NILOU JONES: To Surprise Her Soldier, Part II - The Daily Progress: Lifestyles

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NILOU JONES: To Surprise Her Soldier, Part II

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Posted: Saturday, March 18, 2006 7:45 pm | Updated: 5:53 pm, Thu Jan 24, 2013.

Intro

Nilou Jones hopes that when her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Charles Jones, returns from Iraq next spring, he'll be seeing less of her.

A lot less.

The Charlottesville mother of two is determined to lose 100 pounds before her husband, who works in U.S. Army intelligence, returns in late May or early June from his assignment on a transition team in Mosul, Iraq, where he's advising Iraqi soldiers.

Back at home, Nilou Jones, like most Americans, is fighting a battle of her own in a culture filled with heaped buffet tables, generously packaged snacks and car-friendly conveniences that trim activity from everyday life - all against the backdrop of frequent medical news stories about the need to shape up and slim down.

"I've got this story that all of America has at this point,'' she said. I need this for my health and well-being.''

And with previous cases of heart attacks and diabetes in her family, ?I'm just a sitting target,'' she said.

Jones, 31, has two other compelling reasons - sons Cyrus, who turned 3 on July 5, and Arman, who turned 1 on July 1.

"I have to keep up with them,'' Jones said in her tidy living room while the boys played energetically around her. "They're running faster than I am, and that's not a good sign.''

So she decided to lose 100 pounds, aiming for a goal weight of 150 to 155 on her 5-foot, 7-inch frame. She wanted to use foods from the grocery store and the right types and duration of exercise to create a sustainable, sensible weight loss and a healthy, active lifestyle that can pay off for years to come.

Since starting on her quest July 20, Jones has lost about 18 pounds. Jones started her project by doing lots of research into nutrition and exercise. From the beginning, she knew she wanted to skip trendy diets.

"I just want to avoid faddish things and just use common sense,'' she said.

Nilou

If Nilou Jones wants to look more fly, she needs to master the fly.

In the center of a cluster of free-motion machines, Jones lifts the handles of two black resistance cords. With smooth, fluid strokes, Jones pulls the cords into her chest and then spreads her arms wide.

“Remember posture - chest is up. Squeeze together,’’ said Jen Cote, Jones’s trainer. “Nice work. Now give me four more.’’

Cote motions Jones to another machine in the Gold’s Gym circuit. The second station already is set up for rowing. Jones slips her fingers around another set of rubbery red handles, but this time she’ll be working her back muscles as she pulls the handles close to her sides.

“I need more ‘Baywatch,’ ’’ Cote says, as she and Jones giggle.

The reference to the television series rippling with sculpted lifeguards has the desired effect. Jones lifts and straightens her upper back, and her shoulders glide back in a clean motion.

“It’s like she’s starting two lawnmowers. That gets the lats [latissimus dorsi muscles],’’ Cote said.

Each chest and back exercise is inching Jones closer to her goal of losing 100 pounds before her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Charles Jones, who works in U.S. Army intelligence, returns next summer from his transition team in Mosul, Iraq.

Since starting her journey July 20, Jones has lost 32 pounds - 14 of those in the past month.

The busy mother of sons Cyrus, 3, and Arman, 1, is trying to combine a sensible exercise program with healthy dietary changes to lose the weight in a steady, sustainable way, and she has invited The Daily Progress’ readers along on her quest.

Part of this month’s progress has come from interval training under Cote’s guidance. Instead of spending a long time on one specific exercise and taking the risk that muscles will become too efficient, Jones moves from one machine to the next in snappy sequence, all to build lean muscle mass to burn more calories.

“Interval training is one of the quickest ways to get you to progress,’’ Cote said. “With Nilou, I want to keep it interesting for her. I want to keep it fresh. Nilou’s getting stronger, so she’s able to do more and more.’’

The next stop is a stationary bicycle. Jones starts pedaling away, but it’s all uphill from here. With a few quick beeps of a button on the bike’s console, Cote has bumped up the difficulty level.

“When we go back and forth to the bike, I have her going uphill,’’ she said.

Team spirit comes through in the steady flow of good-natured ribbing.

“We made a connection from day one,’’ Cote said. “That’s key. You’ve got to have that trust.’’

“I’ve got a good cheering section, and that’s a big factor,’’

Jones said. “She’s so warm, and her personality is so bright.’’

That’s not to say it’s all fun and games. Walking the walk is tougher than talking the talk, particularly on the treadmill.

“I’m working my tail off,’’ Jones said with a chuckle. “Sometimes you just think, ‘Oh, how much longer?’

“I just keep envisioning the final me.’’

Exercise

She is enjoying a step aerobics class that offers an intense calorie burn - and a stimulating new source of support for an otherwise solitary exerciser.

“You get to meet people in the step class who are cheering each other on,’’ Jones said.

“She’s a diva in the making,’’ Cote said affectionately, as they both laughed. “I’m proud of her branching out and trying the classes.’’

