Mind & Spirit

Best friends makeover: Month 1

Best friends makeover: Month 1

Author: Canadian Living

Mind & Spirit

Best friends makeover: Month 1

It's a typical weekday evening for Tracy Metcalfe, 45, and Tanya Leavitt, 36. Tracy is just home from a one-day business trip -- and long drive -- to Edmonton. She waves at her 17-year-old son, Spencer, who lies on the couch watching TV, and pokes her head down the stairs to say hello. Tanya is eating a quick meal in the renovated basement apartment with her 11-year-old son, Kesler, before they rush off to his guitar lesson on the other side of Calgary. Tanya and Tracy exchange a few "it-sure-was-a-long-day" comments, and Tanya lightens the chitchat with a wisecrack (as she usually does). They make plans to go shopping at one of their favourite secondhand stores on the weekend. "Oh, and my car needs to be looked at again," says Tracy. "Can I get a lift back from the service centre in the morning?"

Tracy and Tanya are best friends, and they share so much more than the rent; they buoy each other's spirits, look out for each other's kid and are each other's social life. They met a few years ago when they were independent living support workers at the Canadian Mental Health Association in Calgary. Both are single moms (they're raising their sons alone and get no financial support) who went back to post-secondary school as adults with a goal to provide a better future for their family. Now they work in the nonprofit sector, and while "the work is rewarding because we're helping people," says Tracy, "the pay is not." Despite sharing rent and living frugally, they're having trouble keeping up with the high cost of living and other financial challenges. There's little money, time or energy for personal pursuits, such as keeping fit, never mind getting out there to find better jobs and meet men, and the stress could be taking a big toll on their physical health.

When they responded to Canadian Living Magazine's call for candidates in our Best Friends Makeover challenge, they asked for "an opportunity to enhance ourselves so we can take the next steps in our journey looking and feeling the best we can."

"I want to change how I feel about myself, how I present myself to the world and my attitude toward work and life," says Tanya. "And I want to have a life. It's cliché, but I want to be a participant in my own life. Right now, I'm just sitting back and it's going by."

"I was so full of hope for the future when I moved here from Niagara Falls, Ont., in the summer of 2002," says Tracy. "But I'm constantly struggling instead of making the leaps and bounds I thought I would be making. I really want to reinvent myself."

Meet Tracy and Tanya
Tracy Metcalfe, age 45
Hometown: St. Catharines, Ont.
Children: Spencer, 17. "He's a natural athlete, but we had to pull him out of a promising competitive figure skating career last year because I couldn't afford the high costs of training and participating. He's still getting over that."
Family: Only child; her father passed away in 2001 after a two-year fight with esophageal cancer, and she's estranged from her mom.
Education: College diploma in recreation leadership, undergraduate degrees in recreation and geography, and a master's degree in geography (on hold).
Job: Program and education coordinator for the Calgary Seniors' Resource Society.
Needs: "A fulfilling, better-paying job."
On her wish list: "I'd like an active and fulfilling social life, and I'd love to take Spencer on a vacation."
Health Issues: "I don't exercise anymore, and I'm tired all the time."
Bad habits: "Caffeine, and I don't like to cook" meals much.

Tanya Leavitt, age 36
Hometown: Cardston, Alta.
Children: Kesler, 11. "He's happy, well adjusted and wishes I were happier and had more time for him. I know he wishes we could afford for him to get involved in more activities, too."
Family: One older brother; parents have a cattle ranch (which Kesler loves and visits at every opportunity) three hours away.
Education: Master of education in applied psychology with a specialization in counselling psychology.
Job: Mental health worker for the Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS).
Needs: A job that is both rewarding and meets her financial needs, and a social life.
On her wish list: "I would love to try stand-up comedy."
Health Issues: "I'm overweight and was diagnosed with high blood pressure last summer."
Bad habits: "I tend to be lazy. With the exception of work and Kesler, I do the minimum in terms of housework, physical activity, day-to-day chores and taking care of myself. "

Vital statistics
Tanya Leavitt, 36
Resting heart rate: 84
Blood pressure: 136/92
Weight: 258 lbs (117 kg)
Height: 5 ft 5 in
BMI: 42
Body fat (%): 42.6
Waist: 44 in (111.5 cm)
Hips: 54 in (138 cm)
Chest: 46 in (117.5 cm)

Tracy Metcalfe, 45
Resting heart rate: 68
Blood pressure: 110/68
Weight: 116 lbs (52.5 kg)
Height: 5 ft 2 in
BMI: 20.8
Body fat (%): 29.6
Waist: 23 in (59.5 cm)
Hips: 37 in (93 cm)
Chest: 33 in (83 cm)

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Photo by Roth and Ramberg

To the rescue: A yearlong Best Friends Makeover program with Canadian Living and their own team of coaches.

