“I found balance’and shed 7.5 inches of baby weight.”

Stress and lack of sleep were preventing Shannon Willis from losing her baby weight. Organizing her life’and limiting her engagements’helped her get the balance back

Source: Web exclusive: September 2009

Shannon Willis, 31, played ‘competitive everything’ in school. She was on the volleyball team, the basketball team and a national fastball team. ‘I was in fairly decent shape,’ says the Ajax Ont.-based paramedic. ‘Then I had a baby.’ Months passed after her daughter arrived in 2006, and Willis found she couldn’t shake any of the 30 extra post-baby pounds she was carrying around.

The breaking point

I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t losing weight," Willis says. "I was doing five fitness classes a week at the local community centre.’ Willis, who is a healthy eater, was also under a lot of stress. In addition to caring for a newborn (and squeezing in five fitness classes a week), she was maid of honour for a friend, and helping out her ill mother. When she found out that her Pilates instructor, Melissa West, was a lifestyle coach, she decided to give it a try.

The challenge

To find out what’s preventing her from losing baby weight.

The plan

Willis filled out a questionnaire from West and learned that her two problem areas were lack of sleep and stress. ‘I was stressed because I wasn’t sleeping. I was up every two hours every night feeding.’ She tried the Ferber Method (weaning a child from external comfort in the night), and within three days she and her baby were getting eight hours of sleep every night. More importantly, Willis scaled back her social life to manageable levels. ‘I realized I had way too much on my plate. I was always doing something for everybody else.’ She dropped to three fitness classes a week and cleared her social calendar.

The biggest obstacle

Having a child changes your lifestyle dramatically, says Willis. ‘You can’t just pick up and go.’ She had to learn how to adjust to that, which meant saying no to people and putting herself and her family first. Today, Willis only makes two social commitments a week and tries to keep her weekend open.

The results

‘As soon as I got sleep and eliminated stress, the weight just came off.’ Within six months of sticking to her plan, Willis had shed all 30 pounds. After the birth of her second child this year, Willis had put on the same amount of weight but this time, she says, ‘I know I have the tools I need. I have to look at the things I have accomplished, not the things that I haven’t.’ For example, Willis set a goal to run in a 5K race before her daughter turned one. ‘I accomplished that goal. Now I set a new goal to run a 5K next month far before my son’s first birthday.’

The tips

Find accountability
For Willis, a weekly phone call with her lifestyle coach was just the kind of accountability measure she needed to stick to her fitness goals.

Make exercise a routine
‘I’ve never been a gym person,’ says Willis. Instead, she finds easy ways to fit exercise into her daily schedule, such as a 40-minute power walk to the grocery store.

Just say no
‘I don’t pack my schedule. If I can’t do something, I just say, sorry I can’t do it.’

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