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Real Women Series: How a mother of four lost 100 pounds by making more time for herself

Like many women, Deb Puumala attributes much of the weight gain in her life to the stress and business of school, work and raising a family. While many working moms live around their children’s schedules, Puumala was dealt further challenges when her son was diagnosed with cancer, followed by her daughter’s diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. After two years of living life between doctor’s appointments, she knew it was time to get back on track and set aside time for her own health.

She found the motivation and inspiration she needed through Get In Shape for Women, a franchise of studios that offer small group personal training sessions, nutritional counseling and coaching for a healthy lifestyle. In addition to these services, women involved with this program set goals and work to meet challenges offered to them by the company.

Puumala explains how this program of exercise and diet changes helped her decide to stop making excuses – a decision that helped her shed 100 pounds to reveal a more energized, less stressed mom.

Q. What was the turning point for you when you knew it was time to make a healthy change?

A. I had many years of dieting and different programs that got me started but never kept me motivated. On January 25, 2011, I transferred to a new position at work and my hours increased. I made a decision to add myself to our family schedule and get some “me” time to work out after the February break.

I joined a weight loss class at the YMCA. The program had us on teams and my team didn’t take the workouts very seriously or even the weigh-ins. I knew I wanted to push through every minute of my workout. The others would be talking and socializing and I wanted more. Two weeks into the class I started looking for more classes but felt lost and didn’t have the right guidance to make my own workout schedule.

I wanted more personal training and looked further into other programs. I found Get In Shape For Women and tried out a free week. I loved the atmosphere and how focused everyone was to work out and how challenged I was during the workouts – not everything is easy the first time around. I was hooked after the first week. It was everything I was looking for.

Q. What were some of the initial roadblocks you faced?

A. My roadblocks in life had been like most others’. I got busy with school, babies and working. Time management for me was taking care of everyone else’s schedules.

My life was pretty good up until my son was diagnosed with cancer. It put me and my family into a whole new world and nothing I did was for me for almost two years. The life of my child felt like it rested in my hands, trusting our team of doctors. Moving forward on a day to day basis was the new way of thinking.

When I returned to work, I had my hours cut and somehow that was okay since most of my energy was still [in] taking care of my family. We finally got to a place when I thought we were back to an almost normal life, when my youngest daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. So another year passed dealing with medical issues and adjusting. It just seemed like I lived with the doctors and check-ins. It became quite routine. I just accepted that this was my family’s new “normal” and I managed to deal with life as exactly that.

Q. What was it about Get In Shape For Women that helped you stay on track?

A. Get In Shape For Women guided me toward a healthy menu. Walking into the program, I decided that my food choices in life gave me the body I have and if I wanted it to change, then I would have to find the right foods to do it.

My goal from day one was to try as many foods and recipes out there to give me variety and healthy eating. I must say I was very conscientious about reading labels and comparing the protein and calories on different brands. I kept a food journal and weighed in every week.

My trainers always changed up my workout. They kept me going with positive energy and always praised me for trying my best. There were also incentives from the corporate headquarters, like their 12-week challenges. I found my calendar and counted down each week and wrote in all my appointments for my workouts. This allowed me a short term goal and possibly a prize for doing my best. I lost 47 pounds in the first 12 weeks. I believe I came in third out of 90-plus locations [that were also participating in the challenge]. I wasn’t sad at all – I actually couldn’t believe how well I had done in such a short time. I changed my goal to lose 70 pounds. My original goal was 40.

Q. How do you manage motherhood and your personal fitness and health goals?

A. My children are 6,11,15 and 16 yrs old. My life is balanced because I choose to not make excuses and started putting myself on the schedule. All of my children play sports. As soon as I have their schedule, I mark it on the calendar. I fill in my workouts based around their needs. I love the 6 a.m. workouts, since it gets my day off to a good start. I also have the support of my husband and friends. I feel like I’m less stressed and more energized.

Q. What is the first step a woman should take if she were in your position?

A. When you are truly ready to change … make the decision to transform. Plan your food and stick with it. I always have a cooler if I know I won’t be home for many hours. I make sure I have emergency protein bars or shakes in the car. Try out other activities that you haven’t done or ever tried before. I love boxing classes and boot camp. I even signed up with one of my trainers to run my first 5K.

Q. If a woman were to fall off the wagon a bit in terms of fitness and health goals, what advice would you give to help her get back on track?

A. Life goes on, and every choice you make leads you down a new path. Sometimes there’s a real roadblock, but usually there’s just excuses. Put yourself in a place to empower yourself so you can feel good about yourself and [realize that] having a bad day or two is okay. You do get one free day every week.

Check in with your trainers or have a nutrition [consultation] if you need motivation or new ideas. I loved getting recipes or info on products I never heard of before from these consults. Ever heard of flaxseed?

Q. Are you still super-strict in terms of diet and workouts? How do you make these changes work with your lifestyle?

A. I feel like I’m not as strict with myself as I was during the challenges. I still love my workouts and continue with full force. My menu has changed a bit to add some treats, but I still go for higher protein, lower fat and plan out my work week menus. I still weigh in and take on any of the challenges that are offered. I am also walking the Avon Walk [for Breast Cancer] this year, 40 miles in two days. I still have goals for the year ahead, keeping on track, running more often and being the best role model for my kids.

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing