My Journey: Today I Join the 5% Club!!

  • I finished and I feel FANTASTIC!!  It's an emotional and transformative journey!  Take it...what else do you have to do?

    I have spent the last 20 years going back to Weight Watchers again and again. It worked…several times (what’s wrong with this equation?!)  I always quickly lost the 15-20lbs that I needed to lose- it “worked” for me and I enjoyed the plan and the support of the meetings.  In hindsight, I was the problem…not the program.  I truly have nothing against Weight Watchers.  They were always very good to me.

    Though I have never been more than about 25 lbs overweight, I have been a classic yo-yo dieter and have become way OVER FAT.  And while I knew at an early age to expect only chubby, cellulite-ridden legs (a family cross to bear for all the women in my family), some would call me “skinny-fat.”  I doubt anyone would have called me fit, but I don’t think I would be called fat either.  I “hold” my weight well- thank you chubby legs!  Because of my yo-yo dieting cycle, I always have clothes in my closet that go from a size 6 to a size 12.  The 12’s have gotten way more wear, surprise, surprise!

    I got married in my mid-20’s (at my very skinniest in a size 4 sheath wedding dress) to a man who is mild mannered, calm and loves me unconditionally at every size I have ever been and I am grateful for that. In my late 20’s I worked with a woman in her 40’s who was very fit and had survived *** Cancer in her mid-thirties.  She was looking for a workout buddy for partnered personal training and I signed on.  I had used weights a little in college and I was inspired by this new friend.  I loved those couple of years we worked out with a trainer.  He was kind and hard on me and taught me so much about fitness and nutrition and made me believe I COULD do it. And he made me RUN.  FAST.  On a treadmill for a three minute interval every time I saw him.  I mean, I was the kid on the bench in PE with “knee problems.”  I said I CAN’T... he KNEW I COULD.  I adored him and I adored her for introducing me to this side of myself.  And by the way, I looked pretty darn good at 18% body fat, size 6.  I was doing weight training only once a week and spinning 2-3 times a week.  And I ran a couple of 5k’s.  I read Body-for-Life when it hit the bookstores for the first time. I loved it.  I read it a lot.  I didn’t follow it- I didn’t “need" to at the time, but I loved reading it.

    Then I moved away.  I went to grad school and life got “too busy” for working out.  The long hours and late nights had me eating terribly and probably drinking more than I should have.  I was 30 and I didn’t need to worry about looking great.  Why should I care anymore?  I was (still am!) happily married and it just didn’t matter.

    I moved again to a new job (my current job- one that I LOVE) and soon after I had a baby!!!!  Who cares about weight loss when that extra baby fat proves YOU ARE A MOM!!!  That fat is a war wound that says, “My body carried a BABY and I delivered it! I am a soft and squishy MOM and I am proud of it!!”  But, I am certain my earlier workouts with my personal trainer were HUGELY influential when I went into labor.  Trusting that I could ride out those contractions…it was so similar to those earlier training sessions and similar to pushing to a 10 intensity, too!

    All moms (all PEOPLE really!) eventually start to feel like they need to do something for THEMSELVES.  For the last 6 years (my son’s whole life) I have gained and lost (with Weight Watchers) the same 20lbs at least 4 times.  Every time I lose it, my body seems a little softer when I get to “the finish line.”  I would get to fitting into a size 6 or 8 but I was flabbier every time.

    My job has stretches of time when I am swamped (like most everyone else). I am at work for a 6 week stretch every year when I have 12-14 hour days for 6 days a week.  It’s grueling and I eat (ate!) terribly.  There were many days I would get home at 1am and realize I had only had coffee or diet coke to drink- no water for days.  But I always ate.  I always ate breakfast but would often go until dinner before eating again.  I would always take the sugary treat that was offered to me because I thought I deserved it. 

    AND THEN I TURNED FORTY!!  People were often surprised at my age…I looked good enough.  But I felt 40...a depressing 40. I stopped wearing shorts altogether and started to buy shirts with longer sleeves to cover my flabby arms.  I even have the full out skirted “Mom swimsuit.”  This was starting to make me feel ancient.  I live at the beach, so I am in a swimsuit a lot!

