Everyone knows her – she’s the mom who seems to have it all. She’s drop-dead gorgeous, has a body to die for, a beautiful family, and the perfect career. It’s easy to feel envious of these women until you scratch the surface of who they are. What you’ll likely find is that many of those who seem to have seamless lives have had adversities and challenges along the way – but have used them to rise above, and to help other moms do the same. Meet four of these women who inspire us:
KIM DOLAN LETO, Scottsdale, Arizona
Mom of one, Kim wasn’t always in shape or healthy. But after seeing her father suffer a stroke from a rare autoimmune disease and die at age 61, she developed a passion for health and fitness, becoming an athlete at 30 and now a model, published fitness expert, and speaker, as well as the director of family health and wellness for the International Sports Sciences Association. Although all of these achievements happened later in her life than for many, Kim believes that it’s never too late to learn new skills and achieve new goals.
Eating plan: “I don’t believe in extreme diets with low calorie counts or calorie restrictions,” she said. “I eat whole foods and watch my portions; I tend to use the ‘hand method’ of determining portion size.”
Workout plan: Kim gets up early to work out, “otherwise, later in the day, there’s lots of reasons not to.” She combines cardio, strength training, and core exercises and has developed a “calorie-torching” 20-40 minute workout. (Turn to page 22 for her mom-makeover workout!)
How she stays motivated: Although her late father’s health problems influenced her lifestyle changes, it is knowing that she is a role model for her daughter that keeps her going. “She’ll do what I do more than she’ll listen to what I say,” said Kim.
Secret indulgence: “Once a week I get a massage. That’s my reward for taking care of myself.”
MARIA KANG, Sacramento, California
Mom of three boys, Maria developed a passion for fitness and nutrition when she saw her mom struggle with health-related diseases. Despite a childhood spent eating McDonalds, sugary cereals, and frozen dinners, she turned her lifestyle habits around and became a part-time personal trainer while attending college, going on to win several beauty and fitness titles. In 2014, she founded the “No Excuse Mom” movement, where she rallied thousands of moms to begin hundreds of free workout groups in over 25 countries; a year later, she launched her first book, titled, The No More Excuses Diet.
Eating plan: “I can’t follow a strict diet as a mom,” said Maria. “But in general, I follow a 30 percent carb, 30 percent fat, and 30 percent protein diet. The other 10 percent varies according to what I’m doing. Right now I’m training for a marathon, so that extra 10 percent is carbs.”
Workout plan: Maria does a variety of cardio training activities 4-5 times a week and strength training 3 times weekly.
How she stays motivated: “I stay motivated by setting a new goal every three months,” said Maria. “My goal now is to run a marathon.”
Secret indulgence: Dark chocolate and wine.
KIM MILLER & SHANNON DOUGHERTY, Phoenix, Arizona
Kim and Shannon, both moms of two, are co-owners of Fit Mom Diet, an online community designed to help educate, support, and inspire moms to make positive changes in their lives. Their inspiration? Prior to meeting, each woman had felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities of being a new mom while trying to take care of themselves, too. Both eventually found balance and happiness by surrounding themselves with supportive people and developing healthy lifestyle habits that helped them to shed over 50 pounds each. They entered the fitness industry as models, writers, and healthy living advocates, with the goal of helping others to achieve similar results – eventually joining forces to launch their business.
Eating plan: Both Kim and Shannon follow a whole food eating plan with minimally processed foods; Kim tries to buy locally grown foods whenever possible. Shannon buys food in bulk and enjoys grilling her meals.
Workout plan: Kim likes to vary her routine with running, high interval training, Pilates and yoga, while Shannon rises early (4:15 a.m.!) to hit the gym, where she does cardio two to three days a week and weights the other two to three days. Both take two days off in order to avoid overworking their bodies.
How they stay motivated: “Once I hit my 40s,” said Kim, “I had to allow only what my body would give that day. If I don’t feel like working out, I just tell myself to show up. I don’t have to do it intensely each and every day.”
Says Shannon: “I’m motivated by the pictures of when I was at my heaviest weight. I don’t want to go back there.”
Secret indulgence: Kim loves guacamole with chips; Shannon enjoys an occasional vodka or a glass of wine.
Q&A WITH OTHER MOMS
Q: How have you developed a positive body image?
A: “There is no perfect body. I love all my flaws because I created life and when I finally really saw that, I was able to see the beauty in my body.”
–Mary Giovagnoni, 36, Huntington, NY, 2 children
Q: How as a mom do you carve time out for yourself?
A: “I make sure to schedule it in my calendar just like I would a meeting or a doctor’s appointment. This includes my workouts!”
–Stephanie Heyman, 42, Scottsdale, AZ, 2 children
Q: What is one healthy thing you try to do for yourself every day?
A: “Whenever I go to the bathroom or wash my hands, I do things like squats or calf raises. Simple moves to keep me disciplined and an easy way to fit fitness in!”
–Genevieve Villaruel, 37, Vacaville, CA, 4 children
Q: Why is working out and being fit important to you?
A:“Working out keeps me strong and helps me stay in tune with my body. I also have two daughters who are watching me and it’s important that they know the benefits of staying healthy and fit and making good choices early on in life that they can carry with them.”
–Tawnya Goley, 34, Tucson, AZ, 2 children
Q: Why is it important for you to have support in reaching your fitness goals?
