Of course I think all moms are working moms. However, moms who work full-time outside the home are faced with a different set of challenges that are, often times, very hard to manage. Trying to create a healthier lifestyle, and lose weight, can seem completely impossible. I get it, I was there. Good news, I figured it out. I’m not perfect but I was able to completely change my life during a very busy stressful time in my life – working full-time with 2 little kids. Today I’m going to show you how I got my shit together and lost some weight in the process.
Back in 2010, when I first started my weight loss journey, I was in a much different place. I was working 40+ hours a week outside the home, and many of those hours were nights and weekends. Also, my girls were about 3 and 5 years old.
Every… single… day was an exhausting hamster wheel of waking up, getting the kids ready and off to daycare, rushing to work, and spending the day working alongside people that made me want to gorge on pizza and drink a bottle of wine by noon, rush back to daycare to get my kids, and then get home to fix dinner and take care of all the other nightly duties. Then repeat the next day.
I spent my days worried about my kids and then my nights worried about work. It was a constant struggle to find any sort of balance.
Why am I telling you this?
Because amidst all that chaos, in the back of my head, weight loss was always on my mind. Everyday, I’d start my morning thinking “I need to lose weight”. Then I’d go to bed feeling completely discouraged because, yet again, another day went by and nothing changed. I had no clue how to fit any type of lifestyle changes into my chaotic life – it didn’t seem possible. How could I lose weight when I could barely take a shower before work? There were many days I’d try to convince myself just to accept the fact that I was fat. It actually makes me sad to think back on that time.
But then something clicked and after years of being on this hamster wheel I finally jumped off and started to figure things out. You can read more about my “a-ha” moments here.
So, I’m telling you this because I lost my first 30lbs during the busiest, most stressful, time of my life. And it’s not just about losing weight, I completely changed my life.
I know it sounds cheesy to say “if I can do this, you can too” but seriously if I can transform my life during that time then I truly believe you can do it too.
I hope you’re encouraged by this? You should be, because change is possible no matter where you are in life or how much weight you need to lose.
Of course, these changes didn’t “just happen”. Yah, unfortunately I didn’t wake up one day and poof life miraculously changed. Nope, I had to put in some effort and strategy. Good news is once I did, I started to see results.
Not only did I see the scale go down but I felt less stressed and more confident. Honestly, my entire life changed for the better. Again, all this happened while working full-time outside the home with 2 little kids.
Before I get to the strategies I want to say this…
There’s never going to be the perfect time. Work will always be busy, kids will always need something, and life will always throw curveballs. It’s just the way it is. So unless you plan to quit your job, and hire a nanny, then you need to find a way to fit the healthy life into your busy life. You have to get to a place where your lifestyle doesn’t go down the tubes every single time something doesn’t go as planned. You need to be stronger than your excuses.
Now I’m saying “you” but only because this was “me” at one point too. So, I get it. It hard to see the forest through the trees. But, it is possible and you can do this.
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- Here are the strategies that can help all working moms fit a healthy lifestyle into their busy life.
- Control Your “Hot Zones”
- Power Up Your Weekends
- Manage Your Time
- I started to eat my meals on a schedule
- Make-ahead meals
- I Created Routines and Stuck to Them
- Get Help
Here are the strategies that can help all working moms fit a healthy lifestyle into their busy life.
Control Your “Hot Zones”
I think one of the biggest reasons we struggle with losing weight is because we spend so much time in our “hot zones”.
Hot zones are moments where you feel stressed out, overwhelmed, and unprepared. In those moments your only focus is surviving that moment not on working towards a long-term goal. It’s near impossible to make any real positive changes when spending a lot of time in “hot zones”
Some of the best weight loss advice I can give, and honestly, I wish someone said this to me decades ago, is to get your “hot zones” under control. This is especially true for working moms. Not only do we have “hot zones” at home but we deal with all the work “fires” that need to be put out too. It can be a lot to manage and deal with.
Here are some “hot zone” examples.
- You order a pizza because you didn’t plan dinner and everyone is starving.
- You feel overwhelmed because laundry is piling up and the house is a mess. You can’t even focus on creating a meal plan, grocery shopping, or preparing any type of healthy meal. So, you start the week with zero plan and end up “winging it” everyday. This means lots of fast food and take-out.
- You plan to start a morning exercise routine only to say “screw it” when you can’t find any of your workout gear.
- You forget lunch so you grab a few things out of the vending machine. By the time you get home you’re starving and start snacking on everything all while making boxed macaroni and cheese because you have no dinner planned or prepared.
- You’re always running late because you don’t go to sleep at a decent time and nothing is ready ahead of time. Your mornings are filled with chaos and this trickles down to the rest of your day – you can’t even think about anything else other than what needs to happen in the next 10-20 minutes.
