How I Maintained My Weight through 30 Years of Marriage, 20 Years of Menopause and 3 Children
When I got married, in 1987, I lost seven pounds before my wedding and weighed 128 pounds the day I got married. Today, I weigh 125 pounds. I’m 5’8” and have been called skinny. My response to that is “I’m NOT skinny, I’m STRONG!” My dimensions might have changed, but I can still fit into my college jeans.
I’ve had to work hard to maintain my weight. It’s taken discipline, focus and education.
I’m not one of those people who just has good genetics. My mother and sister are about 20 to 30 pounds overweight. My father, now deceased, was never thin or in shape except when he returned from Vietnam. I always liked the way my body looked and didn’t want to be one of the girls who gained the freshman 15 or someone who never lost the weight I gained when I was pregnant. So, over the years, I’ve had to work hard to maintain my weight. It’s taken discipline, focus and education.
Think of Your Body as a Well-Oiled Machine
I’ve always been athletic. I learned how to ride a bike without training wheels when I was five. My sister and I played outside as much as we could. In high school I did gymnastics and ran track. I stayed active in college and moved to New York City after graduation. I gained a few pounds over the years and weighed about 135 when I got engaged. I decided to get back to my college weight before my wedding. It was so easy to lose weight back then. I just stepped up my running, took aerobics classes at lunch and cut out the ice cream and candy. Unfortunately, it gets harder as you age.
If you’re committed and determined, you can keep doing what you love and maintain your weight even though it gets harder as you age.
So, what’s my secret? After all, I LOVE to eat. But I’m lucky, because I also love to exercise. Food and exercise go together like two peas in a pod. Building a strong body builds a strong metabolism. As a runner, triathlete and cyclist I realized that to get stronger and faster your body needs good fuel. As you age nutrition becomes more important. A chocolate chip cookie and a banana may have the same calories, but eating a cookie as pre-exercise fuel versus a banana is quite different. Your body needs more than calories to work at its best. It needs the vitamins, minerals, protein, sugars and fiber that fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats, legumes and seafood provide. Think of your body as a well-oiled machine.
My Basic Rules for Eating
- Learn to read the nutrition facts on the prepared food you consume.
- Never eat a grain product unless it has at least 3 grams of fiber per 100 calories.
- If the food has added sugar, fructose, or brown rice syrup, don't buy it.
- Never drink juice. Have a glass of water and eat an orange instead.
- Make your own salad dressing with high-quality olive oil.
- Eat fats. I drink whole milk and eat full-fat yogurt every day. Fat satiates you.
- Never buy “reduced fat” anything (my exception to this rule is Cape Cod 40% reduced fat potato chips… I just love them!)
- Eat mostly vegetables and fruits. Mix in protein. If you are a vegetarian make sure you are eating enough legumes and other protein sources. Salad for breakfast is a great way to start the day.
- Don’t count calories. If you are following the above rules you will not be able to overeat.
- Treat yourself occasionally and savor your treat. My weakness is potato chips. I dip the Cape Cod chips in hummus or eat bean chips that have five grams of fiber in each serving!
My Basic Rules for Exercise
- Find a sport that makes you happy. If you dread your workout you will find a reason not to do it.
- Make the most of your workout. Work hard for the designated time.
- Do NOT think of your workout as a reason to eat. Think of it as getting stronger and fitter.
- Challenge yourself. I do pull-ups and push-up ups and lift heavy weights. That’s not for everyone, but if you push yourself a little harder every week you’ll be amazed how much stronger you will be in a month. Start by doing five push-ups, and if you add a few each week, by the end of a month you’ll be at 15.
- If you belong to a gym, ask for help from the personal trainers. No question is too stupid. They have a lot of knowledge and want to share it.
- Use your pregnancy as a way to get stronger. Continue to do bodyweight exercises such as squats, planks and push-ups. That extra weight will eventually go away, but you’ll retain the strength you gained during those nine months of pregnancy. (I followed this protocol through three pregnancies and could do nine pull-ups after baby #3!)
- Use excess time to do extra body weight strength training: Do a plank, counter push-ups or squats while you wait for your water boil.
- Housework can be an aerobic exercise. If you can’t squeeze a workout in because you have to clean, run up the stairs with laundry baskets. Really scrub the tub and push the vacuum. You can burn calories and increase your strength if you put effort into it. One of my favorite exercises includes wind sprints uphill pushing the lawn mower. Sure the neighbors laugh at me, but I get my workout in and the lawn gets mowed.
- If you have small children get a running stroller. I ran using a regular stroller with my first child until the wheels fell off. When I was pregnant with my second son, I bought a double running stroller and it changed my life. I ran every day, rain or shine. I made a plastic cover out of a clear shower curtain. Now you can buy all sorts of accessories.
- If you'd rather not run with a stroller, find a like-minded friend and trade off running and watching the kids, or simply walk vigorously together and make sure to get your heart rate up.
- If you need motivation, find someone to work out with. Make a commitment to exercise together. Your partner will motivate you when you don’t want to work out. You’ll do the same for her when she isn’t motivated.
- Join a team or club, or create your own group. I had a running book club with two other women. We read a book and then discussed it while we ran.
Set Short and Long-term Goals
- Sign up for a race or competition to keep yourself motivated.
- Write down your goals and share them with your spouse or friend. They’ll cheer you on, while keeping you motivated and accountable.
- Weigh yourself monthly. If you gain more than three pounds, lose it right away. Don’t let any pounds creep up—especially around the holidays.
- Get a good night’s sleep!
I have an ongoing, long-term goal, which I set when I was 35, after my last child was born. That was to weigh 125 pounds when I was 40-years-old. Every five years I reevaluate and set a new goal; however, so far I've stayed with this goal all along. My other goal is to stay aerobically fit and continue to race. As we age, many people let this go. If you’re committed and determined, you can keep doing what you love and maintain your weight even though it gets harder as you age.