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Health 101: Teacher shares fitness lessons

Donita Montgomery works the big bag during her kickboxing workout at Darla's Fitness for Women.

Donita Montgomery works the big bag during her kickboxing workout at Darla's Fitness for Women.

If she could do it, anyone can.

So says Donita Montgomery, 29, a local teacher who lost 87 pounds and feels unstoppable – especially when she’s kickboxing.

At 5 feet 7 inches, she now weighs 145. It wasn’t that long ago, however, that she was 202 pounds and wearing a size 22.

Montgomery, now a size 9, recalls that her most recent weight gain came in 2002. Her sedentary lifestyle and job as a fifth-grade teacher made it easy to pile on the pounds because she spent most of the day sitting.

“You pretty much just stay in one place and teach. There’s not a lot of movement,” she said. In addition, irresistible yet fattening treats were always available at staff meetings and training sessions.

Two years ago, her life changed. Her sister joined Naturally Women on Tucson’s East Side (now Darla’s Fitness for Women) and nagged her to join. In January 2004, she did, and has gone six days a week ever since.

“It was sort of a New Year’s Resolution. I didn’t like the way I looked anymore, and my daughter at that time was a year and a half, and I couldn’t play with her,” Montgomery said.

With determination, a caring health club staff and a personal trainer, she lost the weight at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds a week.

“I think the fact that I took it slow helped,” Montgomery said. She didn’t have unrealistic expectations. She wasn’t looking for a quick fix. She wanted a lifestyle change.

She cut her diet to 1,200 calories per day, but allowed herself one “bad day” each week, on Saturdays, to indulge in chocolate or junk food. As time went on, the treat days became less important.

Montgomery won’t lie. “It was definitely hard to stick to it,” she said. At first, she could only do 15 minutes on the treadmill. “I just didn’t have enough energy to go longer.” But each week she did a little more.

She plugged along, and kept a food journal to hold herself accountable. Today, she sticks to the same 1,200-calorie diet and exercises daily. “I go straight from picking up my daughter (at day care) to the gym.”

Her biggest challenge then was finding time to exercise. “I couldn’t go before work because they didn’t have the day care open, and after work it was hard because I’d get home after 7 p.m., but I needed to do it. I needed to make a difference for myself. I need to put myself first.”

Another challenge for Montgomery was exercising despite a brain tumor: pituitary adenoma. The tumor caused her body to simulate pregnancy and menopause at the same time, she said. “So the harder I worked out, the more my body thought I was starving a baby and it would store fat,” she said.

The tumor was removed in 1997 and two more grew, so she’s on medication for those, she said. “It’s harder to work out,” she said, but worth the payoff.

Exercising “gave me more energy for everything” and “I was a much nicer person.” It relieved her job stress so she could arrive home to her family happier and more energetic. “I don’t think it’s selfish to put yourself first, because if not, you start to resent everybody. To be happy you need to be first sometimes.”

Her best moments are when former students fail to recognize her.

“One kid said, ‘You don’t even look like the same person,’ ” Montgomery said. Then with a hint of pride in her voice, she added, “And I don’t.”

<em>‘I didn’t like the way I looked anymore, and my daughter at that time was a year and a half, and I couldn’t play with her.’</em><br/><br />
<strong>DONITA MONTGOMERY</strong>, talking about what persuaded her to lose 87 pounds. In this picture from last year she weighed between 170 and 180 pounds.” width=”353″ height=”500″ /><p class='I didn't like the way I looked anymore, and my daughter at that time was a year and a half, and I couldn't play with her.'

DONITA MONTGOMERY, talking about what persuaded her to lose 87 pounds. In this picture from last year she weighed between 170 and 180 pounds.

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MONTGOMERY’S SAMPLE WORKOUT

Sunday, Monday, Friday: Cardio for 70 minutes: 35 minutes on the elliptical followed by 35 minutes (interval training) on the treadmill.

Wednesday: 35 minutes on the treadmill, then a one-hour kickboxing or spinning class.

Tuesday, Thursday: Weightlifting for 30 minutes. One week, she does upper body on Tuesday with a trainer and lower body on Thursday by herself. The next week, she alternates.

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MONTGOMERY’S SAMPLE DIET

Breakfast (7:30 a.m.) -Two slices of buttered toast, and water.

Morning snack (10:30) – Wheat thins, one serving or about 14 crackers, and string cheese. Water.

Lunch (12:30 p.m.) – Turkey sandwich on regular white bread with mustard, and Yoplait yogurt. Water.

Afternoon snack (3) An apple and another string cheese. Water.

Dinner (7) – Chicken patties, chicken breast or tacos. She eats what she wants as long as it’s within calorie range. Her meat serving is about the size of a fist.

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MONTGOMERY’S SUCCESS TIPS

1. Don’t be discouraged. Everyone has to start somewhere. Join a health club that offers personalized service. Make sure it’s a place where they care about you and your success, and know their members by name.

2. Reduce your calories. Consult your physician to learn how many calories you need each day and stick to it. Montgomery started on a 1,200-calorie-a-day diet. She kept track, but didn’t fret about fat or carbs as long as she stayed in her range. If she didn’t know the calorie content of a food, she skipped it. She allowed herself one “bad day” each week for junk food or dining out. She took healthful snacks with her to staff meetings. She ate several times a day to avoid getting too hungry and binge eating later.

3. Take it slow. Don’t push yourself too hard or expect fast results. Success will come if you commit to a program and take it slow.

4. Drink a lot of water. Montgomery replaced soda and other beverages with water at each meal. She now drinks 200 ounces of water per day – a 1.5 liter (50 oz.) bottle four times a day. Water will help flush out toxins and salt, keep you hydrated and help you to feel full between meals.

5. Don’t give up (on yourself). If you fall off the horse, get back in the saddle. If you mess up, start again. Eventually there will be bigger gaps between the slip-ups. For teachers: Keep your routine during summer vacation and work out earlier in the day, if possible.

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