breaking a trail to prom

I just want to look nice in a prom dress, she said quietly.

Her words squeezed my heart tightly. No. I won’t cry. I will help her.

Gatherings with my side of the family often end in deep conversations about health, weight loss, and exercise. All the women in my family inherited the curse of the apple body type. Not a pear in the bunch. We all carry our extra weight right around our mid sections; the most dangerous place to store fat.

Fat stored around the middle is typically visceral fat. Fat stored around the bottom (in pear-shapes) is typically subcutaneous fat. So stop your complaining fat-bottomed girls. At least you’re less likely to keel over from a heart attack.

According to Harvard Medical School, “Visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery.

That both my mother and sister have developed type 2 diabetes, are taking medication for high blood pressure and lead a largely exercise-free life is not lost on me. It should be noted that neither or them is grossly overweight. In fact, my mother is probably only 20 lbs over her ‘ideal’ weight.

At the end of these family gatherings, a chorus of moans from both mom and sis bears witness to the severe lower back pain they feel, following the preparation, serving and cleanup of a big family meal. Checking my tone to avoid any hint of smugness, I try to gently advise that I no longer feel any low back pain since embarking on my 365-day workout plan in 2013. I explain that the stronger my body became, and specifically my core, the more my back issues dissipated, to the point where I have no lower back pain today.

They nod, they agree that there was a clear cause and effect, they applaud my success. But they don’t take action.

And if there is one thing I learned through this process it, it is that you can’t want this for someone else. They have to want it for themselves.

So, when my 17 year old niece said, “I just want to look nice in a prom dress“, I heard that she wanted it for herself. I heard that she had motivation. And a timeline (5 months). What she lacked was a plan.

This is where I come in.

I had signed up for Janathon, but I was fretting over how I would stay on track with every-day exercise in the face of a busy work month. One thing would surely keep me on task: becoming the personal trainer for my niece. Helping her would help me.

On New Year’s Day, I drove over to their place for personal training session #1. First up: a 5k walk, which my sister joined us for, and which ended up being 5.5k much to everyone’s chagrin. Next up, a strength training session focused on lower body: legs, glutes. She was beast, fighting through the pain of reactivating atrophied muscles.

We set a plan, which she’ll have to execute on her own, for the most part, as I’ll be a ‘remote coach’ 90% of the time Every day I email her the workout, along with some motivational words and images, and then check in via text or phone to see how she made out. Being plan-ful about her workouts forces me to be so with my own. Win-win.

And as for my niece, so far, so good. She even announced that she quit Coke. Cold turkey! You know what else she did? She selected her dream prom dress. She keeps it in her journal, for motivation. I couldn’t be more proud.

*Not her actual dream prom dress

*Not her actual dream prom dress

Keep moving,

xoxo nancy

63 thoughts on “breaking a trail to prom

  1. It is a wonderful win-win with the potential of an extra ‘win’ if her mom jumps on board with her 🙂

    You are likely changing her life by teaching her new life skills … and that is simply awesome!

    • I couldn’t be happier, Joanne. Yesterday we encountered our first little speed bump:

      Me: Hi X, how did today’s workout go?
      Her: I haven’t done it yet. I think I hurt my back yesterday. I’m walking all hunched over. Everything aches.
      Me: You didn’t hurt your back. That’s just muscle soreness. The only way to get past it is to exercise…
      Her: But I can barely walk.
      Me: Okay, so let’s modify and do XYZ instead of the original workout I emailed you.
      Her: Okaaaaaay…..

      Me: Hi X, how did it go?
      Her: It actually went okay. 🙂

      • Exactly! I told her, Dude – it hurts me to just breathe today! She laughed and said, well at least mine just hurts to walk. You’re definitely worse if it hurts just to breathe! (Perspective!) 🙂

      • I’m just hoping to instill some knowledge that she can then tap into when she’s off at university, on her own. At the end of the day she has to want it and prioritize on it. I can’t want it for her. So far, so good! 🙂

      • that is true! all you can do it give her the tools and the knowledge…she has to use them herself!

