0413 Finding her fitness
Bluff Park mom Paige Hofer is living happier and healthier after losing weight, thanks in part to support from Hoover Fitness.
There are those for whom a healthy weight is one of life’s givens, no different than their height or natural hair color. Then there are those whose quest for a healthy weight is a lifelong journey, fraught with self-doubt and social consequences. Such was the case for Bluff Park mother of two Paige Hofer.
“Until about the second or third grade, I was your normal skinny kid, but then around that time as I look back on my school photos, it’s easy to see that I was getting heavier,” she said, recalling an incident where she was bullied by some boys in her neighborhood.
After these episodes, Hofer said she would retreat and eat, a habit that continued through high school, even though by then the bullying had long since ended.
“But I did have an ostrich’s headin-the-sand mentality,” she said. “I would think about my weight and tell myself, ‘I’m fine,’ ‘I’m okay,’ but then I also recognized that I didn’t like P.E. and I didn’t like sports because I did feel self-conscious.”
When she did work up the courage to exercise, Hofer encountered embarrassment. “I remember going to the Rec Center at (the University of) Alabama when I was a student there, and the first time I got on a StairMaster, I just sunk down to the ground.” It wasn’t until after college, when she was working in advertising for a Chicago-based pen manufacturer that Hofer started taking her weight loss seriously.
“A friend of mine was close to the point where she was going to get engaged, so she wanted to do Weight Watchers and she talked me into it. It was the fi rst time anyone had ever said to me, ‘Let’s lose weight.’”
Hofer gave it a shot, and within three weeks, she’d lost 10 pounds, which made her a believer. That 10 pounds eventually became 30, all from diet alone. When she added exercise to her routine, 30 became 90– inside of a year’s time. And then, life happened.
First, amidst the economic crash of 2001, she lost her job. Then, she came home to help take care of her parents – particularly her mother, who at a rather young age was facing numerous health issues. During this time, she began dating her eventual husband, Scott.
“Being home, my eating habits began to slide. My exercise started to slide. And then I met Scott, and what do you do when you start dating? You go out to eat a lot,” she said.
After they married, Hofer began a travel-intensive job that kept her on the road (and dining out) 80 percent of the time. Year over year, the weight slowly came back, and continued to creep upward after two pregnancies.
“After we had Will, our first, I was busy with him and with work; I didn’t want to go to the gym even though I could tell I’d gained the weight.”
Hofer acknowledged it was worse now that she’d experienced what life was like on the fit and active side.
“But then I had this baby, and he was so wonderful and the last thing I wanted to do was take him to the gym day care when he’s been at day care all day.”
She’d barely had time to think through the time conundrum before she discovered she was unexpectedly pregnant with her second baby. Post-delivery, Hofer was a mere eight pounds from the highest weight she’d ever been. Three and a half months later, her mother passed.
“She’d been overweight her entire life, as long as I can remember, and her weight had caused some unpleasant things to happen to her body. At one point in the hospital, she turned to me and said, ‘Paige, I never thought I would see myself like this at age 62.’”
Hofer said that those words repeated themselves, even though she kept trying to put it on the back burner in the midst of her grief. “I’d lost my mom at a young age, and I felt really cheated by that,” she said. “I wanted to do things with her, I wanted her to know my kids.”
That line of thinking gave Hofer the motivation she needed to leave a better legacy for her own sons. “I want to be here for my children and for my children’s children. I want to be active to do things with them.”
This time, Hofer took a more realistic pace than the rapid results lifestyle she embraced as a single woman in Chicago.
Finding that the Weight Watchers model no longer worked for her, Hofer purchase a heart monitor. She now focuses on the simple math of caloric intake versus caloric burn.
“Now, I am accountable to myself,” she said. “With Weight Watchers, I found that I could cheat the system with the points. I really had no idea how much I was actually consuming and how much I was burning.”
The next priority was finding a gym that could accommodate her lifestyle as a stay-at-home mom. She found what she was looking for in Jason Cerniglia’s Hoover Fitness, also located in Bluff Park.
“The people that work in the childcare room are really involved. They do activities together and the kids really like it.”
To maintain the results of what Hofer hopes is her second and final dramatic weight loss, she has made some realistic rules for herself.
“If I miss more than two days of exercise, I can come up with all kinds of mental reasons to miss it on days three, four and so on.”
She’s also more realistic about what’s fit to eat.
“The first time, I was single, and I could just focus on myself. I had time to measure everything and to focus on every lick, every bite, every taste. This time I wanted a more realistic lifestyle; I didn’t want to feel like I was constantly dieting,” she said.
So, nothing is off limits, but Hofer is loyal to her calories in, calories out model, and that is how she sets her limits.
“I’m just trying to balance things; it’s really just a budgeting of my calories.”