    When work calmed down in May 2010, I pulled out my dusty copy of BFL and started to think about a plan.  I knew I had to do something differently…I felt ready to take the challenge.  But on June 1, 2010, I came down with a HIGH fever…it was spiking fast… I was diagnosed with pneumonia.  Luckily, I work from home in the summers and I could stay in bed.  I stayed there for 2 weeks and  it really got me thinking about my lifestyle and my lack of fitness and my active little guy and my husband and how I SHOULD NOT HAVE GOTTEN PNEUMONIA!   But why not?  I was taking very poor care of myself. 

    During those 2 weeks in bed I did a lot of thinking, reading BFL, and planning for my challenge.  I took photos on June 17, 2010 and I started C1 officially on June 21 (after I got the okay from my doctor), I took measurements and had a fitness assessment/body fat test, which I highly recommend.



    The pneumonia did a lot for me to cross it- a real wake up call.  But the photos of me were a real eye opener.  I had to grieve a little for the person I had lost along the way.  I should clarify that I didn’t have a ton of weight to lose… probably my usual 20 lbs.  The flabbiness, the soft middle and the cellulite-those are the things that really needed attention.  But there were (and probably will continue to be) multiple times I had to cross the abyss along the way.  One clear crossing point is going from the MINUTIA of trying to “beat the system” to crossing into JUST DOING THE PLAN.  It is very simple.  It’s not easy, but it is simple. At this end of the challenge I know this…there are no short cuts and there is no finish line.  The finish line is death.  That’s why it’s called Body-for-LIFE.  Once you get past the learning curve and then past the minutia of tweaking the plan to suit your vices…you’re really getting somewhere.  And planning is key.  Bill Phillips says it takes only 5% of the time available to you for this program.  In theory, it’s true.  But I disagree…my mental energy was CONSUMED by it.  But I was ready to be consumed with something other than self-hatred and guilt over trashing my body. TIP: Write down your goals, look at your before photos (or a photo of a body you’d like to have- this helped me look toward the future) and keep whispering motivations to yourself- especially I AM WORTH HAVING A PROMISE KEPT FOR MYSELF. Be Honest with yourself.


    It’s hard.  I think it’s BryanL who said, “It’s challenging.  That’s why it’s called a challenge.”  Expect it. Be ready for it.  It’s tough.  You will be better for it.  You absolutely will.  Did I hit a 10 every time?  Absolutely not.  But I did it…day in and day out. Every workout.  I never missed one.  Some were lame.  Some had me in awe of my own capabilities. Most were the best I could do on that given day.  I calmed the voices in my head telling me all the reasons I couldn’t do it and I just kept going.  One day after another. Morning after morning I laced up my sneakers and just started my day honoring my self promise.  I did it!  I feel good.  I have more work to do, but it is definitely my lifestyle now  and I am ready to take on challenge 2.  I know what I will do differently…what new goals I can set for myself and I am excited by it.  This is my new hobby and I love it!  And guess what?  I am wearing shorts again and I think the leg cellulite is seriously on its way out.  Unbelievable!   TIP:  Plan no more than a week in advance around the other things in your week’s schedule.  Use index cards with columns for each exercise and take one with you to the gym.  I write them up the night before, right after I lay out my gym clothes for the next day.  Failing to plan is planning to fail.  But don’t plan too far in advance.  One day a t a time…eventually 84 days add up and you will be surprised.  Know that YOUR BODY CHANGES FROM THE INSIDE FIRST- all that marbleized fat.  You may not see results for a while.  Don’t let that get you down. GET RID OF THE SCALE!!!  DRINK YOUR WATER.  GET EXTRA SLEEP, especially in the first few weeks.My scale did not move from weeks 5-9 or from weeks 10-12.  Oh well.  Inches disappeared and clothes fit and people NOTICED and I am getting some great muscle definition.  Who cares about the scale?  If I want to lose scale weight quickly, I'll go back to Weight Watchers where I lie to myself and cheat the system with binges and starvation!


