As a singer in Chicago-area rock cover band Seven Soul, Alisa Conboy is regularly in the spotlight — and often tagged in fan posts across social media. While that’s definitely flattering, she says, it also unfortunately means an increased level of scrutiny on her body.
In early 2017, Conboy had a harsh reality check after seeing some photos of herself posted on social media. “An adoring fan was kind enough to post her pictures of myself and the rest of the band on Facebook,” she says. “To my horror and surprise, I looked awful. I knew I needed to drop some weight, but I had clearly gained more weight that I thought. It showed in my stomach, face, neck, arms and legs. I was mortified.”
For the first time, Conboy considered asking the fan to take down her post. “I was still in denial at that point. Instead of realizing that it was me that needed to change, I made excuses,” she says. “I blamed it on the extra 10 pounds added by the camera. I told myself that I was just taking a big belly breath for singing when the photo was taken — I blamed everything but myself.”
FEELING SELF-CONSCIOUS IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Health and fitness had always been an important part of Conboy’s life — throughout high school and college, she was an active swimmer, runner and gymnast, proudly avoiding the dreaded freshman 15. She had even used MyFitnessPal years ago to help her drop weight after her pregnancies. “But, after becoming a full-time working mom of three, it was increasingly harder to find the ‘me’ time I needed to keep up with my exercise routine,” she says. A lack of exercise coupled with a sedentary office job and the slowing metabolism that comes with age caused the weight to creep on.
“For the longest time, I was in full-on denial,” she says. While it took her some time to realize it, she’d started avoiding the camera to steer clear of being confronted by her changing body. “Slowly, over those years, I was able to wear fewer and fewer of my clothes, finally having to dip into my ‘fat clothes’ reserve,” she says.
“That’s when I started having issues with my body image, based on the pictures fans would post,” she says. “My confidence on stage was definitely shaken, because for the first time, thoughts crept into my head while I was on stage, like ‘I wonder how large my neck and arms look from the side?’ and ‘I hope I don’t have any belly rolls or muffin tops showing!’” She started to feel as though the audience was paying more attention to her body than her voice.
Not only did those thoughts take a toll on her confidence, Conboy’s diminishing self-esteem was affecting her performance. Being self-conscious on stage made shows a lot less fun for the singer, and she worried the fans where noticing.
On top of her body image struggles, Conboy lost her job of 17 years and things got even worse for her health. “After that, my weight reached an all-time high,” she says. At that point, she was already 15 pounds above her ideal weight and in the six months following, she gained another 15.
Eventually, Conboy realized hiding from the camera wasn’t going to save her from reality. In January 2017, her doctor charted her weight gain over the years and “the sharp incline was in-my-face undeniable,” she says. “Then, my doctor said the magic words, ‘You know what to do. I know you’ll do it.’”
DUSTING OFF OLD HEALTH HABITS
The doctor was right, and that lit a fire in Conboy. “I was just fed up,” she says. “I hated that I couldn’t wear 90 percent of my clothes anymore. I hated feeling sluggish all the time. I hated dreading the week after a show, worrying about the horrible pictures people would post. I hated feeling out of control of my health. I hated remembering how great it felt to be healthy and fit, and then mad at myself for letting that slip away.”
She knew she had it in her to make healthy changes in her life — after all, she’d done it before.
“The very next day, I started using MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness to get back on track,” she says. While tracking her calories, she added strength training, cardio and vitamins to her get-healthy-again routine.
“I logged in for 325 continuous days, sticking closely to my daily calorie budget and exercising,” she says. “I’m so happy to say that one year later, I lost 28 pounds — that’s six pounds more than my goal! I strength train, dusted off my running shoes to run a 5K three times a week and I’m now in the best shape of my life at 49 years old.”
Having the right resources is what ultimately made regaining control of her health possible, she says. “I had the tools at my fingertips, and I was familiar with them. I think that a lot of people are stopped by the fact that they don’t know what to do or they think it will be complicated,” she explains. “But, I already knew about MyFitnessPal and how easy it is to use — and, this is coming from someone who loathes counting calories.”
GETTING HER GROOVE BACK
Now when fans want to share pictures, Conboy is all for it. But even though she can fit into her skinniest skinny jeans, setting a healthy precedent for her children is more valuable. “I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve been a great example to my kids about how to manage health and nutrition and how to reach a goal and keep managing it day-to-day,” she says. “Even though I’ve reached my goal, I’m more determined than ever to maintain my health.”
Conboy still uses MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness daily. “I find that both tools help keep me accountable and keep me focused on my health every single day,” she says. As she approaches 50, she’s determined not to let the “me” time necessary for her health fall by the wayside again. “I’ve always said that my ultimate goal is to make it to 85-years-old without any medication other than vitamins — and I truly believe I can,” she says. “With any luck, I’ll still be running and using MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun to keep it up.”