RECAP: Five months ago, Tracy Metcalfe, 46, and Tanya Leavitt, 37, both of Calgary, embarked on a yearlong Best Friends Makeover. Both women are devoted single moms who had gone back to university as adults to better provide for their families. They both worked in the nonprofit industry, shared rent and lived frugally but still had trouble keeping up with the high cost of living and heavy debt loads. They had little time and no budget for fitness, and didn't have much of a social life.
To the rescue, their own team of professionals assembled by Canadian Living Magazine. The team included coaches in: fitness (Shelly Stranaghan); nutrition (Rory Hornstein); life skills (Cathy Yost); career (Gimalle Crawford); finances (Jennifer Kirby); and image (Astrid DesLandes) as well as Dr. Rita Dahlke, a family physician.
A deserved reprieve
Tracy and Tanya close their eyes as they soak their feet in a warm mineral bath. The girls are having a paraffin pedicure after enjoying a steam bath and sauna and a relaxing cup of Rooibos herbal tea. They giggle while esthetics experts slough off dry and calloused skin from their tired feet and give them relaxing foot massages. They sigh as their feet are wrapped in a creamy paraffin wax. And they chat while their toenails get coated in fun-coloured polish.
This spa day, courtesy of the Oasis Wellness Centre and Spa in Calgary, “was such a nice day, we were able to sit and relax -- you know, girlfriend stuff,” says Tanya afterward.
It was also a much-deserved reprieve for Tracy and Tanya, who spent the first four months of their makeover cramming coaches' meetings, activities and homework into their lives. There were commitments to work out at least three times a week at Mount Royal Recreation. There was a grocery store tour with their nutrition coach, who wanted to show them healthy, cost-effective choices. There were regular thought-provoking sessions with the life coach and meetings with the financial coach.
Upgrading an image
The career coach needed time with the girls, too, to help them explore their work life and goals. Tracy and Tanya also needed time to work on updating their images. And, of course, all the while, Tracy's son, Spencer, 17, and Tanya's son, Kesler, 12, needed attention, the house they shared needed cleaning, and they had their regular day jobs to go to. And wouldn't you know it, Tracy's car kept breaking down.
With so much going on, it's no wonder that as the makeover unfolded, overriding priorities surfaced for each woman. For Tracy, it was work. Simply put, she needs a job that she loves but that pays more and is geared toward her education. The search is now on. For Tanya, it was self-confidence. She saw that changing some of her long-held habits and attitudes boosted her self-confidence -- and now she wants more. Here's how the girls are doing today.
Keeping food journals didn't work for Tracy and Tanya (both just ran out of time), so nutrition coach Rory Hornstein focused more on the importance of planning -- to eat healthy regular meals and to keep food bills manageable.
She provided kid-friendly recipes for Tanya (such as Corn and White Bean Soup and Soft Chicken Tacos) and easy and quick recipes for Tracy (such as Cheese Enchilada Casserole and Tuna Melt) as well as a template for planning two weeks' worth of meals and groceries. This planning reduces extra trips to the grocery store and encourages use of leftovers.
During a recent grocery store tour, Hornstein pointed out generic products that are less expensive than name brands, and recommended less processed and prepared foods. Hornstein advised Tanya to eat more regularly throughout the day; right now, she tends not to eat when she's busy or stressed. (Starving yourself affects your metabolism and sets you up for weight gain, says Hornstein.) Tracy still needs to cut down her caffeine habit (she drinks about four cups of coffee each day) because caffeine increases feelings of stress, says Hornstein.
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Tanya's blood pressure still needs watching but otherwise the friends' vital statistics are fine, says Dr. Rita Dahlke, a family physician. Kudos to Tanya, who lost 10 pounds (she's right on track, says Dahlke, who recommends a one-half to one-pound weight loss per week) and to both women for making exercise a regular part of their lives.
Fitness coach Shelly Stranaghan is pleased that Tanya, who at the launch of the makeover had not worked out in a while, is now going to two 1-hour weeknight fitness classes (Fire and Water, a blend of yoga and Pilates, and Deep Water Workout, a combination of cardio and fat-burning) and works out in the gym with Tracy at least once on weekends. An initially reluctant Kesler, who used to wait for his mom outside (there's no budget for babysitters), is enrolled in the Climbing Development Team, which meets at the same times that Tanya has her classes.
Tracy is working out almost daily. She takes the Fire and Water class with Tanya as well as Cardio-Latin and Belly Dance classes and does weekend workouts in the gym. Tracy finds exercise a great stress-reducer, and that looking and feeling strong physically helps her stay mentally tough through her job hunt.
Coach Gimalle Crawford helped Tracy and Tanya explore their career aspirations and pinpoint strategies for more satisfying work. While Tracy planned a focused and concentrated job search, Tanya reignited her passion for her job (mental-health worker at Calgary Urban Project Society) by developing an employee discussion group called Success Circle, which identifies and builds on workplace successes and helps employees feel good about the work they do.
Coach Astrid DesLandes introduced the best friends to stylists at CaVaBien Hair Studio and Day Spa. Tanya didn't want to change her hairstyle much but she gave stylist Angee Dokken some leeway with colour. Now she has a deeper mocha-brown base with new red highlights.
Stylist Maghan Broderick gave Tracy a vibrant red base with soft mocha-blond highlights and used an inverted bob cut to tame her natural curl a bit for a more polished look.
The women experimented with foundations and decided that they prefer transparent colours that help unify their warm skin tones. DesLandes recommends Tracy use a lip liner and light brown, coral and soft red lipsticks, while Tanya can wear brighter shades because she has fuller lips.
