacks like fresh fruit or popcorn but, I still hear the occasional grumble. I’ve found the best way to avoid high calorie, low nutritional value foods from coming into the house is to shop alone. I make a shopping list, I stick to it and no one is begging for or adding stuff to the cart.
Tactic 2: Get out of the kitchen. I snack. I snack not because I’m hungry but because it’s there and the kitchen is just steps from the family room and the TV. Solution: leave the kitchen. If I have to walk downstairs to raid the pantry, I’m more likely to avoid temptation.
Success rate: 60-40. I have to be in the kitchen to fix meals, do dishes and pack lunches. To keep from nibbling while I’m there, I chew gum. It’s hard to taste the meal or steal a piece of cheese when you’re blowing bubbles. It’s not the classiest thing but if it works, it works. And once the work is done, I retreat to our bedroom and watch TV up there. Half the time, the kids end up there with me.
Tactic 3: Buy better stuff. I’ve tried to eliminate prepared foods from our diet. No more “just add meat” dinners, no more “slow cooker” packaged meals. They’re high in calories, high in sodium and full of way too many preservatives and things I can’t pronounce. I make my own slow cooker meals with raw products and find it takes about 10 more minutes of prep time in the morning. Dinner takes a bit longer to prepare in the evening but we’ve all survived.
Success rate: Better than I expected. More fresh vegetables and lean meats are making their way into our diets. An unexpected result of this change, I’m spending less at the store. It turns out fresh produce is not only healthier, but cheaper than the packaged or frozen stuff, too.
Tactic 4: Do something else. Everyone is tired at the end of the work day. By the time I get home, get the homework done, get dinner ready and the kitchen cleaned up, there’s not a lot of time left. Fortunately, the kids are old enough to get themselves bathed and their clothing laid out for the morning. I squeeze in 30 minutes, sometimes while watching TV, cleaning out a drawer. And I choose a drawer far from the kitchen. So far, my socks are organized and the odd single ones have been thrown out. I’ve cleaned out the drawers in my bathroom cabinet and realized I won’t need to buy shampoo for months. I sorted through the desk and found enough pens and pencils to get all the kids through college.
Success rate: 100%. There’s no food in the bedroom, the bathroom or the office. I’m cleaning the house of needless junk (definitely overdue) and coming across a few lost treasures, like old greeting cards, photos and the previously mentioned writing implements.
Tactic 5: Move more. This is possibly the hardest thing to do in the winter and the easiest way to lose weight. When the weather is nasty and the sidewalks slick, it’s hard to take a brisk walk without risking injury. Finding indoor places to get exercise can be expensive, like a gym, or free, like a museum or mall. Even short lunchtime walks will keep those sneaky pounds at bay. And I’ve set aside 30 minutes each weekend day to do something that involves exercise.
Success rate: Less than expected. There’s a mall close to my office but getting there in bad weather is no fun. I can take the family to museums on the weekends, but it’s leisurely walking, not really weight reduction speed. If the sidewalk is clear, I bundle up and take off. I look like the Michelin man but, layers of clothing and brisk walking keep me from getting frostbite. I’ve also discovered the indoor community pool. The lap lane is open to all comers and 30 minutes of swimming burns calories like gangbusters.
I won’t be a size 10 by May, but I won’t add a size either. The changes made in my family’s diet are going to benefit us all. My family eats healthier foods, reducing the chance of diabetes or high blood pressure for all of us. I’ve reduced the grocery budget and in the process kept myself from adding winter weight.
Success rate: 100%!