Mind & Spirit

Best friends makeover: Month 9

Best friends makeover: Month 9

Author: Canadian Living

Mind & Spirit

Best friends makeover: Month 9

RECAP: Nine 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.

Something new

If you asked Tanya nine months ago to take a high-energy African dance class, “I would have laughed out loud,” she says. But there she is today, crouched at the front of the class, struggling to coordinate her arm and leg movements to the powerful drum rhythms blasting from the speakers. “This class is way outside the box for me,” says Tanya. “I took it because I just need to push myself. At the same time, I can honestly say ‘who cares’ if the instructor stops the class to see if I’m managing OK,” which has happened.

Taking this dance class is a perfect example of how Tanya and Tracy, her best friend and partner for this yearlong Canadian Living Magazine makeover, are changing their lives. Both women say breaking free from old habits and fears, and taking calculated risks, are the most significant changes they’ve made so far, and it has affected their health and well-being in so many positive ways.

Starting something new
In Tracy’s case, she made the difficult choice a few months ago to leave a workplace she wasn’t happy with. She has now decided to start her own business. Meanwhile, Tanya is focusing on feeling better about herself on the inside. Her newfound confidence has made it easier for her to put her finances in order, create a fabulously successful workplace workshop and start exercising regularly. Now Tanya feels more prepared to make further improvements – on the outside.

Page 1 of 4Fitness
• Tracy
Tracy has gone from being active but not in a regular fitness routine to working out most days of the week. As part of her cardiovascular training, she now runs, instead of walking. She also does interval training; she runs for one lap and walks for one lap for one hour between weight-training days. Tracy also takes one-on-one kickbox training and weekly African dance classes with Tanya. “I feel really fit and strong, and I can better cope with stress,” she says. 

Coach’s Comments:
Tracy is building muscle, which is great considering her age (46), says Dr. Rita Dahlke. “Our bodies start to lose muscle naturally as early as in our 30s and even earlier if we stop being active,” she says. Dahlke also points out that embracing fitness now can help Tracy cope with any future symptoms of menopause.

Fitness coach Shelly Stranaghan is pleased that Tracy, who stopped working out regularly when she moved to Calgary, has recommitted to exercise. “She’s achieving her goal to have more muscle definition,” says Stranaghan, adding that this makes Tracy stronger – in body and mind.

Tanya is going to the gym regularly but still faces health issues. Her weight has remained steady since her initial loss of five kilograms (11 pounds), and her blood pressure remains high.

At the same time, Tanya’s body-fat composition is lower and she has dropped a full clothing size. For the first time in a decade, she can walk by the plus-size stores. Her progress in fitness is significant; the first time she got on the treadmill, she barely made it for half an hour at two miles (3.2 kilometres) an hour and at an incline of three per cent. Today, Tanya does a full hour at 3.6 miles (5.79 kilometres) per hour at an incline of 13 per cent – quadruple what she started at.

She’s stronger, too; when she started, she could barely do three sets of 12 reps on the leg-press machine at 80 pounds (36 kilograms), but today she easily does three sets of 15 reps at 140 pounds (63.5 kilograms). “I also have better balance than I used to,” she says.

Coach’s Comments:
Being physically active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, says Dahlke. That’s why it’s good to see Tanya being physical. “If that’s what this makeover program achieves overall for Tanya, then I would consider it a success,” she says.

Losses in measurements for Tanya’s waist, hips, thighs and arms mean her body composition is changing and that’s great, says Stranaghan. The lack of dramatic weight loss is not something to get hung up about, she says. “The number on the scale is just one way to measure progress.”

Nevertheless, that number could drop “as the changes that Tanya has made continue to be part of her lifestyle,” says Dahlke.

To kick-start that weight loss, Stranaghan recommends that Tanya increase the frequency, but not the intensity, of exercise. As for her blood pressure, Tanya will wear a monitor to get a more accurate reading. If lifestyle changes don’t help lower the readings, drugs may be called for, says Dahlke.

Page 2 of 4Mind

Tracy finally feels “more in tune with who I am and what I want.” She’s excited about starting her own business in the environmental sector – a field in which her university degree in geography with a concentration in the environment will be useful. “I always wanted to do my own thing but never thought I was financially able,” she says.