While the girlfriends share common makeover goals and achievements, each has developed a priority and is devoting a lot of personal energy to this one area.
Life coach Cathy Yost had bimonthly phone meetings with Tracy and Tanya (and one day brought over the film The Secret, about how our thoughts and beliefs can shape our lives). She explored successes and setbacks with the girls and helped them see potentially challenging situations as opportunities to change patterns and old beliefs. For example, while it was challenging when Spencer wanted to stay with friends for several weeks, Tracy suddenly had more time for herself -- and to make decisions about her life. Time spent apart was good for both of them and now that he's back home, they're starting to get back on track in their relationship.
Financial coach Jennifer Kirby helped the women develop comprehensive plans for short- and long-term financial goals. While some of Tracy's goals are on hold as she looks for a new job, Tanya has secured her financial situation and even has a plan to open a registered education savings plan (RESP) for Kesler.
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A new job
From the start of the makeover, Tracy was eager to boost her income; recently, finding another job has become a top priority. Several coaches have been involved: Crawford, Yost and Kirby all met together with Tracy to brainstorm ideas and networking opportunities. Tracy regularly checks various job boards, follows up on leads from coaches and others, and has a goal to apply for about five to 10 positions a week. She has updated her rÃ©sumÃ© (key skills are teaching and facilitating and her commitment to community development) and has role-played with Crawford to fine-tune her presentation techniques during interviews.
While her job search is targeted at her current skill set, Tracy is open to changing careers and is exploring other areas of interest (she's taking a certificate course in residential decorating at Mount Royal College).
Tanya has made many positive changes in the area of self-confidence, and her coworkers are noticing, says Yost. What's at work here? A coaching tool called Clean Sweep, which initially helped Tanya declutter her home. “It has evolved into not just a physical cleanup but into how I set my goals and fill up my mind,” says Tanya. “I'm learning to trust myself.”
Today, Tanya feels empowered by the progress she has made with her finances and by her Success Circle group, which she presented to her coworkers for the first time in March. She wants to eventually market it to other nonprofit agencies as well as to the private industry; she's developing a step-by-step marketing plan with Crawford, which includes speaking at conferences and writing about the program in newsletters and newspapers. “I think she is starting to realize that she's probably very good at what she does,” says Crawford.
The two courses she takes in adult education and classroom presentation at Mount Royal College support this exciting new direction.
As both girls steal a rare pampering moment together, they can feel proud of their progress in making themselves over into new and improved women.
Tanya Leavitt, 37
Resting heart rate: 84
Blood pressure: 136/92
Weight: 258 lbs (117 kg)
Height: 5 ft 5 in
Body fat (%): 42.6
Waist: 44 in (111.5 cm)
Hips: 54 in (138 cm)
Chest: 46 in (117.5 cm)
Resting heart rate: 76
Blood pressure: 140/100
Weight: 248 Â¾ lbs (112.8 kg)
Height: 5 ft 5 in
Body fat (%): 41
Waist: 43 in (109 cm)
Hips: 52 in (132 cm)
Chest: 45 Â¼ in (115 cm)
Tracy Metcalfe, 46
Resting heart rate: 68
Blood pressure: 110/68
Weight: 116 lbs (52.5 kg)
Height: 5 ft 2 in
Body fat (%): 29.6
Waist: 23 in (59.5 cm)
Hips: 37 in (93 cm)
Chest: 33 in (83 cm)
Resting heart rate: 72
Blood pressure: 90/64
Weight: 116 Â½ lbs (52.8 kg)
Height: 5 ft 2 in
Body fat (%): 29.6
Waist: 23 Â¾ in (60.5 cm)
Hips: 37 in (93 cm)
Chest: 32 in (81.5 cm)
Healthy eating tips -- on a budget
• Buy plain whole grain pasta and rice (products that come with sauce are more expensive).
• Cook long-grain rice instead of instant rice (it's half the cost and takes only a bit longer to cook).
• Choose whole grain and high-fibre cereals (not the kind with added sugar, which can be a lot pricier).
• Purchase fresh berries in season and freeze them for later.
• Pick up plain frozen vegetables instead of the more expensive boxed and packaged varieties that have added sauces.
• Make homemade coleslaw using cabbage, which is nutritious and is cheaper than lettuce.
• Use skim milk powder (it's half the cost of regular milk) in sauces, casseroles, soups, mashed potatoes and pasta dishes (you can also drink it).
• Opt for peanut butter, dried beans, eggs, rump roast and canned tuna â€“ all are less expensive sources of protein.
• Buy cheaper cuts of meat (such as flank) and marinate them or cook them at a lower temperature for longer to make them more tender.
• Pick up utility grade poultry (these birds may be missing a wing or a leg but are otherwise fine).
• Substitute dried or canned beans and lentils for meat; they're cheaper, have less fat and are a good source of fibre.
• Choose plain frozen fish, which is often less expensive than fresh fish.
• Buy bulk food, which is typically cheaper than packaged foods; plus, you can choose the amount you want.
• Avoid convenience food such as frozen dinners or precooked deli foods; they may be convenient, but they're often pricey, too.
Other ways to eat healthy on a budget
• Eat breakfast at home or bring food with you to eat during morning break. The cost of buying coffee and baked goods adds up quickly.
• Fill plastic drink containers with juice from home instead of buying individual juice boxes.
• Invite friends over to cook a meal together or hold a potluck dinner when celebrating an event of social occasion; it saves time and money when you can share the cost of a meal.
• Use coupons where possible.
• Don't shop on an empty stomach; you may give into temptation and break your budget.
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Photo by Roth & Ramberg