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"I Got My Move Groove Back!"

Busy advertising exec Paula Kroening, 41, had back-burnered exercise for too long -- and it showed. FITNESS fired up her routine again.

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How Paula Got in Shape

My Goal

For four years my gym membership card hung on my key chain unused. Every time I started the car to drive to my office in Chicago or unlocked the front door when I came home, I felt guilty that the card had not been to the one place it belonged: the check-in desk at my gym. I was at this impasse last winter when I had a business lunch with my boss. After listening to me make self-deprecating comments about my muffin top and watching me pick at the salad I had ordered in an attempt to diet, she encouraged me to reach out to FITNESS for the help I needed to get back on track. After all, I loved working out. I had once been a group exercise instructor, and I had even won a medal in sport aerobics at the national championships in 1998. It took me a few days to send the SOS e-mail, but I was determined to get back in shape or bust.

My Moment of Success

FITNESS teamed me with a personal trainer and a dietitian who took no excuses. After eight weeks of squeezing in workouts at lunch or while my two kids napped, plus eating the right portion sizes, I lost 17 pounds and three inches from my waist. But more important, I rediscovered my inner gym rat. And that membership card on my key chain? It's getting plenty of mileage.

Paula's Progress by the Numbers

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Weight
162 lbs 145 lbs
Height
5'4" 5'4"
Chest
38" 35"
Waist
33" 30"
Hips
42" 40"
Body fat
33% 25%

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What Worked for Me: Paula's Fitness Tips

Multitask at the gym.

I needed a 45-minute workout to fit in my lunch break. My trainer, Kim, created a routine with moves like a walking lunge with a biceps curl that toned several muscles at once, followed by 10 minutes of jumping rope to maximize my calorie burn.

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Eat outside the box.

My typical day was all convenience foods: a bagel breakfast, a fast-food lunch, Thai takeout dinners, and low-fat brownies for dessert. My dietitian, Alyse, switched me to whole foods: whole wheat toast with peanut butter, soup with a salad, and grilled chicken with a baked sweet potato. She also suggested I buy only those packaged foods with fewer than 10 ingredients, like the broccoli soup I now nuke for lunch.

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Suck it in.

Because my belly was my biggest problem, Kim had me do these ab exercises two to three times a week.

Twister

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a stability ball with both hands in front of chest, arms extended.
  • Keeping hips facing forward, rotate torso to right, then to left, to complete 1 rep.
  • Do 15 reps.

Back Extension

  • Lie facedown with belly on the center of a stability ball, resting your feet against a wall behind you, legs extended and toes on floor; touch hands behind your ears, elbows bent out to sides.
  • Lift chest off ball then lower to return to start.
  • Do 15 reps.

Stir the Pot

  • Place forearms on the center of a stability ball with shoulders over elbows and legs extended behind you, toes on floor, so that body is in plank position.
  • Draw 15 small clockwise circles with elbows. MAKE IT HARDER: Keep feet close together and draw larger circles.
  • Switch directions and repeat.

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Leave some leftovers.

Alyse taught me to take a "pause moment" to evaluate whether I was hungry before I mindlessly ate the chicken nuggets my older daughter left on her plate. Those 30 seconds caused me to wrap up any leftovers instead.

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Be the change.

If I don't feel like using the elliptical machine in my basement, I think of all those times my 4-year-old daughter has watched me pedaling. I would rather she observe me being active than see me sitting on the couch.

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Have a cheat sheet.

Thanks to Alyse, I learned that if I have too many restrictive food rules, I'll set myself up to binge. I save 100 calories a day for treats like these to satisfy cravings.

  • 1 1/2 cups Trader Joe's kettle corn
  • 1/2 Hershey's Special Dark bar
  • 10 Barbara's Snackimals Vanilla animal cookies
  • 17 cinnamon almonds

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Have a ball.

"This slam-dunk core exercise relieves stress: Stand with feet wide, holding a medicine ball overhead; then forcefully throw it onto the floor," says Kim Samborski, a trainer for Equinox Fitness Clubs in Chicago. No ball? Use a pillow instead.

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Savor to avoid splurges.

"Focus on what you're eating and how full you are," says Alyse Levine, RD, the owner of Nutritionbite in Los Angeles. "If you have food in your mouth, make sure you don't have more food in your hand or on your utensil ready to go."

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, June 2012.

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