Health Changes Happen in Phases

The ultimate purpose of this post coming up is to show you what I did health-wise while I was out of town on a few days vacation.  But before I get to that I want to explain how I got to that place first.  Settle in…this baby is a looong one!  🙂


Phase 0:  The Before

This is the point in my life where I had just begun looking for something to help me lose weight.  I knew what I did NOT want, but had no clue what I DID want.  Serendipity took over and I saw a FB post shared by a mom I knew.  I started bootcamp and found the toehold I so desperately needed to get me going.  To this point I wasn’t doing anything to improve my health.  I ate out a lot.  I ate a very grain centered diet.  And I didn’t move.

What I learned in this phase:  Eating poorly and not moving doesn’t work!

Phase 1:  The Honeymoon Period

This was the very beginning when it was all new and exciting.  New workouts, new people, new information, outward and visible changes in my body.  It was during this phase that I was very driven…quite hard core about my endeavors.  While I decided for myself how things were going to work (meaning I wasn’t following “a plan”) and I still ate things I loved that weren’t the healthiest, I was very focused.  Basically that meant I created a routine and I stuck to it like glue.

Once I had my workout routine set I very rarely deviated from it.  Partly because I was paying a lot of money per month (for us and our budget anyway) for bootcamp and partly because I was afraid.  Afraid if I veered off course even the tiniest little bit I wouldn’t find my way back.  Never in my adult life had I created a habit of exercise or had I stuck to any health endeavors beyond three months.  What I was doing was working and I was petrified to change a thing.  For the better part of a year, maybe even closer to two we didn’t really go anywhere for more than 4 days at a time.  I didn’t want to waste the money I spent on bootcamp, nor did I want to plant the seed of missing a workout.  I was successfully going, no way I wanted to mess with that routine.  I was petrified to be out of my control zone or out of my routine.

Further, I was just beginning to cement new habits.  I was learning how to eat better and I felt really good.  I didn’t crave crap all the time like I had previously.   I was getting good at making meals at home and when I was cooking I was in control.  Again, if we weren’t at home though I felt very out of my element…either I wasn’t making the dinner or we would be eating out unplanned…and that meant I had to adjust and figure it out and go with the flow (not my strong suit!).  I often got crabby and irritable because I was left with choices I didn’t really want.  Very little enjoyment of my surroundings and who I was with…instead mostly angst because I wasn’t having the food I wanted.

While I was building confidence in myself and really making dramatic changes in my health and my family’s, I was still petrified of “going back.”    In an effort to ensure I didn’t slip up even the tiniest bit I stuck to my routine religiously.

What I learned in this phase:  It feels good to move my body.  I AM capable of being in charge of my health and not following a plan.  I can eat all kinds of food and still lose weight.  I am actually interested in how fuel affects me.

Phase 2:  Good is Good, but More is Better

I think this phase began after the scale stalled for many months.  I was focused on strength and speed improvements at bootcamp, and I was doing body circumference measurements so I knew I was shrinking, but damn if I didn’t want the scale to still show me that goal weight number.  So I began to experiment with paleo eating and really cutting back on sugar, grain, and even fruit.  While I still never took any of my fave foods off the table completely, I was very, very rigid about allowing when I had them.  For awhile there I wasn’t eating very much fruit or grain.

I stepped up my workouts to 4 or 5 per week from 3 a week.  I began working toward my trainer cert and teaching classes…early morning classes that changed my sleep pattern.

The scale did start to move again and I was getting close to that ever elusive “goal weight.”  Something else was happening, too, though.  I was tired.  Bone tired a lot of the time.  I was sore ALL the time.  My muscle fatigue never completely went away.  I had a shoulder and neck that were perpetually tight and I was, in fact, getting weaker.  Where I had been able to perform toe pushups to nearly 40 reps I could barely squeak out a handful without pain.

Then I was forced to change my routine because of a class I wanted to teach.  All of a sudden I was forced out of my routine and had to figure out some things.  Namely I had to change my workouts…I had to do something different because getting up five mornings a week before 5 am wasn’t good for me…or my mood…or ultimately for my family (cuz who wants to live with or be around a crabby, crazy woman!?).

What I learned in this phase:  Grain does not do my body good…if I’m not careful how much I consume of it, it fatigues me and can start a craving cycle.  I was overtraining and wasn’t doing enough pull versus push exercises so my back was very weak.  Changing your training program is important because it means you change the stressors and challenges for your body, which makes it stronger in the long run. More is NOT usually better.

Phase 3:  The lightbulb is flickering, but it won’t stay on all the time.

By the time I hit my goal weight I was beginning to feel exhausted–physically and mentally.  Physically I was still recovering from overtraining and adjusting to a new sleep schedule.  Mentally, I was really, really tired of thinking about my workouts and food all the time.

