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Getting in Shape for Life, Not Just for Summer

I came out of the gym after my first boot camp — and really, my first exercise of any kind in 6 months — feeling sweaty, sore and exhilarated. Then I looked at my phone. I had missed several calls from my husband, Chris, and my son Sam’s day care, and had increasingly frantic voice mails wondering where I was and why I hadn’t picked up Sam. Clearly the breakfast-time conversation about Chris collecting Sam had not really sunk in, and so my 2-year-old son was left at day care 40 minutes after closing (at the cost of $1 a minute). I was about to embark on a 12-week weight loss and wellness program, and apparently we were all going to have to take out our day planners.

This wasn’t just another diet plan. We were going through this chaos for a good reason. In my mid-30s, I’d discovered that my health meant more to me than looking good in a bathing suit. It meant being able to see my son graduate from college and to enjoy a long life with my husband and family. I knew that I had to make some fairly drastic changes to make this a reality.

In late January I decided to enter the Upper Valley’s Weight Loss to Wellness challenge, where six contestants would be selected to work toward their fitness goals for 12 weeks with the Vreeland Clinic in Norwich and KDR Fitness in Lebanon. These goals not only included weight loss, but understanding and improving important health and wellness markers like blood sugar, cholesterol, vitamin D levels, body fat percentage and more. I was not chosen to participate, but decided not to squander the motivation that compelled me to enter and paid my own way to participate along with the contestants.

This was not only a large financial commitment, but for our family with two full-time working parents, toddler and dog, it was a commitment of an even sparser and more precious resource: time. I was asking my husband and son to accommodate at least four workouts per week, additional doctor appointments (I was already making time for a weekly chiropractor appointment after rupturing a disc in my back), meetings with nutritionists and the extra time required to shop for and prepare meals with no processed foods, grains or sugar.

When I asked my husband if he thought he would get stressed or annoyed having to take on more responsibilities with scheduling, childcare pickup and housework he said, “The only thing that would upset me is if you didn’t do it.” I have used that assurance as my mantra whenever I’ve felt the inevitable mom guilt about taking so much time to do this for myself.

The program, in a nutshell, involves eating a paleo-style diet — a meal consisting of a protein/ fruit or vegetable/healthy fat every three to four hours. Packing my carry-on luggage sized food bag for work takes at least 30 minutes a day, and leaving the house for weekend activities takes some major snack planning. In addition, participants in the program take recommended supplements, drink at least half their body weight in ounces of water per day (causing more than one urgent bathroom break in the middle of a work meeting) and complete four to five individually programmed workouts per week. Along the way our weight, body fat percentage, lean body mass and health markers are measured, and we meet as a group every other week to discuss our progress, questions and concerns.

In addition to the pressures of money and time, food was obviously going to be a challenge for someone entering a weight loss program. For example, on the first day, my husband tapped the beer he had home brewed special for me, three boxes of Girl Scout cookies I ordered had arrived and my parents sent homemade desserts in the mail for a Purim celebration.

In case you were wondering, those are all on the “do not eat” list. Thankfully, Chris has signed on to eating this way along with me (for the most part) and keeping those temptations out of the house. Our son Sam has been a little less enthusiastic about substituting things like spaghetti squash for pasta, or mashed cauliflower for potatoes, though I fooled him pretty well with the baked acorn squash “fries.” Success!

In general, I am spending about $25-$30 a week more at the grocery store, making that up largely by not eating meals out of the house. Ironically, I am eating a lot more than I ever have before.

A month or so into the program, Chris and I were ironing out the kinks with our schedules. We were starting to enjoy the food and experimenting with new recipes, juggling work, 6 a.m. workouts, Chris’ weekly soccer game, Sam’s gymnastics, library board meetings, and studying to defend team Expelliarmus’ two-time Canaan Town Library spelling bee championship . Just as we were getting the hang of things, I had to face the music in the gym about not being fully recovered from my ruptured disc and having to adjust my workouts due to renewed lower back pain. I may have left the gym with tears of frustration a time or two before my trainer coordinated with my chiropractor to make sure I could still train hard but safely.

Despite these pressures, challenges and frustrations, I stayed motivated because I was seeing results. As of this report, with just two weeks to go, I have lost more than 11 pounds of fat (5 percent of my total body fat), gained more than two pounds of lean body mass, lowered my blood sugar nine points and my triglycerides 39 points. When I look in the mirror I can see curves. I can see ribs. Best of all I am happier and more energetic (as long as I don’t get hungry), which is really making a difference at home and benefitting the whole family.

I have no plans to stop eating this way or working out this hard when the 12-week program ends. Luckily, KDR Fitness is already planning its next eight-week summer slim down contest, and I intend to rock it. My advice for any working mom who wants to challenge herself to lose weight and get healthy: Be prepared. Be dogged. Have an awesome husband.

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