Hello friends! I am finally sitting down to share a really personal post about my health journey. Several years ago, I began working really hard on my habits, health, and other things that were causing me anxiety and stress.
Related: How I Save Money, How to Hygge, The Art of Letting Go
It was during the first season we were home with Nova. It was, by no means, the first time I had started a healthy commitment, but in a lot of ways it was my “breakthrough” that I had been wanting for so long.
Today, I want to share some of the things that helped me to achieve my goals.
First, I want to say this isn’t a post about weight loss, although dozens of “how did you lose weight?” DMs are what prompted me to write this post.
This post is about how I changed my WHOLE life and if you read it all the way through you’ll see that it was not just one thing (such as a diet or exercise routine), but a compounding effect of a lot of healthy changes.
What people saw on the outside was that I lost 20 pounds, but what those closest to me saw was that I changed my whole life. Last year was, by far, the biggest year of change I’ve ever had.
Becoming a mom felt like the right time to face my “demons” and focus on being the best version of myself I could. It’s a lot of responsibility to have a little person watching every single thing you do, and it changed my life.
I know many people (myself included) can feel triggered by weight loss posts, before/after photos and promises of what a 30-day plan can do. This is not that.
One of the reasons I have struggled to explain, even to my best friends, how I was able to lose weight is that is a very long story and it’s not all about food or exercise. For me, a huge part of it was internal work that I needed to do.
Before I begin, please understand that this is my personal experience and story, not an advice post. Maybe it’s something that could help you, maybe it’s just a story. That’s OK.
It started with a 100-day challenge.
One hundred days is a long time. Time enough to accomplish a series of small goals, but short enough that if you don’t make the goals you’ll feel like you blinked and the time has passed.
I drew 100 squares on a piece of paper. I made a list of things I wanted to change. Some are too personal to list, but my list included having better spending habits and saving money, losing some weight, having a more organized home (this list was extensive), and many things on the list were things I had been putting off out of fear or laziness … but the kind of things you stress about when you wake up at night.
As the days began to pass and I would color in a square each day, I felt motivated to face each thing on my list. As I began to cross off items from my list, I felt more and more in control of my life.
These are some of the things I changed in different areas of my life during that time.
Before our adoptions, I hadn’t been to the doctor or dentist in around 10 years. With each year that passed, I became more panicked, but also more avoidant.
It was a big deal for me to begin seeing a doctor (I took care of the dentist at the same time just to leverage that momentum) as we were preparing for our first adoption.
It was a requirement for the home study to get a basic physical. After that was over, I was so happy and relieved that I kept going to my regular appointments, vowing to not be afraid of them anymore. It’s been such a great feeling to stay on top of these things instead of avoid them!
When I started my 100-day challenge, I had a few appointments I was still putting off. I wanted to see a dermatologist to get a skin cancer screening and begin a yearly regimen for that.
And I wanted to see a chiropractor (as soon as we adopted Nova I developed extra back issues due to becoming an instant parent to a toddler and all the physical stuff that comes along with that).
I did both these appointments right away and felt like a NEW PERSON.
After that, I faced another kind of random fear, which was to get massages. I don’t know why I was so weird about it; I had a few massages in the past, but this past year I began to get them regularly (usually during Nova’s weekend nap time) and it was a huge self-care step forward for me!
I know these may seem like strange fears to you, but facing them gave me so much new confidence!
Becoming a parent put a lot of things in perspective for me. For the first little bit, I barely even thought about money, I was pretty overwhelmed.
ButI began to feel irrationally panicked about money, savings and our future. It wasn’t all the time, but when those feelings popped up they were strong.
It wasn’t until we began talking to a financial planner that I was able to relax. I think that having that outside perspective really helps to feel like we are on track and keeps me focused on our next couple goals, not too many goals at once.
Money is never going to be my favorite thing or my big passion, but having a plan that we work on with a professional helped me feel at peace with it.
This one was easier in some ways because I was literally from scratch. I didn’t have to fix years of bad habits as I did on some of the other ones.
Seasonal bucket lists have been HUGE for us. They help to remind me to do fun things and a bigger variety of things than I would think of without the list. I also make a list before every weekend of 2-3 fun things to do for each day (so 6ish things) and we usually get to about half of them.
Having that plan for doing things like crafts, going to the library, scheduling outings with friends or going on a picnic to the park helps me from defaulting to easier things that I don’t want to default to.
I’m not a perfect mom, but these simple habits have helped me to give Nova the most magical childhood I can.
The other thing I feel like I am really good at is not comparing myself to other parents—especially other moms on Instagram. I really believe that is a mind game you can’t win.
Most importantly, there’s nothing to compare because comparing reality to someone’s Instagram photos is not a fair comparison. It’s a losing game, so don’t fall into that trap!
