Freedom in Routine

Today, as I was working through some wellness goal setting, I found myself almost literally hungry for one specific thing: to be finished losing weight. Not in the sense of wanting a quick fix or to rush the process, or for instant gratification. If you know anything about my story, you know that thought is laughable, not least because I’ve been fighting this particular round of things for almost five years solidly. No, what I want is to be finished with this season of my health and fitness journey. The tricky thing is, I’ve been finished before, in the sense of no longer actively trying to lose weight, and having moved onto performance based goals, getting faster, better, stronger, able to do harder things with my body. And, by no real fault of my own, I’m stuck back in the middle- halfway between where I started and where I worked my way to six years ago. I didn’t fall off a yo-yo diet or stop exercising or anything like that. I got pregnant, had a baby, and postpartum depression turned into insomnia, OCD, and other things cascaded into my body being just entirely hormonally destroyed. Other than three very brief windows of success- which were all short lived and followed by an emotional low point that destroyed all the consistency I’d then built, I’ve been stuck. 2019 was probably my least consistent year as far as taking care of my physical health, because I had a major mental health breakthrough, and on the heels of it, my fitness journey took a back burner- I thought I only had the resources for either/or, and I wish I’d been able to balance things better. I’m past that now, though. I am also past any bit of passivity left in me about this weight loss. No more “seeing what happens.” I’ve found my “why” for this leg of the journey.

I want the freedom that I found starting a little over six years ago when I started succeeding at weight loss in a consistent and sustainable way for the first time ever. The freedom to take a day off if I was worn out, knowing I’d get back to it tomorrow and it wouldn’t sabotage my goals. I had the freedom to eat a brownie or a piece of  chocolate cake once in awhile without the world ending and feeling defeated. I could do those things because I was doing all the things I needed to to take care of myself consistently.

Now, I am tired of being tired, I am tired of questioning whether every meal I eat or any workout I miss is taking me closer or holding me back from my goals. I am tired of avoiding looking in the mirror when I help Declan wash his hands, because this is not my body. I am tired of not knowing anything because it’s been so long since I was truly consistent at taking good care of myself long enough to see any results from it. I am weighed down physically, emotionally, and mentally by this excess weight and the struggle to shift it. I have been consistent at exercising for long periods over the past five years. I have even been consistent at eating well and exercising for long periods at the same time. I have had short periods of consistent good sleep, soul care, and rest. I have never been consistent at all three aspects of my wellness at the same time for more than a week or two- I would guess that those would be the aforementioned brief windows of success. 

The freedom I am craving isn’t just for my physical wellness and weight loss, though finding it in this area would spill over into so much less tension for me. It seems almost counterintuitive that a firm routine would create openness and freedom to “off road”, but it does. With food and exercise and good sleep, it’s knowing that my habits are solid enough to allow an occasional detour without getting lost, and it can be like that in my everyday routine as well. If, most days, we follow a certain routine, and the habits surrounding and protecting it are pretty solid, we can take a day and do something different without throwing everything into a tizzy. A good example is a school field trip-that’s an occasional event that can happen, and the next day school returns to its usual schedule with little to no disorientation. This is my goal across the board- I would love for our daily routine to be solid enough that if we decided to do something different once in awhile on a weekday, it would not leave me (or the kids) completely thrown off, and instead we’d be able to return to our familiar flow seamlessly. 

I had this freedom through consistency pretty much across the board from fall 2013- Summer 2014, so I know it is possible, and I know how free it felt. I also know that my life on a daily basis is very different now, so I can’t just duplicate that time and expect it to work! I have twice as many kids, Lexi is about four times and needy as she was as a toddler, I’m homeschooling, and I am trying to heal some pretty deep trauma, which takes a toll and requires intentional decompressing on a daily basis. It’s gonna have to look different. 

So, what does building this consistency look like, for me, right now, both specifically in fitness/wellness, and globally, in a daily routine? What systems are already in place, and what changes do I need to make to be even more intentional and focused- without becoming a slave to perfectionism? 

The global, daily flow is almost the easy part. Our daily routine, which I have hammered out using a time blocking approach, is dialed in in a way that, again, if kept to consistently, will work fantastically. The specifics aren’t important, but the heart of it is the predictability for the kids, especially between the hours of six to ten AM. That time is nonnegotiable and even when we reach a place where we have the freedom to deviate from time to time, that time period will almost never vary. I have identified the things in my day that are absolute musts and I am protecting them. 

