Monday, December 18, 2017
Sometimes we have to shift our expectations. Life is messy. It can interfere with the best made plans. Author and member Nancy Kennedy shares how she applied the rollercoaster of her typical day to accomplish weight-loss success …

Applying Life Strategies to Weight Loss

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

Sometimes we have to shift our expectations. Life is messy. It can interfere with the best made plans. Author and member Nancy Kennedy shares how she applied the rollercoaster of her typical day to accomplish weight-loss success …

Book cover photo
Nancy contributed, “I Just Stepped Off,” inspiring details of her journey.

Nancy once considered herself a productive member of the working world. She met deadlines on a daily basis. She performed each step necessary, and in sequential order, to reach her goals. “The rhythm of my writing days was intense, a non-stop workathon ending at a daily finish line,” she remarks in her article “I Just Stepped Off” (Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You, December 2010). Enter, center stage: parenthood.

Any parent—or individual who has dealings with children—realizes the responsibilities can render your life unpredictable, at best, and out of control on a more challenging day. Nancy quickly discovered her days to be an “assemblage of broken hours punctuated by fits and starts.” Rather than sulk in the memory of her tidy, organized lifestyle, she adjusted her method of getting things done. Taking it a step further, she applied these motherhood strategies to her fitness endeavor.

In her “former life,” Nancy would resolve to lose weight. She tackled it like she would any other project. Starting off with a bang, she’d starve herself for the day, only to see the same body staring at her that night in the mirror. The results were neither direct nor immediate. Feeling as if she failed her personal deadline, Nancy would indulge her unsatisfied appetite.

Nancy came to discover life’s journey is sometimes better approached in an exploratory manner, rather than as one would a professional deadline. It took parenthood , and its life-altering characteristics, for Nancy to realize that. However, most of us mortals know there’s much in this world beyond our control. In other words, your best intentions to hit the treadmill can be sidetracked in any number of directions. “You may only have 15 minutes or half hour to devote to fitness goals on any given day, but that’s okay,” assures Nancy.

The path is not always clearly paved and there are many detours. Living your healthiest life—whether by reaching your goal weight or lowering your cholesterol—can be riddled with land mines. Kids in tow or not.

An Epiphany

It came in the form of a life-changing moment.

Okay, and a guest membership to the Center.

Kindergarten send-off. A life-changing photo in multiple ways.
Kindergarten send-off. A life-changing photo in multiple ways.

Sending off her son to kindergarten, Nancy experienced the typical poignant moment of sadness and trepidation.  (Perhaps with a little exhilaration at some newfound freedom awaiting her.) Photos were taken, one which would later be the catalyst for Nancy’s weight-loss journey.

Eager to relive that heartfelt send-off, Nancy tore open the photo pack. Tears filled her eyes, this time as she focused on the “overweight, middle-aged mom whose size 16s weren’t hiding anything.” Alas, half-day kindergarten didn’t allow much time beyond her work. Another year passed.

Full-day first grade gave Nancy the time she craved for work. And, she was now a veteran of a lifestyle of spontaneity, which is often essential for surviving in this world. Nancy accepted a friend’s invitation to join the Center as a guest for the week. She approached the dilemma of losing weight with her newfound knowledge of a mother’s day. Although not completely convinced or hopeful, Nancy left her rigid attitude and inflexible goals at her desk. They were better companions to her professional self, rather than the one trying to work out and lose weight.

“With the trial membership, I had no excuses. My son was in first grade, full days of school. I had the time and the means, so I went to the Center every day that week,” informs Nancy. Instinctively, she headed for the Aquatics Center, where she could do what she enjoys: swim.

“Swimming laps is very therapeutic, with that lane of calm blue water stretching in front of you. I let my mind wander. I even work on my books in my head,” shares Nancy, who most recently authored Miracles and Moments of Grace (pub date March 2011,  You never know what the person exercising next to you is undertaking. You could be a character in someone’s book!

Nancy thoroughly enjoyed the Center, which quickly became her “escape place,” filled with quiet time dedicated only to her. The unreasonable goals were gradually replaced by the desire to be healthier, one lap at a time.

Four Years Later

Still swimming three times a week at the Center, Nancy lost 30 pounds, wears a size 10, and even considers herself “somewhat muscular.” She has expanded her workouts to include time on the Exercise Floor and is considering a Group Fitness strengthening class. “I might have to think about it for a couple years first,” she jokes in her take-it-as-it-comes style.

Nancy, before.
Nancy, before.
Nancy, after.
Nancy, after.

Nancy attests to feeling better in her 50s than in her 20s. As for her Center membership, she’s relieved not to be the only middle-aged person on the scene. “I had this picture in my mind of a gym — packed with toned and tanned ‘kids’ in their twenties showing off in skimpy workout gear. At the Center, this is not the case at all! I feel comfortable here.”

Nancy also loves access to the Center’s on-site physical rehab department. “No doubt someday I’ll need it!” she predicts. Already, Nancy has used the hot tub to ease back pain, a torn hamstring, and a broken foot.  Swimming allowed her to continue exercise, despite these injuries. The steam room also proved useful in relieving chronic ear pressure she suffered for over a year.

A New Way of Life

Sometimes taking her son to the Family Swim and other times opting for a peaceful interlude to a hectic day, Nancy has integrated fitness into her life. There was no strict formula or trendy diet. To use her own term, she simply “stepped off.” She let go of expectations—calorie counting, measuring, and weighing– and adapted fitness into her way of life. Shifting and unpredictable, yet progressive in its own time and way.

Successful Mantras

Rather than a dramatic change to her diet, Nancy created a new thought process. She became mindful of her body’s signals, eating only when hungry and stopping when full. Integrating fitness into her life, even if squeezed in spurts with highs and lows, motivated her to eat better. “I embrace thoughts that power me through cravings.” Nancy shares some of them:

I know what this tastes like and I’m sure I’ll have it again. I don’t need to have it right now.

A salad tackles hunger just as well as a piece of chocolate cake.

Hunger isn’t an emergency. I have time to fix myself something healthy to eat.

Find what works for you. It might take several tries. It might take several months. There will be setbacks, interruptions, births, snow days, and desserts. Life happens. Sometimes we need to loosen our grip and go where it takes us, when it takes us there. You just might end up in the pool.


“I Just Stepped Off,” by Nancy B. Kennedy, in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You, December 2010. (

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