Jennifer Meer Hodges
Why I did it: In 2008 I hit rock bottom. I was a full-time graduate student, a full-time stay-at-home-mother and I weighed 369 pounds. It was extremely difficult for me to take care of my children’s daily needs. I couldn't get down on the floor and play with them nor could I chase them around the backyard. Here I was with a 2.5, 3.5 ,and 4.5 year old and I realized that I was their role model. Did I want this sort of life for my children? NO! Did I want my children to grow up to become obese and sedentary? NO! I knew I had to lead by example and I also knew that I needed some time for myself. Everything I did, I did for OTHER people; my children, and my husband were my top priorities. But where did I fit in? I had to become a priority. I had to leave the GUILT behind and learn to put myself first.
How I did it: The first thing I did was join a gym that had childcare. I KNEW that if I attempted to workout out at home using DVD’s that I would not last long, and even having a triple stroller, I knew that I would not go outside and walk the children. Having 3 young children, including one with special needs, I knew that they would constantly be underfoot and I would never be able to exercise properly. And I knew that I needed a gym that was close to my home or else I would use the “it’s too far to drive” excuse.
A new gym was built 3 miles from my home and they offered childcare for up to 2 hours per day. Perfect! I began working out immediately. I started off slowly, but by January 2009, I was up to 2 hours per day. The gym was affordable on a single income family, right around $50 per month. So not only was I losing weight and toning my body, but I was getting up to 2 hours of childcare per day and I was having some quality “me time.” I was finally starting to see the “old me” emerge. I found a love for group fitness classes; Body Step, Body Combat, Body Pump, and my favorite, Spinning (or the Les Mills version RPM.) I even discovered that I could run outside and was really good at it! I’ve run countless 5ks, 10k’s, 15k’s and will be running two ½ marathons and one full marathon this year.
Once I had the exercise routine down pat, I started to work on my diet and decided to join Weight Watchers. Using their Points plan I lost 175 pounds. Then in November 2010, they changed the plan to the new Points Plus plan which my body really responded well to and the last 40ish pounds just fell off of me. Weight Watchers does require a commitment. I decided I needed the accountability of weekly meetings and I enjoyed earning the “tokens” for milestones. When I finally got less than 200 pounds, I cried during my meeting. When I reached my goal weight she called me to the front of the room to speak and I did tear up again, but only a little. I am so proud of myself. I lost a person, but found myself. To quote Alice in Wonderland “I have found my muchness.” Weight Watchers cost me approximately $40 per month and that included the use of their online etools. The app for my iphone is AWESOME! Now that I am at goal and earned my lifetime status, I no longer have to pay for meetings or etools. It's all FREE!! I don’t eat Weight Watchers food. I eat regular foods, just track track track. I do eat out, though rarely, and usually always at Sweet Tomatoes and I always PLAN in advance what I will eat and have no issues asking the server to have the foods prepared the ways that make it healthier!
I began this journey in October 2008, and reached my goal weight in May 2011, and reached my Lifetime Status in June 2011. It took me 32 months to lose 212 pounds. But my journey is far from over. This is not a quick fix; this has been a total lifestyle change. Not only for me, but for my entire family. My children are now 6, 7, and 8 years old. They don’t remember the “fat mom” they only know the “fit mom.” They see pictures of themselves with a mom that they don’t recognize. My children are excited about exercise and our entire family is active. We routinely take family bikes rides and my 3 young children can ride 15 miles. I don’t know many young kids that can do that. All three of my children participated in the Gasparilla 5k. They were not pushed in strollers. THEY RAN! I have set the example, and they have picked it up and gone with it.
Hurdles: I did encounter a few hurdles throughout my journey. The first one was with my youngest child, my sweet son. He did not like having to go to gym childcare and would often (and sometimes still does) act out. He managed to get himself suspended from gym childcare for weeks at a time. So here I was wanting and needing to workout, but had no place to do it because I had no one to watch my child (my girls were in preschool by this time.) I bought myself a bike trailer and would strap him in and ride, pulling him behind me.
I also bought myself an elliptical trainer to keep at home. This was my “emergency” workout. I enjoy working out at the gym more than anything else, but sometimes life gets in the way and I can’t make it there, so I can workout at home.
Another hurdle that I had to overcome was returning to work. After I completed my graduate degree I accepted a job as a private school librarian. Suddenly I had to figure out how to balance my children in full-time childcare, working full-time, and maintaining my weight loss and exercise schedule. But I did it. I figured it out, and I continued (and continue) to thrive and motivate. Many of my co-workers, inspired by my success, have started on their own paths to a healthier lifestyle.
Going the distance: I have been at my goal weight since May 2011 and have successfully maintained since then. That’s another perk with the Weight Watchers plan. Once a month you must weigh in within 2 pounds of your goal weight. If you are over by 2 pounds, you must pay for your meeting. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather put the $15 towards a new outfit, than a Weight Watchers meeting!
Best advice: The best advice I can give to someone is to put yourself first. Don’t make excuses. Just get out there and move your body with a purpose. Don’t live to eat, eat to live.