Lifestyle Prior To Change
What was your lifestyle prior to your transformation?
I am a mother of five children. I had five boys in seven years. That’s a lot! My life revolved around them. I stopped working away from home and started my own home reupholstery business so that I would be the one raising my own children instead of sending them off to daycare. If you know anything about raising young children, they are fussy, picky eaters! And their taste in food (for what they won’t spit out) is simple... spaghetti, pizza, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, pizza, chicken nuggets, French-fries, pizza, etc.
Without question, I was not eating “right”, nor was I really concerned about calorie intake. I wasn’t a lazy person. I’ve always been active. I just never paid much attention to learning about “healthy eating” and “nutrition” as it applies to myself. I could definitely lose (some) weight, if I wanted to, but I never did it in a manner I would consider smart or healthy. We all want a quick fix. Taking the time to evaluate and do things correctly wasn’t ever really my first choice in going about things. Not when it came to myself.
What was your low point or turning point?
We all have excuses to say why we “lost control”; why we were ever able to get to such a low point, physically speaking. I had every excuse in the book. Being a mother of five boys, that’s an easy one. Other excuses: life is stressful, food is calming; I don’t have time to be healthy (fast food equals convenience); everyone in my family is heavy; I’m short, I just “look” fat; and, a failing relationship.
I guess the final excuse I listed was the most prevalent as far as which excuse ran through my head the most, and the one I view “at fault” for keeping me “stuck” inside the fat suit for so long. Finding out my husband cheated was both the worst day and best day of my life. He didn’t cheat because I was “heavy”...he preferred curvy. Too much to the story to tell, but keeping myself “chubby” was a way for me to “play it safe”, if that makes sense.
I imagined if I felt “more in shape”, I would be more tempted to “go outside” and find true happiness. But once it happened, I didn’t need the excuses anymore. My life was finally about me again.
My turning point was admitting to myself that there was no genuine excuse for my own poor fitness. We all have circumstances in life that make us feel “weak”, and that “tempt” us. But we are all blessed with the ability to deal with our problems, as difficult as they may be sometimes, and to not cower from challenge.
When I admitted to myself I had no more excuses left to explain away the “chubbiness”, that was the turning point for me. And it may seem like a long transformation period as far as my change from then to now goes, but the quick fixes and the word “dieting” came to mean “temporary” to me. I made a complete lifestyle change. Temporary highs were no longer acceptable.
Were there any unique challenges or circumstances that made your transformation particularly difficult?
I come from a very large family. I have 8 sisters and 5 brothers. Now, with everyone married, and 50 plus kids (all together) of our own, there literally is some get together for some reason or other (baby shower, birthday, first communion, wedding, etc.) just about every week. My dad usually cooks two giant roasts, or two 25 lb. turkeys, and myself and my siblings bring the “goodies”...you have never seen a counter of goodies like at my dad’s, I promise you!
Lately, I can handle the “buffet line” no problem. For me, I get a rush out of finding the “good foods” (and by good foods I mean foods that taste good but don’t kill a week of watching calorie intake). But more recently at these get-togethers, I get a lot of “you’re too skinny”, or “you need to gain 5 lbs. just to fill in your face”, etc., or the feeling like I’m being watched to make sure I eat and what exactly I am eating.
At the beginning, it’s pretty easy to take those things as compliments, but it becomes frustrating for me and I view it as “lack of support” even though I know they mean well. For those times, I just try to smile and then, of course, make
a muscle to show them I’m far from scrawny.
Tell us about your transformation timeline:
- Transformation Start: Honestly, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact start time because I can say I have pretty much “dieted” all of my life, and definitely had “episodes” of (short term) weight loss, but nothing that wouldn’t jump right back on me within a couple of months. I guess in estimating a start time of my “true” transformation, I would say it was back in 2005...an extremely difficult year for me, but at the same time, the year I finally started doing things right...and doing things for me...without the feeling of selfishness in doing so.
- Milestone: As far as milestones go, in the beginning of my transformation I only had one general goal, and that was to change my eating habits for the long haul (no more “dieting”) and to gain back a “healthy-looking” appearance. Between the start and now, there were so many little milestones along the way, like friends and family “noticing”; fitting into a pair of jeans I bought without trying on first, making a decision that they were never going to fit (because I figured I would be content with my weight loss way before fitting into them), and then eventually having to give them away to Good Will because they got too big; and, that first time stepping on the scale without being petrified to look down at my toes to read the number.
- Milestone: July, 2010 - not only reaching, but exceeding my “fantasy goal” of getting my weight down to 125 lbs.
- Milestone: August 24, 2011 - Doctor’s appointment - weighed 117 pounds!
