Jackie Roberts stands on the elliptical trainer in the basement of the Port Alberni home she shares with her husband and two children. — J.R. Rardon photo

Jackie Roberts stands on the elliptical trainer in the basement of the Port Alberni home she shares with her husband and two children. — J.R. Rardon photo

Mother of two rises to weight-loss challenge

Former Qualicum Beach woman finds success with like-minded community

This is the third part in a series of articles in which The NEWS examines weight loss and its associated health issues. Look for the concluding piece in next Thursday’s Spotlight.

Related: Part I: Weight loss a challenge of mind over matter

Even before she had children, Jackie Roberts had struggled with her weight. That struggle was compounded when she gave birth to her second child in 2016 to find she had not only extra baby weight, but the baby, too.

That’s why her discovery of the Nanaimo-based Healthy Role Models program proved just the recipe for success.

“I thought, ‘I have nothing to lose; I’ll try this,’” said Roberts, 32, who had reached a lifetime high of 190 pounds following the birth of her daughter. “It sounded promising, and I could do it at home. I had a two-and-a-half-year-old and a six-month-old, so going to the gym was hard.”

Engaging in the community-based program, which blends nutrition and fitness with education and a peer support group, Noble successfully trimmed 28 inches and 30 pounds in a 12-week “journey” in the fall of 2016. A second HRM journey in the spring of 2017 trimmed another 15 pounds and another 12 inches combined across her hips, waist, navel and shoulders.

“The best part is, the program teaches you to do it for life, as a lifestyle,” said Roberts. “A lot of it is your mindset. You’re not restricting yourself entirely; it’s not a diet.”

Roberts, formerly Jackie Noble, grew up in Qualicum Beach and now lives in Port Alberni with her husband and two children. An active child, Roberts said she began to put on weight late in her teens as she became less active.

She enrolled at Vancouver Island University at age 23 and received her BA in physical education at age 28, but even with her interest in sport and fitness she found herself fluctuating between 170 and 175 pounds, well above her ideal weight of about 150.

“I never had a program, was never consistently at a good weight,” she said. “I had always been struggling with it. I’d go up, go back down, go up again.

“This (HRM) program is something I can finally do for life. It gave me structure, and it’s sustainable.”

Healthy Role Models was founded by Nanaimo’s Sarah Gilks, a trainer and coach whose business utilizes additional training staff along with a physiotherapist, a nutritionist and a meal-making and recipe consultant.

HRM also relies heavily on its “ambassadors,” women who have completed multiple journeys and have moved into mentor roles as Gilks’s business expanded from 20 primarily mid-Island clients in 2008 to 1,200 spread across the globe for the fall, 2016 journey taken by Roberts.

“They give you the tools you need: workout DVDs you can watch online and they show you proper form and technique; a Facebook group with all the women added where you can ask questions; and info packet, nutritional guidelines and recipes,” said Roberts. “In each community there are opportunities to get together with other people in the program and work out.”

Even with two kids at home, Roberts has always found working out to be the easiest component of keeping fit.

“I think the eating was harder for me,” she said. “I’m a mindless snacker; I love my food. Eating is something I’m probably going to work on for life.”

Now, however, Roberts is working with a new level of education on the keys to healthy eating — and the reassuring knowledge that it’s not necessary to sacrifice favourite foods forever.

“It’s just cutting down,” she said. “Everything in moderation, is basically what they teach you. It’s not restricting anything, depending on your goals. I mean, I’m not going to go my whole life without cake.”

Barry Tuck, owner of Yates Funeral Services in Parksville and Port Alberni, learned a similar lesson through his own consultations with McKinnon Health Solutions of Qualicum Beach.

Related: Part II: Lifestyle change key to keeping off pounds

Unlike Roberts, the 55-year-old Yates was struggling with additional health impacts from his extra weight, including high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels, and had reached an age at which those pounds had become a risk factor for heart disease and other ailments.

Like Roberts, he learned that proper nutrition as a lifestyle choice can still include some of his indulgences, though he has learned to purge others without a second thought.

“If you like beer or wine, you’re not realistically going to quit,” he said. “But you can realistically have one, and not four or five. Because of my education, a lot of my (cravings) went away, because my habits changed. I was a pop drinker like crazy; now I don’t have a desire for it. I was a big ice-cream eater; I don’t want it.”

When Roberts finished her second Healthy Role Models journey last summer, she said, it had become her new lifestyle. She stuck with its dietary and fitness routines through the summer while looking forward to enrolling in the fall 2017 journey.

Then, in August, she found out she was pregnant with her third child. A persistent battle with morning sickness has knocked her off her routine, she admits, but she is already looking forward, after the new baby’s arrival in May, to joining the HRM program this fall.

“I was feeling down I couldn’t do this last journey, being sick,” she said. “But I have those tools and know I’ve done it before. It’s given me tools for life so I can always bounce back.”

In the meantime, Roberts and her husband, who recently moved into a new home, are converting their downstairs suite into a workout room with free weights and an elliptical machine, so she’ll be ready.

“This coming fall will be more challenging with three kids,” she said with a laugh. “It will be a whole new level of challenge, I think.”