Tracy hopes to participate in a program that helps women start their own businesses. However, since she needs an income and to get her foot in the door, Tracy is applying to relevant jobs in the environmental industry. She’s also trying to network to see if that will produce some job leads.

While she job hunts, Tracy is managing on an extremely tight budget. She receives unemployment insurance and had some savings, which she used to fix her car. Nevertheless, Tracy has managed to set up a plan of payments to eliminate credit-card debt.

Coach’s Comments:
Career coach Gimalle Crawford commends Tracy for making the all-important shift in her job search. Life coach Cathy Yost also congratulates Tracy for taking the time “to find the passion she knew was missing in her career,” and for letting go of old patterns that were keeping her stuck. “Today, Tracy is blissfully happy on the inside and looks happy on the outside, too,” she says.

Tracy’s happiness not only makes her feel good but also look good. About 85 per cent of image is attitude, says image coach Astrid DesLandes. “Looking good is about how you feel about yourself and your interaction with the world.”

Tanya worked with Yost to declutter physical and mental obstacles and “become ‘the me’ that has always been there but never had a voice.” For the first time ever, she’s willing to take risks – her successful workplace discussion group is a perfect case in point. “I would never have done a discussion group,” she says. “I didn’t think I could ever put something together that people would think was worthwhile attending.”

She’s also better at managing difficult relationships. Instead of focusing on the negatives that difficult people present, Tanya tries to see a positive quality in them. “I try to think of a difficult person as a gift with a big red bow – and then determine what his or her gift is to me.”

Coach’s Comments:
Yost applauds Tanya for putting herself first. “That was key,” she says. “Once you honour yourself and your choices, you see the world in a different way.”

With her Success Circle workshops, Tracy is experiencing the rewards of job satisfaction, says Crawford. “She has found excitement within her own workplace,” she says. Tanya’s finances were a huge worry, but by setting tangible short-term debt repayment and savings goals, she can see the larger goals more clearly, says financial coach Jennifer Kirby. “She now has the confidence to tackle her debt and has a clear vision of the future.”

Page 3 of 4Nutrition

Tracy now eats breakfast within an hour of getting up and eats part of her dinner before working out (so she doesn’t go to the gym hungry) and the rest afterward. Not working in an office anymore has helped decrease her coffee intake.

Coach’s Notes:
Tracy’s healthy, balanced diet ensures adequate fuel for her training, says nutrition coach Rory Hornstein, who recommends healthy carbohydrates (whole grain bread, cereal, rice, pasta, potatoes and fresh fruit and vegetables), protein (dried beans, peas, lean meats and low-fat dairy products) and moderate amounts of fat from unsaturated sources. Calcium (from supplements and/or diet) is good for her bones.

Tanya started the low sodium, high-fruit-and-vegetables DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet two years ago and initially lost 30 pounds. For the makeover program, Hornstein suggested Tanya continue with the diet and keep a food checklist to help her avoid “mindless eating.” Tanya also budgets $5 a few times a month to purchase meal plans from a website. “I find organizing my meals a killer. We’re busy every night at classes or at the gym.”

Coach’s Notes:
Dieting just to lose weight was not an initial makeover goal for Tanya. Instead, she wanted to make changes in her life and to improve her health – which, the coaches agree, she has succeeded in doing. But now, armed with newfound confidence, she’s more motivated to explore eating habits that may be affecting her weight.

One important recommendation is to eat morning and afternoon low glycemic snacks such as apples, dried apricots, bananas, grapefruits, oranges, pears, 100 per cent whole wheat kernels, rice bran, sweet potatoes, skim milk, soy beverages or low-fat yogurt. These foods are digested slowly, which helps keep blood-sugar levels stable and makes the body feel full longer.

We’re All happier

Both women wanted to improve their relationships with their children – and they have. After Spencer, who is now 17, moved out of the house for a while and then moved back, his mom, Tracy, worked hard to let him do his own thing – and make his own mistakes. “I’m allowing him that freedom but focusing more on myself, too. As a result, our relationship has definitely improved.”

Downstairs, in Tanya’s area of the house, Kesler, 12, and his mom are having more fun together, too, because “I’m no longer worried and cranky all the time,” she says.

“He’s being a spontaneous boy again, and I’m sure it’s in response to my more positive mood.”

Page 4 of 4


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Mind & Spirit

Best friends makeover: Month 9