  • Wakeup routine- a short set of tasks that help me wake up, including skin brushing, dressing in workout clothes, and reviewing my to-dos while sipping a beverage. 
  • Strength workout (45 min)
  • Morning pages and breakfast (45 minutes)
  • Breakfast for kids and read aloud time (30 minutes)
  • Yoga (up to 45 minutes)
  • Morning beauty and Soul care ( devotions, prayer, meditation)

Everything else in our day could be skipped or rearranged, but those things are things I need to do every day, to take good care of myself. There are other things in our daily routine that are important, but any one of them could be put in another time slot or doubled up on the next day without much disruption, even school.  

I have other items in my schedule that are indispensable, and I put them into my planner as appointments, and am working to treat them as such. Some of these are things like my cycle classes on my beloved Peloton, date night  (here at home, for now) with Scott, and my evening prep and beauty time. I also schedule an hour of reading aloud to the kids on Wednesday morning, either from whatever chapter book we are working on, or library books they have chosen.

All this has been, in the short time since I’ve been practicing it, exactly what I want and need- it’s just a matter of building consistency and habit. 

The trickier part is dialing in what I need to do to make progress and reach freedom in my physical health journey, reaching the point where I am transitioning from a weight loss journey fully into a fitness journey. I’m welling up just typing that, because I miss it so- I miss the weight loss being a bonus on top of achieving new things I didn’t know my body could do. (I do expect to have these achievements even as I lose weight, but right now they are not my main driving desire.)  What am I doing well now, and what do I need to adjust to create focus and structure to facilitate success?

The  already good and getting better with practice:

  • Getting up early
  • Morning routine (6-10 AM)
  • Meal planning (weekly)
  • Workout programming structure (strength, yoga, cycle classes)
  • Better bedtimes.
  • Intentional daily downtime built into my schedule to recharge and have fun-my way

Areas with room to grow (plan for growth/improvement)

  • Consistency at all of the above and below (practice. Commitment. Getting Scott seriously on board to help.)
  • Awareness of/ knowing how much I need to eat. (Going to track with MFP, aiming for a calorie goal, but not being a slave to it, eating intuitively based on hunger cues. Generally keeping carbs low/veggie based on non spin days, whole food based on days i ride. Aiming for 100-150g protein)
  • Incorporating plenty of anti inflammatory foods and beverages into my days (plan ahead for this when i make my meal plan for the week)
  • Getting completely sidetracked/thrown off when i have a tired or hormonal day or days (Chipotle is my best plan b option, or curry without rice, need to make a backup workout plan for these days to keep the ball rolling and commit to doing it.)
  • My period is so freaking irregular and dramatic when all my self care has been bad that it can steal a whole week from me. (keep consistent with fundamentals, SEEDS)
  • Cravings for foods that are either easy or just sound good but do not serve my body (meal prep, so good food is easy, list of healthy quick snacks that ARE good, work on getting back to cooking with more variety. Plan occasional meals that taste decadent but are actually pretty healthy, like Gnocchi with steak and veggies. Stay away from things like pizza and super sugary desserts long enough that eating them would be a conscious choice rather than giving unto a craving. Even then, keep it occasional. Even if the less ideal foods are different foods, it doesn’t serve me to have them close together- like, pizza this week, fried chicken next week, a burger a week after that.) 

All of that seems obvious when I look at it, and none of it is that hard on its own, but the big struggle is this: I am tired. I do not have a ton of energy, mental or physical, a lot of the time, and especially at the beginning of building all this awesome new stuff for myself. It improves quickly, but if I am not intentional about how to use the energy I have, I will quickly burn out. Even all the reflection and planning today has drained me a bit, and I’ve done very little physically. I’m also coming off of eight days of a really hard lead up to and the first half of my period, and today is the first day I have felt human again. I need to not pile all the mental and physical work onto one day of the week, and I need to be willing to ask for help when needed. I need to next identify what habits need to be formed and how frequently. 

Daily:

  • Get up early
  • Work out
  • Eat plenty of Whole Foods, including anti-inflammatory ones, and track them in MFP
  • SEEDS
  • Intentionally recharge with down time
  • Prep for tomorrow (20 minutes)
  • Go to bed on time

Weekly: 

  • Schedule workouts
  • Plan meals (20 minutes)
  • Prep foods to keep it easy to eat well (1h)

Monthly: 

  • Set goals
  • Check in for progress (photos)
  • Plan workouts 

One Time/ Create

  • Wise plan b choices for food
  • Tired day backup workout
  • Sit down with Scott and get him on board, figure out how he can help. 

Looked at this way it’s really not that much, it’s just a matter of committing to the small time investment (and sacrifice to go to bed early) to reap so many rewards. The hardest part will be the first few weeks, and after that, it’s just a matter of keeping it going. I can absolutely do this. I have done it before, and now I am so much stronger and wiser. This doesn’t require me to work harder, only more intelligently and with commitment, with my WHY in mind. 

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