Life Audit

Had Baby, Want Body

Free Weights and More Water Will Help This Busy Mom Slim Down and Shape Up

Posted Jul 28, 2005 12:59 PM CDT
By Jill Schachner Chanen

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It used to be so easy for Lynn Hajek to stay fit—the busy New York City lawyer was always on the go.

In the summers she biked and rollerskated everywhere. In the winters, she skied most every weekend. In between, she was at the gym every day, sometimes even twice a day. She never thought about what she ate. It didn’t matter; she exercised it all off.

Then life caught up with Hajek. She married, had a child and divorced, all the while maintaining a busy work schedule as the primary outside defense counsel for a hospital in the New York City area. Her work and home responsibilities leave little time for this 44-year-old single mom to engage in the rigorous exercise that once kept her so fit, lean and healthy.

As her son’s primary caregiver, she says she’s also hesitant to even try to indulge in some of her old favorite activities. That’s because rollerskating and mountain biking can be risky, and trying to take care of an active toddler with, say, a broken wrist, she says, is “something I’d like to avoid.”

But Hajek is avoiding more than just the rigorous exercise. Except for her daily brisk walks to and from work and errands, she’s barely getting regular exercise in at all. Hajek knows she needs to get back into some type of fitness routine, but she doesn’t know how to do it with a young child at home.

Her original intention of bringing him to the day care center at her gym was thwarted when he was born premature and doctors did not want him exposed to crowds while still vulnerable. She dislikes mother-and-child exercise classes and admits that working mom’s guilt is also interfering with exercising. “I work as much as I can,” she says, “and since I am away from him while I am working I do not want to take the time away from him.”

As a result, Hajek is still struggling to take off some of the weight that has remained since her pregnancy, and to figure out how to get back to some form of the shape she once was in when life presented no boundaries. “My body type has completely changed. I’ve just sort of broadened a bit,” she admits. “But I am also realistic. I know that I am not going to look like I did 20 years ago.”

Shed Excuses, Shed Pounds

Life Audit health and fitness expert Jim Karas has some news for Hajek: If she does not start watching what she eats and get back to exercising, her body will be doing more than just broadening. Warns Karas: “She is 44. She is on the cusp where the 10 pounds become 20 pounds and the 20 pounds become 30 pounds by her 50th birthday.” Forty may be the new 30, but don’t try telling that to your body. Karas says childbirth and age-related metabolic changes in women mean that Hajek is going to have to start paying more attention to what she eats and stop making excuses about not being able to be away from her son to exercise.

For years Hajek has been able to eat what she wants because of the amount of vigorous exercise she engaged in. Since that’s changed, so too must her diet change, Karas says. Hajek eats three good meals a day, but she also has a penchant for drinking juices with her meals and snacking on unhealthy items like cheese and crackers or potato chips with dip. She consumes very little water.

Karas says that if Hajek is serious about getting her body back, she must make some changes in her diet. He wants her to give up the juice and increase her water consumption. Juice, he notes, has little nutritional value in addition to being highly caloric.

“She has got to be drinking water. Lynn does not realize that she is depleting her energy levels by being dehydrated. She would be amazed at how much better she would look and feel if she drank more water.”

Karas says Hajek also does not consume enough dairy foods, fruits and vegetables. And he offers a quick solution: Change her typical lunch of soup and a half-sandwich to a fresh, green salad topped with protein and some cheese—an easy-to-find meal, thanks to New York City’s many salad bars.

For snacks, Karas suggests that she choose something healthy like carrots with salsa or low-fat yogurt. Of course, snacks that include chips and cheese must go.

Hajek’s fitness excuses also have to go, says Karas. To be successful, though, he wants Hajek to forget about her pre-baby exercise routines and start considering new ways to get fit.

For women 40 and older, Karas says, the most important form of exercise they can do is strength and resistance training. Cardio has to be relegated to the second tier.

Because of Hajek’s guilt about taking time away from her son to exercise, Karas wants her to invest in equip­ment she can use at home to strength train. The basics in­clude weights, resistant tubing and medicine balls. She can find many of these items packaged in small briefcases that can easily be stored in even the smallest of New York apartments.

Karas suggests Hajek also buy a book or video series that offers at-home workouts with this type of equipment. Her workout should include multiple sets of exercises that include back rows, squats, shoulder presses, lunges, bicep curls, wall sits, push-ups and tricep push-downs. By following a regular strength training routine three to four times a week, Hajek will see results and—what’s more important—become a stronger and healthier woman, Karas promises. On the weekends, she should get out of the house with her son and walk or bike with him.

Hajek also needs to get over feeling bad about taking the time to exercise, Karas says. Instead, she should look at it as setting an important example for her son by taking care of herself.

VITAL STATISTICS

Lynn Hajek

Position Partner, Arshack & Hajek, New York City

Age 44

Goal To return to pre pregnancy fitness levels and shed lingering pregnancy pounds

OUR EXPERT

Jim Karas is the author of the health and fitness workbook Flip the Switch (Random House) and The Business Plan for the Body, a New York Times best-seller. A graduate of the Wharton School of Business and a high school gym flunkout, he is now the owner of Solo Sessions Personal Fitness Training in Chicago. He also appears regularly on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Life Audit Hot Tip: Drink Milk, Lose Weight?

Dairy products are more than just an important source of calcium they may also be fat burners. Life Audit health and fitness expert Jim Karas says research shows that people who consume a lot of calcium rich dairy products in a reduced calorie diet will lose belly fat. Check out the studies at www.nationaldairycouncil.org.

GAME PLAN

No

Thinking rigorous cardiovascular exercise is the only way to lose weight and shape up.

Avoiding water and consuming high-sodium foods.

Snacking on chips, crackers and dips.

Feeling guilty that exercise takes time away from family.

Yes

Strength and resistance training is vital to fitness success, especially for moms and women 40 and older.

Water matters. Drink more of it and avoid foods that sabotage hydration.

Calories add up, even when the crackers are small. Try dipping carrots in lo-cal dressing instead.

Take pride in your health. It teaches kids a valuable lesson and lets you get more from the time you do spend with them.

WE NEED YOU! Got some room to improve? Get free advice from the experts on health and fitness, finance, work-life balance, entertaining, travel and wardrobe—plus your mug in this mag—with Life Audit, the Journal’s monthly lifestyle feature. It’s fun, fast and free. If you would like to participate in a future Life Audit, please e mail Jill Schachner Chanen at chanenj@staff.abanet.org.

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