Meet the coach: Dr. Rita Dahlke is the health director at CUPS (Calgary Urban Project Society) Community Health Centre in Calgary. Based on Tracy and Tanya's vital statistics, she recommends the following.

Regular exercise
Regular exercise will help Tanya lower her current resting heart rate of 84 beats per minute to the 70s. (Normal resting heart rate is between 70 and 80 for most adults.) Physical activity will also help get Tanya's blood pressure in the normal (120/80) range (it's now "high normal"). Elevated blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and other serious conditions. Losing excess weight, eating a healthy diet and taking necessary medications also help lower blood pressure.

At 36, Tanya weighs 117 kilograms (258 pounds), which puts her in the unhealthy category. Losing weight will lower her risk of diabetes, heart problems and weight-related joint problems. As she gets older, her metabolism will slow down even more, which will make it tougher to lose weight, so now is the time to start shedding excess pounds. The how-to: healthy eating and regular exercise, which will increase resting metabolism to burn more calories at rest.

Regular exercise
Tracy used to be a lot more physically active; she liked to in-line skate and hike, and she did boxercise, weights and step classes at a gym where she used to belong. But work and other demands got in the way. As with Tanya, getting back in a regular exercise routine will help her feel good physically, improve her outlook on life and reduce stress.

Bone health
At 45, Tracy should have a bone-boosting diet that includes lots of calcium and vitamin D. Tracy's body mass index (20.8) is still in the healthy zone (between 19 and 25), but if it gets too low, and even at the lower end of normal, it's important to look at bone health. Excessive caffeine -- one of Tracy's bad habits -- can decrease bone mass.

Meet the coach: Rory Hornstein is a registered dietitian and the nutrition for exercise consultant to Mount Royal Recreation, as well as several other clubs in Calgary. Her specialties include nutrition for sports, exercise and weight management. Rory acted as cochair of Sports Nutrition Network, and is now working with sports dietitians on an international level. She is also a certified fitness, YogaFit and Pilates instructor.

Coach's comment:
"Tanya wants to have healthy eating habits, but she sometimes eats emotionally, and we need to look at that. Budget is also key -- it's going to be challenging, but we can make healthy changes."

• Make affordable healthy menu choices that fit in with her lifestyle (and make her feel good and help control her blood pressure).
• Deal with evening cravings for salty, sweet or comfort food.
• Eat right for increased exercise.

Action plan:
• Talk to Rory every two weeks; meet with her monthly.
• Focus on making healthy eating habits a part of her life.

• Use a food journal to keep track of daily intake.
• Eat five times per day starting with breakfast (small meals and snacks no more than three hours apart).
• Emphasize whole grain foods. (A steady diet of whole grains is good for health. Ideally, eat at least three servings of whole grains every day.)
• Choose fruit and vegetables as morning and afternoon snacks.
• Review favourite recipes and modify for lower fat, higher fibre.
• Take turns with Tracy being the healthy chef to give each other a break.
• Take a grocery store tour with Rory.
• Shop with Tracy and the kids, then together prepare healthy, nutritious dishes that can be portioned out and frozen for the busy work week.

Coach's comment:
"Tracy is a bit of a caffeine-junkie. She has more than four cups -- as much as 800 milligrams (mg) -- of java a day, while Health Canada recommends a daily upper limit of 450 milligrams a day. Tracy finds her energy supply is uneven and often nonexistent. We can change all that by making healthier, more steady food choices."

• Increase both energy level and metabolic rate.
• Balance nutrition needs with Spencer's needs. (As a teen, he's completing his final major growth spurt and needs nutrient-rich, low-fat foods, including good sources of iron and calcium for energy and bone health.)
• Choose healthier foods as part of a healthier lifestyle.

Action plan:
• Set short- and long-term goals to reach her objectives.
• Learn how to prepare quick and easy healthy meals that fit into her budget.
• Talk to Rory every two weeks; meet with her monthly.

