Maintain, Don’t Gain: Wrap-Up (a Guest Post!)

Hey everyone, I’m excited to have my very first guest post. And I’m even more excited that it’s by my very own sister!

Since she was a more diligent MDG-er than me, I asked her to write about her experience with the Challenge. Her account is inspiring me to continue on!

jump for joy
Challenge COMPLETE!

As for my experience, I’m proud to say that it worked for me–with some pitfalls in the middle. I was up SIX pounds right after Christmas, but thanks to her encouragement, and my new FitBit, I was able to turn things around and get active and healthy again. Sidenote: while the measure for success was weight, I realize there are so many other factors to good health. I’ll probably be talking more about those in another post.

Here’s my favorite quote form her account: “Any time I’d tried to change my habits I tried to go all out all at once and would feel better, but would give up after a week. Taking things one week at a time and changing everything each week appealed to my need for variety.” You can read her whole experience below.

From Heather:

It has been so much fun to join the challenge this year. This was my first year joining the Maintain, Don’t Gain Challenge and the payoff was far greater than I expected. I had plans to spend two weeks in Seattle with my sister so I thought it would be fun to be on track with her when I arrive. Plus my weight was higher than I’m really comfortable with and the holiday treats were already arriving at work, adding temptation to already bad habits. Maintaining sounded realistic. I had no idea how much I would learn along the way.

Each challenge taught me about a different aspect of health and by breaking these down I experienced how important each piece is for me. I am an experiential learner. No amount of reading or intellectual understanding can make up for experience. Any time I’d tried to change my habits I tried to go all out all at once and would feel better, but would give up after a week. Taking things one week at a time and changing everything each week appealed to my need for variety.

Week 1: exercise 5x/30minutes was easy, except the ‘plan ahead’ part. I don’t plan ahead but I managed to get 6 days of exercise in. I ride my bike to work which amounts to 20-25 minutes each way 4 days a week. It was easy to take a long route home to keep my heart rate up for at least 30 minutes. I liked shaking up my routine and felt better for the extra exercise. Before the challenge I was only walking for an hour or two on my non-work days. Since I felt the benefits of the higher intensity, I’ve continued to take the long route home and incorporated more on the non-work days. Aside from a small chocolate during the day I thought my pre-challenge eating was OK until 9pm when I would crave & indulge in sugar. The cravings and snacking continued during week 1 but I didn’t worry about them. I’d made a commitment to myself and kept it. The commitment was simple and specific, so I ate as usual minus the guilt.

Week 2: eat 8 servings of fruits and vegetables took a little planning, but I was looking forward to it. I’d been adapting my diet to meet the needs and limitations of my Mom since we’d been sharing meals. That meant I’d been eating far fewer vegetables than I would have liked. She accommodated the challenge graciously by helping me stock up on fruits and veggies and not complaining about my choices. Every place I normally put fruit and vegetables in meals, I increased the volume. I replaced my morning chocolate with fruit, and had to make an effort to incorporate few servings into lunch. My GI tract loved this challenge. Since I was more full from the volume of healthy food, and needing healthy snacks to get all the servings in I ate a bit less crap. I still managed to indulge during the post-dinner hours but felt better throughout the day.

Week 3: choose 1 fatty food to leave out except a cheat day. This one drove me nutty in the days as it approached. I made sure to finish all the cookies and chocolate in the house to reduce temptation. Chocolate was lining the counters at work as kind, generous people were bringing in all forms of store bought and home made treats as holiday gifts. So, I decided to leave out chocolate. It was easier than I expected. The anxiety I felt leading up to this was worse than the challenge. I had to take it day by day and went to bed a bit earlier when I was only thinking about sweets. Even though my specific choice was chocolate I stayed away from desserts in general. A couple nights I had wheat toast with olive oil spread and honey for dessert. My planning skills did not improve this week. I made it through Monday thru Friday without chocolate, so I made Saturday my cheat day. The cheat day was actually more challenging than just giving up chocolate for seven days. On Saturday I tried a chocolate from it for the first time. I was literally high from the sugar. It was great for about 2 hours, then I crashed and slept a few hours. I still had more chocolate that night. When I woke up on Sunday I was craving a quick fix sugar high. I made it through and learned so much about the rollercoaster rides I’d been taking my body and mind on.

