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

Salsa dancing. Pros: You work up a sweat, and when you get good, you are 500 percent more attractive than you were beforehand. Cons: You have to touch strangers, yet you are not having sex with them. Result: Walked out.

Long-distance running: Please.

Ping-Pong: This is my new sport! And not just because Spin, the place I go, (a) is co-owned by Susan Sarandon and (b) serves drinks. OK, maybe those two things. But there’s more. First, for some reason, I’m naturally good at it. Second, Spin is in a dark basement that, I believe, both makes me feel unselfconscious and hides my wrinkles. Third, while ping-ponging, an average-size person burns roughly 273 calories an hour—at a game I can actually play for an hour, as compared with, say, running. The only con here is that I am a little light on friends who share my enthusiasm. Like, none. So anyone in the tristate area who enjoys beating the crap out of a tiny ball while guzzling overpriced cocktails, please contact me.


Size 10 pants I haven’t worn since I threw up every day for four months (beginning of twin pregnancy) now fit. Comfortably. This is really good. Husband notes: “Your bottom doesn’t jiggle so much.” This is good, too.

September 12

Zach takes my measurements. I know I’ve toned up and lost weight, but I feel I haven’t done enough. It’s three steps forward, two steps back. I stopped Freshology at the end of July, and after spending August eating and cooking for myself—and, predictably, slipping back into some of my old habits—I switched to the Fresh Diet (, another portion-controlled home-delivery system that I got to try for free for 30 days. Available in 15 cities nationwide, the Fresh Diet program costs $35 to $45 a day, about the same price as Freshology.

But despite being protected from my own eating decisions, I screw up on a regular basis. For one thing, I frequently go out for business lunches and dinners. And then there is my endless bargaining with alcohol. I have two grade-school-age boys; is there a mother out there who can’t comprehend the need for a gimlet at the end of the day? The problem with booze, for the moderate drinker, is not the booze. It is the lack of inhibition that booze inspires. So if the Brie and crackers are easy to forgo before the Chardonnay, they start singing a siren song the moment you begin sipping.

September 15

Zach did it. He asked M. to go out with him. And she said yes.

October 1

I buy a pair of size 8 DKNY jeans (Donna Karan understands hips) and put them on. As long as I don’t breathe, they fit. My husband congratulates me on having less of an ass. “Not that it matters to me,” he adds, just in time.

Drumroll, Please

All right, maybe a kazoo squeak would be more appropriate. Because this is a story of succeeding despite not rigorously sticking to a program. Even partial changes can give you good results.

After five months of exercising and controlling my food intake, I lost 15 pounds. (And I liked the meal plans so much, I ended up paying for a couple of months myself when the freebies ran out.) I went from a tight size 12 to a supertight (but breathable) size 8.

Aside from a week of illness, I worked out—cardio and/or weight training—two to four times a week. I could have done more, but I didn’t. Nonetheless, I lost eight inches around my waist, hips, thighs, arms and chest. I stand straighter, though I still have to think about it. I have much more energy, which is a very pleasant surprise; at night my children and I dance to Lady Gaga. At last count, my blood pressure was 120/70. My fasting glucose level has fallen to 91. My LDL cholesterol is now a healthy 102. My numbers weren’t terrible to begin with, but now they are clearly out of any you-gotta-be-careful zone.

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