• Start eating breakfast (whole grains, calcium and fruit).
• Emphasize whole grain foods.
• Instead of eating one small and one large meal per day, eat a small meal or snack every three hours.
• Reduce the amount of coffee (caffeine) she drinks. While studies show that a modest amount of caffeine may boost health, too much may overstimulate the central nervous system and cause insomnia -- this could explain why Tracy is tired all the time. Caffeine also acts as a diuretic, which can cause dehydration and increase the amount of calcium the body excretes, which is detrimental to bone health.
• Increase the overall amount of fruit, vegetables, calcium-rich foods and fibre in her diet.
• Keep a food journal.
• Take a grocery store tour with Rory.
• Shop with the family, then together prepare healthy, nutritious dishes that can be portioned out and frozen for the busy work week.

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Photo by Roth and Ramberg

Meet the coach: Shelly Stranaghan is the fitness centre coordinator at Mount Royal Recreation in Calgary. She coordinates both the personal-training programs and the fitness centre. She has a physical education degree in active living, health and well-being, and supports a wide range of clients including students and employees from Mount Royal College, as well as members of the general public.

Coach's comment:
"Tanya has never been active, so making fitness a part of her lifestyle will be challenging. But a fitness program with lots of variety will help her see how easy and fun it can be, especially when she works out with Tracy."

• Get involved in regular fitness to increase energy, improve self-esteem, reduce stress and improve overall fitness so she can keep up physically with her son.
• Lose weight, as a side-effect of becoming more physically active.

Action plan:
• Familiarize herself with the fitness centre (both weight and cardio machines) and discover what type of exercise she enjoys.
• Use fitness buddies for motivation (for example, take a class with Tracy).
• Work with Shelly regularly to review exercise program.

• Weights and cardio program in the fitness centre on Sundays with Tracy.
• Three different weekly classes: Fire and Water class (combination of Pilates and yoga) with Tracy, Deep H2O (in the pool) and BootCamp.

Coach's comment:
"Tracy's not a stranger to the gym; however, getting back in a daily routine may be where the challenge lies. Taking a variety of classes will remind her of how great it feels to be fit, and Tracy and Tanya will use each other for motivation."

• Make regular fitness part of her life once again.
• Improve overall fitness to have more energy.
• Increase weight-bearing activity to decrease risk of osteoporosis.
• Increase lean body mass and become more toned.

Action plan:
• Emphasize resistance training.
• Use fitness buddy motivation.
• Work with Shelly regularly to review exercise program.

• Weights and cardio program in the fitness centre on Sundays with Tanya.
• Three different weekly classes: Fire and Water with Tanya, CardioLatin dance fitness class and BodyBlaster class.

Meet the coach: Cathy Yost is a certified professional life coach with Coaching Insights Inc. in Calgary. She is accredited through the International Coach Federation and is a board member of the Calgary Association of Professional Coaches. Cathy coaches clients to dramatically improve their quality of life by helping them make changes in their personal and professional lives.

Coach's comment:
"Tanya's life is very busy. She's a single mom with a busy 11-year-old; she manages the house and meals and still tries to find time for herself. She feels overwhelmed. As a result, she procrastinates a lot, and her home is disorganized."

• Get more organized.
• Make sure she is spending quality time with her son as he gets older.
• Strengthen confidence.
• Stop procrastinating.
• Find time for herself.

Action plan:
• Meet with Cathy for at least one hour twice a month.
• Develop a personalized program to understand her personal motivation needs, simplify her life and achieve her goals.
• Use Tracy as a support and sounding board.

• Do a clean sweep of her apartment to be more organized at home.
• Make a "needs" list, and identify barriers to achieving those needs.
• Identify and enhance strengths.
• Contemplate values.
• Explore stress reduction methods.

Coach's comment:
"Tracy does everything for everyone, and now it's her turn. By putting her needs first, she'll let go of many of the 'shoulds' that drive her now and be more in control of her life."

• Strengthen relationship with her son, who is going through the normal challenges of male adolescence and is still upset that he had to give up skating.
• Make herself a priority.
• Improve her social life.

Action plan:
• Meet with Cathy for one hour twice a month.
• Develop a personalized program to understand her personal needs, simplify her life and achieve her goals.
• Use Tanya as a support and sounding board.

• Develop better communication skills.
• Remove limitations and barriers.
• Block "me time" on the calendar and honour that sacred time.
• Find inner peace and harmony.
• Pursue hobbies, such as salsa dancing, cooking classes and interior design.

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Photo by Roth and Ramberg

Meet the coach: Jennifer Kirby is a certified financial planner with a passion for making sense out of complex financial situations. The principal at Calgary's Kirby Financial Group Inc., she has 11 years' experience in the industry and a proven track record for helping clients clarify their unique personal and financial objectives.

Coach's comment:
"Tanya is losing sleep, literally, worrying about her finances. By consolidating and restructuring some of her debt and by working on her other objectives over the next year, we will help her find a way to rest easier."

