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'The one thing I could control:' How one mom, 46, lost 40 pounds in 6 months

Kia Jeffers said that it was a combination of healthy eating and regular exercise that helped her lose weight during the coronavirus pandemic.
Collage of woman standing in workout clothes in her "before" and "after" photo.
Jeffers said having a structured program took the guesswork out of her fitness routine. TODAY Illustration / Beachbody
/ Source: TODAY

Kia Jeffers was excited to start a new fitness program in March 2020: She had signed up for a nine-week Beachbody course, taught by trainer Autumn Calabrese.

She had made arrangements to help her two kids get to school on time so that she could be at the workout studio early in the morning and committed to working out five days a week for the entirety of the program.

"I gained a lot of weight finishing my post-doctorate degree and getting on to the job market, and in the process my commitment to yoga and other activities kind of slacked off. I was eating really unhealthily. I weighed too much, I didn't like how I looked, I felt uncomfortable in my skin," Jeffers, 46, told TODAY Health; when she started the program, she weighed 197 pounds. "I was like 'I need help', this is a program that focuses on getting fit in a healthful way, and I was willing to prioritize myself to get that done."

She was excited to start the course, but things quickly changed when the coronavirus pandemic hit the country, shuttering gyms and cancelling the classes. Jeffers was even more affected than most: She is a nurse who has spent much of the pandemic doing COVID-related work with underserved populations in community settings.

Woman standing in workout clothes in her "before" photo.
Jeffers told TODAY that she was "uncomfortable" in her own skin before she started the new workout program. Beachbody

However, a virtual version of the course soon became possible, and soon Jeffers was doing the course at 11:00 P.M. after finishing shifts at work.

"I started the program right when COVID became a big thing, and everything around me felt like chaos, with my children transitioning to virtual school and work transitioning, and this was the one thing I could control," Jeffers said.

Jeffers said that the at-home workouts wound up being even better than a studio class, because she was able to "get out the stress of the day" before going to bed. The thirty-minute daily classes incorporate density training, tabata exercises and other constantly-changing regimens.

"You're not just doing one move over and over again," Jeffers said. "...It works your whole body, you're sweating two minutes into it, and working along with Autumn (Calabrese) is really motivating, because she's like the Energizer Bunny. I love the variety and the intensity and the result. I felt like I was not only dropping weight, but I was getting stronger and I had more endurance."

Jeffers loved the nine-week program so much that she did it twice more after completing her first round. In total, she lost 39.6 pounds in just 27 weeks, something that she attributes to both the regimen itself and the healthy eating habits that she reestablished.

Woman standing in workout clothes in her "after" photo.
Jeffers lost 40 pounds in just 27 weeks during the pandemic. Beachbody

"Eating was as central to this program as working out was," she said.

Jeffers said that one of her favorite parts of repeating the program was having previously-difficult exercises grow easier.

"You're seeing how you're progressing as you go from week to week," she said. "You see that you can do more reps or lift heavier weights as you get further. ... You're seeing your progression as you go along, in addition to losing weight."

Jeffers said that she would recommend that others who are looking to lose weight try to find a similarly structured program that helps them stay on track.

"Getting with a structured program is good, because you don't have to think about 'Oh, is it leg day, is it ab day, am I doing the right number of reps at the right amount of weight?' Starting with no-brainers as much as possible is important," she said.

The program also let her connect with others who were doing the same regimen, which she said is another thing people should seek out.

"Joining with other people who are committed to weight loss or fitness or mental health and wellness, it feels less isolating and can be a source of motivation," said Jeffers, who added that she and her friends connect over Zoom while on walks. "...As exhausting as the workouts are, working along somebody who's motivating and knowing you're connecting with other people is its own support system."