    Protein, protein, protein.  I am not a huge protein fan- don’t eat beef, pork or buffalo (!) so I stick with chicken, turkey, fish, shrimp, cottage cheese, a lot of eggs, and Greek yogurt.  Get creative.  There are plenty of combinations.  Don’t let boring food be your excuse.

    I didn’t do too many protein shakes or bars.  Bars in my purse for emergencies.  I’ll probably add more protein shakes in challenge 2.

    Good carbs- less bread, crackers and wraps and more oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, beans, strawberries, apples and melon.

    No sauces, no extras.  Just get away from it.  The clean eating and the timing of meals were HUGE in breaking my craving for sweets.  I never thought I could break it, but after about 3 weeks, I was amazed.  I still am! TIP: All in the timing!!  Set an alarm to remind you to eat each of the 6 meals.  Time can get away from you and the timing is key for staying on track and curbing cravings. DRINK YOUR WATER.


    I took them.  Every single one of them.  But only one per week.  Mostly on a Sunday unless I knew I had an event I couldn’t control.  Pizza, ice cream and wine are my usuals. And syrup on my protein pancakes!  I also allow myself to eat my son’s crusts after he’s done.  Or take a handful of something when I pass through the kitchen.  Or only eat 3 times plus the nibbles.  Or drink less water.  I know I should stay on the water, but for me I plan so much all week long, the free day is really about relaxing the PLANNING.  I seriously let the mood move me.  I think only 2 times did I wish I had not eaten so much.  In the beginning I got a little grumpy on free day.  It was kind of funny.  I didn’t know what to do with myself. Now I enjoy it.  But I enjoy getting back to my routine even more. TIP:  When you have a craving, instead of giving in to it, write it down on a list for Free Day.  Chances are, what you wanted on Monday may hold no interest for you on Sunday.  That is a cool lesson to learn. DRINK YOUR WATER…even on Free Day.


    This might be the single most important factor in getting me through 12 weeks.  The BFL forum…especially the die hards on the Coffee Crew (you know who you are!)…were hugely supportive and welcoming to a newbie like me and their advice is amazing. People at all levels of the challengeare there...challenging themselves, and yes...even struggling daily.  I couldn't continue on this journey without them…I know that.  I hope some of the Dream Team finishers will join us over there, too!

    At about week 5, I decided my best friend needed to join me.  This is the same college friend who started Weight Watchers with me 20 years ago!  3 kids later and a lot going on in her life…she was at her wit’s end and at the top of her scale weight.  I knew this would be the answer, especially if we could do it together.  I laid it out for her, without asking her to read the book.  I gave her instructions one day at a time.  Today..drink water.  Tomorrow…eat 6 times…the next day…walk for 20 minutes…until she had all the components.  And she LOVED IT.  She bought the book and now she is on week 7.  She has lost over 15 lbs and I haven’t seen her so happy in years (though we live far apart and I haven’t SEEN her at all yet...can't wait for THAT!!).  We text each other at least 6 times a day with the meals we ate.  It also gives us each recipe ideas.  That has been a huge help- that accountability to her.  We are loving doing it together. TIP: Let yourself be helped AND also help someone else.  It makes you take all of the focus off of ME, ME, ME.  The forum is a great place for both of these things.

    I hope this post was helpful to someone out there.  My final numbers are on my profile and I will try to get some photos posted in the next day or so.  I am not entering the official challenge.  I  don’t feel a need to.  Good luck to everyone out there!  You deserve it!!  DRINK YOUR WATER.

    Jen4Life, Starting C2 on 9/27/10



    If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten!

    My FOURTH Challenge: May 23-Aug. 14, 2011.  Began First BFL Challenge on June 21, 2010

  • Nice post Jen!  Thanks for sharing. :-)

    Love you some you...PERSEVERE!

  • Sorry it's sooo long.  I just couldn't shorten it.  Skimmers can just jump to the highlights! :)

    If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten!

    My FOURTH Challenge: May 23-Aug. 14, 2011.  Began First BFL Challenge on June 21, 2010

  • Aw Jen - amazing...thanks for taking the time to write that all out. You will definately help many with that post.

