Weight Loss Solved: Caregiver Starts Taking Care of Herself and Drops 30 Pounds

weight loss

Dayna Christmas, pictured above, says she lost over 30 pounds after upping her nutritional IQ with a course at her local gym. Photo: Courtesy of Dayna Christmas

Many Canadians have tried hard to lose weight — more than 60 per cent of us are obese or overweight, according to Statistics Canada — and been frustrated by the lack of results. But instead of giving up, perhaps they should try something else.

Not every strategy works for every person, and science backs that up, says Dr. Shahebina Walji, medical director of the Calgary Weight Management Centre. As one of the co-authors of the upcoming Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Obesity, Walji has been combing the literature.

“A big theme we have come across is that weight-loss approaches need to be tailored to the individual,” she says. “There’s no cookie-cutter approach that works for everyone.”

One 73-year-old woman from Ontario recently made international headlines for losing 55 pounds with the help of meal-plan and workout apps (and her daughter’s support). Step one in this senior’s journey? Learning how to operate an iPhone for the first time.

Here, we introduce you to Dayna Christmas, whose weight crept up after she moved to rural Alberta with her husband and kids and she was juggling a demanding job with caring for her family and her brother, who has medical issues.

In our Weight Loss Solved series, we hope these personal stories inspire you on your own journey to health and happiness.

The Situation: Care-Giving Stress

The Solution: Proper Nutrition and Exercise 

Who: Dayna Christmas – Leader of a sporting organization

Where: Rural Alberta

Christmas experienced a dizzying series of changes in 2018, when she was 49. She and her husband moved to rural Alberta, where she barely knew anyone. Her three kids were launched. Then her brother came to live with her, requiring constant care because of medical issues. All the while, Christmas worked at a demanding job. “There was a lot of stress on me, and I felt isolated and depressed,” she recalls. “I had to buy bigger jeans. I was so busy with everything, the weight crept up on me.”

Her Challenge

“There were so many areas of my life I couldn’t control,” Christmas says. Commercial weight-loss programs, too, pushed her out of the driver’s seat. “Everybody’s got a plan: do eat this, don’t do that, do this. I don’t know which way is up! I shouldn’t be stressed going to a restaurant and counting the calories. I should know what I should be eating.”

What Worked For Her

After Christmas joined a local gym, she started exploring the classes offered there. She was particularly drawn to a six-week course led by a certified trainer who could teach her how to meet her own nutritional needs. “I appreciated learning how much protein or vegetables or healthy fats I should be eating,” says Christmas. Finally, she says, “I was taking my own power back and feeling like I had some control.”

Her Outcome

Christmas estimates she’s dropped more than 30 pounds. “How I’m looking is just a side effect of how I’m feeling,” she says. Her mood has improved. “I have a bounce in my step, seeing my body change.” She still checks in with her trainer once a week to get workout ideas and encouragement. “I need that for my mental wellness, as much as my physical wellness.”

The Doctor Weighs In

“What Dayna did is improve her nutrition literacy. I think this is really important,” says Walji. “Based on what she understands now, she’s able to make healthy choices to fuel her body.” She points out that the school system doesn’t teach us enough about where to get protein or what refined sugars are. “There’s so much misinformation out there, it can get confusing and overwhelming.”

For those who want to improve their knowledge of nutrition, Walji says, make sure the person you speak to is well qualified, such as a registered dietitian. Online tools like the updated Canada’s Food Guide and Harvard University’s Nutrition Source site can also be useful sources of information.

A version of this article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue with the headline, “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” p. 66-72.


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