A photograph started Rod and Lorraine Hynes down the road to a combined 90-pound weight loss and a much healthier lifestyle.
Rod Hynes explains, "Last Christmas (2006), our daughter got a new cellphone with a camera in it. She took a picture of the two of us sitting on the couch in the living room. Once we saw the picture we said 'My God, we can't keep doing this.'"
Shortly after that photograph, they picked up a flyer for Simply For Life and soon made an appointment with Tara Antle, nutrition and wellness consultant with the program. After a slight hesitation about starting yet another weight-loss program, they signed up, and Antle got them on the path to eating in a healthier way.
The difference between this program and everything they had tried before was the level of education about food and how it affects the human body.
"We didn't know," says Rod, who lost 60 pounds between January and July of 2007. "I mean if someone had told me about the glycemic index a year ago, I wouldn't know but it was fit to eat, literally.
"(Now) ... we know why people need certain foods and why they need them at certain times. There are a lot of misconceptions about foods.
"We thought we were doing grand by skipping meals, or by not having snacks, but that's no good because you eat more."
Rod and Lorraine started out with weight-loss goals, but after they were on the plan for a while the numbers on the scale became less important, and they were more interested in the health benefits, the way their lives had changed because of healthier eating.
Lorraine, who has lost 30 pounds, explains, "I've gone from a size 22 to a 13. Big difference. I don't have to shop at plus size anymore. The saving there is tremendous - I can go now and buy a pair of $20 dress pants where before I had to go to specialty stores and pay 50 or 60 dollars."
Last year, Lorraine's doctor was concerned that she could become diabetic if she didn't change her diet. Once she started eating according to the plan Antle designed for her, her health improved dramatically.
"Six weeks after I started with Tara I went back and had the full blood work done again, all my levels were back into normal. She (her doctor) was no longer looking at me as borderline diabetic. My cholesterol came down drastically. She was really, really impressed with the way the numbers went, within six weeks."
Of course, changing your lifestyle involves some challenges, and in this case it was making time to prepare food in advance.
"It's hard in the beginning because you're not used to it," Rod acknowledges. "It was hard to change. The first month there were a lot of changes in how you do things."
But they are both used to it now, says Lorraine, and they spend a few hours each week making sure their food for the weeknights can be prepared quickly.
"We (have) a hot, healthy meal on the table within 15 minutes. And that's hard to do when you're working full time but not if you've got everything prepared, your veggies chopped and in containers in the fridge, your meat pre-cooked."
They work together on their food preparation and they encourage each other when the ordinary stresses of life make it a little harder to stick with their plan.
"There are all kinds of challenges but we haven't fallen into any old habits," says Rod. "I chalk it up, in a big part, to the fact that we are doing it together."
And Antle prepared them for small setbacks, reminding them that an episode of unhealthy eating doesn't ruin their whole new lifestyle.
As Rod explains, "If you did fall off the wagon, if you did pig out and eat half a cake on Tuesday, then you start again Wednesday morning. It's not the end of the world, you didn't gain all your weight back from that piece of cake."
Of course, Lorraine and Rod are supplementing their healthier eating plan by getting regular exercise, including going for walks together. The combination paid off when they took a vacation last summer.
"We've actually gained a lot from this (lifestyle change)," Rod says, "When we went on vacation last year, we walked around one day for 17 hours.
"Two years ago when we went on vacation, we couldn't walk 17 feet."
Their weight loss has been dramatic, but that is not the most important thing to them. They are enjoying the energy that comes from eating well, and the difference that taking control of their diet has made to their lives.
As Rod says, "It's given us our life back. It's not about just the weight loss, although that's great, but what it gives you is you feel good, you feel healthy and you feel better."
The glycemic index is a list of foods that have each been assigned a number that represents the amount of time it takes from when we eat a particular food item until it's absorbed in our body, causing a change or impact on our blood sugar levels.
Foods that are high on the glycemic index will cause our blood sugar levels to spike and drop within a short period of time. This causes us to feel tired, lethargic and increases our appetite.
When we eat foods that are lower on the glycemic index, our blood sugar levels are regulated, increasing our energy levels, controlling our hunger and providing a good preventative measure against diabetes.
Some advice on healthier eating from Tara Antle, Simply For Life
1) Get organized:
Plan your meals ahead of time. Make a list of foods to pick up at the local grocery store ... being pre-prepared and having healthy foods on hand for meals and snacks makes it easier to choose healthier options throughout the day.
Go back the basics, keep it simple ... choose fresh natural foods as opposed to processed or boxed foods.
2) Go slow:
To help maintain your muscle mass and make a permanent lifestyle change, it is recommended to aim for an average weight loss of between one or two pounds per week. Slower is better.
3) Get moving:
Exercise helps to increase your energy level; decrease stress levels and helps to control your weight. Do something you enjoy - have fun with it.
4) Get plenty of rest:
Chronic sleep loss may affect various components of metabolism that influence hunger and weight gain. Being tired also affects your mental ability to resist temptation.
5) Eat at regular intervals throughout the day:
Eating at regular time frames during the day will help to regulate your blood sugar levels, control your hunger and give you more energy.
6) Focus on your family and friends:
Socializing is about spending quality time with family and friends. Enjoy mealtimes together. Eat slowly ... enjoy your company, savour the flavour and texture of each dish and take small bites. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize that you're full, so taking it slow will help prevent you from overeating.
7) Don't overeat:
To prevent overeating at celebrations drink plenty of water before you eat, don't stand near a food-laden table and place food on a plate rather than eating straight from the buffet or napkin.
8) Water, water, water:
Water has many important roles in your body, in particular it helps to control weight, elevate water retention, helps to sustain proper muscle tone and helps rid the body of waste. Too little water is the No. 1 cause of daytime fatigue and drinking just one glass will shut down midnight hunger pains for most people. In general, it is recommended to drink two litres per day.
9) Be realistic:
Making a lifestyle change that's permanent is not an easy thing to do ... there are ups and downs and struggles in between. It involves challenging our own personal beliefs and value systems, letting go of old ideals and introducing new habits. It's amazing the deep down relationship and emotional connection we can sometimes have with food ... breaking up with these ties is a hard thing to do.
Set realistic goals for yourself, based on your own individual body type, activity level, medical conditions and age. Sometimes we look at others and think, "I want to be just like them." I often hear clients refer to friends who are thin and can eat whatever unhealthy foods they choose. Keep in mind that just because someone else might be thin, does not mean that they are healthy. Food and lifestyle choices impact more than just our waistline ... they impact our health, moods and energy levels.