    One thing though....I really encourage you to send in an essay. If only to receive the "Certificate of Achievement" for 2010. Believe me - you NEED that on your wall - heck, you could even put it up with all your other Certificates of Education that are on your office wall.

    You are a Champion today Jen.

  • Jen, this is a fantastic post!  Thank you for taking the time to type all that out, lol....I know you are going to help a lot of people.  Congratulations on finishing!


    Susan Berna

    2010 Body-for-LIFE Grand Master Champion

  • Jen  you are tuly fabulous.  Thank you for letting us into your "life" while on the challenge, it is wonderful to be able to "follow" people through this thing and to be able to find that information in one spot - what a resource and most definietly a tremendous help to so many.

    You are my hero lady - keep up the great work.

    Life IS Good
    Not in BFL challenge currently

  • Thank you for the inspiring and helpful post! It really helped me out!


  • Jen-That was absolutely Fabulous!!! Exactly (well, pretty much!) how I felt after I completed my challenge! Thank you for putting it all down in your words. I KNOW it will help someone down the road! =)

    DebMO :0)           Blessed to be a Blessing...

  • Way to go Jen! and it was a really nice post.. I enjoyed reading every last word.! Thanks for the extra motivation!  Good luck in round two!

  • Wow. Jen, that was amazing!!!!! Thank you for writing that out! Usually with long post... I am a skimmer, but I'm so glad I read your post, very inspiring!!!!

    Tisha :-) “Running won't kill you, you'll pass out first!"

  • Thanks for reading it!  I am glad it's helpful!  Just keeping doing it, everyone.  You'll be so glad you did!!


    If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten!

    My FOURTH Challenge: May 23-Aug. 14, 2011.  Began First BFL Challenge on June 21, 2010

  • Congratulations on your success Jen!!  Thanks for sharing YOUR story too.  Some many folks come and go and rarely do they share their story.   It was a blessing for me today to come to the forum and find your post.  

    Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right ~ Henry Ford

    Michelle Simpson ~2009 Body-for-LIFE Champion 46+ Catagory

  • Wanted to update Challenge 2 I officially lost 5 more lbs and 3 more inches in 12 weeks.  I did not get my body fat re-tested yet, but will do that in the next few weeks- it's what's most important to me now- my body fat %.  The holidays have been a SMALL detour with a couple pounds of weight gained, but I am starting C3 tomorrow (Dec. 27th) and am looking forward to a really clean go of it.

    My friend who joined me?  She is in C2 right now and has lost over 25 lbs and I am so proud of her.  She is now inspiring others to try BFL.


    If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten!

    My FOURTH Challenge: May 23-Aug. 14, 2011.  Began First BFL Challenge on June 21, 2010

  • Gosh Jen! I remember that post...the little highlights here and there were great and you are doing an AWESOME job!!

    Best wishes for your start of your challenge tomorrow! I'll keep my eyes (and wrenches!) on you!! =)

    And as for your friend...AWESOME! This is what BFL is all about, inspiring others to change and leading by example!

    So happy to call you friend!! xo

    Now, get to work tomorrow, ya hear?!? =)

    DebMO :0)           Blessed to be a Blessing...

  • Jen4Life:  That was an awesome essay.  I hope you changed your mind and DID send in your packet.

    Your story reminded me a lot of mine.  I was a huge yo-yo dieter but my weight swung 60 pounds every 2-3 years.  I still have clothes in my closet ranging from size 6 to size 20.  This went on for almost 30 years and LOTS of Weight Watchers meetings later, I found Body for Life in September 2009 and started my first challenge in October 2009.  When I need inspiration now, I still think of my first challenge.  I lost a total of 50 pounds in 2 challenges and did a 3rd challenge for maintenance.  

    If I gain a few extra pounds now, I know I have the skills, discipline and determination to take them off.  Body for Life is such a part of me.... it's such a comfort.

    You're right about having a support group of like-minded people who totally understand what you're going through.  Some of the die-hards on the Coffee Crew also helped me along the way.  And I'd like to think that I helped them, too.  It's so cool!

    Thanks for sharing your story.  

    Laurie, 2010 Body-for-Life Champion 46+

    Never underestimate your power to change.