How Quitting Gave Me My Life Back | A Working Mom’s Fitness Journey

Today marks 365 days since I quit.  In September of 2016, I was sick of looking at myself in the mirror, hoping I would magically return to my pre-baby size.  Wyatt had just turned 9 months old.  No longer could I claim, I just had a baby. But my mompreneur schedule was wild – odd, unpredictable hours that usually required a few late nights a week and weekend work.  It made eating the right foods really difficult (wait, what are the right foods??) and finding time for exercise a fantasy.

Weight gain in your 30’s compounds quickly – starting at age 40, the average American woman gains a pound a year.  That means by my late 40’s I would have been about 25 lbs heavier than I was when I got pregnant, putting me at much higher risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. It’s a slow progression and I was so afraid I’d wake up one day and find myself unrecognizable (and terribly unhealthy). But I didn’t know what the hell to do about it.

Then one day, while staring down another cider donut, I had a conversation that changed my life. A friend told me about fitness guru (he’ll hate that title), Blake Leshnick. She described him as being truly dedicated to his clients and in love with his craft, but I think the thing that made me most excited initially was that he would come to my home for workouts. No added travel time to the gym and I could set up workouts anytime between 5AM and 8PM. I called him the next day.  I was ready to quit feeling sorry for myself.

But I didn’t just want to lose weight, I wanted to get STRONG. After a c-section in the winter of 2015-16, and a spinal fracture in the spring of 2016, my lower back was incredibly weak. I had trouble picking up my son and couldn’t carry him for more than a few minutes. Then I’d head to work and haul 10 – 15 lbs of camera gear around for hours at a time, which was both exhausting and painful. I was so incredibly frustrated and sad.

This was the first time that I was approaching weight loss with my health being the biggest the motivator – not just getting into a smaller size jeans. Working out with Blake twice a week in my home (I literally NEVER work out if he’s not here), I’ve seen my body transform in the last year – particularly in the areas we targeted (biceps, abs and glutes):

  • I’ve lost 26lbs (15% body fat)
  • Add 33% muscle mass to my biceps
  • Added 20% muscle mass to my glutes
  • Down 3 pants sizes
  • Lost 5.5 inches around my waist

The functional result? My back is pain free, my wedding day shooting stamina has exploded, and I’m a much better (and happier!) mom.   Now I can hang onto my gear for longer periods of time, and deliver better results.  I rarely have pain while shooting and I’m never sore the day after a wedding (I used to wake up stiff as a board – most photographers do). Which means I’m a better mom and wife in my non-work time. And that is HUGE.

So how exactly did this happen?

These are the key components that Blake introduced to help me stay on track with weight loss and fitness every day.  Like most new behaviors, at first they felt challenging, but now they are just habit:

  • Drink at least 60 ozs of water a day
  • Walk at least 10K steps a day (I monitor this with my apple watch – see below)
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night, ideally 8
  • Monitor your calorie burn on a daily basis
  • Count calories, at least for a month or two, to ensure your output is greater than your input
  • Stick to high protein, low sugar choices for most of the day (I love Siggi’s yogurt and Think Thin Bars)
  • I did the 5-2 diet for about 8 months, and that really helped focus my weight loss
  • Focus on weight training over cardio – it will help you build muscle to burn more calories at rest and won’t leave you starving like a vigorous cardio workout.  For me, cardio workouts used to lead to a HUGE meal afterwards, negating all my hard work.
  • Hire Blake.  Just do it.

(Above: Apple watch activity tracker)

And there have been other real changes in my life as a result of this. I HAVE ENERGY. When I first started monitoring my steps I was around 4- 5000 a day. Now I hit 10K without even thinking about it. I used to scheme about the shortest route between two points.  Now I actively seek out the longest. Instead of taking an Uber, I walk. When I go to the store, I park in a spot that’s furthest away from my destination. Even on marathon days at my desk, I set reminders to get up and walk for 30 – 40 minutes at least once. These are things that I found easy to work into my life and have made a huge difference in my overall daily calorie burn.

But maybe the best part of all of this has been that I will live a longer, fuller life because I’m changing the way I eat and move now.  I want to make every moment count with my family, and I know that changing the way I live in my 30’s will have a major impact in my 60’s and 70’s.  It’s never ever too late to make healthy changes, y’all.

So if you’re considering tuning up your body and mind, start the journey today.  Just do one thing – add another bottle of water to your intake, get yourself a step counter, ask a friend to go for a walk.  Your momentum will build, and your health will build with it.


Karen is an award-winning, Boston-based photographer specializing in documenting and preserving family history.  You can see more of her work online at, on Instagram or on Facebook.  If you’d like to contact her directly, you can find her at

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  • September 15, 2017 - 8:41 pm

    Lisa Reisner - On the 5:2 were the 2 days always in a row? What would you eat on those 2 days?ReplyCancel

    • September 15, 2017 - 10:37 pm

      Karen Kelly Photography - I definitely did not do two days in a row – ever! My meals would look something like an egg or a siggi’s yogurt in the morning with 20 ozs of water, then an early afternoon snack of walnuts or almonds, then a very basic dinner of a protein and a small salad. I did not stick to 500 calories a day, it was more like 700.ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2017 - 8:43 pm

    Michele A - Super motivational, Karen! You’re winning at life!ReplyCancel

    • September 15, 2017 - 10:44 pm

      Karen Kelly Photography - You are so kind Michele! Thank you!!ReplyCancel

  • September 16, 2017 - 5:15 pm

    Kelly - This is such an inspiring post! Thanks so much and good for you! I can attest to the fact that you have tons of energy at work, and a great attitude about everything.ReplyCancel

  • September 19, 2017 - 1:09 pm

    Joy - Karen – Your example is spot on! I lost nearly 20 lbs. and gained muscle, stamina, happiness and a “new life” following a very similar regime. ( I’m only 5’1″ tall and built just like you…at 53, I feel amazing!!!) Thank you for sharing your journey❤️ReplyCancel

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