        I say all…that is actually a pretty big thing 🙂 it is so much easier to do it if you have been given the tools by someone who genuinely knows what it is like and is so inspirational!! 😀

      • I finally get to pay it forward in a very real way. Sharing stuff on the blog these past 2 years – I’ve received much feedback about how helpful my stories/experiences have been to others, but doing this 1:1 is a whole different level of feeling like I’m really helping!

      • that is so good 😀

        It is lovely to see it working for someone too!

        it is marginally annoying to get asked for help then see your advice ignored but that is a different story and I am sure it won’t happen to you 😀

      • In this case, she didn’t actually ask for the help. 🙂 I took her musing about the dress as my opening to offer up my services. 🙂

        The jury is still out as to whether she’ll stick this out. I imagine we’ll hit a few more bumps in the road. This is a 17-yr old who has never exercised. All I can do is continue to support. But I can’t make her take my support.

      • bumps in the road are to be expected, and as you say all you can do is give the support 🙂

        I am sure it will have an effect though 🙂

        Prom dresses are a big motivational factor when you are 17 after all!
        (I didn’t eat when I was 17 so prom dresses were not a problem…tbh not eating was the problem…but I didn’t realise that then…)

      • She and I have had several deep conversations about the futility of dieting. (Thankfully she has never brought up starvation /purging, so I don’t think eating disorders are on her radar.)

        To this point any/all of her weight loss efforts have involved calorie reduction/diet – often via structured programs: Herbal Magic, Weight Watchers, etc. She told me, “I lost XX pounds doing that one. Maybe I should do it again.” Me: Um…what happened when you stopped? Her: I gained it back. Me: Yep.

        So let’s just stop with the diet nonsense, okay?

  2. My takeaway is that any self improvement – weight loss or otherwise – is that we need to want it for ourselves. It’s the only sustainable way to go.

    • Absolutely. I witnessed it first hand at the resort two years ago. Just because somebody takes you there doesn’t mean you’ll take advantage of the opportunity. You have to want it. And you have to want it more than you want the comfort of doing nothing.

      My nieces first real test came yesterday when she woke up with severe DOMS pain from the previous workouts. She told me she ‘must have hurt her back exercising the previous day’. Um, no. That’s called muscle soreness. It means that what we’re doing is working. Now GO WORKOUT! 🙂

      She did, and she was glad.

    • I’m really hoping to give her the tools she needs to sustain this long term, to adopt a healthier lifestyle than she’s been leading, and to show her that she is empowered to make a change if she wants that change.

      I’m trying to keep my enthusiasm in check. I know I’ll be devastated if she quits this, deciding it’s too hard, or that the pain of being overweight and unhealthy is less than the pain of working out. But I know I can’t wear/own that. This is all her. I’m just here to support and guide. At the end of the day she decides if this is a go or not.

      Fingers crossed!

  3. Hi Nancy! What an awesome way to start out the New Year for you both. You are so right that unless a person is ready and has their own motivation it will not last. Just the fact that you got her to give up soda will help TREMENDOUSLY with her weight but if she can get strong too with the exercise that is something that will stay with her for the rest of her life. And who knows? She might be the positive example that tips the scales (NPI) for the rest of the family too. Be proud! ~Kathy

  4. I wish I had had an awesome aunt like you growing up! My family also struggles with weight, healthy eating, and exercise. My mom’s sisters and mother all fall into the morbidly obese weight range, and I know we are all genetic time bombs. What I have seen though is that it just takes 1 person to start the movement towards wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle. You are probably a great inspiration to them, but they just aren’t ready to start their own journey. It has such a strong trickle down effect though… I lost the weight, and my mom decided to lose hers (she’s a hottie now. And she does boot camp and heavy lifting), and soon my aunt wanted to be like my mom, so now she’s embraced the lifestyle, too and lost over 20 pounds in the last 6 months. But it’s not about weight loss… It’s about preserving my family tree and having them around to enjoy life with us as long as possible.
    As for your niece, I’m so proud of her. She deserves this. Your guidance is going to go a long way! Good for the both of you!