- Milestone: August, 2011 - Fit into size 1 jeans! (Without looking like a stuffed sausage, or having an imprint of the seams on my legs when I take them off!)
- Milestone: Just being considered for this story on muscleandstrength.com.
- Transformation End: In August of this year, I knew I had met my goal. I am extremely content with my accomplishment of reaching my 125 lb. “fantasy goal”, but further continuing to lose 8 more lbs. after the fact is such a bonus, along with the fact that in the process of diet and exercise I acquired muscle mass beyond that of what I would consider “tone”...and that was something I didn’t necessarily intend for, but LOVE.
Mary Ellen's Training And Cardio Approach
What was your weight training approach and split during your transformation?
Get in at least 3 days (approx. 35 mins./day) of workout time in a week, along with 2 days of cardio (40 mins./day), no matter how I split things up. Weekends were off days for me and to spend time with my family, but if I could sneak in an exercise (like squats standing in front of the microwave waiting for the popcorn to pop), I would do that whenever I could.
I never focused certain days on certain muscle groups, i.e. back/legs/shoulders/arms because my workout time is so sporadic with me working full time and keeping my boys out of trouble. So for me, if I was going to get a workout in, I was going to go through it all, or at least as much as I could, just to make sure my lack of opportunity to work out wasn’t cutting some muscle group out on a regular basis.
- Monday - Fullbody Workout
- Tuesday - Cardio 40 minutes
- Wednesday - Fullbody Workout
- Thursday - Cardio 40 minutes
- Friday - Fullbody Workout
- Saturday - OFF
- Sunday - OFF
|Monday, Wednesday and Friday - Fullbody Workout|
|Seated Leg Curl||3||10-13|
|High Pulley Cable Bicep Curl||3||10-13|
|Lat Pull Down||3||10|
|Seated Cable Row||3||10-13|
Please detail your cardio approach during your transformation?
Even before transformation, I considered myself an active person. I love the outdoors, walking, hiking, playing basketball in the backyard with the boys, etc., and for cardio, where you don’t need the equipment, my approach was to get it in whenever, wherever, however and as often as I could. I work fulltime, Monday through Friday, so the “whenever, wherever and however” turned into meaning “at work”.
I don’t walk up and down the stairs (10+ times a day at least), I jog up them; I do squats, leg lifts and lunges in front of my desk in between typing memos, along with calf raises, and doing dips using the chair at my desk. There are so many different ways of fitting cardio into your every day routine, and although cardio is often what people complain about having to fit into their workout, for me, it is the easiest to get done and out of the way.
Please list 3 things you learned about exercise, weight training and/or cardio during your transformation that helped you succeed:
- It’s always tough to start a serious approach to exercise, but it really is true that every day you maintain focus and push yourself through it, without a doubt, it does get easier and more enjoyable, to the point you actually crave doing it.
- Weight training doesn’t mean if you are female that you will lose your “womanly” figure. It takes years to develop that “jacked” look, and you have complete control with regards to how far you take it.
- You don’t have to have a gym membership to get yourself looking as if you do. As long as you have desire, determinate and dedication to becoming a better you, your home can become your gym.
How are you currently training, and has your training changed since the completion of your transformation?
At the moment, I know that what’s most important to me is maintaining what I’ve reached so far, but I’ve gotten hooked on the weight training, so I definitely would like to build more muscle. That will be tricky for me because I know to gain muscle mass, I need to eat, only I am so “controlled” with my calories now that telling myself I need to eat more, will be much more easier said than done.
I guess, like the rest of my “transformation”, I will just take it slowly, and find what works best for me. I have run the idea of competing at some point down the road over and over again in my head, but I still need to decide if I’d be doing that for myself or to prove to others I could do it if I wanted to. I need it to be for myself...for my own checkmark in the “things you should be proud of” column...and at 46, I think I should decide quickly! ;)
Mary Ellen's Diet And Nutrition Approach
What was your diet and nutrition approach during your transformation?
Eat healthy. Period. No more starvation diets. If it’s healthy, I let myself have it. If it wasn’t, I told myself I can have it, but I don’t need to have it. At the beginning it wasn’t so much about “moderation” as it was retraining myself with regards to what foods acted as fuel for my body, and which ones acted as dead weight.
Can you provide us with a sample meal plan?
- Breakfast - Low sugar oatmeal with fresh fruit/low fat yogurt.
- Lunch - Grilled chicken sandwich/no dressing and fresh fruit.
- Dinner - Steamed tilapia with low sodium seasoning/peppers/onions; steamed broccoli/brown rice.
- Snack (after lunch) - Full celery stalk filled with tuna salad (fat free mayo).
- Snack (after dinner) - Air-popped popcorn.
