SOMEONE TO BE PROUD OF
That’s what Denise Poag wanted to be to her daughters. Now she’s sharing how she gained the determination to overhaul her lifestyle.
At the age of 40, Denise Poag was lacking confidence and feeling ashamed of her body. Having reached her peak weight of 260 pounds, she also worried that she wasn’t setting the best example for her two daughters. Denise took the leap of joining a gym and hiring a coach to set up her meal plan and workout regimen. Her goal was to recover her lost confidence—and to fit into her wedding dress again. “Keeping my determination was one of my biggest challenges,” Denise admits. “It was tough to believe in myself, and to believe that I was worth this investment. ”In addition to the emotional challenges of embarking on a fitness journey, Denise faced practical issues like overcoming the plateaus of dieting and struggling with sticking to a meal plan at social events. She reflects that planning ahead was the lifestyle change that contributed most to her success. She always planned her meals and took them with her wherever she was going. “Whether it was at work, running errands, or visiting with family or friends, my meal bag was always packed and ready to go,” she says. Being prepared helped ease the temptation to cheat when healthy options would have been difficult to find.
Over the course of seven years, Denise found her secret weapon—a high-protein diet—and dropped more than 100 pounds. The journey may not have been quick, but it helped her find a sustainable routine. “My advice would be to find what works for you and keep doing it,” she shares. “Not every diet works for everyone, so find out what you can stick to and just do it! ”Denise hit a turning point when she ran her first obstacle race. “My team consisted of me, my two daughters, and some of their friends,” she remembers. “I was 48 years old at the time, and my daughters and their friends were in their early 20s. I was leading our group through the whole event and felt so fantastic after the race ended. This race made me realize I was good enough to keep up with 20-year-olds. I felt so strong physically and felt so accomplished too. ”By challenging herself mentally and physically, Denise found out what she was capable of and regained her self-confidence. “I give myself credit for being the best I can be,” she says.
“Now, I can accept compliments when they’re given.” Denise thinks the biggest benefit of her lifestyle is how proud she made her children. “They are so happy for me and what I have achieved,” she exclaims. “I feel like they can look up to me, and like I’m being a good example of how determination, can help you reach your best self. ”My journey is still going—and always will be, if I want to be successful,” Denise admits. “I think what keeps me successful is that I’ve adopted a new way of life. It’s not a diet, it’s a series of healthy lifestyle choices. You can always allow yourself to have those treats, but just get back on the course. ”Through diet and exercise, Denise was able to work on herself and become a person that she and her children could be proud of. Oh, and that wedding dress? It’s now a bit big on her.
DENISE AT A GLANCE
GO-TO HEALTHY SNACK
This is always changing, but right now it’s mini caramel rice cakes.
FAVE SPLURGE FOOD
A nice glass of red wine.
BEST EASY-TO-MAKE RECIPE
Blending cooked squash with spices and water to make a quick soup.
The Stair Master is a horrible machine that produces great results.
Photos By MARK RUDDICK Follow (@MARK_RUDDICK)