Reader, Walking
Life

Reader, Walking: Small, Incremental Habits

A year ago, on March 1, I registered my highest ever weight.

I was kinda shocked, but, honestly, not enough to really get into gear.

Then, because of the global pandemic, Jason came home to work. He’s always had a long-ish commute – 45 minutes or so each way, so I knew we needed to bracket his days somehow. I also knew that if we weren’t able to go anywhere, none of us would ever really go outside.

He’d been regularly hiking on Saturdays and Sundays, taking the dog for a long walk. While I wasn’t actually resentful of that time he was gone (or I tried hard not to be after he’d been gone all day every day for the work week), I did miss him during that time. I had recently decided that I’d rather spend that 3 hours with him than without him and that I was going to start going with him when I could.

I also had a FitBit and a challenge group that I was … slacking with. Some days getting verrrry few steps. I knew better.

All of these things came together to suggest we take a walk before school and work. That went well, so I suggested a walk around lunchtime. At the end of the day, I thought “why not?” and suggested a third for his “commute.”

I won’t lie. It was hard at first. We have a loop in our neighborhood that is approximately a mile from start to finish, this means we were walking 3 miles daily. Our walk goes through a small patch of woods (can you say Nature Study? something I seriously slack on?!) There is a slight incline to and from that area (and the court at the end) and … I was breathing heavily and struggling on the uphill. It was a challenge.

I listened to Michael Pollan’s Caffeine one Friday while cleaning the house, and made some coffee rules – coffee before 10 am. In my review, I said I’d probably keep to my 2 cups, but at some point, I switched to 1 12-oz cup most days (sometimes I’ll have a second or part of a second). Since I drink it with half-and-half and sugar, that limitation has been good.

We went on vacation in June and were discussing our routine. My brother-in-law asked if we’d seen any health benefits, if we’d lost weight, etc. And I really didn’t know, all I could say was that I thought my clothes were fitting better. Which was true.

When I came home, I weighed myself and, indeed, I had lost back to what had been my “normal” for the past few years. That was exciting. It hadn’t been my purpose, but it had made a difference anyway. I started weighing myself once a week and was seeing regular progress. I hadn’t really changed my diet, just activity level.

The other thing I did when I came home was not bring my walking shoes: I’d worn through the soles. A few years ago I had done the 10k steps pretty regularly and didn’t know about wearing through walking shoe soles and had hurt my Achilles’ tendon and had to stop. The momentum was broken and I never got the habit started back up once I healed. This time I was careful to not do so again. In fact, I ended up buying new walking shoes every 2 months in 2020. Cheaper than a gym, I suppose, but still an unexpected expense.

In late June or July, I did make some diet changes. I started cutting snacks. I started drinking a breakfast shake (Carnation Instant Breakfast, 2 C of whole milk, and a frozen banana blended) and declining seconds. [Breakfast has changed since then, I now eat an over-hard fried egg and drink a shake (with 1 C of 1% milk and half a frozen banana) each morning.]

I kept seeing progress.

Sometime in late summer, thanks to Brandy Vencel, I found a Multivitamin to take: MegaFood Women over 40 One-A-Day. I’ve never been good at daily medicines, but I made this part of my morning routine – even if it was *most* days, it was better than none.

We also added an extra half mile on our morning walk. I sometimes will do an extra walk before our evening walk, too, and pick up Jason and the dog for the final bit. Did I mention how much the dog loves 3 walks per day? But, as a Reader, Walking, this “extra” walk is great for podcasts and/or audiobooks and made a difference.

I also started tracking food in the My Fitness Pal app. I spoke with Scholé Sister, Abby Wahl, and she told me two things: 1) track weight daily (I was suspicious) and 2) track food as closely as possible, but don’t obsess over exactness. She’s knowledgeable and fit, so suspicions aside, I started to do both.

The daily weight tracking turned out to be good advice. I saw that there might not be big swings, and there might not be the constant even loss, but the long term loss was still happening. Just don’t get discouraged at each plateau. I find that I plateau for a lot of the month and then drop and then hold steady for a while and then drop. I don’t freak out (as much) when I’m staying at the same place.

The food tracking could be frustrating if I were trying to get it exactly right every day. Coming close is good enough and has helped. I determined early on that if I was doing this route, the changes I made had to be sustainable with regard to what I eat – so I still have a glass of wine with dinner most nights and I still have a bowl of ice cream most evenings (did you know that a serving of ice cream is 1/2 a cup? And that it fits easily within a little Pyrex custard cup?). We already eat pretty healthy foods, I just ate too much and moved too little.

I pretty much got 10k steps every day but Sunday from the time Jason came home to work with very few exceptions. That achievable goal was good. In October, after the Scholé Sisters retreat, I determined that my new rule was that I had to get to 12k steps for ice cream. I might up that to 15k, but I really like ice cream.

We’ve walked in bad weather, one memorable walk in a sudden rain with the kids where we got drenched. We’ve walked in the snow. We’ve walked on icy sidewalks (YakTrax helped me so much!). Gear has been important – I already talked about shoes, and I’ve previously shared about walking when it’s cold) Having proper attire really has been a game changer.

