With three kids, two jobs, and a husband working the night shift, Kaley Vandenberg is no stranger to stress and exhaustion. For a long time, she ate to feel better, and her poison of choice was often junk food. After turning 33, this recklessness caught up to her and she hit her heaviest weight at 240 pounds. Kaley stopped checking the scale after reaching that dreaded milestone, but she couldn’t ignore the fact that her joints were aching and act as simple as climbing the stairs left her winded. Something had to give.
As a naturally outgoing and fun individual, Kaley’s dissatisfaction with her looks were bringing her down and she privately pledged to make a lifestyle change. She began by taking up a challenging diet that helped kickoff her weight loss. But the challenge didn’t end in the kitchen: having never been particularly athletic, Kaley didn’t quite know where to start in the fitness department. She went to Jazzercise classes with a friend. She worked out at home to Beach Body videos. She took up pole dancing. Kaley was ambitious, but her body could not adjust fast enough for her liking.
A FEW SETBACKS
Then, as they say, disaster struck. Due to insufficient muscle mass, Kaley suffered a forearm injury from pole dancing that set her back 10 weeks; as luck would have it, an abdominal injury soon followed. Add to that a series of family emergencies that demanded her utmost attention, and Kaley was dealing with an onslaught of physical and emotional blows that could take down even the most resolute resolutioner. But Kaley didn’t let these setbacks distract her, learning to seek healthier food options during stressful times. Perhaps the biggest secret to her success, she invested in a personal trainer and pursued strength training, the stimulant that forever changed her body. With her trainer’s help, Kaley entered a fitness competition for the first time in her late thirties, taking home third and qualifying for the world championships next year. In addition to finding satisfaction on both the fitness stage and in Muay Thai rings (another fave form of fitness), Kaley is still involved in pole dancing. She’s quick to point out, however, that she’s no pro: as she humourously puts it, when she’s dancing she feels a bit like a frog holding on for dear life.
Having recently turned 40, Kaley says her journey has just begun. She’s dropped 100 pounds in total, a process that occurred so rapidly surgery was necessary to remove the excess skin that came as a result of her dramatic weight loss. She continues to be aware of her nutritional intake and is embarking on a more intense muscle-building routine. Throughout it all, her philosophy has been to be willing to try new things and to see the lighter side. “I just know that if I am going to do ridiculous things I have to be willing to laugh at myself, take constructive criticism to learn to be better, and keep going even when it feels like I just can’t,” she concedes. It’s that sense of humour and good nature that has helped Kaley go far in this adventure. Of course, Kaley doesn’t always notice the day, to-day changes. For her, victory often rears its head during the little moments in life. When asked what she considers to be the biggest benefit of her new lifestyle, Kaley laughs and says the joy of being able to carry all her groceries into the house in just one trip is a reward in and of itself.
KALEY AT A GLANCE
TOP HEALTH FOOD PICKS
Apple slices with crunchy natural peanut butter
WORDS SHE LIVES BY
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
FAVE CHEAT FOODS
Cheesecake and wine
PHOTOS BY: CHRIS V. LINTON @CHRISVLINTON