There is so much pressure on parents these days. What shots to give (or not give), organic food or conventional, scheduled nap times or intuitive, germ-friendly or germ-ophobe, you make the best decisions you can even when it means they may not be the perfect decisions and sometimes your friends, social media, and parenting manuals just don’t have the answers.
In the midst of all of those things, we parents have to figure out how to be functional at our jobs, for our partners, and this whole “adulting” thing in general.
Welcome to 2018.
If the above references sound anything like you, you might be one of those parents struggling to lose weight who is just trying to balance it all without losing your mind.
The struggle, as they say, is real.
Here are four (slightly unconventional) tactics to get you on the path you want to be on that you can put into place immediately.
1. If it’s a priority for your children, it’s a priority for you.
This concept can be a tough one for many parents which is why I’m starting with it. All too often, we’re focused on the needs of others before the needs of ourselves. As a result, it’s our own health that stands to suffer if we don’t find time to focus on taking care where it’s needed.
In the same sense that visits to the doctor, extracurricular activities and even school are scheduled events for our children, we have to schedule time for ourselves too. This can be 30 minutes of time on a treadmill daily, 1 hour of meal prep on a Sunday, or two to three scheduled bouts of strength training throughout the week.
Put these things on a calendar.
Otherwise, your time will become dominated by the needs of others or you will just find time to waste.
Remember that if we, as parents, are not healthy, we can’t give our children the attention or care they might need. To whatever extent you believe in being a role model, these attributes will shine for your children.
I’m reminded of my client Stacey, who sets in stone her Tuesday and Thursday appointments here that she never misses unless she is sick or out of town. These sessions are so ingrained in her lifestyle that even her two boys will say “Today’s the day you go see Mr. Jason!”
For Beginners: Set one week up of your scheduled “For You” appointments.
For Advanced: Set one month up of your scheduled “For You” appointments.
2. Master your food intake.
After our son Sebastian was born, my wife’s activity level changed dramatically. Not only was she not as active with choreography and dance instruction but she found that she would graze on food throughout the day while watching our baby at home. Once the initial weight loss happened as a result of breastfeeding, etc. she told me it was time to get serious about the rest of her weight loss goals. Knowing my wife better than most, I knew she historically fell into some fasting patterns. I showed her ways to make those patterns work for herself with regards to her goals and we started cooking more meals at home.
And as shocking as this may be to those who think they need more cardio to lose weight, Marissa has lost nearly 20lbs with next to no change in that decreased activity level. That weight came off from a measured, methodical approach to her food intake.
I should also caution that it is painfully easy to graze on the food we feed our children, especially if they don’t finish their meals. Many parents don’t want to see food go to waste so they will add to their own intake by noshing on what their kids have. If you can’t stop yourself from doing this, you’ll need to be honest enough with yourself that it happened so you can cut calories from another meal in the day.
The simplest solution is to not have the easily accessible, easy to overeat foods in the house at all. However, some parents feel they “need” to have chips, cookies, juices, and other goodies to feed their growing children. I won’t say right or wrong to that. What I will say, is that if you can’t control yourself with those foods, they may need to find a home in the trashcan until you start seeing the progress you want to see.
For many of my clients, getting control over these mindless snacking patterns can be all that it takes to see weight loss occur. No calorie counting, no food tracking, just conscious effort to say no to snacking and focus on the meals that are in line with the goals.
For Beginners: Stay conscious of only eating the meals you have in check, Eliminate snacking and second/third helpings of portions.
For Advanced: Try keeping a food journal (writing down what and when you ate) or tracking food through an app (we like MyFitnessPal, MyPlate, LoseIt, and EatThisMuch.)
3. High stress lifestyles don’t necessarily need high stress exercise routines.
It’s easy to get caught up in the bigger, better, faster, more approach to training. As most professional trainers know, you can be the worst trainer on the block and still know how to push someone to their limits (including nausea, dizziness, and unusual amounts of soreness.) This does not equate to intelligent training.
Since you’re already stressed to the hilt with raising a family, possibly working full or part time, your stress levels are at an all-time high. Asking someone in this position to subscribe to a murderous workout doesn’t bode well for long-term results or happiness along the way.
Find the training you can progress with that doesn’t annihilate you. Be able to see where you’ve made changes in strength or endurance with a mind-frame of “How do I sustain this over time?”
Referring back to my client Stacey, she’s harnessed the philosophy that it isn’t about dieting, it’s about being “strong and healthy.” Using that verbiage removes the conversation about dieting from the household so children may be less likely to view it as a good or bad thing.
As your children age, life doesn’t necessarily get less stressful or busy, you just find new things to be stressed and busy over. Referring back to tip #1, schedule your time to train, make progress, and move on. You’re not much good to those who depend on you if your body is a train wreck after an outrageous workout.
For Beginners: Focus on 2-3 days of progressive strength training with some low-intensity cardio
For Advanced: Add 1-2 days of high intensity training to change things up slightly (no more than 30 minutes at a time.)
4.) Sleep matters (and maybe more than you think.)
We’ve talked about lifestyle stress, so now we need to cover the stress that you get when you’re not sleeping enough. When you have an infant, they might dictate your sleep patterns more than you’d like. It’s generally a temporary phase so you do need to be able to sleep when you can.
In efforts to control what you can, remove the temptation of electronic screens (phones, tablets, computers and TVs) at least 30 minutes before bedtime so your mind and eyes are not as stimulated before you go down. You’re aiming for quality sleep every time you can get it.
And it’s not just for the sake of sleep, it’s to let your body recover from your workouts and repair the muscles you worked on in your training. In addition, you may be less likely to crave those sweet/salty foods or over-reliant on stimulants to get you more alert throughout the day. Lack of sleep has an interesting correlation to overeating the next day so the better you sleep, the more control you will likely have when you need it.
For Beginners: Remove (or turn off) the electronic screens 30 minutes before bed time each night.
For Advanced: Aim for dark, quiet rooms and 6-8 hours of restful sleep each night. A supplement like melatonin may be worth considering.
Here’s a shot of our little boy from last week. While he does manage to keep Marissa and I on our toes, life is settling into it’s relative normal for now. If you’re looking for the perfect time to get to your goals, it won’t come.
You have to make time (and effort) work for you.
Most importantly, the family you care so much about will benefit from the care you gave to yourself.