Even though I had created lots of new habits for myself and had done it slowly according to what worked for me, I was still being ever vigilant about my choices.  I was still investing lots of energy thinking about my food choices, ensuring I was only having treats once a week, and keeping tight control of what I ate so as to never slip too far off track.

I began to weight train as I wanted to build a tighter looking physique and I did less cardio.  I was working on pull-ups and extensive back strengthening exercises in an effort to combat my weak back.  My workouts were done in a split routine, meaning I worked out every day but hit a different muscle group each day.  I was spending at least an hour at the gym 5 days a week.

And, I was still tired!  All the damn time.  And, I was gaining weight.

What I learned during this phase:  There is a proper way to eat when you intend to put on muscle…get a trainer who knows how to fuel this type of workout…because I didn’t (and don’t) and would have done myself better with proper guidance.  Sleep makes a difference…get it and get it often and regularly (kinda like sex I guess…teehee!!).  A happy and satisfied life for me means not being in “a state of high alert” all the damn time…it means figuring out how to remain healthy and maintain my weight without thinking about it every time I put food in my mouth.

Phase 4:  I’ve arrived and I want to stay here

This past year to 18 months I’ve put on weight.  So what’s different??  I’m older.  I’m moving less and sitting more.  I’ve been in a constant state of stress for the last 9 months.  I’m learning to stop obsessing about my food like I used to…that means I’m far less rigid about food choices and my feelings about them than I ever used to be.

Case in point–my short vacation earlier this week, which I mentioned at the start of the blog.

Below is a picture of one of my breakfasts.  I’ll call it “The Breakfast of Champions!”  It’s two eggs with hot sauce and a cookie.  Yes, a freakin’ cookie…for breakfast!!  I ate it cuz that’s what I wanted.  It tasted good.  I was satisfied.  I wasn’t thinking about that cookie all fuckin’ morning.  Was it the most perfect, healthiest choice in the history of the earth??  No, of course not.  But I had it.  I chose it.  I owned it.

IMG_0153Much of my vacation was like this.  I packed food with me..some healthy, some not.  I ate some really healthy stuff (like salads made entirely from produce from my mom’s garden and fresh veggies) and some not so healthy stuff (like cookies and potato chips).  I moved, but not every day or a lot.  I did garden work for my mom.  I hauled bags in and out of the car…I hauled beach gear and chairs to and from the car every day.  Was this a lot?  Nope!  Was it something?  Yep!

I was on vacation and if I could make exceptional healthy choices than I did…and if I was at a local tavern for Taco Tuesday I wasn’t going to sweat that.  I was on vacation and if I could get up early and do a workout then fantastic.  If I slept in because my 7-year old was afraid and wanted to sleep with me while keeping her feet in my back all night ensuring I got zero sleep and then I decided to sleep in instead of dragging my ass outta bed to workout…well, then, I wasn’t going to sweat that either.

Here’s something interesting, too.  I arrived home on a Wednesday evening.  Here is what I did on Thursday:  I had eggs for breakfast, a ginormous salad and veggies with hummus for lunch with cherries and a cookie for dessert, a cheese/sausage/veggie plate plus wine for dinner….AND I worked out.

I didn’t stop doing all the healthy things I know to do.  I didn’t fall of the wagon.  The world continued.  I wasn’t perfect and now that I’m in different headspace I’m fine with that.  I didn’t get all bent out of shape because I ate some crap and didn’t work out.  I simply resumed my usual routine when I got home.  No big whoop!!

What I am learning in this phase:  Healthy looks lots of different ways, healthy isn’t only when you are at “goal weight” or when you are your ideal size pants.  I am willing to carry some extra pounds if it means I don’t think about what goes in my mouth 24 x 7.  I’ve made enough changes over the past 6 years that I am able to resume my normal routine after being off it for a few days…and the world keeps churning.  Vacation can be vacation and you can *not* eat or move perfectly and you will still be healthy. Healthy resides just as much in mindset as it does physical body.

Trust yourself

What I want you to know and take away from this long-winded post:

You will go through phases, too, as you change your health.  Nothing will be perfect at each phase.  There will be moments when you are fully engaged and “on” more than not…great!  There will be moments when you are not fully engaged and “off” more than “on”…grand!

This is a continual process and there really isn’t a finish line.  Yep, I know you don’t want to hear that…I didn’t either.  But it’s the truth.  You will learn as you go and you will keep changing as your life circumstances change.

That’s the way of it!

In fact, that is exactly what you want to happen.  You want to reach a point that you are confident enough in your habits and understanding of your body that you can always come back to what you know works for you!


It’s a process folks.  Stop putting off getting started.  Get going with your Phase 1 so you can learn and move to Phase 2 and beyond.  It’s not about following some program perfectly…it’s about learning and improving and creating a version of health that is perfect for YOU!


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