A: “No one is immune to occasional seasons when self-esteem and willpower dip, so having support from family, friends, and fitness professionals is crucial.”
–Barbie Caulder, 29, Millersville, MD, 2 children
WHAT ARE YOU TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT BODY IMAGE?
Tawnya Goley of Tucson, Arizona met her future stepdaughters at ages 10 and 6, a time when she had been struggling with her own weight and self-image for many years. But she knew that she had to make some changes in how she talked about herself. “I wasn’t as conscious about the self-talk until I realized I had four little ears listening to how I spoke about myself,” she said. “I never wanted them to think of themselves the way I did, so I had to make a very conscious effort to be thoughtful with my words and self-proclamations.”
Parents can have a huge impact on a girl’s body image, said Lisa Damour, Ph.D, author of Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood. And in a society where, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, as many as 80 percent of 10 year olds worry about being overweight and as many as 50 percent of teen girls use unhealthy weight control behaviors like restricting food, taking laxatives, and smoking cigarettes, you need to be careful about the messages you send your kids. Not only does what you say about your own body, her body, and other women’s bodies matter, but also what you say about food, exercise, and even clothing.
Unfortunately, it’s hard work to combat the influence of media, said Dr. Damour. “Girls are drowned in imagery,” she said. “Everywhere they go, they see pictures that emphasize physical appearance. They can’t get away from it, and parents can’t completely shield them from it.”
What to do to help your girl develop a healthy body image? Don’t talk about diets and weight loss programs or create shame around food, advised Dr. Damour. You don’t have to forgo the emphasis on healthy eating and fitness, though, she added. “But it’s important to emphasize that healthy eating and fitness for all family members is a way of taking care of ourselves, something you do for you, not to please anyone else or look like anyone else.”
As for media influence, Dr. Damour added, parents can start the discussion by going online to show how Photoshopping fabricates images, and explaining to their daughters that the women who model clothing in the glossy magazines work hard to achieve near perfection because that’s their job. “It’s a full-time enterprise to look good; they have a full-time squad of people to help them,” she said.
Tawnya’s girls are now 18 and 14, both athletes and “natural beauties,” and she hopes that what she and her husband have taught them about health, nutrition, and physical strength will carry over into their adulthoods. “I want them to learn to be strong, independent women and that THAT is beautiful,” she explained. “Their intelligence and sense of humor and kindness make them beautiful, not their hair, looks, or the size of their jeans.”
IT'S OK TO CARVE OUT TIME FOR YOURSELF
Every new mom soon learns what a difficult balancing act this role can be. Not only are you responsible for a totally helpless little being (and perhaps other little beings as well), you also wear a number of other hats, which may include that of employee, spouse, friend – even caretaker for an elderly parent. It’s difficult to achieve a balance, to find enough time in the day for others, not to mention ourselves.
But you must take care of yourself first, said Andrew D. Wittman, PhD, the author of “Ground Zero Leadership: CEO of You” and managing partner of the Mental Toughness Training Center. “This is especially true for moms,” said Dr. Wittman. “Just like when the oxygen masks drop on an airplane, put your mask on first. If you don’t, no one will be there to take care of the kids.”
If you’re wondering how you can possibly find time for yourself – with work, driving the kids to various functions, meal preparation, laundry, and a myriad of other tasks – it can be done, said productivity expert Tara Rodden Robinson, PhD, author of Sexy + Soul-Full, a Woman’s Guide to Productivity – by looking at time in a new way.
Many of us go through life thinking of time as the enemy, something that passes too quickly, she explained. “But while we can’t control the ticking of the clock, we also don’t have to be caught up in the urgency and scarcity of time passing.”
One way to slow things down, despite how full your calendar is, is to choose a different experience of your time, said Dr. Robinson. That is, to recognize a few things, such as the fact that there will probably never be more time later – to take that hot bath, read a book, pursue a hobby, or work out. And that while we often think of our time as “precious,” we spend a lot of it doing things that are more mind numbing than fulfilling – like spending it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Although it’s not always easy to do, it’s also important to take a good hard look at your life, both at home and at work, and to decide what is most important to you. Is your job taking priority over your marriage, your family, and self-care? It may be worth considering the hard decision of changing your job or even your career pathway. And if you are the one doing the majority of the “unpaid work” such as laundry, cooking, shopping, and cleaning, it may be time to delegate some of the tasks, lower your standards a little, or see if your budget can accommodate hiring some of the work out.Crucial, too, said Dr. Robinson, is to avoid over-commitment by “learning how to say no with love and courage.”
While it’s a process to reassess your life and make changes to free up time for yourself, there are exercises you can do right now to slow your mind down when it seems like the pace is too hectic. One, said Dr. Robinson, is to try to take in as many details about your surrounding environment as you can. If you’re outside, for example, note the green of the leaves, the cracks in the pavement, the feel of the breeze on your face. This exercise, she explained, is based on research from neurophysiologists, who have discovered that when you’re fully present and engaged with the world around you, your brain assumes that time is passing more slowly and that you have more of it.
And Dr. Wittman offers this effective and simple “micro-vacation.” Find a quiet space for three minutes, even if it’s in the shower. Then take a deep breath, inhaling for 15 seconds, then exhaling for 15 seconds. Finally, visualize your perfect day, if there were no limits of distance, time, or budget. MS&F