Jessica Powell and her husband, Lane, of Harmony made the decision to eat healthier over a year ago. Spurred by the healthy foods their son chose to eat, the Powells decided to try their hand at improving their health through better food choices and more physical activity – even though they both have a love for running.
"Our son, Nick, is in college now. During his senior year, he was eating healthier foods than us,” Jessica said. “My husband and I enjoy running, but we were not eating healthy."
Both Jessica and Lane are music instructors at Fillmore Central and their experiment began in August 2013. The first thing Jessica addressed was to look into what and how much she would eat in a day. She began recording everything she ate and when, all the way down to a single Oreo or potato chips. The results shocked her.
"The biggest-eye opening thing came when I was actually keeping track of what I ate,” she said. “I was doing a lot of mindless eating, things I didn't realize I was eating. I ended up finding things that could automatically be cut from my diet."
With the realization of just how much she and her husband ate, and food that did not positively help their bodies, they adopted a new lifestyle.
"It was nothing fancy, not like Weight Watchers. It's just about healthier things. We kept an eye on what we were eating," Jessica related. "I like to be in races and feel good. But as much as I ran, I did not feel like I was doing well. I thought this would make a difference and what was there to lose?"
The couple considered two scenarios. One was to do nothing and continue to feel the same way or the second was to attempt eating more healthy foods, which would make the two feel better. The couple chose the latter option.
Without joining any program, Jessica and Lane utilized their self-control, avoiding junk food and focusing on food that is better for their overall health.
"What I learned about myself is the choice. You either do it this way or that way and live with it. It always comes down to a yes or no. No matter what everyone else does, it is your choice," Jessica explained.
After setting her mind to pay more attention and being more aware of what she put into her mouth, she began to keep track of the number of calories she consumed, honestly and accurately. She said she did not see a dietician and is by no means a dietary expert, but the methods she and her husband are using have been working.
"When I was really doing well, I stayed at 1,500 calories per day, but it varies with exercise done in a day. I try to stick to 1,500 but it is a joint process of eating right and exercising, keeping moving. That balance is key," she said.
Counting calories is just one of the parts of their diets. There were no deprivations. No shakes or pills. They read labels to see the ingredients of a product and controlled the amount and number of times they ate. These things played a significant role in their improved health.
"I became more aware of what we ate. But it comes down to choices. It seems like every day there is food around the school for birthdays. Sometimes I do well and say no, sometimes not. But then I can chose to balance it," Jessica added.
The first three weeks posed as the greatest challenge for adapting to the new diet. However, by supporting each other, Jessica and her husband persevered.
"By the end of the fourth week, we felt better and thought that maybe there was something to this," she commented. "The hardest part was eating out. I love appetizers, but I wanted to feel healthier."
After two to three months passed, they started to truly notice the difference since one does not gain weight or lose it right away. During that time, the Powells changed their eating schedule as well as what they were eating.
"We ate five times a day, carefully spaced out and carefully balanced with calories. When we would take a break, we’d eat a healthy snack. We'd try to fuel our bodies in a smart way. It really worked well," Jessica noted.
In this manner, by the time the school year ended, Jessica had lost 25 pounds and gained even more energy.
"For the most part I have much more energy and feel better when my clothes feel better on me," she expressed.
At the beginning, the couple followed their plan more strictly. But eventually they relaxed to reward themselves for doing so well in their new diet, occasionally indulging in sweets or other food that may not necessarily be all that healthy, but a pleasure to devour.
"I am not going to beat myself up for poor choices. I still want to enjoy food," Jessica shared. "I can really tell when I have gotten off track, because I have less energy and don't feel as good. So then I get back to the good food choices.”
“My husband and I are doing this together and talk about it together. We can be accountable to each other," she continued.
They also take a break from their diets in the summer months, relieving some of the stress that may come from a stricter schedule they have developed for themselves. They do have a little price to pay at the end of the summer though.
"Over the summer we need a break from thinking about it all the time. I gain some of the weight back, but I've been able to keep between 15 and 17 pounds off," Jessica noted.
With the new method of eating, the Powells have learned just how good it feels to eat in a healthier manner. It has not been an easy journey, but well worth the time and effort. For those who have been looking for a way to look and feel more healthy themselves but are yet unsure of what to do, try this method.
"I am not an expert, but I know it worked for me. I do feel like when we first started, we knew it would be challenging. It was definitely worth it," Jessica encouraged.
As with anything in life, there will be good days and bad days. Sometimes one will slip in eating something more unhealthy, but that is not the end. There is always opportunity to get back on track.
"Take a few days and keep track of the food you eat. See what you think of it. It's not easy,” Jessica concluded. “Until you are really honest with your choices, it does not matter. It is always a work in progress with struggles. Just keep moving forward. It will be tough, but there are great things to be had.”