Mind & Spirit

Best friends makeover: Finale

Best friends makeover: Finale

Author: Canadian Living

Mind & Spirit

Best friends makeover: Finale

This story was originally titled "Best Friends Makeover," in the February 2008 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

Last year, Tracy Metcalfe, 46, and Tanya Leavitt, 37, of Calgary, were selected for Canadian Living's yearlong Best Friends Makeover Program. At the time, the single moms wanted to enhance themselves so they could take the next steps in their journey looking and feeling the best they can. With rewarding but low-paying not-for-profit-industry jobs, they juggled debt and the high cost of living in Calgary by sharing rent and living frugally. But Tracy was unhappy in her job, had a strained relationship with her son, Spencer, and was always tired. Tanya lost sleep worrying about money and had her own health concerns. The Best Friends Makeover Program provided the women with a team of professional coaches (fitness, life, nutrition, career, finances and image) and over the past year, they've addressed different goals – and experienced successes, disappointments and a few surprises. But most importantly, they're on the road to better health and wellness. This is the final installment of their story.

Weekday afternoons were not like this a year ago for best friends Tracy Metcalfe and Tanya Leavitt. After arriving home from work, Tanya quickly fills in her daily Food Tracker while eating a small serving of nacho chips (a preplanned, allowable snack). Upstairs, Tracy decides what she'll pull together for supper as she chats with Spencer, her 17-year-old son. Then the girls are off to Mount Royal Recreation – Tracy has a one-on-one kickboxing class, and Tanya is doing the Chisel strength-training class she likes so much. Later, Tracy has a session on the phone with her life coach, and Tanya has a quick dinner with her son, Kesler.

Newfound confidence is part of their healthier lifestyles, too. Tracy has a new, better-paying job and an "exciting" goal to start her own business. She has improved her relationship with Spencer and is finally going to take Latin dance lessons with a new dance partner.

Tanya has created a more satisfying role for herself at her work, and along with a solid financial plan, that means she doesn't worry about money as much as she used to (she's even planning a trip to Disneyland with Kesler). She has come to terms with her health goals too; she exercises regularly and is now "putting the foundations of a nutritional lifestyle in place."

Even though it's the end of the makeover program for Tracy and Tanya, it's clear that their new lives are really just beginning. Here is a review of their goals and progress, as well as words of wisdom from their coaches.

Fitness coach Shelly Stranaghan, www.mtroyal.ca/recreation
Nutrition coach Andrea Holwegner, www.healthstandnutrition.com
Life coach Cathy Yost , www.cathyyost.com
Career coach Gimalle Crawford, www.thewomensedge.com
Financial coach Jennifer Kirby, www.kirbyfinancialgroup.com
Image coach Astrid DesLandes, www.bellevieseminars.com
Family physician Dr. Rita Dahlke, Calgary Urban Project Society Community Health Centre, www.cupshealthcentre.com

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The picture of health
Body composition changes throughout the makeover year show that both Tracy and Tanya have adopted a healthier lifestyle, says Dr. Rita Dahlke.

For Tanya, her loss of about 15 pounds and two dress sizes is significant. Her blood pressure is somewhat improved but is still high-normal (her family doctor doesn't want to put Tanya on blood-pressure-lowering drugs just yet; if she continues to lose weight, she'll see greater blood pressure results, says Dahlke). As red-flagged by the nutritionist, Tanya may also want to talk to her doctor about her sleep habits (she sometimes sleeps just three to five hours a night). When the body is in this kind of chronic stress pattern, it can adapt by storing extra fat. "At the same time, there's no easy way to weight loss. The key is to eat fewer calories and work out more," says Dahlke.

Tracy's vital statistics look good too. She's maintaining weight (she's tiny, so weight loss is not recommended). She has built muscle and is getting regular weight-bearing exercise, something that's especially important given that she is approaching menopause and a woman is most likely to lose bone health at that stage of life, says Dahlke.