- You don’t keep a calendar or to-do list so you feel confused, overwhelmed, and can never seem to get ahead of the game.
These are just a few examples, but you get my point. As a working mom I felt like my whole life was one big “hot zone” – and looking back it was. I’m sure you can understand. However, once I started to control my hot zones sticking to a healthier lifestyle became…dare I say…easier.
Remember this… healthy choices are never made in “hot zone” moments. So, getting your “hot zones” under control is one of the first things to focus on. You can read more about controlling your “hot zones” in this post.
The rest of the tips I’m going to talk about will essentially help you control your hot zones.
Power Up Your Weekends
While I did work some weekends most of my work hours were during the week. I was out of the house by about 7:45am and didn’t get home until after 5. Once I got home it was dinner and baths. By 9:00pm I was ready to pass out and start all over again the next day. So, I know that finding extra time during the week, while not impossible, is very hard to do.
One of the things I did was power up my weekends. This meant instead of sitting around watching TV for 5 hours on Saturday and sleeping in on Sunday I got up and took care of business.
- I exercised both Saturday and Sunday for a longer period of time.
- I grocery shopped on Saturday morning and then prepped meals for the week on Sunday morning (after my workout and shower).
- All laundry got washed and put away.
- I planned out my schedule and to-do list for the week.
As a working mom time is very limited so it’s important, and very helpful, to use your time on the weekends efficiently. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t relax or have fun but I learned that I’m much happier during the week when I power up my weekends. I feel accomplished and confident when I take time on the weekends to get prepared. Also, the time you spend on the weekends will actually save you so much time during the week.
Even though I work from home now I still find it very beneficial to power up my weekends. You can read more about my Sunday routine here.
Manage Your Time
Looking back now I can see “being super busy” was really my lack of time management. Of course, there were days I legitimately had zero extra time but more often than not it was poor time management.
I barely kept a calendar, scheduled appointments without any thought, said yes to everything, allowed time suckers (talking on the phone, FB, TV, etc) to dominate, and didn’t utilize my mornings. This kept me in a constant state of chaos with nothing to show for all the hours lost.
When I took control back over my time is when I was able to add more hours to my day and start feeling accomplished.
This is how I got my time management under control:
- Kept a calendar with all weekly appointments, to-do lists, and goals for the listed out. I put together my schedule on Sunday and reviewed it every night before bed or in the morning. I also set reminders in my phone for the important things.
- If possible, I only scheduled appointments for certain days and times. One of the things that would slip me up is having random appointments scattered throughout the week. This would make it difficult to stay on track with anything. So I started scheduling as much as I could on certain days and times to keep personal appointments confined to a block of time. Even with my work scheduled, I tried to schedule meetings for later in the day because I knew I worked better on projects in the morning. Basically, I became more intentional with planning out my days in ways that worked better for me.
- I started to protect my time. There’s always going to be something or someone trying to take up your time. It could be a meeting, a phone call, or knock on the door. Learning to say no was one of the best things I ever did. I said no to the phone call or text when I was trying to exercise, no to a quick meeting while I was enjoying my lunch, and no to whatever it was that’d waste time I didn’t have. Of course, in some instances no isn’t an option but there are plenty of times it is and learning to use the magic word “no” can be a real game changer.
- As a working mom, one quick tip I found really helpful was to stop scheduling meetings during lunch. Again, this isn’t always possible but when it was I said no. Taking my lunch hour to relax and enjoy my healthy lunch was important to me. It gave me a much needed break that I wouldn’t get if I was trying to scarf down food while sitting in a ridiculous meeting.
- I got control over my time-suckers. This was HUGE. I know we all want to think we don’t waste any time but I bet if you really paid attention you’d come across some wasted hours spent on things like TV, Facebook, talking on the phone, or even just laying around. Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t do any of these things. All I’m saying is if you struggle to make any changes because you don’t have time then taking a hard look at how you spend your time could help. It did for me.
- I became a morning person. As a working mom this was a game-changer for me. Waking up at 5:30am instead of 6:30am gave me an extra hour in my day for exercise and other things. I tried many times over to exercise during my lunch break, or after work, and it never worked. The only way for me to keep exercise a priority was to exercise in the morning. Besides exercise there are other habits I started in the morning to stay ahead of my day. You can read more about my morning routine here.
I started to eat my meals on a schedule
One of the ways I kept my calories on track during the day was to eat on a schedule. I still do this to an extent but it was essential when I was working outside the home. Mostly because there were so many temptations. It was impossible to go through the day without being taunted by donuts or something carby. When I ate on a schedule I trained my brain to only want food at certain times. This way, if I was at a meeting, or office party, it was easier to abstain from the junk. Not to mention I started to bring food and snacks with me so not only did I eat at certain times but I had healthy food with me to eat during those times.
