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Athlete Profile: Danielle Rochon


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Becoming a parent is life-changing. Priorities shift quickly. It’s no longer just about you and what you want – these little people in your life drastically alter your day-to-day routine. And they often affect larger things that you can’t control. Though she didn’t know it at the time, Danielle Rochon’s children would be what both challenged her health and inspired her to find the best health within herself.

As a petite young woman, Danielle was quite surprised to find herself gaining 75 lb in her first pregnancy, going from 95 lb to 170 lb. Immersed in the responsibilities and challenges of being a new mom, she held onto most of her baby weight going into her second pregnancy. But when her weight gain for baby #2 seemed to be headed in the same direction as the first, it prompted her physician to test Danielle for gestational diabetes. This is a condition similar to the body’s resistance to insulin and high circulating glucose in Type II diabetes. A small percentage of women develop high blood glucose levels during pregnancy, resulting in increased risk to both mom and baby’s health.

Despite attention to the condition early on, Danielle’s weight still climbed to a high of 220 lb from her pre-pregnancy weight of 160 lb.  The diabetes induced by her pregnancy stuck around and progressed to Type II diabetes after her second child was born.

In denial

Initially Danielle was in denial – both about having the disease and the potential risk it posed to her own health. Despite the weight gain, she really did not have much in the way of symptoms.  With two young children to care for, her attention was elsewhere.  Thus, she didn’t make much of an effort to manage the disease. For 13 years, she carried the burden of both the extra weight and the impact of diabetes on her health.

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Danielle, before

Getting started

At 33 years old Danielle finally felt ready to make some changes. She lost 50 lb and made some great headway with her goals. But once again her family presented a challenge. In this case, it wasn’t her kids, who were now much older and independent, but her husband.  As Danielle continued to make improvements to her lifestyle and body, his feelings of insecurity and resentment elevated the stress levels in their relationship. He questioned and tracked her every time she left the house to work out. Danielle’s activity levels declined and she turned to food as a source of comfort and stress reliever. In the process, she turned her back on her health and gained back all her weight and more, topping out at 265 lb.

When the relationship ended, so did Danielle’s behaviors and she vowed to get her health back. She started with a meal plan created by a dietitian based on what Danielle liked to eat, but Danielle found that the liberal inclusion of grains and starches did not help her manage her blood sugar effectively, and she was unable to lose the weight. In the days before Precision Nutrition, Danielle tried food combining principles and an Atkins type approach: meals comprised of mostly protein, vegetables and healthier fats. And in just under 2 years of following this approach, Danielle got her weight down to 165 lb.

Danielle found that she could manage both her weight and her disease through portion control and sticking with these general principles. With a redefined sense of “normal”, she maintained her loss for four years and blood tests revealed that she no longer had diabetes. In a new relationship, raising healthy and happy daughters and with a renewed sense of health and self, Danielle was back in control.

The impact of loss

That sense of control was taken away once again by two tragic losses in Danielle’s life. Although she’d survived for fifteen years after a stroke and then a massive heart attack, Danielle’s mother passed away when Danielle was just 39 years old. Within one year of her mother’s death, Danielle lost her father as well. As the baby of the family, Danielle was very reliant on the support and relationships she maintained with her mother and father. Despite losing both her parents to the consequences of poor lifestyle habits, she once again found herself turning to old, unhealthy habits to deal with the stress of her losses. The scale showing 220 lb reflected the impact of those choices.

Danielle knew she needed to change again, and that this time, she’d have to address how she dealt with stressors in her life. Instead of turning to food, Danielle started back into a regular routine of exercise and found that the endorphin rush from activity was better than the serotonin fix from carbohydrate-rich comfort foods. Now, six days a week, Danielle alternates between intense weight training sessions and boot camp-style interval work. She combines these consistently high levels of activity with Precision Nutrition’s 10 Habits – the approach that was so effective in helping her lose the weight initially. Now, Danielle continues to make progress towards her weight and health goals.

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Coach JB

And though the combination has been working well for her, it didn’t stop Danielle from taking advantage of a little one-on-one coaching from John Berardi. Danielle works full time for Nature’s Fare, a major health food franchise in Western Canada, which, given the new lifestyle she’s adopted, has been a great fit. The store provides multiple opportunities for their employees to learn and increase their knowledge in the industry, which is exactly where Danielle was able to connect with John Berardi when he stopped in to present to store employees on a multi-city tour early in 2009.

His advice? Try adding in some extra HIIT training sessions similar to those seen here. Now, some mornings she’ll tack on a short session of 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest, before she hits the weights.

On a typical day, Danielle plans her workouts and meals as follows:

5:30 am: Pre-workout: A small portion of Gourmet Nutrition’s Banana Nut bar

Post-workout: SuperShake made with unsweetened almond milk, whey protein, greens+, 4-5 strawberries and L-glutamine

8 am: hard boiled eggs and an apple

12 noon: chicken breast, salad with balsalmic vinaigrette, an apple

Afternoon snack: another small bar or shake (around 150 kcal)

Dinner: Fish or chicken, with a large portion of vegetables, dressed with Omega 3 dressing made with agave and mustard

If Danielle is hungry before or after dinner, she may have a small handful of almonds or a little bit of chicken to tame her hunger.  But in general she aims to have her last meal of the day around 6 pm. The most important component of her nutrition for her success has been controlling the amount and type of carbohydrates in her diet.

First things first

Danielle has found that the hardest part to getting back into a routine is getting started.  It can feel like there’s just not enough time to make everything fit in. She knows that it’s much easier to stay healthy once she gets there and has come up with some strategies to integrate the habits necessary to progress.

One of those strategies is getting her workouts done first thing in the morning. Recognizing that she’ll feel tired at the end of a long work day, Danielle gets her training and all her food prep done before she goes to work or on her days off, eliminating the challenge of mustering up energy to do these things when she knows it would be tough. Danielle arranges her training to correspond with her work schedule: her days off correspond with her heavier training days. On these days she can hit the gym a little later in the morning when her body and mind feels more prepared to handle the intensity of these sessions.

The biggest factor to Danielle’s success has been the shift in her attitude about her priorities. Through all the various stages of her weight loss journey, Danielle has found it hard not to feel selfish about putting time and effort into herself. Between the challenge of raising kids, pressure from an unsupportive and untrusting spouse, and working full-time, it’s taken Danielle many years and lots of restarts to get to the point where she sees the process as unselfish. She now has figured out how to find balance in it all and that she’s worth making her health, training and nutrition a priority. Danielle likes the way she’s feeling these days and feels much better able to cope with stresses as they come.

Make time for you

Through the highs and lows, Danielle’s learned you must make yourself a priority regardless of how busy life gets or the compromises you have to make. It’s not selfish to do this — you need to first take care of yourself before you can give to the people who love and need you. As her daughters have become young women, this is a life lesson Danielle hopes to pass along to them.

And by the looks of things, it seems that they are getting the message. Both her daughters, Sasha and Paige, are embracing the same healthy lifestyle and attitude as mom, and Sasha has become inspired to become a Personal Trainer in Vancouver. It looks like Danielle’s “selfishness” is paying off for everyone and that her children will continue to provide a source of inspiration as she continues working toward her goals.

Danielle, on her way
Danielle, on her way

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