Week 4: drink 10 or fewer alcoholic drinks. This was a challenge only because Christmas fell in the middle of the week. Normally I don’t drink. My sister threw a great Christmas eve dinner party that started late afternoon and lasted until early morning. Conversation and food were great so I wasn’t downing drinks. I honestly lost count, but I’m sure I had less than 8 glasses not all of which were full. It would have been easy to keep the celebration going through the rest of the week, but we kept it light because of the challenge. Plus I’d received Theo chocolate for Christmas, so I savored it in small doses instead of evening drinks.

Week 5: exercise 5x/30minutes plus drink 64oz of water each day. I’d seen the water challenge coming so I kept an eye on my normal intake a bit. On work days I could easily drink the water, by I wasn’t consistent on other days. The previous week I’d gone lax on exercise and paid for it by becoming moody, irritable and stiff. This week I tried the free week at Kinetic6. A few years ago my sister invited me to join her at the gym for a workout and she kicked my ass—she was 9 months pregnant at the time. She said Kinetic6 was tough, which I translated to insane. They offered a great workout—Tuesday leg focus left me sore until Sunday, but changed how I align my ankles, knees and hips which given me more power in every other activity and will probably help my low back issues. Without a buddy I’d rest until the soreness dissipated—missing a week of exercise—but my sister was there with the grit to keep going. Plus we’d signed up for an Aerial silks workshop. The warm-up and conditioning made me feel like a blubbery lump of useless stiffness. The gym was full of hyperflexible lean people doing things I would have expected of Olympians. Apparently I’d been setting the bar too low and I was inspired to work on flexibility, strength and mastery over graceful movement. The challenge up to this point had given me the confidence to believe that incorporating the lessons I’d learned from the individual challenges could lead to better physical health than I’d previously believed.

Week 6: pick any two challenges. I chose exercise and fruit & vegetables because I want to make them the foundation of future habits. Incidentally I only had one glass of wine and probably got the water in most days. I like classes. Some gyms offered free trials and I intend on taking advantage of all of them. If I ever settle one one place, I’ll probably become a member. I love being outdoors and I know it is possible to do it all on my own. Realistically, knowing my lack of discipline, I need some one designing a workout and guiding me through it to make any progress in strengthening.

Going forward: This has given me a sense of how bad of shape I was actually in. Now that I’m beyond denial and am taking action, I will keep things moving in a healthier direction. I’ll be taking advantage of some more free gym trials. I’ve downloaded some exercise and yoga videos on my new Kindle Fire (LOVE it) to take on my travels. Fruits, vegetables and juices will take higher priority and make an appearance in every meal possible. Sweets will become treats again—not part of every meal, especially not breakfast.

The scale says the same thing so I’ve achieved the goal AND gained so much more. It was a little effort to keep on track and the benefits were small but significant: less pain, more energy, optimism, physical strength and flexibility.

Thanks Jen! I love you! (Love you too, Heather!)

About Heather:

Ride around Borneo
Heather rode her bike around Borneo in 2013 to raise funds and awareness for Humana Child Aid Society.

Heather is a world traveler. She’s been overseas for the bulk of six years now, splitting her time between traveling, working as a divemaster and massage therapist, and working on personal growth and development. Her most recent years have been spent in Asia: Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos. This past year, she embarked on a bicycle ride around Borneo, an island divided by 3 countries: Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. She pedaled 5,249 km in 78 days to raise funds and awareness for Humana Child Aid Society. She is a beautiful person inside and out, with an unparalleled sense of adventure. I miss her all the time, but admire her moxie and love keeping up with her adventures and challenges through email, Skype, and Facebook.

So, fellow MDGers, how did you do? What challenges made you feel the best through the holidays? What habits are you going to maintain through the year? I’d love to hear about your experiences!


Please note: I am not a health professional. I am not a trainer or dietician. I am a fitness enthusiast. If you embark on a new fitness or diet regimen, please consult your doctor and pay attention to your body and health. This is a social challenge to encourage health and fitness through the holidays. Your choice to participate is not the responsibility of Committed LLC. 

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