Vanessa Troyer is a busy lady. Not only is she the CEO of Architectural Mailboxes, LLC, in Redondo Beach, CA, she is also mom to two daughters, ages 12 and 18. A few years ago, Troyer started a weight loss regimen and lost 100 pounds. And a funny thing happened along the way: the entire family lost weight with her– a total of more than 155 pounds.
“I was very concerned about my youngest daughter who was headed down a path where she was going to be struggling with weight like I was,” says Troyer, 46. “I felt I could not tell her to eat less or healthier until I showed her that you can eat yummy meals and be healthy and maintain a healthy weight. Our focus has not been on weight loss but overall health and creating a lifestyle that promotes health and well being. For lack of a better phrase, we wanted to create for our family “a well balanced life.”
So here is what she did:
* She created several excel spreadsheets with weekly meal plans listing calories. She rotates the meals so the family doesn’t get bored of eating the same thing over and over.
* She adapts recipes that are high in calories by swapping ingredients to make them healthy. “We have made quiches that are absolutely savory and cut the calories and fat in half,” she says. “We do the same with desserts and muffins.”
* Her youngest daughter has joined a swim club and is swimming three nights a week for two hours, and her oldest daughter does yoga at home with a free online class. Both Troyer and her husband work out at a local gym a few times a week and walk to the beach every weekend morning (about two miles).
Here are some more of Vanessa’s tips:
What’s the top food-related change you made in your house?
I removed all foods that were high in fat, sugar, and carbohydrates. I created a weekly menu planner with the caloric intake for each item, breaking it down by the actual ingredient. This way they could exchange for another item if they preferred to eat something not on the list. For example, they could exchange two whole-wheat pitas (159 calories each) instead of the whole-wheat bagel (140 calories) on that day’s breakfast menu.
What was your biggest challenge?
Restaurant meals and birthday parties where the only offerings are snacks, pizza, or greasy fries.
How did you overcome it?
We decided that each week the kids could have a splurge meal. This allowed them to “save face” at parties, not feel deprived, and not have to explain anything about their food choices. To our pleasant surprise, once the girls started eating healthier they didn’t enjoy some of the junk food they had eaten previously.
What’s your favorite healthy recipe?
We make Greek Tacos often during the week as it is filling and quick. We use veggie crumbles, toast a whole wheat pita, cut in half and stuff each side with 4 ounces of veggie meat, 2 tablespoons of tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber, garlic sauce), chopped tomatoes, roasted peppers and fat-free feta cheese.
What do you wish someone had told you about healthy eating?
I wish I knew how many calories I was eating. At one point in my life I would drive through McDonalds every morning on my way into work and order the Sausage McGriddle breakfast sandwich — a whopping 420 calories (200 from fat) and 22 grams of fat! I now will drive through only if traveling and if McDonald’s is my only choice, I’ll order a Fruit and Yogurt Parfait (7 ounce) 130 calories (20 from fat) and 2 grams of fat.
What else would you like to change in your own life or your family’s?
I would like us to be more active on a daily basis and not just weekends. Not only does it allow more quality family time away from electronics, but you get a bonus as you get to work off calories and stress! A boring exercise program can be viewed as a punishment or dreaded chore to kids being asked to work out. But throwing a Frisbee at the beach after dinner is something the entire family enjoys and can really work up a sweat when played on the sand.
What was the most important way you helped your daughters with their weight issues?
We only spoke of weight as an indicator pointing to our overall health and well being. We never said anything about appearance or self-esteem, but we did not dismiss it at the same time. Now more than ever, girls measure their self worth by their appearance – sad but very true. The media does a good job of making sure that girls who are heavier than the televised ideal feel inadequate. It’s truly a shame that they do not cast girls who represent what most real girls look like. As parents, we also lead by example. We worked out, ate right, and felt better when taking care of our health. It is harder to eat poorly when everyone around you is conscientious about their eating.
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