An Honest Account of What It Really Takes to Lose 20 Lbs in Your 40's
For Moms (and for Dads)
221 spinning classes, averaging more than 550 calories and 15 miles per session
No coffee, no caffeine in fact, although I cheated on this about a dozen, maybe 20 times
At least 60 minutes of sunshine and fresh air every day, usually in the form of a dog walk, gardening, or a hike
No white bread
More fish, less red meat
More veggies, less pasta
More fruit, less cheese
More wine, less beer
At least 6+ hours/night of sleep, glorious sleep
Easy healthy snacks on the go, like RX bars and cuties and lots and lots of water
Smoothies, smoothies, smoothies — my go-to recipe is protein powder, Greek yogurt, flax seeds, chia seeds, turmeric, ginger, frozen four berries, and skim milk. Sometimes a banana. Blend and enjoy, but only on workout days.
Awareness of your menstrual cycle, your biorhythms, your hormones, your triggers, your crash points, your vulnerabilities — then leverage that information. Schedule accordingly. Work/work out when it’s advantageous, rest when it’s best, mitigate your tough times and soar during your effortless ones.
Minimally processed food, almost no restaurant food — even the best has bad stuff inside
The Calm app — establish a bedtime routine if you don’t have one already, and teach your kiddos one too, plus nap and meditate as needed
Read, write, and learn consistently to give your brain some attention and balance all the physical activity
I had three babies in 28 months. First, we had twins naturally, in late 2012, followed by a third, via emergency cesarean, in early 2015. My waist was 55 inches on Two-for-Tuesday but I recovered quickly.
My next pregnancy was much harder though, and when our baby came breech, three weeks early, my core was a mess. We didn’t measure anything that day, Super Bowl Sunday, because we weren’t prepared to have baby #3 yet. We were still finishing our basement, decorating the nursery, and planning to ween our daughter off binkies before little sister came home.
Messy is, by the way, the least alarming word to describe my core after the trauma of twins and a C-section. I couldn’t suck my stomach in, I couldn’t do a plank, I couldn’t do a crunch. Nothing happened when I tried.
I was mildly horrified, which is to say it bothered me and would have been utterly devastating in any other circumstances, but I was so in love with our babies, and so in awe that I grew, delivered, and nursed them, that some lingering battle wounds seemed a small price to pay for becoming a badass mother/warrior.
But as our children got older, chasing three little ones with a body made of jello was wearing me out. I no longer felt equipped to keep up or play full-time defense, and I wanted to feel like me again. With three under three, about to turn 40, I hit a wall.
Flash forward four years later to my 44th birthday, and I am down 22 pounds, maybe more. I didn’t start weighing in until July 2016 so I can’t say for sure. Now I can do planks and crunches without breaking a sweat, and am down 3–4 dress sizes.
Full disclosure: I didn’t use dietary supplements or weight-loss aides, but I did take a daily multivitamin, and occasionally a collagen, or fish oil capsule.
I was, and am, determined to get healthier the old-fashioned way, by working out regularly, eating right (or at least better), and committing to consistent self-care. I get regular massages and facials, and am usually get too busy to color my hair, but I do that sometimes too. I rarely wear makeup and (almost) never sleep in it, and take care of my skin with a daily skin care regimen and sunscreen. I gave up manicures and pedicures years ago.
I drink alcohol too often, which is not exactly self-care, but love the ritual and community of sharing a bottle of wine, so it can’t be all bad. Consider me a work in progress. That’s my routine. Oh, and reading, writing, learning, and occasional meditation as outlined above.
I was looking for long-term healthy sustainable habits that could last throughout my 40's. My goal was 20 pounds, plus aging gracefully, and by that, I mean I wanted to lose weight, but not at the expense of looking older, so toning up by building muscle appealed more than just dropping pounds. And, I wanted to feel healthy and vibrant, not just deprived and disciplined.
I’m sharing what it took because I’m a real person, a mom of three, with time and financial constraints too, and I want to reassure you that wherever you are in your motherhood journey, you’ve got this, and if you take nothing else away, take this: Don’t wait until the end to celebrate. Celebrate early, celebrate often. Celebrate when you have an occasion, achieve a milestone, or just because. Take it in. Honor your efforts. It will feel good and build more momentum than you know, and you don’t want to miss a thing.
2015: Year 1 Postpartum (after baby #3)
Nearly all my time was spent going for walks, working (after maternity leave), and caring for our babies. During walks was the only time that our doggie, me, and all three babies were content. We would take two strollers, a single and a double, if hubby was with us. Or, I would wear the baby and push the other two in the double, especially until #3 was big enough to hold her head up in the triple.
