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"I Lost Weight -- and Gained So Much Energy!"
In dire need of a motivation makeover, Weng Funn Chen, 36, boosted her confidence with a FITNESS intervention.
Weng's Success Story
It didn't take long after meeting my husband for my weight to start inching past my skinniest-ever 130 pounds. It's probably a familiar story: I began eating like him. We would share two appetizers and three entrees on dinner dates. And after we got married, there was the baby boom. I had three kids within six years. It all added up to my putting on more than 40 pounds during the past decade. But as bad as not fitting into my clothes felt, my real problem was that I had barely enough energy to get through the day. During the few precious hours of babysitting I had in the morning, I squeezed in my housework and errands before my older two children got back from school. I felt too strapped for time to exercise while they were gone and too guilty to do it when they were home. What I really needed was a motivational push in the right direction.
My Moment of Success
I made a start by stealing power walks here and there in my New York City neighborhood, but the results really took off when FITNESS set me up with a trainer and a dietitian, who gave me a targeted plan. Eleven months later I'm not only back to the 130-pound dream weight I thought I would never see again but also in better shape than before. You can't beat the feeling of sprinting to the bus stop, especially in your skinny jeans!
Weng's Progress by the Numbers
Before Now Weight 150 lbs 131 lbs Height 5'5" 5'5" Chest 40" 35" Waist 39" 29" Hips 40" 36" Body Fat 28% 23%
What Worked for Me
Build a fitness base.
I lost a little weight on my own but still had a long way to go. When I first met my trainer, Sylwia, I could manage only a very slow jog. So that's how we started out: taking five-minute runs together. I soon joined her morning cardio-endurance class. (I had never done so many lunges!) It gave me the stamina to begin jogging two days a week, and now I can run five miles at a time.
Schedule, don't starve.
Trying to cut calories, I ended up living on coffee and bites off the kids' plates for most of the day. Not a good idea, said my dietitian, Marni, who gave me easy 1,500-calorie-a-day menus, like this one, that kept my energy up and helped me shed pounds healthfully.
Veggie omelet made with one egg and three egg whites, a whole wheat English muffin
Salad topped with 2 to 4 ounces chicken and 1 tablespoon dressing
1 ounce nuts
1/2 cup edamame
5 ounces grilled salmon, 1 cup roasted brussels sprouts, 1/2 cup quinoa
There's no excuse to skip a workout if I'm already in my gym clothes, so I make sure to put them on first thing when I get up. Being in my sneakers even inspires me to take the 10 flights of stairs to my apartment.
Cook once to nix nibbling.
Rather than making two full-size dinners — an early one for the kids and another when my husband gets home — I use a slow cooker to prepare meals so we all eat the same thing, just not at the same time. Having seconds is much less tempting than sampling a whole new dish.
Marni gave me new math for when I dine out with my husband: Split one entree rather than three. Now I order a side salad as an appetizer, and we share the house special or a dish that we usually don't prepare at home. I enjoy every bite so much more.
Strengthen from the bottom up.
Sylwia says a strong butt is key for running — and hoisting kids. These glute moves from her class are my go-tos.
- Standing with feet hip-width apart and arms by sides, lower into a squat.
- Stand up, sweeping right leg out to side while raising arms in a jumping jack motion.
- Return to squat, switch legs and repeat.
- Continue, alternating sides, for one minute.
Forward-Reverse Lunge Combo
- Standing with feet shoulder-width apart and arms by sides, lunge forward with right leg.
- Keeping low, with left foot planted and left knee bent throughout, step right leg back into a reverse lunge.
- Continue alternating forward and reverse lunges for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
Curtsy Side Lunge
- Standing with feet shoulder-width apart and arms by sides, lunge forward with right foot, crossing it to outside of left leg, bending both knees 90 degrees (like a curtsy).
- Straighten legs and immediately step right leg out to right into a side lunge.
- Return to start, switch legs and repeat.
- Continue, alternating sides, for one minute.
More Tips from Our Experts
Cut grocery lines.
"Save time and avoid temptation by buying your food staples online, or enroll in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program to introduce new fresh foods to your diet," suggests Marni Sumbal, RD, the founder of Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition in Jacksonville, Florida. Find a CSA near you at localharvest.org/csa.
Capitalize on home workout time.
"Each week, go to a website like acefitness.org or fitnessmagazine.com and print out three moves that you can do in your living room," says Sylwia Wiesenberg, the creator of the Tonique Fitness method. "Perform them during your favorite TV show or while you're waiting for water to boil."
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, July/August 2012.