• Start paying off portions of her credit card debt, line of credit from the bank and student loans.
• Purchase a home.
• Save for Kesler's education.
• Save for retirement.
• Learn about finances and financial matters. Tanya (as well as Tracy) will be on her own after the makeover wraps up in a year and needs to learn how to save and invest by herself.

Action plan:
• Identify short- and long-term goals.
• Meet with Jennifer regularly.
• Share goals with Tracy for support and for accountability.

• Restructure credit card and other debt if possible (talk to Credit Counseling Services of Alberta).
• Review options (with the Government of Alberta) for various options on student loan repayment.
• Review will and estate needs (with Leanne Cherry, a lawyer with Underwood Cherry Gilholme, Estate Lawyers in Calgary).
• Review existing insurance.
• Develop savings strategy and investment plan for when loans are paid off.
• Gradually familiarize herself with money-saving vehicles such as RRSPs and mutual funds.

Coach's comment:
"Tracy's mounting debt is creating a lot of stress in her life. By helping her clarify her options, she will have a clear vision and plan for the future."

• Pay off credit card debt, student loans, skating club dues from son's figure skating training and Alberta health-care premiums in arrears (Alberta residents pay a premium).
• Take Spencer on a vacation in the next year to 18 months.
• Save for retirement.
• Learn about finances and financial matters.

Action plan:
• Prioritize objectives.
• Meet with Jennifer regularly.
• Share goals with Tanya for support and accountability.

• Review and explore credit card debt and debt restructuring options through Credit Counseling Services of Alberta, as well as options for student loan repayment through the Government of Ontario.
• Develop savings strategy and investment plan to implement once loans are paid off.
• Review and update will and estate needs with Leanne Cherry.
• Review existing insurance.
• Review benefit plan and identify shortfalls in coverage.
• Gradually familiarize herself with money-saving vehicles such as RRSPs and mutual funds.
• Develop a firm budget and track monthly spending to monitor where her money is going.

Meet the coach: Gimalle Crawford is a career coach in Calgary who specializes in assisting her clients to identify their talents, skills and natural abilities so they can find challenging and fulfilling employment opportunities. Gimalle spent 25 years as a police officer prior to retiring and completing a master's degree in leadership development. Her company is called The Women's Edge.

Tanya and Tracy
Coach's comment:
"Tracy is at a point in her life where work is more than just a means to an end. She's looking for something particularly meaningful that makes her feel great about getting up every morning.

"Tanya is at her best when she's helping other people. Her genuine desire to make a difference in someone's life is one of her main sources of inspiration."

(Tracy and Tanya have the same objectives and strategies.)
• Obtain a fulfilling job that meets financial needs.
• Obtain a position that evokes passion so they wake up excited to go to work.

Action plan:
• Meet or talk to coach every two to three weeks.

• Use reflection, inquiry and dialogue to identify specific activities and tasks that energize each woman.
• Explore current skills, talents and strengths with Gimalle.
• Pinpoint specific skill sets and natural abilities and start identifying the right fits for work.
• Identify and explore career opportunities that support and require those tasks and activities.
• Use each other as a sounding board; for example, when working through tough sections of homework questions Gimalle has assigned.
• Explore networking strategies to plug into career areas of their choice.
• Rework résumés to focus on strengths and interests.

Image (fashion and beauty)
Meet the coach: Astrid DesLandes is a personal development coach, corporate consultant and president of Belle Vie Seminars. Born and raised in France, Astrid coaches individuals and organizations on many areas, including the importance of image in their personal and professional lives.

Tanya and Tracy
Coach's comment:
"Tanya's wardrobe and style are currently more utilitarian than stylish for practical reasons. As she gets into better shape, she'll benefit from clothes that can carry her over a couple of sizes or can be altered as she is losing weight."

"Tracy wants to learn how to better integrate all the great pieces of clothing that she has a knack for finding in vintage and consignment stores. An analysis of her body type and what clothes look best on her will help her choose pieces that can work together easily and stylishly."

• Update image (hair, makeup and wardrobe) within budget and for ease and simplicity in day-to-day life.

Action plan:
• Meet with or talk to Astrid regularly and before special events.

• Update hair, skin care and makeup.
• Audit clothes closets.
• Look at how to create different outfits with key clothing pieces.
• Define a clothing style that best fits each woman's body type.
• Create wardrobe for specific occasions including dating and job interviews.

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Photo by Roth and Ramberg


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Mind & Spirit

Best friends makeover: Month 1