This was (and still is) my eating scheduled:
- 7:00am – Breakfast
- 10:00am – Morning snack
- 12:30pm – Lunch
- 3:00pm – Afternoon snack
- 6:00pm – Dinner
- I don’t eat past 7:00pm.
I’m sure this comes as no surprise, considering I talk about both all the time. However, I can’t say it enough. Meal prep and freezer cooking were total game changers for me. Not only did both make it 100% easier to stick to a healthy diet but my stress was significantly reduced. I didn’t have to worry about what to make for dinner or spend time after work cooking up meals. Everything was made ahead of time and that made all the difference.
In the beginning, I definitely focused more on freezer cooking. As a working mom, I found it more helpful to take a weekend every 4-6 weeks and stock my freezer. Then all I had to worry about was fresh fruits and vegetables along with other perishables I needed to grab every week.
Meal prep and freezer cooking makes a healthy lifestyle manageable. When I started to prepare food ahead of time that’s when everything else started to fall into place. I created more time in my schedule and my “hot zones” got under control.
If there’s one piece of advice I can give you to start creating healthier eating habits it’s to prepare food ahead of time. I’m telling you, it makes all the difference.
Here are some of my best posts on meal prep and freezer cooking:
I Created Routines and Stuck to Them
Routines are life! Gone are the days of sleeping in and flying by the seat of my pants like I did back in my college days. Sure that was great back then but as a working adult with kids, and other responsibilities, I learned quickly that’s just doesn’t work – not if I want to stay sane.
Having daily routines is the key to keeping the machine moving forward. It keeps your brain focused on everything you need to get done.
When you first start any routine it’s going to seem really difficult because you’re breaking new habits and establishing new ones. But if you stick to that routine within a few weeks it will seem easier not because the task itself got easier but because it’s now become a habit and part of your daily routine.
Here are 4 daily routines I put in place to keep a healthy diet and exercise a priority.
- I go to bed by 9:00pm every night. As a working mom, getting enough sleep was essential to function for 8 hours at work and then another 4 afterwards. Also, I never make healthy choices when I’m tired. So getting enough sleep was (and still is) a priority.
- I get up at 5:30am and exercise 3-5 times a week. One of my top exercise rules is I ever miss a Monday, you can read my other rules here.
- I meal plan on Friday, grocery shop on Saturday, and meal prep Sunday morning.
- I drink a green smoothie at least 5 times a week. This hydrates me and helps me to stay focused.
Of course, there are other routines I’ve implemented over the years but I’d say those are my top 4 to keep the healthy lifestyle machine moving forward.
Trying to manage a house, take care of kids, work full-time, AND keep up with a healthy lifestyle isn’t easy. Not only does it take time to do all of these things but it’s mentally and physically exhausting too. Now All of the habits I just talked about will make it easier to balance everything but there are still going to be times where you just need (and deserve) some extra help.
Back when I was working outside of the home I never hired any type of help – it just didn’t seem affordable. Well a few years ago I finally gave in and hired someone to come into my house once a week and clean. The first time she came I cried…literally cried. It felt so amazing to have that burden lifted and from that moment on I decided spending money on this service was worth it to me and I found a way to cut back on other things so this could be a part of my monthly budget.
Hiring a cleaner isn’t for everyone but I bring this up because I wish I did it much sooner. I used to think it was unattainable but then realized it’s affordable when it’s part of our overall budget.
Basically, what I’m saying is you don’t have to do everything alone! I know we all want to be Super Woman but it’s okay to get help to make life a little easier. So whether it’s a cleaner, someone to cut your grass, getting groceries delivered, or signing up for a meal kit delivery service don’t be ashamed to get help. You do what’s best for you.
Here are some other services I think could be helpful for busy working moms.
- Plan to Eat – this is an online menu planner and so much more. You can save all your recipes, drag and drop into a meal plan, and then generate grocery lists. It’s also helpful for creating weight loss meal plans. Honestly, there’s a lot you can do with Plan to Eat. They offer a 30-day free trial to try them out.
- Emeals – If you want a healthy meal plan sent to your inbox every week then this is the service to check out. You can choose from a variety of meal plans and they send all the recipes and a grocery list to your email every week. They offer a 14-day free trial for you to see if it’s a good fit.
- Thrive Market – this is an online marketplace, similar to Whole Foods, that offers natural and organic foods and grocery items at great prices. I order from Thrive Market every month or so to stock my pantry. Read my Thrive Market Review to learn more.
You can learn more about other services I recommend on the healthy meal planning page I put together.
All of these strategies (or hacks) helped me transform my life from a chaotic stressed-out full-time working mom to a confident woman who found balance and finally got her shit together.
If you work full-time outside the house I would love to hear from you. What are your struggles with finding balance? Have you discovered any tips that helped you manage everything better? Have you changed your lifestyle while knee-deep in work and kids? I’d love to learn from your experience too.