This is a blog post I have wanted to write for a while and after just spending a week with 10 of my family members, including my aunt Jolene, in the Dominican Republic now seems like a great time to tell her life-changing weight loss journey. The photo above is a photo of us taken just a few weeks ago in the Dominican. Even when we were on a relaxing tropical vacation hundreds of miles from home Jolene was disciplined and I was inspired watching her dedication to her new lifestyle changes.
You see between May 15, 2012, and Sept. 16, 2013, Jolene lost more than 139 pounds and what I love most about her story is she has done it right—by exercising and radically changing the foods she eats.
“I had been a gym member at Anytime Fitness in Mt. Pleasant since it opened and I went faithfully in the beginning and then I quit going and for 1½ years I did not go,” recalls Jolene. “Then they had an offer for personal training get five sessions for the price of three and I decided I needed to start going to the gym or quit my membership.”
And she credits her personal trainer Carlos for changing her life. “It took him three months to convince me I needed to change my diet. He kept telling me diet was 70 percent and exercise the other 30 percent to lose weight.”
During those first three months, Jolene trained twice a week with Carlos and went to the gym other times but she did not want to quit eating the carb-laden, processed foods (especially ice cream) that made up the biggest part of her daily diet. When she realized the exercise alone was not helping her drop weight she started to try a few of the recipe ideas that Carlos gave her.
“I thought I will try it and see and I can always go back to cheating at what I eat like I did every other time I tried to diet,” Jolene remembered. “The minute I started eating the way he told me to the pounds started falling off.”
“I used to drink diet soda all the time,” Jolene explained. “I went cold turkey on pop and started drinking lots of water. I drink between 100-120 ounces per day.”
Jolene, who was a picky eater when it came to healthy choices like vegetables, has learned to like many foods that she used to despise. “It’s like you always say Amanda you have to try things 10 times or so before you acquire a taste for it,” she said. “As I started eating more vegetables and incorporating more into my diet my palette changed.”
Over the years, Jolene has tried nearly everything available on the market to help with her weight loss but time after time she did not get the results she desired and they left her feeling disappointed and like a failure. She is adamant in letting people know diets don’t work. “It’s a lifestyle change. You can’t look at it as diet. You have to make lifestyle changes,” she said. “You have to be ready and dedicated and determined. No one can make you do it until you are absolutely ready in your mind.”
Every morning on our vacation, Jolene got up and ran on the beach and one morning Jolene and my cousin Emily and I did boot camp on the beach. Wow, these girls are in good shape and pushed me to work hard (and thanks to Carlos for providing Jolene with the “boot camp” work out). This dedication is definitely a lifestyle change and as we all know change is never easy. Exercise has now become a part of Jolene’s daily routine. She continues to go to the gym five days a week. She works on endurance and strength and is training to participate in a Mudderella event this spring and she plans to participate in some more 5Ks. And there might even be a 10K in her future. Time will tell!
When people ask Jolene how she eats she describes it as clean eating. She tries to avoid processed foods most of the time. Meats and vegetables are the bulk of what she eats. In the summer she grows her own garden and eats and preserves the produce from that. When vegetables are not in season she buys fresh or frozen ones at the grocery store. She avoids canned vegetables because of the extra sodium they contain.
For others looking to lose weight Jolene offers these words of encouragement, “Take it one day at a time, making small changes that you can do for a lifetime.”
Not only does my aunt look completely different on the outside, but she has seen many other benefits from losing the weight. She is no longer on blood pressure medicine and is no longer pre-diabetic. And she has the same warm, caring spirit she has always had but she is more outgoing and willing to try new things. Just a few years ago, Jolene would never have agreed to go on a tropical vacation. It is exciting to see her have a new outlook on this adventure we call life
After vacation Jolene knows without a doubt she will keep this weight off. On vacation, she ate more carbs than she does on a regular basis and she noticed a big difference in how she felt. “I had that miserable feeling like I had all the time before I started eating clean,” she said. “To be honest, Saturday when I got home I was ready, really ready to get back to eating healthy. I don’t want to feel tired and miserable all of the time anymore.”