Stephanie Jones is a motivational speaker, talking to people about the benefits of generosity.
She's motivating them in other ways as well.
Jones recently lost a significant amount of weight and dropped a few clothes sizes, the result of months of hard work exercising with a Valparaiso personal trainer.
"My goal is to be a role model from the stage to show you can live a busy life, but still make and find time to take care of yourself and be healthy," said Jones, 40, of Valparaiso, who works in sales by day but is an author, motivational speaker and life coach by night. She is known as "The Giving Gal," and her 2016 book, "The Giving Challenge," outlines how to live a more generous, and thus more fulfilling, life.
She started her weight-loss journey last July. She was in Alaska to do motivational speaking when, one day, she couldn't get out of bed. Her doctor told her her cortisol and adrenal levels were out of whack. She didn't like the way she was fitting in her clothes.
"I was running myself ragged," she recalled. "I'm a stress eater. I'm a sugar addict. I wanted to get that under control. I wanted to lose weight, tone up and eat healthy."
A few months earlier, she had recorded a podcast with Zach Lloyd, a Valparaiso personal trainer. She asked if he'd help her. He took her on as a client.
She has since lost 16 pounds. Her clothes size dropped to a 4 from a 6.
"I carried a lot of weight in my stomach," she said. "I've lost that muffin top. I feel comfortable in T-shirts and sweaters."
"I saw my mile time drop, increased my speed and cardio," she added. "I can lift more. I've also seen my hormones balance out. I was losing hair, had trouble sleeping. My joints were aching. All that stuff is gone."
Jones and Lloyd do weight training together. They work on strengthening her back and correcting her posture. They try to get more protein and probiotics into her diet.
"It's the accountability," she said. "I check in with him on food. He always says, 'How's eating going?' He does measurement checks. That keeps me on track."
He encouraged her to eat slower and stop eating when she's 80 percent full, noting that it takes 20 minutes for the body to alert the brain that it's satiated. He preaches sticking to the following portion sizes for each meal: a palm of protein, a cupped palm of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains or beans, a fist of fruits and vegetables, and a thumb of fat. He told her to drink half her body weight in ounces per day, and take a multivitamin and Omega 3 fish oil daily.
"It was more of building habits and having these habits stick with her the rest of her life so she can maintain weight loss and stay healthy," he said, noting that it takes seven to 14 days for someone to pick up a habit.
They workout together twice a week, while she exercises most other days on her own.
"We try to train our clients to take what they've learned and take it home, to their home or gym," Lloyd said. "We want to make it a healthy lifestyle, not just a revolving door."
He said Jones' story can serve as an inspiration to women, that they can lose weight without relying on yo-yo or Hollywood diets.
Jones hopes to stay in as good of shape as one important woman in her life: her mom, who is 60 and still running marathons.
"I want to continue to improve," Jones said.
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Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.
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