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- The Struggle Is Real: Teacher Physical Wellness - October 19, 2016
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Thanks to Facebook, everyday I am reminded of past posts. Being the beginning of the school year, most of my old posts are pictures. Wow, was that me as a freshman in college? Pictures of me disappear shortly after my teaching career began. Maybe it’s due to time or the lack of anything Facebook worthy. However, if I am being honest, I stopped taking pictures of myself because I didn’t want to see them anymore. Like countless new teachers facing the relentless school years, I gained weight very quickly those first few years of teaching. And then I had my daughter, and the weight continued to pile on. Before I started a family, I commuted an hour to and from work each day, so by the time I returned home, it was dinnertime, and I couldn’t bring myself to work out late in the evening. With a family, I didn’t want to lose that time to exercise. Getting up an hour earlier for a morning workout didn’t appeal to me.
However, my greater enemy was food. Weekly, we’d have baked goods in the teachers’ lounge, which was unavoidable if you wanted to use the bathroom or copier. I have no self-control when it comes to donuts. Since my husband managed a restaurant, fried food was a regular part of my diet. Everything was working against me, and I was about to accept that I would live the rest of my life hating selfies. And then a college friend (high school teacher) started posting regularly about her journey to a healthier lifestyle. Her success made me realize that it is never too late to turn things around and feel healthy again.
Here are some simple tips to help any teacher overcome the struggle and find physical bliss.
Clean Eating: Someone once told me that 75% of weight loss is what you put in your body. After some research, the consensus is the same: diet is has a more significant effect on losing weight than exercise. Ideally, we should “eat less and move more,” but six months ago, I was so overwhelmed by doing both, that I chose to focus on one. Diet seemed more accessible for my lifestyle. Dieting doesn’t have to be bland food. Google “clean eating”; create a Clean Eating Pinterest Board. You’ll be shocked to find the foods that you can still eat. Unlike diets, Clean Eating is a lifestyle change that doesn’t count calories and require a large budget.
As best as possible, I try to eat 80% clean food each week, so I have a little wiggle to enjoy unhealthy foods (in moderation). By not completely restricting myself, I have been more successful in this life change. Slowly, I’ve built up my self-control, so I’m able to say no to the baked goods. Fortunately, my cafeteria has a station dedicated to clean eating. Maybe you could encourage your school to consider that option. By not consuming so many processed foods, my body functions better, and I don’t feel food guilty throughout the day. Talk to your administrator about providing a clean food option at the next PD Day. Teachers need clean eating to be a convenient option.
Meal Prep: I struggle with this one, but thankfully, I have a chef for a husband. Convenience is my number one decision maker when it comes to food. For lunch, I want something that I can grab and go (usually a freezer meal or leftovers). After a long day at work, I don’t want to come home and spend an hour in the kitchen (plus clean up time). Consider preparing your weekly meals on the weekend. Use the internet to find convenient recipes. Yes, you’ll be using your weekend time, but overall, you’ll save time throughout the busy week. Additionally, you can consider proportion sizes. Typically, how much I eat is based on my emotions, but by preparing my meals ahead of time, I can make sure that my plate sizes are the perfect for weight loss. Most of us don’t know the appropriate proportion size, but thankfully, the internet has several resources for you. Just Google “Food Proportion Guide.”
Drink Lots of Water: I’m a coffee and soda drinker. I need that caffeine in the morning, and the bubbles in the afternoon. Besides unnecessary sugar, these drinks dehydrate me and prevent weight loss. So, I started drinking water before my “luxury” drinks. Water boosts your metabolism. The typical suggested amount of water is 64 ounces a day, but to lose weight, you need to drink more. I was told to take my weight, divide it in half, and drink that many ounces of water. Holy Cow! Most days I don’t get there, but it’s a great goal to have. Everyday, I drink the 64 ounces before I drink a “luxury” drink. Additionally, I limit my soda intake (besides donuts, soda is my kryptonite). During the school day, I forget to drink water, so I put myself on a schedule. In between classes, I hold my water bottle while I monitor the halls. I had designated water refillers (student’s idea), so I always had fresh, cool water available. While at home, my daughter challenges me to drink water. Find a water bottle that you love and set benchmarks: begin with 64 ounces a day.
Quick Workouts: The internet is filled with quick (under 30 minutes), in-home workouts. Waking up an hour earlier seemed impossible, but thirty minutes was doable. If I missed a morning workout, I could complete one after my daughter was a sleep. Consider joining a 24-hour gym, so you can work out whenever is convenient. Some of my colleagues use the school’s facilities before they leave for the day. I’ve watched teachers walk the track during the prep period. Workouts don’t need to be overwhelmingly long.
Get the School Involved: My school’s staff is competing with another school’s staff; each school has created a team that tracks daily workouts (point system). At the end of the semester, one school will be declared the winner. There’s no money incentive, just bragging rights. But you know what, that’s enough for educators. Create a competition between departments or schools within the district. See what other school resources you can use.
Accountability: For me, this component has been the most significant factor in improving my health. Last year, I’d set goals and not tell anyone about them. When I failed, I personally shamed myself, but no one encouraged me to keep trying, so I just gave up. When I first transitioned to clean eating, I kept a food diary and graded myself daily on my efforts. Writing the information down helped me make the adjustments. My FitBit has been a true blessing because I’m able to track my walking goal throughout the day. Some days I walk during lunch. Some nights I’m ready to go to bed, but I’m so close to my goal, so I put on my running shoes and go for a quick jog. My husband is my accountability partner: he lets me talk at him; he encourages me to try better the next day; he discourages me from poor food choices without shaming me. Find a person to confide in and share your journey with.See what other school resources you can use to be healthy Click To Tweet
None of these ideas are revolutionary, but they are steps in the right direction. I don’t want to avoid pictures with my students because I’m ashamed of my body. I don’t want to walk into work everyday feeling tired and gross because I’m not taking care of my body. Teachers don’t need to give up a healthy lifestyle because the job is demanding.