The heaviness of a freight train bears down on her chest every Monday night knowing that when the sun rises, she will once again be on the road. Its a crushing sensation and the anxiety begins to escalate feeling like worms crawling through her heart. It truly is heartache every time she drives away from her husband, her boys and the comfort of her home. She will be gone for the next three days. Her car becomes her office chair, the road becomes her companion and each week a different hotel room becomes her home.
Leaving at the crack of dawn on Tuesdays and returning every Friday afternoon, she arrives just in the knick of time to catch her high school son’s wrestling match or the other’s swim meet. For some this weekly drill may be hard to imagine, but for her, this is reality. While this is what her career demands and she is a successful sales rep, her heart, mind and body have been paying the hefty price. Meet Kathryne.
Kathryne is 46 years young, a devoted wife and mother of two high school-aged boys. She lives near Washington D.C. and almost 1000 miles away from me. Kathryne and I first connected on Facebook, as I do with many of my clients nowadays. In her initial Facebook message she expressed that although she had made great strides in her weight loss journey in the past two years, she felt as if she hit a plateau which prompted her to reach out to me and inquire about a fitness program. We booked a phone visit and on the last day of August 2011, I gained a better understanding on who Kathryne really was.
Her voice was gentle and soothing, her speech was concise and beautifully articulated, striking the perfect balance of a nurturing mom and the drive and focus of a successful business woman; leading me to believe she knew exactly what her goals were and was determined to achieve them. Kathryne shared, “My short term goal, within four to six months, is to compete in a figure competition. I want this not so much because I like the idea of competition itself, but because I need a tangible goal that I can focus on, more of a standard by which I can measure my progress.” She continued on, “My long term goals are to adopt a healthy lifestyle which includes giving my body the proper nutrition, maintaining a fit and toned physique and to be a role model for my children by the way I take care of myself.” Along with these goals, she emphatically mentioned, in just about every sentence she spoke, her strong desire to lose weight and when as far as citing the exact number on the scale she wished to see. Kathryne also stated, “I know what I need to succeed is not rocket science. I need coaching with clear, focused direction in both training and nutrition, accountability and motivation.” Underneath all the strength that she displayed, I sensed the vulnerability in her tone as well. Her voice was that of a woman, wife and mom who desperately wanted to feel vibrant again from the inside out. This is a woman who has sacrificed so much everyday for so long and was acutely aware that it was now time to give back to herself. The time had come for her to take the “S” off her chest, to learn, to embrace change and to travel a healthier path.
During our initial conversation I offered Kathryne one of the ten spots in my Little Black Dress Challenge. I explained to her this would be a 12 week challenge against herself...to transform herself. It would be a period of self-discovery to help expose weaknesses and strengths thereby helping her to become her personal best. It would be about personal growth that at times would be painful while other times wondrous. She would be following a personalized nutrition, training and wellness plan created by me with her unique goals and needs in mind. It would also be an ample amount of time to lay down a solid foundation to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Kathryne enthusiastically accepted the challenge and stated, “Knowing that there will be nine other women doing this with me will help to keep me motivated everyday!” Kathryne and I began the 12 week journey.
Effective goal setting will make the difference on whether goals will be achieved or not. As Kathryne’s coach, it was my responsibility to help her set goals that are realistic, measurable and time bound. This would be our first challenge to overcome since some of her goals needed to be revised. One of her short term goals was to compete in a figure competition. This is a goal that can be achieved but would require more time than what she initially anticipated given her circumstances. I firmly believe that before starting the rigors of a strict contest prep diet, a healthy, balanced and doable nutrition plan must be consistently maintained first. Trying to go from 0 to 60 over night is unrealistic and could set her up for failure. One other goal that would pose a problem is attempting to achieve a specific weight loss goal. I coach my clients to focus on fat loss as opposed to weight loss. If Kathryne were to focus on losing weight, she would run the risk of losing muscle which would hinder her efforts of shaping and toning her physique for the desired look she was after. Not to mention, going from fat to skinny fat is not anymore healthy. The scale is a number that is incapable of distinguishing between muscle, fat or fluid and therefore, is not a good indicator of progress. More often then not, the scale is the biggest saboteur in any fitness journey so it’s best to remove it from the equation period, but for many women its the hardest habit to break...and with Kathryne it was no different.
