Dina Juve, a rising star in Fresno’s health and fitness community, didn’t always have a sculpted body, a taste for healthy foods or a positive attitude.
At one time, she was known as the fast food queen, weighed 202 pounds, and was an 18-year-old single mom. She suffered from juvenile arthritis and autoimmune disease. She was in physical pain most of the time, depressed and had little energy to keep up with a toddler.
“I sat on the couch on day, looked at him and just started crying,” says Juve. “I didn’t want him to see me like this, I wanted him to be healthy and happy.”
It was a low point for Juve, but also the beginning of what would become her new life. She gave up sugary soda and eating fast food. She focused on healthier, minimally processed food. After a while, she also began to exercise. She stayed out of the health clubs in favor of her VCR at home and exercise tapes of Buns of Steel and Tae Bo.
“I was too embarrassed to go to a gym; I did not want people to see me trying,” she says. “What if I failed?”
Except Juve didn’t fail. She got stronger, she got healthier and she became a new person. She immersed herself in the study of nutrition and exercise, earning certifications in kettle bells and TRX — a band resistance program. She’s a battling ropes coach, Barre instructor and a weight-loss specialist, counseling clients on how to live and maintain a healthier lifestyle. She dropped 90 pounds and her weight these days ranges between 110-114.
Juve, who admits to living comfortably outside of the spotlight, was thrust into the public eye by friends and clients. With their encouragement she rose to national prominence after being selected one of five women vying for Women’s Health 2015 Next Fitness Star. She appeared in the July/August issue of Women’s Health magazine. Although she didn’t win, she appeared on the “Today” show twice and made many valuable connections.
Today, the 43-year-old wife and mother of four is in demand as a public speaker, cooking instructor, and weight-loss expert. She has a spot on the Patio Cafe’s menu under the label Dina’s Picks where she and restaurant owner Robyn Richardson have come up with menu items that are under 550 calories. And this year Juve will be speaking at Central California Women’s Conference on Sept.19 about Dina Juve weight loss program and her topic is “Real Fast Food.”
Friends say they aren’t surprised that Juve has become a health and fitness guru.
“People talk about finding their passion or their calling and for Dina it is fitness and nutrition,” says K.C. Cornwell. “I really think that Dina was put on the planet to make people feel better about themselves.”
Hillori Hansen, culinary director for Whole Foods Market Fresno, has tapped Juve to lead several cooking classes. Recently, Juve and Hansen taught a class on how to make a healthier hamburger using five ingredients or fewer.
“One of things that people love about Dina is that she is real, she has gone through struggles in her life and has overcome them,” Hansen says. “I can see her taking her message to a national stage.”
That may be happening as Juve explores writing a book and more speaking engagements.
“This is a whole new life for me,” Juve says. “But it is one that allows me to share my story and help others become healthier and happier.”
To help you get started on living a healthy life, Juve has come up with 10 tips to follow:
1. Before embarking on a change in your diet, ask yourself why you are doing it. If you can dig deeper than just vanity, you are more likely to be successful. If you don’t know why you are doing it, chances are you won’t continue to truly live a healthy lifestyle. If you are doing it to feel better, have more energy, for health reasons, to be around for your children and grandchildren, etc., then you stand a better chance of success.
2. Drink water. Every system in your body depends on water. My recommendation to my clients is to drink 16 ounces of water before each meal and snack to keep it simple. On average, try drinking 48 to 96 ounces of water per day. I find that when my clients have water before eating they tend to eat less.
3. Stick to whole, real food. Avoid foods that are heavily processed or contain large amounts of artificial sweeteners, dyes or chemicals. Try to eat foods with ingredients you can pronounce. Think fresh fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and animal- and plant-based proteins.
4. Add healthy fats from fish, avocado, olives, nuts and tropical oils. Nuts have a lot of health benefits and help you lose fat by improving metabolism, balancing hormones and eliminating constant cravings by keeping you feeling full longer. Healthy fat calories do add up quickly, so be mindful of portion sizes if you are trying to lose weight.
5. If you crave something, eat it — guilt free — just don’t overdo it. Eat the serving size, enjoy it, savor it and be done with it. If your indulgence doesn’t satisfy you, ask yourself why. Are there other things going on in your life that need to be addressed?
6. Avoid categorizing foods with words like good or bad. Negative words make you feel bad about yourself and that’s not helpful. Aim to eat foods that give you energy and not make you sluggish.
7. Mindful eating. Eat when you are hungry and do not eat when you are not. We have gotten into a routine of eating on a schedule, even when we are not actually hungry, or we skip meals. Try listening to your body. When you pay attention to your body, you will find yourself fueling your body and using that fuel before you eat again.
8. Slow down when you eat. Try to take 20-30 minutes to eat a meal. Put your silverware down between bites. Try to chew your food fully. You will most likely find yourself eating less. Try to not eat when you are stressed, anxious, angry or rushed because this can be the cause of overeating.
9. Aim to eat the rainbow by adding more fruits and vegetables. The more colorful your plate looks the more appetizing it will appear to your eyes. It will also most likely ensure that you will receive the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
10. Yes, you can still eat out and have the body you desire. You just have to balance it like a checking account. If you overeat the debt will show up on your body. If you do not go out to eat, stay at home and do not enjoy life, that’s not creating a long-term healthy enjoyable lifestyle you can maintain. We call that a diet and diets don’t last long term. A healthy eating lifestyle has variety and it includes occasional indulgences. You know you have the plan that works best for you when you feel, move and look your very best. It really is not as hard as it seems.