I realized that the best diet for me was the one I could stick with long term. That’s it.
Over the years, I tried a lot of extreme diets that didn’t work for me, or only worked temporarily. The big changes I made last year were surprisingly simple. I found super healthy foods that I loved and stayed on a path of eating healthy for longer. It wasn’t any one diet or plan.
Some of the time I counted calories, which my husband does, so it came easily to me. Some of the time I did my own version of Weekday Weekend where I stuck with my super healthy soups, carrot juice and vegetable dishes during the weekdays and had some fun food on the weekends.
During this year, I still ate pasta and had cocktails and wine, but I also had long periods of time where I skipped all alcohol, all sugar and ate vegetable-based meals.
The only new thing I did last year was stay on my healthy streaks for longer. There is no secret. Unless the secret is broccoli.
One last thing I want to say about food—at one point I hadn’t had alcohol for two months and people started asking me about my skin constantly. It was a great feeling (if you haven’t entered your 30s yet, skin compliments become like GOLD), but I always felt like I had to tell them the truth.
There is no skin serum in the world that can do what a couple months of no alcohol can. It’s sad for someone who loves a strong cocktail as much as me, but it’s the truth.
This one is tough for me. I have been through a lot of different fitness obsessions, but I still struggle to stay consistent all the time. If you’re already good in the fitness department, just skip this next part because it’s kind of embarrassing.
I realized that the number one reason I was struggling was because I kept choosing workouts that I “dread.” Now I know this is different for everyone, so I wont get too specific. But I kept starting and quitting after three days over and over again.
The thing that helped me is that I gave myself an easy workout. And my goal right now is to just do the damn workout without dreading it.
I feel like I can work up from there, but at least I am moving my body every day instead of feeling guilty for not working out for weeks at a time.
Again, the same as food—the best workout for me is whichever one I will actually do.
Lowering my bar + letting go.
In addition to all these new habits, there were other things where I simply just lowered my bar, or decided to let some things go. A few examples:
I used to feel bad all the time when I didn’t get dressed during the work week (I work in my pjs a LOT) or when I didn’t have time or feel like getting “cute” before we went to brunch on the weekend.
This was an area where I was feeling guilt and shame for something that I didn’t actually want to fix. So what I did instead was change my perspective. I let go of the guilt. Now if I do hair and makeup for our brunch on the weekend, I feel like it’s a bonus, not a necessity.
And if I realize it’s now 6 p.m. and I’m still wearing what I woke up in, I feel grateful that I had a productive day working from home. No guilt!
Time management was another big one. I finally got to a point of accepting how many hours there are in a day, both to be a mom and to do my work. I learned to be more protective of those hours and more realistic.
This will always be something I struggle with, but learning to say no (a lot) more and to focus on a few important tasks each day is how I live my life now. No going back! It’s simple math. There are only so many hours in the day and so I use them the best I can each day.
I still have things I want to work on and change, and I know I always will. The big difference is I know I can do it. I know there is no reason to put things off or avoid making an appointment.
And though it still scares me, I feel more able to try something new and commit myself to something without the fear of failing. We all fail! The key to my success was trying longer before I gave up.
It sounds so simple now, looking back, but it changed my life. Thanks for reading! xx – Elsie
Omg. SAY MORE THINGS ABOUT THIS. LOL I’m so curious about what you tackled each day and what you considered a “success” for you to color in your square. Starting a 100 day challenge ASAP. This is perfect timing for me.
Thanks for posting this honest post!! It’s hard to get perspective when so much you see in social media seems perfect. I struggle with most of these same things too and this guilt all of the time that I can’t shake – even if the guilt is over something somebody else might thinks is unnecessarily. I have a lot of “but I SHOULD be doing this” feelings that take over way too often. I know other people have said the same, but I’d LOVE a post about your 100 squares if you could. Like were you coloring them each day just getting through the day? Color coding them for things you accomplished? It would be great to hear more about your self-motivation since I totally struggle with it and then beat myself up all of the time for not doing what I know “I SHOULD” do.
I agree about the 100 squares post – would love to see an example!
Elsie – I have followed your blog for YEARS and have always loved the down to earth and relatable feel of everything you and your group put out. As much as I love a recipe or DIY post, I really love this too. I also listen to the ABM podcast and love that as well! Your summary of how you changed your life is very inspiring and motivating and I commend you for sharing something so personal!
I have spent YEARS wondering how you did it ‘all’ and feeling like I should have been more productive but for a long time I chaulked it up to being busy raising my children and at the time-you and Emma were childless so I felt like that was a huge excuse for me. Come to find out you were working in your PJs and hadn’t seen a dentist in a decade and suddenly -to be honest- I feel completely vindicated and proud of myself and pretty proud of you too! I always did get up and showered and dressed daily and ticked off my full to-do list including staying on top of appointments for myself and the whole family but it’s good to know the illusion is just that-an illusion and a wonderful, honest reminder that everything we see online is only a small part of a life. Thank you for this!
