Motivated by the desire to regain strength and confidence after the birth of her second child, DuJour Editor-in-Chief Nicole Vecchiarelli enlisted the help of trainer and Golden Glove-winning boxing champion Ngo Okafor to put her through the wringer. She completed grueling workouts for 30 days while eating as cleanly as possible. Here, she tells her story.
It’s a tale as old as time that it’s a woman’s nature to put other people ahead of herself. During the week, I didn’t feel as challenged when it came to eating well because I’m on a schedule and I’m in my office. But the second the weekend comes, my time is not my own. Suddenly, I haven’t eaten, I’m starving and I’m at a kid’s birthday party where the only food is pizza and ice cream. Or I think, oh we have to go to this restaurant because my little girl will eat there, and, let’s be honest, it’s usually not sushi. But Ngo told me that you’re a better person for everyone around you if you’re putting yourself first.
It’s a little harder for a nearly 40-year-old mother with a full-time job to lose the baby weight. When I had my first child I was closer to 35. I lost that weight and don’t remember it being nearly this difficult. Then I started at DuJour as editor-in-chief and I gained back some of the weight because I was working so much and wasn’t exercising—and then I got pregnant again.
Post-pregnancy, I was motivated by wanting get my confidence back. I worked out when I was pregnant, but not like this. With the baby now eight months old, it’s been two years since I’ve been at the level that I was used to, and it’s psychologically very daunting. Maybe it’s common for women to think, why even bother starting when I know I’m going to be bad at it?
But I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t destroyed the first time we worked out. I was sore the next day and tired afterwards, but I think Ngo eased me into it on purpose. Psychologically, it was helpful. I think if I were wrecked after the first day, it would be really hard to motivate myself for 29 more days.
So I wasn’t dead from the workouts necessarily, but I was starving. Ngo assured me that the feeling wouldn’t last forever and that I had to make sure I wasn’t undoing all my hard work at the gym by eating twice as many calories when I got home. He’s a big proponent of calorie counting apps or programs like Weight Watchers, which is what I started to do.
Midway through the second week, I got over the shock, and he said that I needed to start coming in 30 minutes early to do cardio before the workout. I would run, walk at a steep incline or hop on the elliptical, slowing increasing the resistance after each minute.
I weighed myself for the first time at the start of the third week, and even though my jeans were going on more easily, I’d only lost two pounds. I was so upset, but Ngo told me it was actually a good thing because it meant that I was gaining muscle at a steady rate. He emphasized that I had to be patient because after week three there was going to be a dramatic drop off—and there was! All of a sudden after the fourth week I’d lost an additional ten pounds.
Overall, the time commitment was difficult, but it wasn’t as disruptive as I thought it might be. It’s probably a very commonplace thing for a working mom to think, I like to work out, but now it always falls to the bottom of the list because I should either be taking care of my kids or working. So this taught me that if you’re very regimented about your scheduling, even with kids and a demanding job, you can find the time.
I also signed up for my second marathon—the first being about 10 years ago—so other than just challenging myself, I wanted to build up confidence to do that and get a bit of a kick-start before I went on my first run. And I did go on my first longer run after these four weeks were over and I ran six miles! I mean, I ran it slowly, but I did it.