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Published January 31, 2013, 11:36 PM

Holt: Accountability, yoga key to Moorhead woman’s progress

MOORHEAD – For 10 years, being overweight diminished the joyous occasions in Jen DeMaio’s life. She enjoyed professional successes, she got married, she had two children. But she wasn’t happy with how she felt about herself and how she looked to the outside world.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

MOORHEAD – For 10 years, being overweight diminished the joyous occasions in Jen DeMaio’s life.

She enjoyed professional successes, she got married, she had two children. But she wasn’t happy with how she felt about herself and how she looked to the outside world.

“It’s hard to look at pictures of my kids as babies because there I am, and I can just see the pain,” she says. “My 5-year-old will see a picture of me and say, ‘Who’s that?’ ”

The 39-year-old Moorhead woman first gained weight in her mid-20s when her parents were going through a divorce and she suffered a soccer injury.

“I never did much to modify my food or to really get at the deeper emotions that were leading me down that overeating path,” she says.

After her second son was born, Jen decided to get honest with herself. That honesty has helped carry her through the weight-loss process and give her newfound “emotional freedom.”

She started journaling her food intake, increased her exercise and joined Weight Watchers, which gave her the tools she needed to control her overeating and the setting she needed to verbalize her emotions.

“I knew that’s how I process, and I needed that camaraderie,” she says.

Jen lost 20 pounds before plateauing for two and a half years.

“Weight loss is not an easy gig, especially if you’re willing to delve into your patterns and your habits,” she says.

When her 20-year high school reunion was approaching, she decided to give it another try, this time with more of a focus on personal accountability.

Jen, co-owner of Two Turtles Acupuncture Center in Moorhead, wanted to better align the ideals she taught her clients with her own personal reality.

She created a list of seven things she’d do every day to take care of herself, like eating four to six servings of vegetables.

“That doesn’t mean I enjoy (eating vegetables),” she says with a laugh.

She didn’t completely eliminate sugar from her diet, but she drastically reduced it by focusing on other food groups and learning to treat food as nourishment for the body and mind instead of a response to emotion.

She treats herself to dessert once a week, and although she craves sugar the next day, she’s able to talk herself out of it until the following week.

“Life without getting something at Nichole’s (Fine Pastry) would be really sad for me,” she says.

The changes she implemented showed on the scale and the mat.

“As I dropped even 10 pounds, I started noticing I could do things in yoga that I hadn’t been able to do, and I’ve been practicing since ’95,” she says.

The yoga took her progress to another level by giving her a “sanctuary” in which to process her emotions.

“If the desire to overeat kind of started to set in, I could be like, ‘You know what, I need to walk away from the table, and I can go do some yoga.’”

Now she shares the practice with others in her own studio, welcoming people of all shapes and sizes to come as they are.

“I’m passionate about helping others feel comfortable in their skin and deepening their level of honesty with themselves,” she says.

Acupuncture and medicinal herbs have also helped curb her cravings and boost her mood, energy level and metabolism.

“I always tell people acupuncture’s not going to be the thing that gets you to lose all the weight, but it’s a great tool to have in the process,” the licensed acupuncturist says.

Since Jen hit her goal weight in June 2012, she’s had to adjust her mindset to maintenance rather than loss.

“Maintaining weight’s a different thing, especially for someone who’s not used to being smaller,” she says.

She’s gradually learning to trust that she can manage her weight through normal fluctuations.

Now about 60 pounds lighter, Jen says she feels more “present” in her life.

“I find that I’m more playful, that I feel happier, and I think it has to do with that level of honesty, like I’m not pretending to be something that I’m not,” she says.

Do you have a weight-loss story to tell? Email me at mholt@forumcomm.com.


Forum reporter Meredith Holt has lost 105 pounds since May 2010. She will share stories of her weight-loss journey in her column, which runs the first and third Friday of each month in SheSays. Readers can reach her at (701) 241-5590.

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