By Doug Maine
For Liza Ramírez, the past few months have been eventful. Over that time, the 28-year-old single mom has lost more than 30 lbs., earned a long-sought associate’s degree from Tunxis Community College and was preparing to start a new job and begin work on a bachelor’s degree.
This was not always the case, she says she was too comfortable in the mom role. “I didn’t take time out to take care of myself, (but) I see that by taking care of myself, you can take better care of your children,” she said.
As for her weight, “I was always going up and down with it in my teen years. I was active, (but) not necessarily in shape like I now know in shape to be,” Ramírez said.
After having her son, “I gained and gained,” she said. “After that, I guess I had that mentality that I had a baby so it was okay.”
She went to gyms and worked with personal trainers, but saw no results at all. “I tried to eat better, but it’s not at the level I’m at now.
Her particular turning point came or moment of realization that made her decide she needed to make some changes, Ramírez said, “was basically me. I decided I didn’t want to be the same anymore, so it was me saying, ‘I have this opportunity to work out with him. What can I get out of it?'” she said.
Ramírez, a native of Gurabo, P.R., who came to Hartford when she was 13, credits her success to her new trainer Kelvin Moore, who operates a studio in Bloomfield. Ramirez said, he suggested she make significant changes in her life, if she wanted to be healthy and not simply lose weight. Those include changes in how she thinks, as well eating habits, getting proper nutrition and incorporating exercise into her daily regimen.
Now I have a better understanding of what it is to eat better, of nutrition. I’m seeing the results that I could have had before,” she said.
Ramirez wants to share her success with other single moms. “My focus and my inspiration is to reach out to single women and single mothers, to (help them) believe they can reach certain goals, they can be fit,” Ramírez said. “We can make a difference, especially in being in shape and being healthy. Passing that along to our children is going to make such a difference in their lives.”
As a result of the changes she’s made in her diet, her five-year-old son Anthony’s diet has changed, too. “He sees me eating differently and he says, ‘oh, Mami, can I try,” she said. He sometimes eats apples and peanut butter for snacks and has tried her yogurt, instead of the usual Go-Gurt.
“He encourages me to go work out, asking, You working out today, Mami?”
“That’s my focus, to get out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a single mom, you can still do it,” and circumstances don’t control you, Ramírez said. “Even the guys can make that change.”
Changing her diet
Her outlook started to change after she lost the 30 lbs in her first five weeks in the program. “That motivated me,” she said.
Though she lost the weight quickly, Ramírez said she’s not worried about it coming back just as a quickly.
“I follow my coach’s lead. He knows if I’m not doing something right or if I’m going too fast or too slow,” she said.
“It’s not like I’m not eating; I eat all the time, but I’m eating the right things. The whole process, it’s not just about losing the weight; it’s about living healthier; it’s holistic,” she said.
“My downfall before was sugar — cake, pastry, things like that. It’s not that you can’t have it, but you need to be in balance. Some people have health issues and can’t eat (sweets) at all,” she said.
Members of her family have had issues with high cholesterol and high blood pressure. “Actually, obesity overall was part of my family,” she said
Generally, Ramírez said it has taken time for her to get used to eating lots of veggies, which aren’t always a big part of Latinos’ diets.
Some attribute that to a lack of affordable produce, both in the countries where it’s grown and in the markets in urban areas where many Latinos live in this country, but not Ramírez.
Ramírez said she has also acquired a taste for black beans, learned new recipes and become more creative in preparing food.
The nutrition is important so that she can get the most out of her workouts, which she does two or three times a week. Each one-hour session includes a combination of exercises, including weights and aerobic activity. “We use a lot of dance, too,” Ramírez said.
Spiritually, that means breaking old habits and building new habits in the mind, “and whether you believe you can change,” she said.
She’s applying that lesson in the area of professional advancement as well. Having earned an associate’s degree, Ramírez is starting a new job and will also be pursuing a bachelor of science degree in aviation management through an online program with Everglades University.
“I’ve been in the airline industry for years now,” employed by JetBlue until she decided to focus on finishing her degree and working with Moore.
In her new job with ASIG, a company that provides ground handling, fueling and airport facility services for various airlines at airports around the country, she’ll be based at Bradley International Airport, where she’ll be involved in providing customer service, working at the gate for Air Canada and Frontier airlines and helping to get passengers on planes.
Competitions and Colombia
Ramírez’s personal conditioning efforts have been so successful that she has competed in the bikini section of two body-building competitions and was preparing for her third competition in July, when she will also be traveling to Cartagena, Colombia, for fitness training, meetings with gym owners, business persons and women to share ideas and help her trainer, who she calls “Coach,” continue his work in South America.
Moore, is a longtime competitive body-builder, so it was natural that he would make his students aware of fitness competitions. The bikini competition class in which Ramírez competes isn’t about strength or lifting weights; she and other competitors go on stage and are judged on their physique, tone and presentation.
“In my first competition, I was a little intimidated,” but she’s gotten more comfortable with it. Also, “I was the only Latina there. I was very surprised,” she said.
As a “Transformed Ambassador,” she will be traveling to Colombia at the beginning of July with Moore and her friend and pro body-building colleague Brenda Ortiz. She and Ortiz will be able to communicate with Colombians in their own language and hope to have a positive impact on the women they meet there.