Dahlke salutes Tanya and Tracy for all their hard work. "Let's keep going and see what you can do in the next year."

Tracy and Tanya motivated each other to go to the gym all year.

Tanya's original goals: Become more active and involved in a regular routine.

Outcome: Tanya often walks to work (three miles in less than 40 minutes) and enjoys regular fitness classes at Mount Royal. "Fitness is not something I ever want to give up, and I'm looking into continuing my membership at the club."

Stranaghan's advice: "Since your biggest challenge is fitting fitness into your day, walking to work is great. Keep doing two to three workouts a week too – anything you enjoy, including group fitness classes."

Tracy's original goals: Get back to regular fitness, tone muscles and have fun.

Tracy has improved her overall fitness and is at the gym at least three times a week doing a variety of cardiovascular fitness and weight-training classes and workouts. She, too, walks to work ("It’s a great time to clear my head") and challenges herself with one-on-one kickboxing training sessions. She's self-motivated and, like Tanya, plans to extend her gym membership.

Stranaghan's advice: "Keep challenging yourself to see fitness benefits and have fun."

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Ever since Andrea Holwegner stepped in a few months ago as the replacement nutrition coach, the friends' interest in good nutrition has been reignited.

Tanya's original goal: Eat to support health.

Tanya has started to use a personalized Food Tracker that lists her target foods, servings and portion sizes. At every meal, she chooses a grain or starch, fruit and/or vegetable and a protein source (protein keeps the body feeling full). She has one salty or sweet treat every day. "Making this choice gives Tanya permission to enjoy these foods and get rid of guilt around eating them," says Holwegner.

Holwegner's advice:
• "Don't ever make weight loss the focus, and don't be frustrated with slow weight loss – it's the healthy way for long-term success."
• "Get calcium in your diet – for healthy bones and because low levels can affect blood pressure. Because you have trouble digesting milk, use Lactaid (mixed with chocolate powder or vanilla and a little sugar for taste). Other sources: cheese slices, cottage cheese."

Tracy's original goals: Increase energy, start eating breakfast and learn simple healthy-eating strategies.

Outcome: Tracy now eats balanced meals, including breakfast, and uses simple tricks and tools to help her make healthful choices. For example, she keeps fruit snacks (fresh fruit, fruit bars, applesauce and canned fruit cups, sachets of dried fruit and nuts) on her desk for easy snacking and replenishes it every Monday. She uses a Weekly Meal Planner for quick and easy meal ideas.

Holwegner's advice:
• "Eat three to four servings of fruit and four or more servings of vegetables daily. Thirty per cent of all cancers are related to lifestyle factors, including poor diet."
• "Keep stocked up on nutritious staples so last-minute meals are easy to pull together."
• "Keep allowing yourself permission to enjoy a treat once in a while."

This area had the biggest impact for both women, helping them redefine how they see themselves and the world.

Tanya's original goals: Get more organized, improve relationship with Kesler, strengthen self-confidence.

Various exercises helped Tanya declutter her physical space and her mind. She explored and rewrote beliefs and values about relationships. Tanya says "health is definitely tied up with the way you feel about yourself," and she is happy with the changes she has made to become healthier and fitter. Her relationship with Kesler improved – "he has a mom now who's not worried all the time about everything."

Yost's advice: "Always trust and believe in yourself and share your amazing sense of humour with the world."

Tracy's original goals: Improve her relationship with her son, make herself a priority and improve her social life.

Outcome: Tracy learned to communicate more effectively with Spencer. She listens more carefully to what he says, and they respect each other's space. Tracy explored her needs and values in her personal and work lives, and she now tries different approaches to old problems. "I'm more in tune with what's important to me. My life is more balanced and I'm getting out and connecting more with friends." She hikes near Banff, meets friends for lunch and recently took a weekend trip to Canmore, 106 kilometres west of Calgary, to spend time with friends.

Yost's advice:
"Align yourself with your true values and there's no limit to what you can achieve!"

