Newburgh woman realized it took more than exercise to lose weight

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— When Jennifer Vandivier graduated from college, she barely weighed in at 100 pounds. “I never dieted before in my entire life,” said the Toyota night shift worker. “I was very thin through high school and college.”

However, like many new grads, Vandivier’s lifestyle changed dramatically when she entered the professional world. Her first secretarial job was a “sit-down” job and she noticed her weight creeping up within the first few months of work. Then, after her pregnancy with her son 14 years ago, Vandivier saw her weight gain rapidly increase and the same old activities did nothing to slow down or reverse the gain.

“I couldn’t get rid of the weight,” Vandivier recalled. The once 100-pound woman soon topped out at 165 pounds even though she was pursuing a healthier lifestyle including workouts and physical activities. By the time Vandivier’s son turned 6, she remembers the struggle to keep up with him and his boisterous and youthful energy. She knew she needed to do something.

Submitted by Jennifer Vandivier
Jennifer Vandivier exercising at home.

Submitted by Jennifer Vandivier Jennifer Vandivier exercising at home.

Contributed Photo
Through exercise and diet, Jennifer Vandivier has lost more than 50 pounds — and has kept the excess weight off for more than three years.

Contributed Photo Through exercise and diet, Jennifer Vandivier has lost more than 50 pounds — and has kept the excess weight off for more than three years.

Vandivier's weight topped out at 165 pounds even though she was pursuing a healthier lifestyle.

Vandivier’s weight topped out at 165 pounds even though she was pursuing a healthier lifestyle.

In January of 2006, Vandivier joined her local Curves and resolved to lose weight. Living in Southern Illinois at the time, Vandivier hoped the gym’s 30-minute workout routine might help her shed some of the excess weight and get her body back to what she knew it could look and feel like.

The journey began with increased exercise. She still didn’t really diet or change her eating habits greatly, but she did consistently work out.

Though she stuck to her workout goals, Vandivier noticed that the added exercise did not seem to help her lose weight. In fact, she didn’t lose any weight with the increased exercise.

In January of 2009, Vandivier decided to add a calorie-watching element to her program. She joined the Curves Complete program. This program combines the typical Curves 30-minute workout routine with an online tool that plans meals, tracks calories and fat grams consumed and tracks workout accomplishments.

In addition to the Curves program and those like it, several gyms and online programs offer meal planning and tracking support. Smartphone applications, ranging from free to several dollars membership a month, afford individuals a convenient place to record meals, look up healthy meal options at various restaurants to make a more educated choice on the go and monitor exercise activities over time.

Noom Weight Loss, a free app available for download to Android devices, allows users to set weight loss goals, keep track of calories from meals, and record daily tasks that add to the total calories burned in a day.

Endomondo Sports Tracker, available for Android, iPhone and Blackberry devices, uses GPS to help runners and bikers see their route and keep track of times. For a small upgrade fee, this app connects to Facebook and Twitter to share successes in status updates and elicit pep talks from friends to stay motivated.

MyNetDiary keeps track of calories and exercise but also looks at water intake and measurements to give a comprehensive picture of weight-loss efforts and success.

Shape magazine offers reviews of these and many more apps on their website,, to help readers find the tool that fits their specific diet needs.

Before joining the local program, Vandivier had never kept track of dietary statistics, but she quickly learned the importance of fat gram and calorie numbers and used the online tool to monitor her progress by inputting everything she ate or drank every day.

With data such as her weight-loss goal, as well as her current measurements and rate of activity, she was able to approach her weight loss from a more mathematical perspective.

Weight loss required burning more calories than those she took in. Vandivier paid attention to her diet and began to make food choices to support her goal rather than to seek comfort or out of boredom. She learned to pass up desserts or sweets.

She recalls learning the importance of her portions and recognizing that even her healthy choices could set her back if her portion size was too big.

She began to plan her meals in advance to ensure she had plenty of healthy choices and options.

The Journal of Clinical Psychology released statistics about New Year’s Resolutions in the December publication.

Research conducted by the University of Scranton lists losing weight as the No. 1 resolution made by those polled. Forty-five percent of Americans make New Year resolutions, and 38 percent of those resolutions are weight loss related.

Unfortunately, many people quickly find keeping their resolutions difficult in light of other daily life demands, and difficulty in attaining success with resolutions such as weight loss can diminish motivation.

Vandivier did not give up on her resolution to lose weight, but did readdress her success and looked for steps that might make her goals more attainable.

The addition of dietary changes made all the difference. She began to lose nearly 10 pounds a month and reached her goal of losing 50 pounds by November of 2009.

Tools such as the Curves Complete program or those available online or on Smartphone devices allow users a more individual picture of their nutritional and exercise needs.

Although some popular diets offer a one-size-fits-all approach to meal planning with prearranged portions and meals that are pretty universal, these tools allow the user to factor in their own body measurements and caloric use to ensure accountability and informed decision-making about foods.

Consistent use of the food diary tools also offers information to tackle the plateaus that every dieter knows will come. Plateaus, periods of time when the body adjusts to restricted caloric intake and decreases the rate of weight loss, can be frustrating but calculators can help factor in metabolic changes to more effectively guide users and provide more consistent and healthy weight loss results.

Losing weight is difficult. Keeping the weight off is even more difficult. Vandivier has managed both.

This year, Curves approached her to be an International Model for the Curves Complete program. Vandivier is featured on the Curves website and will appear in marketing materials distributed around the world. Her story will be used to motivate others who want to lose weight but don’t know where to start.

“I’ve been interviewed and in their online magazine before, but the call-out for models asked for people who not only lost weight but had kept it off for three years or more.” Vandivier has successfully kept her weight off for three years, and was selected not only for her results but for her diligence to meeting her goal.

“It takes a lot of willpower, but it’s worth it,” Vandivier said of her weight loss. She has worked full time at Toyota — mostly the night shift — for the last 10 years, and knows how hard it can be to prioritize working out in the midst of a busy life. She also knows, however, that the benefits make her busy life more manageable. “It gives you more energy,” Vandivier says of working out, “because your cardio is better, you feel better about yourself.”

Vandivier also suggests getting family and friends on board. “You have to have a good support system.” Vandivier laughs as she recalls her family’s hesitance to embrace new healthy foods such as whole-wheat spaghetti, but now she is proud that even her family enjoys eating healthier.

Vandivier, maintaining her goal weight for three years, knows how important it is to be able to enjoy life and food just as much as she needs to be healthy. She is very committed to meal planning and tracking through the week, but allows herself more leeway during the weekend for snacks she especially craves. “You have to allow yourself some splurge time.”

Vandivier now integrates several healthy activities and hobbies into her workout regimen for a balanced approach to health and weight maintenance. She still utilizes the Curves 30-minute workout three times a week, but also runs or bikes on the off days to get in a total of six workouts a week.

She loves running road races, and eagerly anticipates running in more 5K races once she transitions to day shift this spring.
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