How I’ve lost 23lbs and overhauled my lifestyle to eat better, sleep more and actually start to enjoy exercise!
Right… where do I start with this. I feel this is going to be quite a long post so you might want to grab a cuppa!
First up a little disclaimer. This is my story personal to me. I’m not a doctor, a dietician, a nutritionist or a personal trainer and therefore I’m can’t give you individual advice for you. I’m just sharing some of the steps I’ve taken to get a little healthier and of course what I love the most… recipes!
And a second disclaimer. Although I mention weight loss in this post you’ll notice when you read the whole post that that’s not really the full focus of this. Yes I’ve lost weight but there’s also been so many other positive outcomes to the changes that I’ve made.
The Last Few Years
The last few years have been really incredible in so many ways. Since I launched My Fussy Eater in 2014 there honestly hasn’t been a day where I’ve not been grateful that this is my job. I get to work at home and be here for the kids. I get to do a job that I love that’s different every single day and I’ve met and spoken to so many amazing people because of it.
But…You know that saying “Do a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. Yeah it’s a load of rubbish! As much as I absolutely love this job it can be really hard work at times. I don’t talk about it much as I don’t want to appear ungrateful or to be moaning, but I’ve worked harder in the past few years then I have ever in my life. And I used to work up to 60 hour weeks as a lawyer!
Working online has so many advantages but the reality is that you be rarely switch off. The internet is there 24/7 and there’s always more to be done. I absolutely love connecting with my followers on social media but I feel guilty if someone messages me about a recipe they’re making that day and I don’t respond. In short, it’s really really hard to switch off.
Personally, a lot has been going on in my life the last few years too. Most of you know that my little boy Finn is autistic. That whole process to diagnosis was stressful and protracted and although we’re past that stage now, the reality is that parenting a child with additional needs is very different and with that comes its own strains.
To cut a long story short I’ve massively neglected myself in every way possible. Exercise was completely sporadic. I would run four times one week then nothing for another month. My eating was just as sporadic, I’d be “super healthy” for a few days straight, then eating one “bad” thing would spiral into days of eating rubbish. It was yo-yo dieting and yo-yo exercising at its very best and as time has gone on I’ve physically been feeling worse and worse.
It’s hard to admit this but I was also embarrassed. My whole work is based around getting kids to eat better but I couldn’t do that for myself.
In February this year I put something on my Instagram talking about how I was feeling, how I was tired of feeling rubbish and putting everything and everyone else before me. So many of you reached out to say you felt the same. I had a call with the lovely Caroline Farrell, a nutritionist from Essential Nutrition who gave me some great tips regarding my food and also supplements to take.
Any changes I made were very short lived however. As our worlds got turned upside down in March all good intentions I had went out the window. Like all other families we struggled with working from home and home schooling, along with the financial strains of being self employed during these times. I thought I coped just fine at the time but looking back I wasn’t coping at all.
As my husband’s business suffered, I threw myself into work even more than ever. I launched Pick Plates in May which was fantastic but just added to the workload and strain. Other than walks with the kids and dog, my own exercise was non-existent. I would cook healthy food for the kids but snack on big bars of chocolate and crisps in the evening. And wine, far too much wine!
The final straw probably came for me towards the end of July. I had the busiest couple of weeks I’ve probably ever had. I wasn’t sleeping properly. I drank ridiculous amounts of coffee to keep me going during the day and snacked on rubbish food. I spent a week feeling constantly dizzy and with crippling headaches. I was worried I had done myself some serious damage but it was just overwhelm and exhaustion coming to the fore.
We went away for a couple of weeks and when we got back I vowed to make some real changes. I’m going to set out what those changes are here but I think it’s important to note that none of this happened overnight. All these changes were made slowly which has made this whole process a lot more manageable for me. I started mid August and two months later I still feel like I’m only at the beginning of this journey.
The first and probably one of the biggest changes I’ve made is to my eating. I am a massive foodie and I do actually enjoy eating well and eating good quality food. I decided not to follow any particular diet as that’s never worked for me long term in the past and it just doesn’t fit in with working in food and feeding a family.
My daughter is now 9 years old and I’m very aware that she is approaching that age where many children start to become conscious about their body and what they eat. I am determined to model normal, healthy and balanced eating for her over the next few years so “diets” are a no-no for me from hereon in.
I’m also not a fan of counting calories or macros. I know some people love it but it just doesn’t work for me. Instead I decided to focus on eating a well rounded diet with lots of lean meats, fish and seafood, loads of veggies and some carbs too.
I have cut down carbs but not cut them out completely. The reason why I’ve cut them down is because I can easily fill my plate with a massive sandwich, or a big pile of pasta and not much else. But by limiting carbs somewhat it’s forced me to eat more veggies and generally be more creative with my meals.
For example, if I have some bread with breakfast I won’t have any for lunch. Or if I’m making a pasta dish for the whole family for dinner, I’ll have a smaller portion than before and add extra veggies or salad to my plate. Overall, I think this approach has made the changes to my eating more sustainable in the long term.
