Diet and Nutrition

Practicing what I preach: I’m ready to lose weight and live healthier

Diet and Nutrition

Parents can incorporate their children into their exercise plan.

As a cardiologist, I’ve counseled patients about what they can do to live a healthier lifestyle. But in the last two to three years, I haven’t been practicing what I preach. And it’s time to do something about it.

I’m a fairly typical woman in a lot of ways. Like many moms, I have to balance the needs of my family and career – and also my own needs. It’s really easy to drop the ball when you’re juggling a lot of responsibility, and I’ve let my weight get higher than it should be.

I didn’t see my weight gain coming at all. I played basketball in college, so I got a lot of exercise, and I remained very active and fit throughout medical school. During “adulthood,” though, I started gaining weight.

After my second baby was born, I struggled to maintain a healthy weight. I was a young wife with two babies, and it was early in my career, which made it easy to put most of my energy into my responsibilities.

This year, my goal is to turn it around and lose 20 pounds in 2016. I really want to get back to a healthy lifestyle and do it in a healthy way – just as I counsel my patients to do.

My nutrition game plan to lose weight

I always tell my patients to ask for help when they feel like life is out of balance. I advise them to talk to their physician and find out all the resources that are available, which is exactly what I’m going to do.

Visiting a dietitian is helpful for people who need to get their diets under control. Dietitians are like detectives, finding those hidden calories and salt! I’m going to meet with Susan Rodder, a dietitian who works with our cardiology patients, and I’m taking off my white coat for that appointment.

My plan, which I’ll ask Susan about, is to reduce my calories by eating more fruits and vegetables and cutting out extra carbs. I’m always on the go, so I would like to use healthy meal-replacement shakes to help me during those times when I’m hungry and have not prepared a healthy, low-calorie meal. The shakes will be less than 200 calories, low in sugar, low in saturated fat, and high in protein.

Mid-day meals are too often a pitfall for me because I regularly travel during the day. If I haven’t packed my lunch or thought carefully about what I’m going to eat, I know I’ll eat too many calories over lunch.

Like most people, I have “food triggers.” It’s really hard for me to not eat during meals with my family. I don’t want to miss out on that, so I plan to eat a full meal with them at night. I’m looking forward to whether Susan thinks this plan is a good idea for me – I’ll keep you posted!

Finding time to exercise

Diet and calorie intake have the greatest impact on weight loss, but any good plan incorporates exercise, too. My goal is to get 30 to 45 minutes of moderate exercise every day.

I love to work out, but like many of you, my free time is limited. If I have 30 extra minutes, I would rather draw a picture with my son, braid my daughter’s hair, or find something we all can do together.

So, my strategy will be to incorporate my children into my exercise plan – I just don’t want to miss any more time with them. My 4-year-old likes to run, so he’s going to be my new running buddy! We may go a little slower and stop more often, but it’ll be better than nothing, and we’ll be spending time together.

The struggle

Most working parents face the struggle of trying to be everything to everyone or trying to be in two places at the same time. You can’t do it, and that’s really hard to accept.

Like many moms, I experience “mother’s guilt” sometimes when I take time for myself. I tell my patients that we have to stay healthy for our families or eventually it will catch up to us. If we don’t take care of ourselves now, when the kids are young and life is chaotic, we will feel the impact later in life.

If you have a support system at home, it makes the struggle a lot easier. My husband and I use a barter system of “marriage points.” For example, if he cooks dinner two times during the week, he gets points, or if I do some of his chores, I get points. It’s a way for us to support each other, and we can use our points for whatever we want.

Part of my game plan will be to cash in my points for time to go running. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually, I’m a better mom when I haven’t been a couch potato, and seeing me be active will help my kids, too.

What should we do to get started?

Until you know where you are, it’s hard to say where you need to go. So, that’s where I’m going to start – right where I suggest my patients start.

Here’s the step-by-step plan I recommend:

  1. Assess your situation – See your physician or a preventive cardiologist, and know your numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight, BMI, and waist circumference). Your physician or a dietitian can help you determine a healthy weight and start a food diary to identify (and avoid) foods in your diet that are high in calories, salt, and sugar.
  2. Set goals – Your physician or dietitian can help you set goals for nutrition and fitness and create a plan to achieve them. Start walking 20 to 30 minutes at a time a few days a week, and then gradually increase the intensity. Try to increase the time each week until you’re exercising 30 to 45 minutes most days of the week. Adding resistance training can help retain muscle strength and bone health. Your doctor can guide you through the best options for you.
  3. Be practical – Don’t tell yourself you’re going to get up at 4 a.m., drive to the gym across town, and exercise for two hours while your partner is at home with the kids, pulling out his or her hair. Pick a plan that’s practical for your life. It may mean exercising with your kids, walking during your lunch hour, or even parking farther away from work.
  4. Define your circle – Having a social circle is very important when you’re trying to lose weight because it provides accountability and support. You need people around you who share your health beliefs. You don’t want to feel like you’re always going against the grain – for example, trying to eat salad while they’re eating burgers. That just makes it harder. Those in your circle don’t have to be trying to lose weight, but they do need to support you.
  5. Give yourself permission – Make a conscious, personal decision to address your weight. I have a wonderful support system, and I still struggle. I’ve realized I hadn’t given myself permission to take time to care for myself. Isn’t that crazy? I’m a doctor! But if you give yourself permission and follow through, you’ll find yourself recharged and ready to fight another day.

I’m in the middle of my weight loss journey. I’m in the trenches with everyone else! I have not lost all the baby weight from my now-2-year-old, and I need to do something about it for my health. As part of my accountability, I’m committing to a follow-up blog post in six months to share my progress. I hope you’ll check in for that update – and that the author of that story will be a healthier version of me!

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