Getting healthy has been a roller coaster journey for Danielle Vaughn.
It seems she had tried everything to lose the weight she’d gained during and after her second pregnancy: From Jenny Craig and the Atkins Diet to Weight Watchers and even Lap-Band surgery, which restricts the amount of food you can eat in a sitting.
But she was never quite successful. Sometimes, like in the case of the surgery, she was looking for a quick fix, and not holding herself accountable.
“I thought the surgery would do everything,” says Vaughn, who reached her heaviest weight of 256 pounds prior to surgery. She initially lost 30 pounds but returned to her bad eating habits and not exercising. (Ironically, she works for a company that performs bariatric surgery.)
In 2010, she read an article in the Altoona Campus newsletter about a member who had lost more than 100 pounds by attending classes at the Campus.
“The story just really touched me,” she says. “I thought, ‘If he can do it, then I can do it.’ ”
She began taking personal training classes at the Campus and was “hooked.”
“It was the only workout that I could ever stick with,” says Vaughn, who speaks highly of the two personal trainers she works with.
Since starting at the Campus, she’s lost 55 pounds; she’s shed a total of 85 pounds since having Lap-Band surgery.
She’s lowered her cholesterol and her blood pressure is “fantastic,” Vaughn says.
This past fall, Vaughn overhauled her diet when she wasn’t seeing the results she wanted. She got a jumpstart with the AdvoCare 24-day challenge and has since cut out processed foods and is eating more fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meat and cottage cheese. She also drinks a gallon of water every day.
“It’s been a very good experience for me,” Vaughn says. “I am 42, and people guess me at my late 20s, early 30s. People cannot believe I have two children in junior high.”
Tackling New Year’s resolutions
Many people would likely love to have results like Vaughn’s in the new year.
Health professionals in Altoona shared their tips for helping you live healthier beyond the first few months of the year. What’s key, they say, is finding something that’s sustainable in the long run and suitable for your lifestyle.
“That’s the ultimate goal — finding a plan, a workout plan and nutrition plan, that will fit into your life,” says Nicole Essink, manager at Farrell’s eXtreme Bodyshaping in Altoona. “If it’s not going to be a good fit, it’s not going to be successful for that person.”
Finding the right fit for you and your family
So you’re ready to work out six days a week and want to overhaul your whole diet.
But experts caution that drastic modifications may be tough to stick with. Going to extremes could be setting yourself up for disappointment or put you at risk for burning out and giving up.
Matt Sillanpaa likes to first gauge a person’s experience and fitness level. Sillanpaa, director of member fitness and a personal trainer at Altoona Campus, discusses lifestyle, realistic expectations and obstacles that individuals face outside of the gym to help determine an appropriate fitness regimen.
If you’re considering joining a gym, Sillanpaa says to do your research. Take a tour of the facility. Determine if you like to exercise on your own or in a group, and make sure the gym meets your needs. Also, be certain you can afford the membership and pick a location that’s convenient.
Essink, with Farrell’s, says their combination of resistance and cardio training offers “the best 1-2 punch approach to exercise.” But, she adds, the program involves exercising six days a week for 45 minutes a day, which isn’t a good fit for everyone.
The same, individually-tailored approach should be taken when looking at your diet. For example, if you have children, you’ll need to be able to have foods in your meal plan that are relatively simple to fix that your kids will also eat, Sillanpaa says.
Whatever your regimen, you have to commit to making it a priority in your life.
“If you don’t make it routine and don’t plan for it in your day, it’s not going to become priority for you, and it will slip through the cracks,” says Craig Neiderheiser, manager at both Kosama Altoona and Elite Performance Nutrition in Altoona.
Set achievable goals and have a support system
Neiderheiser has experienced first-hand the benefits of setting goals. In 2008, he made a New Year’s resolution to live a healthier life.
His first goal was to lose five pounds. He achieved it. As the year went on, he reassessed where he was at and established new goals.
“I always kept everything I did very small,” he says. “You always want achievable goals. I think how people lose focus is they make their goal too large or they have a picture of what they want to look like, and I think it just won’t be attainable.”
Terri Henkels agrees.
“You can’t achieve success unless you see small successes along the way,” says Henkels, who is the former Polk County Public Health Director and on the application committee for the Altoona Blue Zones Project. (See “A community approach to living longer and healthier” for more about the project.)
Goals keep you accountable to your fitness and nutrition commitments, says Essink, with Farrell’s. Partnering with a friend or co-worker can help you stay on track.
Surrounding himself with like-minded people was crucial for Neiderheiser. Before he joined Kosama, he never made it to the gym for those 4 a.m. workouts.
“Without that community there, I wouldn’t have established that routine on my own,” he says.
“Eighty to 90 percent of achieving your goals is your nutrition,” Neiderheiser says. “Everything else plays a factor, but it’s not as key as nutrition.”
But finding accurate, reliable information can be tough, with conflicting messages on the Internet and advertisers intent on selling you a specific product, Neiderheiser says. He suggests getting advice from people you can trust, such as a dietitian, personal trainer or wellness coach.
When creating a diet plan, it shouldn’t be one that will be too difficult to follow or isn’t conducive to your lifestyle, he says. You should also track your calories daily to ensure you’re meeting your goals.
Do research at the library or bookstore to determine what plan fits your lifestyle and your family’s, then educate your family, recommends Essink, with Farrell’s.
A free service that Sillanpaa, with Altoona Campus, recommends to his clients is to take a tour of their local Hy-Vee store.
“The dietitian is essentially the personal trainer of the grocery store, and they will be able to show you things that you would never, ever have considered,” he says.
A community approach to living longer and healthier
The Blue Zones Project is a community-centered initiative that makes healthy living simpler through changes in policy, the environment and social networks.
Altoona is vying to be one of 10 Iowa communities selected to be a Blue Zones Community and receive assistance from international experts to help build a healthier city.
Even if Altoona is not chosen as a demonstration site, Terri Henkels and Lynette Kooker say community leaders are committed to implementing changes to enhance the well-being of the city’s residents.
Henkels and Kooker are on the Altoona Blue Zones Project application committee. Henkels is also the former Polk County Public Health Director, and Kooker is an independent health management consultant and owner of Insight Wellness Solutions LLC, in Altoona.
“It’s important to change the overall culture of a workplace or community in order for people to be successful with their own personal goals,” Kooker says.
The foundation of the Blue Zones Project is based on research looking at areas where the world’s longest-living people reside. Many of these individuals share nine healthy lifestyle habits, called the “Power 9 Principles.”
They include “Move Naturally,” which entails incorporating physical activity into your daily routine (think taking the stairs or walking to the grocery store), Kooker says. Others include the “80 percent rule,” or eating until you’re 80 percent full, and “Right Tribe,” which involves surrounding yourself with people who support healthy behaviors.
Kooker says to also make sure you drink 64 ounces of water a day.
Henkels says following some of these simple steps can also add up to major changes.
• Choose a 10-inch plate over a 12-inch plate. It will save you 300 calories a day.
• Eat nuts every day.
• Get on a biking or hiking trail.