All this time I kept up my FitBit Goal Day challenges; the camaraderie helped. In November, I agreed to join the Workweek Hustle with the same group. That has propelled even more steps as we try to one-up one another each week sometimes hitting 20k+ steps in a day. It’s hard that so many of them are Left Coasters, though! It also makes more more listening time while walking in circles around my house; more walking, more reading!

In January 2021, I added drinking more water. I’ve never done well at tracking my water or drinking nearly enough. I finally figured out the secret (for me). I fill a 72 oz pitcher before bed and put it in the fridge. I have an 18oz tumbler with a straw that I refill throughout the day. Once the pitcher is empty, I’m done for the day. I refill it for tomorrow. It has made a huge difference, maybe not in weight, but I can tell in just general well-being.

This works for me because I like cold water but don’t have to mess with ice or counting cups or anything else. Just empty the pitcher.

Finally, NONE of these rules apply to Sunday. The Lord’s Day is for celebration, feasting, and rest. I don’t track anything. This gives me some mental reprieve from the focus and I enjoy a Cinnamon Roll for breakfast. I have found, though, that I’m not super hungry and still mostly limit my choices for the other meals simply because that’s the habit.

Mostly, these were things I knew I was supposed to do but wasn’t doing. They added incrementally as I went. As of March 1, 2021 I have lost 45 pounds, which is slightly less than 1 pound per week, but I’m still quite happy with progress. In my dreams I’d like to lose nearly that much more. We’ll just keep progressing and see where things go.

I find it hard to notice in the day-to-day, but last week I dug out a picture from February 2020 and the difference is startling. Even in the same outfit.

So, there’s where I am and what I’m doing. I don’t know what the future holds, I don’t know if there will be more incremental changes. I plan to keep going, slow and steady. I do keep thinking about maybe adding some sort of exercise like Pilates to help tone things up, but I’m just thinking for now.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, I have not seen a doctor, I don’t like medical things in general, I will not play a doctor on the internet. This is simply my history and experience as best I remember. I have no snake oil to sell. Muddle on your own way at your own risk or consult your physician as seems best to you. To me, these changes seem common-sensical and have made a difference; your mileage may vary.

33 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing! I too often fall into an all-or-nothing mentality which prevents me from making progress. It’s good to remember that with health, as in most things, a little done imperfectly is better than the perfect thing I never actually do. 🙂

    1. I tend to be “all in” with goals, but I’ve learned that maybe being “all in” a little at a time is better 🙂

  2. Congratulations! That’s the best disclaimer I’ve ever read! LoL

    Do you have a favorite brand for Walking shoes?

    1. I’ve had 3 pairs of Brooks Ghost and they were fine. The most recent pair I got were Altra Lone Peak Trail Runners and I really like them a lot, I think that’s what I’ll get next time too (which is soon and would have already been happening but for wearing boots all of February)

      1. If you have a costco membership watch out for runners in the spring. I’ve had good luck with the fila brand.

  3. Thanks for sharing. I’ve just reached a tipping point and so far cut out caffeine (reflux problems) and started walking, as well as a few diet changes.

    That said my health professional has told me to make permanent changes and go slow for the best chance of successfully keeping weight off. So I would say your on the right track there.

  4. Super encouraging! I live hearing real life stories that aren’t trying to sell me on a body type. Well done, Dawn🙂

  5. This was so interesting and helpful! I appreciate you giving the details and specific steps you took. Thank you! You look terrific! (I enjoy your blog very much too.)

  6. You LOOK younger, too! Congratulations on your lifestyle changes. I really enjoyed just now finding your blog again. I’ve bookmarked it this time. 😊

  7. That is a great disclaimer! I’m really enjoying this series of yours…how to layer was SO helpful and this post gives me lots of things to think about. I started upping my steps last week, and I was amazed at how energetic and good I felt getting 20k steps in a day. I don’t have any friends who achieve anywhere near that, so it’s hard to find people to challenge. I’m trying to keep myself motivated since I felt so good to be so active!

    1. I only get to 20k occasionally, I’m still in the 12-17k range most days. When I get to 20 it’s a LOT! Good job 🙂

  8. I love this like a zillion times a zillion. (Though I do NOT like being apart of the Workweek Hustle. You ladies never sit!) Little habits. Being okay with not being perfect. Daily habits. It all adds up! You inspire me!

  9. I love this Dawn! I did something similar several years ago and those incremental common sense changes have been the best way to create habit and lifestyle change. I feel so good as a result and hope it continues for you too. Way to go!!

  10. Aw, this is great! Congratulations! I am very inspired by your habit changes and progress! (and quite encouraged to hear that you still have wine and ice cream 😍) I am 35 and trying to lose 10 pounds that have crept on in the past several months. I would love to walk but I have 5 children and my youngest is 3, so I am not yet in the stage to leave them home while I do. Somehow with the whole gang the walk is more of a ‘mosey’ so I tend to just avoid it. 🙃 I might need to find a time when my husband is home so that I can go alone. Thanks for sharing about your journey! ☺️

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