Anne Marie (ANNIEONLI) recently attended the M2Moms Conference in New York City with members of the SparkPeople team. She shared her success story with the 300 attendees, and now we want to share her story with you!
Tell us a little bit about your journey to healthy living. When and how did you start, and how did you get to where you are today? My sister and her friend told me about SparkPeople in 2008. They thought it would be a good fit for me since I had tried every diet under the sun and this was something new and different. I started out at 187 pounds, in February of 2008. Reading through the program made sense to me - it was easy to follow and encouraging with [the earning of] SparkPoints and interacting with the community. Blogging--while scary at first--became the tool that I needed to work through things. I found a SparkBuddy (shout out to OAKBORN here) and purposefully made my goal 150.
The other goal was to keep it steady [at 150] for a while, which I did for a year. A little regain got me back on the tracking path again, and I lost another ten pounds, and did the same thing for another year. Then the year after that, [I lost] the final 10 that brought me to 132. Those stepping stones I made for myself to practice maintenance were a big help because your mind has to catch up to what your body looks like now. I still have the ''heavy me'' lurking in the background, but she gets quieter and quieter as the years go by. I still track nutrition and fitness when I need to get a grip on things, but maintaining is more natural now because I know what to do. Slow and steady really does win the race.
Please give us a little bit of background about your family. How many kids do you have, and how old are they? What are their interests/what activities are they involved in? I am a 42-year-old, married mother of three boys, ages 13, 11 and nine. They were only five, three and one when I started Sparking. They keep us quite busy, and they deserve to have a happy, healthy mom around! We've gone through the circuits of soccer, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, karate, football and Boy Scouts with them. They have each settled on a sport of their own passion: cross-country and track for the 13-year-old, karate for the 11-year-old, and football for the 9-year old.
What is the most challenging thing about losing weight and getting healthy as a mom? The majority of my weight was lost when they were little, so that did come with some challenges. I worked part-time, but when I was with them, I was full-time mom on duty. I didn't go to the gym, but I had a stability ball I kept out at all times and I also had a treadmill in my basement that I used early in the morning, during naps or after the kids went to bed. Family TV time turned into me on the floor doing exercises. Carving out the time, and being creative with the time I had when I was with them was the challenge. My husband is a great cook, so he accommodated my requests for less fried food. I did stop buying things that were not healthy to cut back temptation and I used the Nutrition Tracker to educate myself in regards to portion control and what you really should be eating throughout the day to be balanced.
What is the most challenging thing about raising healthy kids in our world today? First would be the processed food! Temptation and fancy packaging are everywhere - even if it's deemed ''healthy.'' You have to sift through the garbage and read everything in order to educate your family on what really is good food. Second would be technology. Video games and computers are the black hole for kids. When I was a kid it was just TV, but now the TV--along with games and other social media--is attached to our hands. Kids can get lost for hours on it, [when that] time that could be used for playing outside with other kids.
What are your go-to, kid-friendly meals and snacks? Home-cooked meals are the key, which is hard to do during the week. My husband is the main quick cook and I'm the master of the Crock-Pot and pressure cooker. As a family we try and balance things out for what everyone likes. Chicken paprikash is a chicken stew that is a family favorite. Smoothies are big because the kids make them themselves and fruit is always on hand in the fridge. If they say ''I'm staaaarving,'' the first answer out of our mouths is, ''Go have a piece of fruit.'' We balance things out with the not-so-healthy too--tortilla chips are a favorite, and hummus, guacamole and salsa are the dip staples in our house. Portion control is key with kids. We strive not to deny, but to eat everything in moderation.
How has SparkPeople helped you and your family get healthy together? SparkRecipes has been an asset when looking up new ways to spin a dish, dip or dessert into a healthier version. It's my go-to when I get stuck. The many articles on SparkPeople taught me what to look for in different foods, and about portion control. It also brought to light that many families are in the same boat with being busy, struggling with meals and trying to balance life, just like us. SparkPeople also helped me stay focused, so I could work to become a better person through self-reflection and self-care. It also taught me that I need to take time out for myself in order to be the best mom that I can be for my kids.
What is the most important advice you can provide other busy moms for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, both for themselves and for their families? Be kind to yourself. As moms, we tend to beat ourselves up for not getting to everything all in one day. Putting yourself first when getting healthy will be the best investment for your family. They will shadow your behavior because they love you and you are their trusted guide through this life. Ask for help when you need it. Use the support groups and find a buddy because you are not alone. In time, your family will see that a healthy lifestyle is worth fighting for.
*Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.