Hey! For this challenge, did you color in a square for each day where you were on top of all your goals? Or did you tackle one goal each day and color it in that way?
I love this post! It speaks so much truth and it’s amazing to see positive changed in anyone who shares it. Thank you!
Alexis – www.alittlecity.com
Thank you so much for sharing Elsie. Your honesty is always refreshing and you always inspire me. I became a mum for the first time 4 months ago. I’m really aware that, although I think the human body is incredible and amazing, I do not love the physical sight of my body. I am so aware of my duty to teach and practice self care / love and body positivity. Body hang ups are just a compete waste of time and energy. They can stop you doing things (for me that includes massages!). I also have cupboards and drawers that I need to organise but put off before my daughter was born. Now my time is limited I can plan and really dedicate time to getting it sorted and then I can let go of that stress and anxiety. I can go on and on about the various ways I relate to the points in your post but I won’t. I just want to say thank you, you’ve given me so much to take away and not only think about but ideas to take positive action. Thank you. Truly x
I love this!!! I am going to use this idea for myself. 100 days. I have a long list, but this is the perfect way to start!
There are tons of celebratory emojis going off in my head reading this!! I’m inspired to do so much now, and I love the visual board so it’s not overwhelming.
And the “just do the damn workout” quote can be felt on a real spiritual level for me.
Thanks for writing and sharing this post. I have to admit I was hesitant because I am one of those people uneasy about weight loss talk, but I am so glad I decided to read on. I am currently in a place of feeling very stuck in my life – procrastination has taken over and I can feel a bit paralyzed and overwhelmed by even the smallest to-do lists. Reading this made me feel much less alone and encouraged me to start taking baby steps in the direction I want to go. It feels HARD, but I know it’s possible to climb out of this rut. Thanks for being so candid here. I know I’m not the only one benefitting from your words today.
This is so refreshing to see someone improve their overall life quality and choices that included weight loss but not specific to weight loss alone. There’s so much out there online that uses this same amount of Words and then some and the only topic is weight loss and fitness. This is just so balanced and a good example for every woman- I think we all struggle with most of the same things. We deserve to be a whole person, not a number on a scale. I want to lose weight but I also see so many areas of my life that have room for improvement. I think they have been standing in my way and I didn’t know or forgot I had permission or the right to address them as
Well. The takeaway from this post is huge for me. Thank you!
thanks for sharing your story. You already mentioned it in your post but it’s easier said than done. Seeing everyone doing really well on Instagram or other Social Media outlets lets us believe you are stuck in your own little world with your challenges. It’s good to know how others struggle as well but more importantly how they turn these situation into something great. Very grateful for your tipps and shared experiences. You can be proud of you!
I am so in the same camp regarding doctors + massages!! glad to hear I’m not the only one haha. and thank you for sharing–I’m inspired to try this 100 day challenge and stop putting these things off!
Thank you for sharing! I find it so much easier to eat healthy foods that I like rather than try to follow along to someone else’s plan, with foods I don’t like or haven’t wanted to eat. Also, I too was in the same place as you. I would start a plan and then after 3-4 days not finish the exercise plan because I hated it. HIIT is just the worst in my opinion and anything impact related sends my shin splints into screaming anger mode.
Wow! Amazing how many people payed attention to this I never noticed your weight only how cool you are, If you feel better that is the best part 🙂 happy time with your family.
Thanks for sharing this post- I loved reading it and it was such an inspiration. I took down some notes of things to work on!
What a wonderful post! It’s so inspiring how you did a challenge over 100 days- small little steps to reaching your goals is such a great idea. I’d really like to do the same for a few aspects in my life, thank you for sharing this it’s given me that extra push!
When I first started working out after my kids were born I used the videos on Popsugar Fitness (on Youtube). There are all different lengths of videos and the host Anna Renderer is super fun and friendly, and they are free and you don’t need equipment. I started out with the goal of just 10 minutes (because that’s all I had energy to do) and after a while I thought, since I was already sweaty, I will just do another segment or video. Now I am the strongest that I have ever been in my life and it feels great! Just starting is the hardest part, if you can do that you are already on your way to a healthier you!
This was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you Elsie. As a new parent, too, I struggle with pretty much everything you discussed. I really appreciate your honesty and please know that posts like this mean a lot to us! Thanks for being vulnerable.
Hello. I want to ask the same questions as Annie’s, for the 100-day challenge – did you check a box each time you crossed one thing off your to-do list? Or did you check a box each time you completed your daily routine (working out and eating healthy, for example?)
Hi! I was working in my general health for the entire 100 days, but I check off big things from my list one at a time. Some were things I could do in one day, but some took longer. 🙂