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Shopping in the spotlight

When Tania Bonfield goes for groceries, everyone wants to know what's in her basket
Tania Bonfield shops at the Market on Millstream: "It's really a lot about the planning and being conscious of what I'm putting in my mouth."

When Tania Bonfield was selected for the Times Colonist Health Club Challenge, she was ready to watch what she ate.

But Bonfield said it's been a surprise to have complete strangers watching what she eats.

At least twice in the past few weeks, the 38-year-old IBM office manager said people have approached her in the grocery store, having recognized her from her photo in the Times Colonist.

"And I can see them eyeing what's in my basket," said Bonfield. "They are checking it out to see what I've got in there.

Bonfield said she doesn't mind the scrutiny, however. "It's kind of cool that people recognize me like that and are curious to see if I'm sneaking or cheating, which, of course, I'm not."

At five-foot-four and weighing 270 pounds, Bonfield was open from the start about her desire to make some changes, in particular to end her "love affair" with potato chips.

Bonfield is one of five people selected for this year's Times Colonist Health Club Challenge, a 12-week package of workouts and consultations with dietitians, personal trainers, consultants and therapists worth more than $3,000.

Co-ordinated by the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence, the program sees the five challengers exercising at various community recreation centres. Bonfield, for example, is working out at the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre.

Meanwhile, an estimated 350 people are taking part in the TC

At Home Health Challenge. They follow directions and advice appearing in the Times Colonist and online at At Home challengers also qualify for a chance to win great prizes.

Julie Kostyk, a registered dietitian from Pure Nutrition Consulting who is working with Bonfield, said the first consultation was assisted enormously by the metabolic testing carried out initially by PISE.

Those tests helped Kostyk establish the necessary caloric intake, which in Bonfield's case is a little on the high side. As a large woman, she needs extra calories.

Kostyk said it's important for people who want to make the kind of changes for which Bonfield is aiming to understand that those changes are lifelong. So she shouldn't feel like she is starving herself. This is not a crash diet to lose a few pounds quickly.

"She shouldn't feel like she is being really deprived right now. If that's the case, it's not something she will continue."

In terms of an overall diet, Kostyk recommended a new balance. She advised Bonfield to start choosing whole-grain products for carbohydrates, less fat, lots of fruits and vegetables, leaner meat, more meat alternatives more often, and more meatless meals, with legumes such as beans or lentils filling in.

To fit with her lifestyle, Bonfield was also given two meal-plan options: one very structured and the other less so.

Kostyk said it's important for everybody to cut themselves some slack once in a while. "I believe in the 80/20 rule," she said. "Eighty per cent of the time, you eat healthily, watching your portions and calories and whatnot," said Kostyk. "But 20 per cent of the time, life happens.

"We are called to social events and we use food for a lot of different things in our life, celebrations and lots of other things," she said. "We're human."

Bonfield is taking the 80/20 rule to give herself one free meal per week. On the day of her interview, she was thinking about her husband's lasagna.

She said the switch in diet hasn't been too tough, since she and her husband, the cook in the house, already had a reasonably healthy diet. But he works as a pilot and is away from home regularly. When he's gone, Bonfield said, she has always just reached for what's easy to open or prepare.

No longer.

"I'm actually planning my meals," said Bonfield. "I'm putting things in baggies, I'm portioning out my meals and putting things in little containers."

She is eating more vegetables and whole grains and turning to healthier food items that she never would have considered before, like spinach as part of a breakfast sandwich, made with an egg and cheddar on a whole-grain English muffin.

Bonfield said cookies, potato chips and chocolate don't even seem to hold the same allure they once did. "It's strange — it's almost like my taste buds and my needs are changing along with what I'm doing for my body."

But the biggest single change is a little more forethought and conscious choice.

"It's really a lot about the planning and being conscious of what I'm putting in my mouth," said Bonfield.

"It's actually very refreshing," she said. "I feel like I have a bit of control back."