Snacking is the other area where I have made the most changes. Before I would frequently skip meals and then snack on all the wrong things a few hours later. Because I’m now eating three good meals a day I am snacking less and also making better choices with those snacks.
Snacks now are fruit, yogurt, small portions of cheese, veggies with dip, boiled eggs, popcorn etc. I do have some crisps and chocolate every week but I now limit them to small bags of crisps and individual portions of chocolate rather than massive bags and bars!
The amount of snacks I have every day really depend on how hungry I am. I try to be guided by my body as much as possible. If I’m full I won’t have a snack but if I feel hungry then I will eat. So every day is different.
I’ve really made sleep a priority in all these changes. I’ve gone from sleeping 5-6 hours a night to 7-8. It might not seem a like a big difference but even an extra hour or so every night really does add up over the week.
The quality of my sleep is also so much better and I’m not getting the awful afternoon energy slumps that I once was.
Over the past few years I’ve struggled to stay consistent with any kind of exercise. Jumping from the gym to running to home work outs but never committing any decent length of time to any of them.
In August we bought a Peloton bike which has really changed both myself and my husband’s approach to exercise. We are both massive procrastinators when it comes to exercise but there’s something about the bike being there looking at us that’s encouraging us to exercise far more than before!
I know Peloton’s are not cheap and this was a big investment for us so I’m not at all advocating you go out and buy one, I’m just being open with what’s working for me. For the first time in years I’m really enjoying exercising and that feels amazing.
But I’ll be honest with you, consistent exercise is something I’m still working on but like I said, this feels like just the beginning for me so I’m ok with that. If I manage three sessions a week that’s brilliant. If I’m having a busy week and I don’t manage that, then that’s fine too. There’s no reward or punishment either way.
Water & Alcohol
We all know the drill with this; more water less alcohol! It’s not rocket science! On the water front I really made a big effort the first few weeks to drink more water. Once my body got used to that increased amount I would start to feel really thirsty if I didn’t keep it up. It’s become second nature to me and although I don’t measure or record how much water I drink everyday I would estimate that it’s about 2-2.5 litres most days.
I’ve cut down my alcohol consumption too. I’ve pretty much stopped all mid-week drinking unless its a special occasion and I’m also having less at the weekend too. I still enjoy catching up with friends at the weekend over a nice bottle of wine but I just make sure the rest of the week is as dry as possible.
Slow & Steady
I think its important for me to reiterate that none of these changes happened overnight. And if I had tried to do them all at once I would undoubtedly have failed and given up within a day or two.
Making changes to your whole lifestyle really is something that should be done slowly and steadily. Start with just changing one or two meals a day, making a few tweaks to make them a little healthier. If that’s working well then you can up it to three meals and snacks too.
The same with exercise. If you’re starting from a point of zero exercise then setting yourself the target for 3 or 4 sessions in your first week is probably going to be overwhelming. If you manage one session this week and aim for two next week then it’s more likely you will achieve this and keep going.
Balance has also been so important for me. If I want to eat out I will, and I’ll choose what I really want from menu, not what I think is the healthiest. If the kids want to get some cake from the bakery I’ll share a small slice with them. I don’t feel bad for eating this stuff but nor do I let it descend into a whole day of rubbish eating.
As I mentioned already, this isn’t the end for me at all. This was never supposed to be just a 2 month quick fix. The changes that I’ve made are intended to be permanent and long term. I never want to go back to how I felt last July.
I’ll be completely honest and say yes I want to lose more weight. But I have other goals too. I want to get to a consistent place of three Peloton workouts a week. I also want to add a bit of at-home weight training to my routine too.
I also want to experiment more with food and recipes. I tend to stick to more kid-friendly stuff, food that we all will eat. But I want to experiment more with recipes that are just for me. I’ve started doing this a bit more and will be sharing the recipes here.
Recipes & How They Work
On that note if you’d like to see the food I’ve been eating then you can find all the recipes here in the Healthy Made Easy category.
Breakfast and Lunch Recipes – These are mostly single serving. The idea being is that you make yourself a different breakfast and lunch from the kids. If your children are in school then this is probably how you eat anyway. If you have children at home then of course you can adapt the recipes so that they can have them too.
These recipes are also interchangeable between the two meals. For example the Protein Pots are delicious for either Breakfast or Lunch.
A few of the Breakfast and Lunch recipes are multiple servings but this means they can be batch cooked and kept in the fridge or freezer for another day and I’ll always share those instructions in the notes.
There’s also a mix of recipes that are cooked and eaten fresh at home and ones that can be brought to work too.
Family Meal Recipes – These recipes are designed to feed the whole family with some small tweaks or changes made to yours. As much as I love cooking the reality is that most days I need just one meal for everyone. These recipes will be perfect for feeding young kids, older teenagers and adults too; whilst still being healthy and helping you feel your best.
Snack Recipes – I have found having snacks ready made or prepped the key to better snacking choices. I have a mixture of sweet and savoury snacks most of which can be batch made to have on hand.
If you got to the end of this post then thank you, I know it was long! I’ve set up a Facebook Group where I’ll be posting more about this journey, sharing recipes as I make them and answering any questions. I’d love for you to come join us.