My (Reluctant) Fitness Makeover

Life was good! Nachos for lunch. Cocktails before dinner. Spinach dip at midnight. Exercise, never. Here's how my day of reckoning arrived—and a workout-phobe became a new woman.

by Judith Newman
judith newman picture
Photograph: Brian Finke

When I do sit down to a meal, I don’t so much cook as dial (for takeout), and I always overorder. So to jump-start my weight loss, I decide to try ­different home-delivered meal programs that are supposed to provide a day’s worth of meals within a certain calorie count (mine was 1,200 to 1,400 a day). I know that sooner or later I will need to take charge of my eating decisions, but I feel that the meal plans, in addition to being convenient, will train me to recognize what a reasonable portion is—something that I, with my “Everything is better when it’s supersized” philosophy, have never mastered.

I start with Freshology (freshology.com) on the premise that if it’s good enough for J.Lo (as People has reported), then it’s good enough for me. Expensive? I’ll say. This national program, which comped me for a month because I’m writing this story, costs $30 to $50 a day, depending on the plan you pick. Here’s a typical menu from Freshology: Breakfast is baked eggs with herbs, Canadian bacon and fresh fruit (276 calories); lunch, Greek salad with grilled lamb (462); dinner, BBQ flatiron steak with vegetable medley and roasted sweet potato (504); dessert, pear square (164). The food is really tasty, there is incredible variety, and best of all, I am not hungry between meals. “These dishes contain lots of protein and fiber, a winning combo that keeps your stomach full and your blood sugar steady, fending off hunger,” says Nancy Kalish, a certified health coach in Brooklyn.

June 15

At the gym, doing step-ups.

Boring. Boring. Gotta do something. Gotta distract myself. “Hey, Zach . . . are you dating anyone?”

Ahhhhhhh. Pay dirt.

So here’s the thing. Zach broke up with his live-in girlfriend about six months ago. She moved to San Francisco. He loved her, but he didn’t want a long-distance relationship.

Now Zach has another girlfriend, L. But he has his doubts.

June 25

“Taxi! TAX-iiii!” my son Henry cries, frantically waving his little arm. I wrestle it down. He is indignant. Henry’s third word, after mama and dada, was cab, so naturally our sudden efforts to go everywhere on foot have not gone unnoticed. “Just because you want to be thin, we all have to suffer?” he asks, for the sixth time in a week.

This, I explain, is good for all of us. Because I am trying to put into practice a concept I’ve been reading about lately: non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT. The idea is that up to half the calories we burn daily come from activities we don’t even think about: fidgeting, standing . . . or maybe going up three flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator to our third-floor apartment.

So, much to Henry’s consternation, we are walking to school every day instead of taking the train, and we are eschewing elevators for stairs.

July 15

A training breakthrough! Well, not training, exactly. Today there is this:

Zach confesses he has a big crush on someone he sees at the gym. He’s had feelings for her for a long time. They got to know each other while training for a running event, and now Zach is obsessing. M. is a tiny, pretty thing, but a little grim and tightly wound.

Despite looks that would make you assume he’s a player, Zach is anything but. Beneath that hunky exterior is a Sensitive New Age Guy. Zach and I begin to strategize. He wants to be very correct. We plan the right moment for him to end it with L. and then ask M. out. He is scared. He thinks M. doesn’t think of him That Way. Also, he hates to disappoint L. But. “I . . . I can’t help it,” he almost whispers to me. “It’s natural to be attracted to someone else, even if you have a girlfriend, right?”

Reps, schmeps. Now this is a reason to go to the gym.

Late July

Training is all very well, but let’s face it: I need a sport, something I can do that is actually fun and maybe even social. Here are a few of the activities I tried over the summer months.

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