The holidays are prime time for lazing around and enjoying free time some of us have not experienced in almost four months. They’re also prime time for eating sugary, fatty foods, and gaining weight. I once heard from Dr. Phil that on average, people gain about 12 pounds during the festive period, and many people don’t try to work it off afterwards. This idea of holiday over-eating helps create the craze doctors call “globesity.”

Globesity describes a worldwide trend. North American waists aren’t the only ones expanding; obesity has become a global phenomenon. Even Asian countries are experiencing a peak in obesity rates. This trend has many medical professionals questioning if, for the first time ever, children in the next generation will be able to outlive their parents. According to The Childhood Obesity Foundation, childhood obesity has almost tripled in the last 25 years. About 26 per cent of children aged two to 17 in Canada are overweight or obese, and more children are joining that number every day.

I’ve never been one to watch what I eat or how I exercise too seriously. However, this past September, after being weighed at my doctor’s office (for the first time in months, I might add), I was shocked to find how many pounds I’ve put on since beginning university. Should I be surprised? Probably not, when I think about it. My diet has changed drastically, from home-cooked meals to meals out of a box. Looking through my cupboards, it’s pretty obvious I live the typical student lifestyle.

I haven’t always been this way. During high school, I was fairly involved in sports. From the ages of three to eight, and then from 11 to 15, I was a figure skater. Not a very good one, but I was on the ice for five hours every Saturday by the age of 15. I not only did my own training, but also coached children. In high school, I joined the rugby team on top of my skating. In grade ten, I made it on to the junior volleyball team. The next year, I traded in figure skating for hip hop lessons. Every Wednesday, I would play rugby until about six, then run home, eat, do homework and be at the dance studio by 9 p.m. I was very tired, but also quite healthy.

The downward spiral began in grade 12. I decided I needed to focus more on academics and dropped all extracurricular activities except for dance. When I finally got to university, I went to the gym sporadically but never enough to make a difference in my lifestyle. Alcohol consumption increased, sleeping and health decreased. It pretty much stayed that way until earlier this year, my third one at university.

After a visit to my doctor, I decided it was time for major change but I was unsure how to go about it. After a listless September and October, my opportunity to get into shape suddenly arose in the form of “The Fit List” held for the month of November at Wilkes House Gym. Essentially, it was a fitness challenge for anyone at Laurier Brantford. The goal was not only to get to the gym as often as possible but to also try new things. Numerous free classes and seminars helped participants gain knowledge about staying fit. Students earned points based on working out at the gym and attending these classes and seminars, turning a personal challenge into a competition of sorts.

This challenge was a godsend for me. It motivated me to get to the gym and make positive changes. I could track my progress, and seeing my score rise on the list helped keep me motivated. The workshops brought certain fitness issues to light, and gave participants a chance to talk to the challenge’s creators, Allyson Rowe and Kristin Hogg.

“We didn’t want to do it strictly on weight loss,” says Rowe. “We wanted it to be more on how students can gain knowledge and know the importance of a healthy lifestyle.” It succeeded more than Rowe and Hogg could have ever hoped for, with over twenty students having participated. “We were seeing progress,” says Hogg, “which is great.”

Going to the gym started out fairly easily. I was motivated and with my trusty boyfriend in tow supporting me the whole way through, I was feeling confident. This high point lasted a grand total of my first week. After the first weekend, I was finding it hard to keep up. I still craved the greasy foods I’d always been eating. So I pigged out on a whole pizza. By myself. And no, I’m not proud.

The weeks began to wear on, and my motivation began to wear down. My energy levels were so low. Schoolwork, extracurricular clubs and life in general left me too tired to get to the gym. By the end of the month, I was really resenting the thought of working out.

As the holidays drew nearer, I remembered Hogg mentioning a book by Tosca Reno in one of her seminars. Reno, a well-known fitness guru, has received much acclaim for her ‘Eat Clean Diet.’ Hogg was such a believer in this diet that I decided to make and actually stick to my New Year’s resolution this year: I’m going to lose some of this weight.

My wish list this year consisted of mostly workout clothing and home fitness equipment, none of which I actually got. But after receiving a Wal-Mart gift card, I took a leap of faith and picked up Reno’s book, The Eat Clean Diet Recharged. After reading through a bit of the book, it’s clear this isn’t a diet – it’s a lifestyle.

The book focuses on what you eat, and states that how you look is only “10 per cent working out, 10 per cent genetic, and a whopping 80 per cent what you eat.” Reno suggests eating six small meals a day of natural, non-processed foods. She claims she’s eating more now than before, but she’s also looking better at 50 than she ever has.

As I read, I got the feeling that this is something I can do. Because of my recent struggles with self-esteem related to my weight, I figured I might as well do something good for myself and take a chance with this diet. What harm can eating good food really do for you?

I’m not worried about the eating part; I’ve always been great at eating. Getting out to the gym or even fitting home workouts into my schedule will be the hard part. So over the holidays, I started preparing for the New Year by gathering equipment to make my own home gym. With a balance ball, ankle and wrist weights, resistance bands, and lots of cute yoga clothing, I think I’m ready to take on this new fitness challenge I’ve set for myself: lose 40 pounds by 2012.

The big question is about how to keep myself motivated.

“I find that the buddy system for students works,” says Rowe. “Whether it’s one of us, or a staff member who works here [at Wilkes gym].” Going to the gym with friends can certainly make the atmosphere seem less intimidating. The other tip Hogg offered is to have fun no matter what you’re doing.

“Once you’re here, enjoy what you do. Don’t try to do things that you’re not sure about, just have fun,” Hogg advises.

So here I go, off into the abyss that is fitness. With my trusty book in one hand and a scale in the other, I intend to do my best and be my best this year. I will work longer and harder. I will eat better and smarter. This is a journey for me to be the best possible me I can be, and I will do what it takes to get there. I know it’s going to be a long trek, but what have I got to lose, other than a few pounds?

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