Did you allow yourself cheat meals?
NO. I think it a wonderful idea for some, especially those who have a good level of control. But for me, cheating is always followed by a feeling of “Why did I eat that, I feel like crap now”, or “I had that, I might as well have more”. It’s not a system that would work well for me. I don’t mean to say that I haven’t eaten anything “unhealthy” these past few years...but if I did, I really thought about it and made adjustments in other meals during the day. I never felt right about turning down a piece of one of my boy's birthday cakes.
Please list 3 things you learned about diet and nutrition during your transformation?
- There are SO MANY more great tasting, healthy choices/recipes when it comes to food than I ever let myself believe. Watching your diet/nutrition doesn’t have to mean “bland” or “boring”. For every “sinful” food, there is a healthy substitution that is just as good. You can say something like “nothing is better than cheesecake”, but if you can put together a healthier version that comes close to “comparing”, that isn’t followed by hours/days of being upset with yourself for having eaten it, isn’t that “just as good”...if not better? You have to think of food as the fuel your body needs to function, and supply it the food that will make it function at its best. Comfort food may be instant gratification, but nutritious food keeps you going. When using your imagination, and a few conversions, you can still have that “comfort food” taste in a nutritious meal.
- I’ve said this already, but it’s worth repeating. I’ve learned never to assume that something is healthy merely because it says “light” or “diet” on the outside of the package. Take the time to turn the product around, review the nutritional facts on the back label, and know what those values mean.
- Most importantly, I’ve learned the benefits of eating nutritiously goes way beyond weight control. Besides making you look awesome on the outside, good nutrition works to improve the way your body functions and feels on the inside.
Were there any diet/nutrition mistakes you made that you learned from?
Again, just because it says “diet” or “low fat” or “reduced calorie” does not mean it’s healthy. Read the nutritional values on the back of the label!
What supplements did you use during your transformation?
Honestly, I don’t use any. Here again is where I am thankful for places like MuscleandStrength.com. I consider myself ignorant to the uses of supplements and wouldn’t even know where to start, what supplements would be valuable for my use, how much to use, what to use it for, or when to use it. I’ve only begun researching supplements lately and it’s been wonderful, the amount of information I am finding out on M&S, and wonderful the number of people willing to offer their advice on what works for them, etc.
Advice For Others
What are your best tips for someone looking to make their own transformation?
- Change your outlook about food with respect to what you “need” opposed to what you “want/crave”. Learn (and understand) what’s nutritious/good for your body not only to look good on the outside, but to function at its best; then make the adjustments you need to make, and make them “endless” changes.
- Don’t expect a miracle overnight. By putting a deadline onto anything you only set yourself up to stress out and to fail. Any real change takes time, and you are worth the time and effort. If you know you ate healthy, and you were physically active, than that is a day you should be proud of, regardless of what the scale (or anyone else) may tell you.
- If you are interested in making a change (transformation) for the better, make sure that you are doing it by your choice and for yourself...no one else. Again, because when doing it for someone else, odds are if you do succeed, that it will only be temporary. You yourself have to crave the change as much as you crave that piece of cheesecake!
How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who’s having trouble staying on track?
I think that motivation is needed SO MUCH at the beginning of any change, when your new healthy habits really haven’t kicked into gear yet, and it’s easy to fall back. Once you get going...when you begin noticing the changes for the better (and others begin to notice), not only in your outward appearance but in the general way that you feel, that works to keep you motivated. You have a sense of elation and that feeling becomes addicting...you do what you have to, to keep feeling it.
And as such, we all know the best way to keep feeding an addiction is by surrounding yourself with people of the same addiction. I would definitely suggest a work out partner...someone who is as serious as you are about improving their fitness, and that you can rely on to push you when you need pushing. (Having someone who will always tell you what you want to hear, is not someone you want to have as a work out partner.)
More From Mary Ellen Jordon
What is your life like now that you’ve made a transformation?
For a number of reasons, I am, without a doubt, happier than I have EVER been, with myself, and in my life. You gain respect for yourself when you achieve a goal that may have just began as a pipe dream. It’s a wonderful feeling to be 46 years old, and to feel like I’ve never been in better shape, or more beautiful. I have control, and that’s something I never felt I had. I am no longer the little girl stuck on the inside...I’m outside playing now.
What motivates you currently to keep improving yourself?
First and foremost, my boys. They will be having their own children not too far off, and though I will be content with being “grandma”, I will never be content with feeling like one.
Anything else you would like to share?
I just want to say thank you (sooooooo much) to my Boo, who I love whole-heartedly, for being my rock these last few years, and who I know loves me regardless of what size jeans I wear.
How can people contact you?
- Email: email@example.com