How I Changed My Life
Hello friends! I am finally sitting down to share a really personal post about my health journey. A little over a year ago I began working really hard on my habits, health and other things that were causing me anxiety and stress. 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.
Doctors: Before our adoption, 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!
Money: 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. But sometime last year I 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.
Parenting: 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.
I’m still a new parent and I’m not pretending to be an expert. So I’ll just simply tell you what things we did that worked well for us and that I’ll keep doing. 🙂
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!
Food: 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.
Exercise: 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. This year, I have been trying a new routine that has finally helped me. 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. As I new mom, 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.
(Dress from Sezane (similar here), Boots from Seychelles.)
A year later, 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
Note: This post is pre-scheduled. I am currently on my maternity leave with baby Marigold (!!!!!!!), so if I don’t respond to your comment, don’t worry, someone else on our team will. I am so grateful for the opportunity to take a little time to bond with our new baby. But I left a bunch of posts in the drafts for you to enjoy while I’m away. See you on the other side! xx
Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.