Wednesday, October 22, 2014

On The Road to a Healthier, Happier Mrs. W

At the beginning of October, Mr. W and I went away on a mini-vacation. A welcomed get away to Seattle, where we indulged in sleep, and food, and drink, and shopping - and yet more food and drink. The shopping was needed in part because in the year since returning to work (economists are desk jockeys), my pants had grown tight and there were very few pairs that actually fit. I had hoped that a year after my return to work, that more of my pants would fit, rather than fewer. The scale confirmed what the pants were telling me - I was just 10 pounds lighter than I was when I was 9 months pregnant with my daughter, a full 15 pounds heavier than when I returned to work. I had joined the two-thirds of the population who are either overweight or obese in Canada - with a BMI squarely in the overweight category. I had also noticed that my blood pressure that was historically low/very-low had creeped up to normal levels over the past year (in years past it would be 95/50 - and was last clocked at 125/65).

I resolved that I had to do something different and the sooner I did, the sooner I'd be on a better path. Further, having had developed gestational diabetes with my daughter, and having a father and grand parents who have developed Type II diabetes - I know that I am at an elevated risk of developing Type II diabetes over the next decade.

I had all kinds of reasons to be out-of-shape. My work environment is stressful. The kids limit the amount of time I have to work out and get exercise. My husband does the cooking. I was mildly depressed. I'll get fit after I change jobs, or after Wyatt starts kindergarten and life is more accommodating of doing so.

I knew whatever I did had to be compatable with where I am at now, and that waiting for other circumstances to align to do something might come at a steep cost in terms of my health (if the last year had brought 15 pounds and a 30 point increase in blood pressure, where would I be in 5 years?). So I thought about what I could change to get to a healthier place and have been pursuing the following strategy for the past 17 days:

*I have abstained from drinking alcohol - I wasn't a "Big Drinker" before, but 5-7 glasses of wine/beer and the occasional Martini over the course of a week has a way of adding up. I have decided that when I reach my interim goal, I might reintroduce wine to my diet - which has been surprisingly motivating.

*I have eliminated creamer/milk from my coffee and have grown accustomed to drinking it black.

*I gave my husband a cooking holiday and have taken over most of the food preparation.

*I bought a FitBit($99) and installed its app (FREE) - initially I bought a black one, and three days later, just long enough to fall in love with it, it got lost. So my current FitBit (another $99) is grey/blue and in Sharpie I have written my phone number.

*I started weighing my food (bonus use for the kitchen scale we already have), and journaling what I ate via an app on my iPhone (MyFitnessPal - FREE). Because the app counts calories for me, can add calories for the activity tracked by my FitBit and sets a calorie goal for the day staying on track has been pretty easy. As a bonus - because of the nutritional information the app provides me I have a better understanding of where my diet falls short and the impact of small changes (like substituting baked yam fries for fries). I have found that I can eat a very large volume of food that is hunger satisfying within the calorie goal if I focus on eating non-starchy vegetables (most veggies are calorie cheap), some fruits (melons, apples and berries are also colorie miserly choices), and proteins, choosing whole grains (quinoa is now a staple), limiting dressings and sauces and avoiding refined flours and added sugars. Chocolate bars and desserts aren't "out-of-bounds" but when faced with the choice of having such a treat and feeling hungry later, I have changed the choice I make. I've said good-bye to the pain-au-chocolat, and have opted for Hazelnut Chocolate Chia pudding instead (125 mls of Chocolate Hazelnut Almond Milk mixed with 15 grams of chia seeds and allowed to set for 45 minutes). This has meant packing a lunch - and has had the pleasant bonus of avoiding the $10-12 lunch expenditure each day.

*I got a FitBit Aria ($130) - a wifi scale that links up with the FitBit App and MyFitnessPal and allows for tracking trends over time. As a bit of a surprise, the Aria also lets you spy on non-registered users of your scale (guest users)...

*I committed to 10,000 steps a day (a walk at lunch time usually is enough to get there) and a Boot Camp (45 minutes, 3 days a week - cost $120 for 4 weeks/12 sessions).

Seventeen days (and $450)in, and I'm starting to notice more energy, better mood, looser pants, more money (as spending on booze and lunches has been slashed - I anticipate the sunk costs will be recouped in less than 3 months as I estimate a $25 saving in food costs and $20 saving in booze costs per week - $180 per month) and have dropped nearly 5 pounds. I'm looking forward to a more enjoyable ski season and am hoping that most of the changes that have been made can be sustainable over the longer term.

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