Listen. If one is very quiet, you can almost hear it… like icicles breaking away from the eaves and crashing to the ground in a million tiny shards; January is slipping by, and everywhere is the sound of New Year’s resolutions crashing to the ground in spectacular failure — or simply being quietly forgotten until next December.
How many of us this year pledged to work out five times a week and haven’t made it yet five times this month?
Or how many of us swore off caffeine, cigarettes or the ever-present buffet of snacking at our desk?
Is it really possible to ever make a real change at the beginning of one year that lasts all the way to the start of the following year?
Kayla Smith is one of the many hoping so as she pledges to shape up and get fit in the New Year.
“I just want to get back to my dance body,” Smith says.
Thirteen years of dance lessons kept her in shape when she was growing up, but after high school, and then in college for awhile, staying in shape became a harder goal to accomplish.
Smith signed up for classes at Survivor Fitness in Boone as a first step to getting that dance body back, but most of all she simply wants to feel better.
“I never used to feel sluggish or anything. I just want to feel better,” she says.
Jen Wojcik knows that feeling better than most. She started her own journey to feeling better at the beginning of 2012 and is a success story just waiting to be told.
“My New Year’s Resolution (in 2012) was to be nice to myself. And the way to be nice to myself was to work out, to make time for me,” she says.
In the process of “being nice to herself,” of making the time to do the things she already knew she needed to do, Wojcik lost approximately 70 pounds.
By almost any standard, that’s a huge accomplishment in just one year. But Wojcik took it just one step at a time, progressing steadily and consistently throughout the year. Broken down by week, that’s an average of about 1.3 pounds lost every week.
As is common in adulthood, the weight came on gradually over the years.
“I’ve been overweight all of my adult life,” Wojcik says. “When I graduated from high school (in 1991), I weighed in at about 180 pounds. Over the years, I gained a little bit here and little bit there. When I got pregnant with my third child in December 2008, I weighed in at 274 pounds. By the time I had her, I weighed 235 pounds because I was sick most of the pregnancy.”
It was a small, seemingly insignificant moment at Christmas one year ago that finally gave Wojcik the motivation she needed to make a change.
“My mom gave me a nightgown that was double XL, and I had to take it back because it was too small; it didn’t fit,” she recalls.
At that moment, Wojcik asked herself: “What am I doing? I’ve got to do something different.”
She tackled her weight problem on two fronts: joining Weight Watchers to address healthy diet issues, and signing up for just about every class she could at the Boone Family YMCA to start burning those pounds away. As a busy mother of three and chiropractor by profession, time was a concern, but this time she decided the time to become healthy had to be a priority. Without health, the rest wouldn’t matter anyway.
“I scheduled the time. I did paid classes, because if I paid for the class I was more likely to show up,” she says.
It wasn’t easy. Her first session of the Y’s Boot Camp would have been enough to make most any quit right then and there.
“They told us to go up and do two laps for warm up. I got a quarter way around the track and had to stop because I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t breathe, and it hurt,” she says.
But Wojcik dug down inside herself and told herself that she could do it.
“Wait a minute, Jennifer, you’ve had three babies — without drugs — you can do this; you totally got this,” she recalls telling herself.
Wojcik stayed with it and in July did her first triathlon during the Iowa Games in Des Moines. Running a triathlon may not be a goal that’s right for everyone, but Wojcik believes everyone is capable of making a change and wants to encourage others to try by simply beginning.
One thing that did work for Wojcik is variety and always keeping her workout fun and interesting.
“I sample. I’m not afraid to jump in and try something. Over the course of the last year, she’s taken Zumba, Power House, Boot Camp, Kettle ball and yoga. Some she enjoyed more than others, and some she may try again in the future.
On the food and nutrition front, Wojcik says her problem wasn’t with the food choices she was making, but with the volume of the food consumed. These days, no food is off limits, but she watches her portion sizes.
“If I want an Oreo, I have an Oreo. I just have one, instead of the entire package,” she says.
For her, the Weight Watchers philosophy to healthy eating was an ideal fit.
“I joined Weight Watchers; Jan. 12 was my first meeting last year. That first time on the scale, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. And 235 pounds, it kind of smacked me in the face. But the program was easy. I’ve always known what to do.”
Today she intends to stay with Weight Watchers for the long haul
“My goal is to get to ‘Lifetime,’ I am going to get to my goal weight. I’m not there yet, and I want Lifetime status, so this isn’t a ‘lose the weight and stop thing.’ This is a lifetime change; it’s not temporary,” she says.
Focus on health
Making changes for a healthy life is a sentiment echoed by Michelle Kelly at Survivor Fitness in Boone.
“I just support eating healthy. I don’t like fad diets because I don’t feel that people stay with that. You want to do something that you’re going to do for the rest of your life,” she says.
With a degree in exercise science, Kelly enjoys helping people learn to exercise safely and to the best of their own abilities. But the biggest hurdle people often face is not physical, but mental, she believes. While personal training is the right choice for some, group classes have the added benefit of students encouraging each other and making each other accountable for staying with a program for the long haul.
“I think of this as a support group for changing your life,” Kelly says. “Beyond the fitness realm, we talk about things you want to accomplish, things that are holding you back and help you push through those. I really try to make it very supportive; everybody in class supports each other.”
That feeling of camaraderie in fitness classes is common. Sarah Long started taking group yoga classes several years ago in college and enjoyed the experience so much that she eventually became a yoga instructor, now offering classes at the Boone Y.
Long practices Hatha yoga, which emphasizes slow movements and focusing intently on each different pose. Other forms of yoga move faster and may provide a higher cardio workout, but Long enjoys the peaceful feeling that Hatha yoga gives her. Even the lights are dimmed in the room while class is in session, allowing better individual focus.
“It’s very relaxing,” she says. “I enjoy the physical relaxation you get by the end of it.”
Physical benefits include improved flexibility and coordination, attributes that physicians often look for to help maintain good health throughout life. By improving balance, yoga may even play a role in avoiding falls and injury as a person ages.
All seemed to agree that any form of exercise tends to improve diet choices after the workout. Tracy Waltz works out frequently at the Y and says she eats better as a result.
“I feel fit and I want to eat better when I exercise because then I know I’m not doing it for naught. I’m benefiting myself by eating better, too,” she says.
Of course, one of the biggest challenges people face in the battle to Get Fit and Stay Fit is maintaining a healthy diet in a world of fast foods and fad diets. Registered Dietician Nicole Arnold earned her undergraduate degree in dietetics from the University of Michigan and stresses the importance of relying on legitimate research and trusted medical professionals for the best advice.
Arnold often tells people that to make a big change in their life they need to start with one manageable choice.
“My best advice is to start small. Pick one small goal and take that with you from week to week. Setting small, specific goals is going to get you further than trying to accomplish too much in a short period of time,” she says.
The goals can be as simple as replacing soft drinks with water four times a week, or taking a basket of fruit to work and sharing with co-workers. Instead of hitting the snack machine, peel a banana or slice up an apple and pair it with a small bit of cheese for a healthy pick-me-up. Sometimes all it takes is one person to set a good example and similar good behaviors will follow.
“Be the change that you want to see in yourself,” Arnold says.
Most of all, the dietician says it’s important to focus on positive behaviors, and then let the results speak for themselves.
“You’re not focusing on the weight, not saying I want to lose 20 pounds, but focusing on the behaviors that help take the weight off,” she explains.
One step at a time. And all it takes is a beginning, and a desire to stick with it.
“I believe anyone can do this,” Wojcik says encouragingly.