Jennifer Mitchel from Boston, MA, was not an overweight kid or teenager. However, the 29-year-old remembers that she, “was never a very active child and my food habits were bad,” adding that in college she, “lived solely on street food, chips and alcohol!”
When she started working, the bad food habits and sedentary lifestyle stuck, worsening as her job got more demanding. Despite that, she remained in decent shape, she says. Then she got married.
Her husband, a fitness coach, was in peak physical condition when she met him. Unfortunately, her bad habits rubbed off on him. “We both gained over 30 kg in three years (2014-17) and were at 35% body fat when we finally decided to get ourselves tested,” she says.
At a height of five feet, she was clinically obese, weighing 65 kg. But she knew the signs even before seeing a doctor: “From joint aches to spondylitis, lethargy and breathlessness,” she remembers having it all. So she decided to get back in shape; this time, via diet and exercise.
Weight reduction as a couple
In March 2016, she embarked on her journey. “I tried everything from paleo to simply moving more, but lost only two kg between January and June,” she says. So, she decided to join a gym. “Initially, I was doing just cardio and free squats. But with lifting weights, gym-ing became fun. Lifting weights was not only rewarding but extremely empowering,” she says. At first, she took it slow, training for 30 to 45 minutes, three days a week. “Many people make the mistake of planning too big and then failing because it is just so different from what they are used to. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, going from sitting all day to working out just three days a week is a big enough change,” she says, adding that resistance training is extremely important to gain and retain lean body mass.
She also began paying more attention to her diet. “With my husband’s constant research on fitness, fat loss and how to better our overall journey and results, I too became very interested in evidence-based nutrition and training. This led to us spending hours on reading review papers on the latest research, watching videos by top coaches, trainers and PhD holders in nutrition and health, and planning our own meals and routines based on our new-found knowledge,” adds Mitchel.
The biggest change, however, was an attitudinal one. She began looking at food as fuel for workouts rather than as social or recreational activity.
Though she did use the weighing scale to track progress, she also focused on her body-fat percentage to set final goals.
Mitchel says, “I started my journey at a little over 65 kg and 35% body fat, and now I am 45 kg with 22% body fat. It took a year to lose 20 kg and completely transform my body in a sustainable manner.”
Setting realistic short-term goals and finding the most convenient way to achieve them was the key to success. She did not put all her focus on just the end result or that final weight, but also paid attention to the process, enjoying the journey as well.”
When it comes to fitness, she believes: “Get your inspiration from wherever you want, but get your information and advice from coaches, nutritionists and fitness trainers. And don’t fall prey to marketing gimmicks.”