    • How totally fantastic about your mom and your aunt! Love the analogy of the genetic time bombs. With high BP and type 2 diabetes already present, there is a very real risk of heart attack or stroke. I was so excited when my sister announced she was coming with us on the power walk. She was struggling hard by the end, but she made it. Next is to get her to commit to at least walking every day. I’m working on it. 🙂

    • I really hope so, Lisa.

      I wish someone had given me these tools /this knowledge when I was that age. I wonder how different a lifestyle I might have lead…

      I am really looking forward to coaching her as long as she’ll let me.

  5. You’re an amazing person and such an inspiration to everyone around you!! Such fabulous news!! Yay!! Happy New Year!! It sounds like 2015 is starting off fabulously!!! Oh yeah!! Have a wonderful week!! You rock!! XOXO

  6. Nancy, I think this is so awesome. She’s going to be so thankful to you when she slips into her dream dress in May.

    Given my upcoming schedule, I’d be grateful for a share of the best “do anywhere” workout program you’ve found. I’ve got to incorporate more movement into my days, wherever I am, and I’m really struggling with it.

    • I’m headed to Montreal in a few hours, then Atlanta, possibly Vancouver, and maybe London, UK – so has been my best friend. Just click on the ‘search workouts’ button and then select your poison (and don’t forget to select “no equipment” if you’re in a hotel. I just finsihed a pilates workout that was just perfect (calf muscle still healing + my period started last night, so nothing too jarring for me today).
      Good luck with the tour!

      • Great. Thank you!!

        And anytime you’re going to be in Atlanta, shoot me a text. I’m there a lot these days. We might be able to meet up sometime for a quick drink. xo

      • That would be awesome! Right now I’m planning to be there the week of the 19th – probably monday night thru Friday afternoon. Let me know if you’ll be there!

  7. People who share the fitness journey with others often have greater success at meeting their goals than if they go it alone, so it’s great you’re helping your niece out. And like you said, it keeps you on track too. Maybe she’ll let you post an actual picture of her in her prom dress when the time comes! We’re all rooting for her. (And you!)

    • I’ll ask her to send me a copy of the actual dream dress – and I hope she’ll want to share a photo of herself in it when the time comes. It’s fully awesome that she is as excited as she is!

      Now I just need to convince her to stop weighing herself every day. That can be so demotivating!

      • Yes, it can. There are mornings I know the scale won’t be to my liking given my recent indulgences, so I don’t even bother stepping on it. No sense in bringing myself down. But I improve my eating that day and things get back on course.

  8. Way to go Trainer Nance! Good on your for taking time out of your really busy life to help her. You could have heard that and thought you should help and decided you were too busy. But you didn’t. You rock (and so does the niece by the sounds of it!).

  9. Nancy, you are pure gold. Not only do you have an incredibly large heart in wanting to help the people that you love, but you are so sensitive to the fact that success is something they must muster up the strength to want. I wrestle with this too when looking at my own folks and wishing more than anything that they will become determined to lead healthier lives. But I am not them and they are not me. We all choose.
    And I’m so glad your niece has you at her side. I’d give my left lung for one of you cheering me on. A motivational coach can be very hard to come by. Lucky girl. My fingers are crossed it’s a heartwarming journey for you both.

    • I’m getting so much more than I’m giving, Shelley. Every time I consider skipping a workout I remember that I need to send one to her, and then think, “I can’t tell her to workout and then just sit on my ass today!” 🙂

  10. Pingback: keep your eye on the prize | my year[s] of sweat!

  11. Pingback: nancy gets her groove back: jan recap + feb challenge | my year[s] of sweat!

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