Adding to the bond between trainer and client is a sense of shared experiences. Cote’s two children were small when she started her own weight-loss program, and she grew so fond of fitness that she eventually became a trainer herself.

“I was right where she seems to be,’’ Cote said. “But I started with my diet first. I was too shy to come into a gym. Nilou is much more brave than I was.’’

Bravery, for Jones, meant staring down her own stereotypes about gym users.

Jones hadn’t joined a gym before because she felt intimidated - just like many of us - and shared many of the same fears.

Won’t everyone in there have washboard abs, dancers’ legs and achingly perfect form on all the machines? Won’t they look serene and unruffled in designer athletic togs while sweat’s drenching my sloppy sweatshirt? Won’t I be the only one in the room who looks “rode hard and put up wet” - that is, at least until someone recognizes me for the impostor I am and reintroduces me to the sidewalk outside?

Sometimes it’s wonderful to be wrong.

“It’s such a warm, welcoming environment,’’ Jones said.

“Nobody is looking at anyone else. Never have I felt a critical eye. You see the young, cute college girls, and you see the grandmothers. The people at the front desk know you by name.’’

Jones was heartened to see all different shapes and sizes of folks hard at work on the machines near her, including people who worked out diligently in spite of disabilities or healing injuries.

Age didn’t matter. A little jiggle here and there wasn’t a crime. Her no-nonsense T-shirt-and-shorts wardrobe was just fine.

To her delight, she fit right in.

While the body is shrinking, the mind is outgrowing old ways of thinking, said Laura Jones, who is certified as a health/fitness instructor by the American College of Sports Medicine and is a research associate for the University of Virginia Psychology Department. She writes a fitness column for The Daily Progress. (Nilou Jones and Laura Jones aren’t related.)

“Trying something new is the hardest thing in the world,’’ Laura Jones said.

Laura Jones said she understands why people can be intimidated by the idea of joining a gym.

In decades past, “usually, only fit people went to the gym,’’ she said. “You didn’t get older people or deconditioned people. I think the gym industry has changed a lot in the past 20 years.

If you’re only going to cater to the fit people, you aren’t going to have a market.’’

Food

Nilou's recent celebratory spread was a mouth-watering minefield dotted with fried chicken, pasta vinaigrette, potato salad, baked beans, parmesan-topped bread, birthday cake and banana pudding, among other temptations. Counting carbohydrates would have required advanced mathematics.

“I literally took one spoonful - whatever fit in that spoon, even if it was only five pieces of pasta,’’ she said. “I spread it around the plate so it looked, by illusion, full.’’

Jones said she came away satisfied. She got a taste of everything, including birthday cake, and she didn’t feel deprived. Even better, she was able to keep her focus where it belonged - on the people she’s fond of and the fun they were having, instead of on what she wasn’t going to be able to eat.

While Jones has been hard at work reshaping her body, she also has been changing attitudes and thought patterns. Though rewarding, it’s a lot of world-view wrangling to grapple with all at once.

Laura Jones reflected on the whole idea of making significant changes. Many of us have lower chaos thresholds than others, and all of us want to put the brakes on sometimes.

If too many things are in flux at once, take a few minutes to enjoy something in your life that hasn’t changed - story time with your children, for instance. Or meditation, or fishing, or tackling the crossword puzzle, or spiritual or religious study - something that means peace and relaxation to you.

“Everybody’s afraid of the unknown, whether it’s good or bad,’’ Laura Jones said.

“If you get scared, even if you can’t identify it as fear, if it’s overwhelming, find something familiar in the rest of your life, some continuity.

“You’re not changing who you are. You’re changing what you do.’’

Inspiration

Nilou's recent celebratory spread was a mouth-watering minefield dotted with fried chicken, pasta vinaigrette, potato salad, baked beans, parmesan-topped bread, birthday cake and banana pudding, among other temptations. Counting carbohydrates would have required advanced mathematics.

“I literally took one spoonful - whatever fit in that spoon, even if it was only five pieces of pasta,’’ she said. “I spread it around the plate so it looked, by illusion, full.’’

Jones said she came away satisfied. She got a taste of everything, including birthday cake, and she didn’t feel deprived. Even better, she was able to keep her focus where it belonged - on the people she’s fond of and the fun they were having, instead of on what she wasn’t going to be able to eat.

While Jones has been hard at work reshaping her body, she also has been changing attitudes and thought patterns. Though rewarding, it’s a lot of world-view wrangling to grapple with all at once.

Laura Jones reflected on the whole idea of making significant changes. Many of us have lower chaos thresholds than others, and all of us want to put the brakes on sometimes.

If too many things are in flux at once, take a few minutes to enjoy something in your life that hasn’t changed - story time with your children, for instance. Or meditation, or fishing, or tackling the crossword puzzle, or spiritual or religious study - something that means peace and relaxation to you.

“Everybody’s afraid of the unknown, whether it’s good or bad,’’ Laura Jones said.

“If you get scared, even if you can’t identify it as fear, if it’s overwhelming, find something familiar in the rest of your life, some continuity.

“You’re not changing who you are. You’re changing what you do.’’

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