Here is how we revised her goals:
Instead of a contest prep plan, we devised a lifestyle plan to adopt healthy habits and would also give her the structure to work towards her long term goal of a contest prep regimen.
Instead of focusing on weight loss, her plan was designed to promote fat loss and muscle growth. This would help her to reshape her body with the emphasis on creating a smaller waist and a tighter and more toned overall physique. The scale was NOT used to track progress (although she couldn’t seem to stay away from it). We used body circumference measurements and progress photos and both were taken every four weeks to determine progress and make changes to plan as necessary.
With women, most times the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of achieving ‘her’ goals is ‘herself’, but with Kathryne it wasn’t...she possessed an unwavering commitment; it was her work schedule that would make for a difficult journey. As anyone can attest, embarking on any new journey that demands preparing specialized foods to be eaten at specific times and frequently, is challenging in itself. Now imagine doing that when you spend hours in a car driving from city to city and living in hotel rooms for three days of every week with no kitchen. Her job also entailed nightly dinners out entertaining prospective clients which can pretty much derail any fitness plan. The solution was for me to create two plans, a nutrition and training plan she would follow at home and a plan she would follow while on the road. While I provided the formula, Kathryne still had to make it work...and she did just that. It would almost seem impossible to make progress under the circumstances that she faced every week, but not for Kathryne. For her it was like one of her favorite quotes by Audrey Hepburn, “Nothing is Impossible, the word itself says, Im-possible!” and so she charged onward navigating over, around and through every obstacle in her path.
There were days that were hard and days that were harder and thankfully Kathryne has had the support of her family. Her husband is always there to cheer her on and encourage her and often times on the weekends, will train with her. Both of her sons are competitive high school athletes and have been there to push her through yet another rep or yank food out of her mouth. Her boys are on the front line doing whatever needs to be done to remind her of her goals and help to propel her forward.
In my experience with coaching women, the first month is usually the easiest because of the adrenaline of committing to a new challenge and the excitement of endless possibilities. The true test of will falls in what I call the second trimester of a 12 week plan, weeks five through nine. This is when most women begin to struggle and they allow doubt to set in and feel like they have been working so hard for so long and still not seeing the results they wish to see. This is when as their Coach, I have to step up to the plate and tell them they have not yet hit a home run. They must keep playing and with full effort throughout every inning no matter what. Kathryne allowed me to coach her and on week eight of her challenge this is the email I received:
“OH my gosh, Liza! I just had to send this message. My body has seen a lot of changes this week...my pants are falling down, bras are too big, my dresses that I have had altered are already loose, I have more tone and definition everywhere, there is almost no fat on my knees, my arms have a ways to go but they are much leaner, I don’t have a six pack yet but when I stand, you can see the two lines on my torso. My chiropractor told me to keep doing what I’m doing because I’m less tense and easier to adjust! I can’t believe it is ME when I look in the mirror. It seems like I am eating so much but I’m almost never completely full. This is really amazing. I’ll talk to you on Monday when I can get my jaw off the ground!”
That is what happens when you stay the course. Your body will respond and show its gratitude. Notice that nowhere in her message did she mention anything about a scale or how much she weighed. Kathryne adopted the healthy lifestyle and at the age of 46 she won my Little Black Dress Challenge. Yes she won amazing gifts, yes she dropped 15 lbs, 2 pant sizes, 5 inches off her waist and so many more inches that I lost track but, in her own words and before she even knew she won, Kathryne stated, “As much as I want to win the material things that go along with this contest, I feel like I’ve already won in so many ways. All the changes may not be visible, but I have been stretched, challenged, dared to succeed and proceed and I can honestly say that I am proud of where I am and where I’m going.” Kathryne at the age of 46, is just getting her party started...by believing “ImPossible!”.
By Liza Hughes RN
Lifestyle Coach to Women