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Tackling debt was a priority for both women.

Tanya's original goals: Manage debt, put savings plans in place and learn about finances.

Tanya is well into her debt repayment plan and has short- and long-term savings plans (including saving for a Disneyland trip with Kesler). She has a registered education savings plan in place for Kesler, and will take advantage of her company's RRSP matching program when she's eligible. Tanya (and Tracy) met with lawyer Leanne Cherry to discuss wills and estate planning.

Kirby's advice:
"Review and revise your written financial plan and work toward new financial goals."

Tracy's original goals: Manage debt, put savings plans in place and learn about finances.

Tracy's goals were put on hold while she was out of work. Now that she's working again and making more money, she's back on track and using the extra money to pay down debt and set up savings. Tracy is exploring the financial requirements of starting her own business.

Kirby's advice: "Put savings and debt repayment into place as you research going into business for yourself. Be sure to develop a clear business plan, talk to the Business Development Bank and network with small-business owners and organizations."

Tanya and Tracy's original goal: Update image.

Early in the makeover the women had their hair cut and coloured by stylists Angee Dokken and Maghan Broderick at the CaVaBien Hair Studio and Day Spa in Calgary. They received skin care and cosmetics from L'Oréal Paris (Tanya's colouring is cool and well suited to pinks and reds; Tracy's warm complexion glows with peach and coral tones). A shopping spree at Cotton Ginny showed that Tracy looks great in greens, browns and taupes while Tanya can carry off vibrant colours such as red. At the end of the makeover, their hair and makeup were done in Toronto by L'Oréal Paris beauty experts Eddie Maleterre and Eric Del Monaco. Tracy's got a great figure and looks fabulous in any clothes, while Tanya has good proportions too. DesLandes recommends that both women opt for clothes that enhance their shape. Throughout the year, she attended functions with the women (including art gallery openings and dating events) where they showed off their new confidence in style.

DesLandes’ advice: "My French mamee always said, 'Remember that every little girl is born beautiful, and it is every woman's birthright to know herself as the proud and glorious creature she was intended to be.'"

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Both women moved forward in this area. Tanya reignited her interest in her current job, while Tracy found out she wants to make even bigger changes.

Tanya's original goals: Find fulfilling work in the mental health field that meets financial needs and evokes passion.

Outcome: Tanya found value and meaning in the job she already had (mental health worker at Calgary Urban Project Society, a not-for-profit community health centre). Her Success Circle workshop and Success Spy Cam contest (colleagues "spy" on workmates and report their job success) were very well received. And while money is still important for Tanya, it is not as big of a concern as it once was. She now has a goal to take her successful workshops to partnering agencies. She also started to incorporate Appreciative Inquiry (a formalized approach to human resources that builds on what creates successes rather than on trying to fix what doesn't work) into the one-on-one counselling she does at work.

Crawford's advice:
"Focus on training and development and remember that everything we do moves us toward our goal or away from it."

Tracy's original goal: Obtain a fulfilling job that meets financial needs and evokes passion.

After Tracy lost her job, it took six months before she was offered a position she really wanted. The downtime gave Tracy the opportunity to explore her career aspirations and develop tools to identify innate talents, one of which is "the gift of WOO" (winning others over). "I'm approachable and people talk to me freely," she says. Her new job – a contract position with the Assured Income for Severely Handicapped, a financial benefits program in the Seniors and Community Supports Department of the Alberta government – recently became permanent. Her long-term goal is to start her own business in the environmental area. She's working on a business plan and plans to take a Women's Venture Program in the evening.

Crawford's advice: "Realistically look at the positives and negatives of starting your own business, network and be positioned to move into the environmental area, and surround yourself with people (especially a mentor) in the environmental industry and small-business owners who can share their experiences.”

Did you miss the best friends makeover series? Check out Best friends makeover: Month 1.

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Mind & Spirit

Best friends makeover: Finale