12/12/2012 08:22 am ET Updated Feb 11, 2013

Mind, Body, Fitness Goals: How I Lost My Pregnancy Weight! (Part Two)

As a new mom, I recently lost 20 pounds of excess baby weight in less than two months without having to starve myself or resort to unhealthy gimmicks. In a previous post, I shared my story and gave advice on how you can actually start loving your workouts, make them count, stay motivated, and squash excuses. My intention is to inspire others on their own fitness journeys.

Now for the other half of the equation: Fueling your body with clean, whole foods! This is just as important as exercising. Otherwise, all of that hard work you poured into your sweat session will be for naught. Aside from gaining a nice physique, clean, healthy eating will also help you feel great, ward off illnesses, make your skin glow, potentially lift your mood, and increase your energy levels. There is an old computer adage, "garbage in, garbage out," and the exact same thing applies to your body. You really are what you eat!

Want a little help boarding the healthy eating wagon? Check out these pointers:

First, tune in for clues. What is your current relationship with food? Do you eat when you're stressed? Do you mindlessly munch in front of the TV? Do you sometimes feel guilty about eating? If you have an unhealthy relationship with food, turn your awareness to what is triggering these tendencies. Becoming aware of your current eating habits and attitudes will open you up to self-discovery and then allow you to switch your focus over to making positive changes.

Mindfulness matters. Being mindful and savoring each bite will allow you to enjoy your food more and satisfy hunger. Having a general awareness of the nutritional value and calorie count of your food is also very important, as it will play a huge role in helping you make better food choices. Many who struggle with weight loss don't realize just how many calories they are racking up in a day. Keeping a food log or journal can be very eye-opening, as it allows you to see how certain food choices -- like sugary sweets, salad dressings, and dairy products like cheese and sour cream -- can add up big-time at the end of the day. Mindless grazing will also contribute to packing the calories in. Although I'm not personally a big fan of the grueling task of tracking every calorie, I spent several weeks logging each bite after having the baby to bring my awareness to where it needed to be. This reality check helped me tremendously in getting the weight off quickly, yet healthfully.

Plan ahead. Having healthy food options readily available is critical for keeping your healthy eating habits on track. The ease and convenience of turning to junk food when short on time is a top diet-wrecker. Pick one day a week where you plan out your meals ahead and make your shopping list. When doing this, be mindful of your schedule, how much free time you have, and which days you will actually prep each meal. My family likes to do a lot of cooking on the weekends so that we have plenty of healthy choices available to us during our busy work week. We also keep some healthy frozen options on hand for days when we can't find the time to cook a healthy meal. Snacking is also important, so you'll want to pre-plan to have easy access to healthy options. Smart snacking choices in between meals will help keep your metabolism running high and ward off any potential overeating later. If you ever find yourself at the grocery store without a list, a good plan is to try getting most of your groceries from the perimeter of the store where the healthiest whole food options are available.

Ignorance might be bliss, but it's bad for the waistline! Knowing your ingredients and how they affect your body is a powerful tool in keeping garbage out of your cabinets. By educating yourself, you will no longer "blissfully" fill your body with junk! There are so many processed food options out there that are full of chemicals, preservatives, and other yucky things that are just not good for our bodies. Rule of thumb: If you see more than five ingredients on the label and you're not sure how to pronounce most of them, put it back on the shelf! Artificial sweeteners or sugars that are byproducts of corn are also in tons of products, but they are difficult for our bodies to process and many studies actually link them to excess weight gain, obesity, and even cancer. Knowing what to look for and checking labels are good for your figure and your overall health.

Eat your veggies! Not only do fruits and veggies ward off disease and contain loads of vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients, they are also full of fiber and water, which will help fill you up fast. Try munching an apple to ward off in-between meal cravings, and having a salad or veggie-full soup at the beginning of each meal, if possible. Experiment with different recipes and find ways to get more veggies on the plate. If you have picky eaters, trying chopping them up really small or even pureeing them before adding into a recipe, and they'll likely not even know they're in there. For a well-balanced meal, incorporate your favorite fruits and veggies with whole grains and lean proteins.

Eat this, not that. By following some general rules on foods to avoid and replacing them with healthy alternatives, you can experience both flavor and nutrition. Since "enriched" flour products are highly-processed and nutritionally-lacking calories, they're not a great choice for healthy living. Instead, look for whole-grain alternatives or brown rice products, or think creative veggie substitutes such as grilled portabellas for a "bun," or a cauliflower pizza crust. You don't have to eat food that tastes like cardboard to live a healthy lifestyle! Just learn to make smart choices to indulge your cravings. Instead of ice cream, try frozen sorbet made with fresh fruit. Instead of chips, try air-popped popcorn, some hummus and veggies, or organic tortilla chips and salsa. For healthy baking, reach for whole-grain or almond flour, substitute applesauce and bananas for the oil or butter, and use moderate amounts of pure sugar to sweeten. The possibilities are endless.

Healthy eating can and should taste amazing. Over the years, I've spent a lot of time figuring out ways to put healthy foods on the table without sacrificing flavor. I personally prefer a mostly vegetarian diet, while my husband and 4-year-old are both picky meat-eaters. They've actually learned to love all the healthy veggie recipes I put on our family's table!

Until next time, happy healthy eating!

We are currently compiling many of our family's healthy recipes to publish and share. To get a look at some of these recipes and for other healthy living tips and inspiration, come join my Facebook page and follow on Twitter.

Check out more inspiring weight loss stories below:

Weight Loss Success Stories

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