With twin toddlers, and a newborn, no one in the house was sleeping through the night, so everything was a blur. We rarely left the house or the neighborhood except for biz trips or family trips, so walking was our social time too. All the neighbors thought we were nuts. That was probably because we were out, snow or shine, pushing the strollers with the dog on a leash around my waist. It was a little bit crazy now that I think of it.
When we went to Hawaii for the baby’s baptism and to celebrate my 40th birthday, I cried when I saw the photos, partly because I was so genuinely happy, and partly because I didn’t recognize myself. It’s weird to have your dreams come true, but not feel like yourself.
2016: Year 2 Postpartum
More walks, more work, and toddler care, plus a few hikes, some failed attempts at exercising, and no one in the house was sleeping yet (or still). Also, I was traveling for business a lot, and we took our little family of five on about six or so trips that year too. Disneyland was the hands-down fave.
I didn’t feel as heavy or zombie-like, but I didn’t feel like myself either, and I was sick all the time. It turns out biz travel + convenient diet + lack of sleep + kid’s germs = sick mama. It took a toll on me, and we definitely passed everything around, and back around again. My body was trying to tell me something, but I was too far in over my head to understand. There’s nothing like taking care of a baby and two toddlers while you are puking, and they are too. I still have PTSD.
My colleagues didn’t recognize me on conference calls. Putting on makeup, doing my hair, even showering was not on my list. My list was short:
- Ensure the kids survival
- Feed the dog
- Don’t neglect hubby
2017: Year 3 Postpartum
More walks and toddler care, more work, more hikes, light cardio, and core building, mostly in the form of Pilates, easy yoga, and ab programs. I wasn’t going to the gym, but I had a handful of on-demand workout videos that I was regularly doing and it felt good.
I left my corporate job late that year and stopped getting sick almost immediately. Huh. My lifestyle improved dramatically too because my stress dropped, my schedule improved, our family time improved, and my relationships improved. I wasn’t traveling as much, I was cooking healthy food for all of our meals, and we all started sleeping better. We took a few steps out of survival mode and into thrive mode and started getting the hang of life together. It was a beautiful thing.
We also took eight trips, including one to Disneyland (again)! The kids were at the ages and stages of pure magic and we couldn’t resist capitalizing on the moment.
2018: Year 4 Postpartum
More walks, more growth, and preschool care, plus hikes, and aggressive cardio.
I joined CycleBar by accident. They had a booth at the local farmers market, and our kids wanted to spin their prize wheel. CycleBar offered us a free class. God knows what made me go when I had never tried spinning before, but I’m so happy I did because I loved it from the very first session. As we approached our 10th anniversary, and a big South Pacific/Australia trip to celebrate, I stepped up the intensity and the frequency and felt even better.
My stamina grew, my energy skyrocketed, I slept and ate better. I was stronger and more toned, and my core continued to improve. Most importantly, I felt more mentally, physically, and emotionally balanced then I had since before we had kids. I became a better mom because I could manage my energy and emotions more effectively, and I didn’t feel like I gave away all I had to give each day.
I usually work out at 5:15am (the 4:45 am wakeup is only brutal for a little while), so I can carve out time for myself first thing and then don’t feel so resentful about sacrificing every other waking minute for the sake of my family or my business.
Each workout satisfies my competitive and/or my teamwork sides, and is a meditation of sorts. The variety of instructors mix up the cardio, intensity, strength, and balance, and they all challenge me mentally with the mindset of “if it can’t be fixed in the room, don’t bring it to class”. It has been the permission I need to turn off my to-do list, let go a little bit, and be 100% in my body, focused on growing and reviving.
I know I sound a little like an infomercial and this is not a paid post, but I wanted to share candidly how far I’ve come, how long it took, how much it takes, how much I’ve given to my family, how much I’ve reclaimed for myself and my happiness, and how much I have left to do.
Being a parent is so hard, so rewarding, deeply personal, and a marathon, but it happens so fast too. Scroll back through the changes in the kiddos over those four short years. Four years! It’s a marvel. I was inspired by their development and wanted the same for myself. And everyone’s motherhood journey looks very different, but there’s joy in the journey for all of us.
Yes, even while rediscovering your body, your new priorities, your limits, and the changes in your marriage, there’s joy in the journey. And if you’re not a mother, but maybe you’re married to one, friends with one, or work together, cut her some slack. She’s doing the best job she can in the most important job of all.
And Mamas, whether you are feeling unstoppable, defeated, or somewhere in between, we are in it together. My victories are yours, and yours are mine. Today, I celebrate both of us, all of us. Cheers to joy, cheers to victories, and cheers to #momlife, #dadlife, and parenthood!