July is Weight Management month and we’re celebrating by sharing some stories of individuals who have made a healthy change in their lifestyle.
Jennifer Fry is a Web Coordinator for Blue Care Network and has worked for the Blues since 2009. She is very active in her church and community. Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, friends and two cats, Dot and Dash. She says she has always been overweight, but hasn’t really taken weight loss seriously throughout her life until recently.
Niccole LaDue: What was your health like before you changed your lifestyle and what is it like now?
Jennifer Fry: I never thought of myself as “unhealthy.” Even when I was at my largest, my lab numbers were still good. I joined Healthy Blue Living Rewards because of the savings it offered and was required to participate in a weight management program. It was not terribly successful, because I wasn’t motivated. Now I’m learning to accept that things aren’t going to be “fixed” quickly. I have to identify why I’m eating, what I’m eating, and why I’m eating what I’m eating. As I recently told my dietitian, I need to remember that the lesser of two evils is still evil. Meanwhile, I’m moving more, sitting less, and am more aware of what I’m eating.
NL: What made you decide to take that first step towards a healthier lifestyle?
JF: After my first year in Healthy Blue Living Rewards, I received a letter offering me the opportunity to participate in a weight management program at the University of Michigan. After discussing it with a couple of friends, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to go to the informational meeting. It was more “orientation” than “information,” so I figured I might as well continue on. My team at U of M has been incredibly supportive through my ups and downs (and ups). They are really working to teach me how to make lifestyle changes and understand that it isn’t an easy process. I’ve realized there are going to be times I struggle and, quite honestly, fail. They always encourage me to put the past behind me and make the best decisions I can moving forward.
NL: What is your most important motivating factor?
JF: I love my newfound ability to move. Like I said, I thought I wasn’t unhealthy, but I realized I couldn’t walk that well. When I started, I could walk about seven minutes before I had to stop for a minute and catch my breath. Now I can walk an hour, and I’m training to walk a 5K later this summer. I’m considering buying a bike for the first time in 30 years, although I’m not that coordinated, so I think I’ll probably pick one up at a garage sale to start so I know if it’s feasible.
NL: What was the most challenging obstacle you faced during your weight loss journey?
JF: Friends who sabotage my efforts. “Well, I know you can’t eat it, but you can come and just sit with us.” Really? Because that sounds like so much fun, doesn’t it? They would say “You can just have one (insert tasty morsel here) and then stop.”
It is a slippery slope, and it’s one I’m sliding around frequently these days. I’m working to identify trigger foods and situations and just avoid them to begin with. It’s easy just to have a candy bar one day. The problem is when you have another one the next day and the day after that. Now a new pattern has been established. I’m working hard to establish better patterns and get rid of some of the old ones.
NL: Where did you find you had the most support during your journey?
JF: My immediate circle of coworkers was great, especially during the initial 12 weeks when I was only drinking shakes. They were very supportive and tolerant, and understood when I needed to remove myself from situations involving food. I have some friends who have been fabulously supportive, finding alternate activities to “going out to eat,” which is a standard gathering for groups of singles.
NL: Did your family as a whole become healthier as a result of your lifestyle change?
JF: My 80-something mother lives with me, and some of the tricks I’ve discovered she also uses. Although she’s spent the last six years losing half her body weight, so she was actually a bit ahead of me on the road. There are other members of my family that are overweight, but losing weight is a very personal decision. No one can force you to do it, and you won’t succeed until you’re ready.
NL: What is your current goal?
JF: To keep going. Goals are scary things. I’ve been overweight my entire life. My doctor has explained that this has made my bones very dense. This is a good thing as I get older, because I’m less likely to fall victim to osteoporosis. However, it also means that I will never weigh 150 pounds. When losing weight, the easiest thing on which to focus is the number on the scale. Although I can see it going down, the number is still very large and can be depressing. So I’ve had to find other ways of measuring success. How far or long I can walk without a break is a good one. I’ve held on to a couple of pieces of my old clothes so I can see the change. I have a great picture I posted to Facebook that shows how different I look.
My walking goal is 10,000 steps per day. I’ve hit that every day since Nov. 19, 2012. I recently finished my Master’s degree, so now that I have more time in my life, I go to water aerobics three times a week. I really appreciate that WalkingSpree now gives me a way to recognize the hour I spend in the water on my activity log. And now that I’ve joined a gym, I’m going to meet with a trainer to start weight training. I need to build more muscle to burn more calories.
NL: Do you have a new favorite exercise or healthy recipe you’d like to share with us?
JF: One of my favorite discoveries is PB2. It’s powdered peanut butter. You just mix it with water—or something else, like sugar-free jelly—to turn it smooth again. It tastes the same, so I love to use it to flavor shakes or in recipes. The difference in calories and fat is amazing. A serving (two tablespoons) of PB2 has 45 calories, with 1.5g of fat. The same sized serving of regular peanut butter has 180 calories with 13g of fat.
Another item I love is Quest bars. I only find them at health food stores, but they’re worth the trip. There are a lot of flavors, including many without chocolate, and they’re high in both fiber and protein, while still containing fewer than 200 calories.
Lastly, mix ranch salad dressing powder into nonfat Greek yogurt for salads and dips. A quarter of a cup is about 45 calories with no fat and 6g of protein. A quarter of a cup of regular ranch salad dressing is 280 calories with 28g of fat and 2g of protein.
NL: What is your best piece of advice for anyone out there trying to live a healthier lifestyle?
JF: Always keep track of what you eat. No one else can do it for you, but your friends and family can sure support you along the way. Be honest with them and tell them when you need help.
Who do you go to for motivation and support when you’re trying to make a healthier change in your life?
Photo credit: Jennifer Fry