Jill Frueh, manager of the Bureau County Farm Bureau for the last 12 years, is a shadow of her former self. The mother of two lost 80 pounds through the use of two phone apps that help keep her active and help her track her calories and day’s physical activity. Frueh said after the birth of her son Parker, she knew she needed to get and stay healthy for her family and herself.
Jill Frueh, manager of the Bureau County Farm Bureau for the last 12 years, is a shadow of her former self. The mother of two lost 80 pounds through the use of two phone apps that help keep her active and help her track her calories and day’s physical activity. Frueh said after the birth of her son Parker, she knew she needed to get and stay healthy for her family and herself.
PRINCETON, Ill. — Jill Frueh is running away from her problems.

But the 37-year-old mother of two, wife to Jared, horse enthusiast, owner with her husband of a showpig breeding operation and the manager, for the last 12 years, of the Bureau County Farm Bureau, freely admits it.

“I joke, when people ask me, what made you start, I say it was either this or medication,” she said.

“This” was running, but running in the digital age. Frueh started her program using two phone apps, a Couch to 5K app.

Couch to 5K is a program that does what it says. It starts a running program gradually, with short bursts of jogging or running combined with a few minutes of walking and works the individual up to being able to run five kilometers — 3.1 miles.

It sounds intimidating, but after the birth of her son, Parker, who now is 3 — daughter Payton is 5 — Frueh didn’t feel like herself.

“It didn’t start out to be as much of a weight-loss issue as it was being healthy,” she said.

With a newborn, a toddler, a husband, a full-time job of her own and the showpig business, Frueh said she was being pulled in many directions. She felt like she had lost control.

“I went to the doctor and said I’m not depressed, but I’m just not myself. The doctor said you can try these things, try medication and I said let me try one more thing,” she said.

Couch To 5K

She’d heard about the Couch to 5K program from friends and through Facebook. So she downloaded the app and got started.

“Before I started it, I had never run more than a mile and a step, and that was only because in high school you had to run a mile to graduate,” Frueh said.

Most of the versions of the Couch to 5K app are set up so the program has an audio component, a virtual coach of sorts, telling when to start and stop walking and running.

Getting started and keeping with the program was difficult.

“I had no idea, at 200 pounds, what made me think I could run,” Frueh said.

Like so many people, the weight gain wasn’t sudden, but gradual.

“I was fit going through high school, but every time I went to college, I gained 15 pounds. It just crept up me, 10 pounds a year,” Frueh said.

Now, she said she realizes the effect gaining weight had on other aspects of her life. Always friendly and outgoing, Frueh said standing up and speaking in front of groups became something she didn’t enjoy.

“Self-esteem plays a huge part. I grew up with 4-H and FFA and doing public speaking. I wasn’t nervous, but I got to a point in my adult life that I just did not feel like speaking. I never really could figure out why — now, it doesn’t bother me, so I think once your health comes back, your self-esteem comes back and that helps in other ways, too,” she said.

Frueh also had three good reasons to get and stay healthy, Payton, Parker and Jared. Having had some health issues during her pregnancy with Parker, Frueh was more aware than ever that she had to stay healthy for her family, as well as herself.

“I thought, if I have these problems when I’m pregnant, it’s not going to get better by itself. I had two kids, and I had to take a look at myself and start taking care of myself for other people,” she said.

She also realized that while she was striving to feed her children a healthy, balanced diet, their mother wasn’t doing the same.

“When they’re babies and you start feeding them baby food, you give them a fruit cup and a vegetable cup or a meat cup and a half fruit and half a vegetable, and I thought I’m feeding them vegetables, but I’m not eating any vegetables,” she said.

She started running at the Metro Center in Princeton.

Setting An Example

She also was careful to set a good example for her daughter about weight and body image.

“Parker was too young to understand, but I was very careful, around Payton, about not saying we’re going to the Metro Center so I can lose weight. She’d say why do we have to go to the Metro Center again, and I’d say because I want to be healthy,” Frueh said.

That half hour on the treadmill, while Payton and Parker socialized at the center’s daycare, became her own time.

“I needed a hobby of some sort. I needed 30 minutes of the day that wasn’t lunch hour being clocked on, and that’s what that time became,” she said.

Three years later, Frueh has run her way to better health, fitness and weight loss. She’s lost 80 pounds and now weighs 120 pounds. A size 18 when she started, Frueh now buys sizes 4 and 6.

She is determined to make fitness and healthy eating a marathon, not a sprint.

“I’m not on a diet. This is a lifestyle. I don’t really want to cut anything out for an extended period of time because, at the end of the day, I still want to eat with my family,” she said.

For the last 30 pounds she lost, she decided to temporarily cut sugar from her diet. She consulted with a nutritionist to find out not only how to cut sugar out, but how to ease small amounts back in and maintain her healthy weight.

While she continued the Couch to 5K directions, Frueh also changed her diet. She used another popular app called My Fitness Pal, where individuals can log their personal information and keep track of their physical activity, calorie intake and calories expenditures each day.

“I set myself at a strict 1,200 calories,” she said.

Frueh took a closer look at what she was eating.

“I watch what I eat, especially at breakfast and at lunch and especially at work. I want to make sure I can eat with my family. That has turned into more healthy meals because I want to eat what they’re eating,” she said.

Her kids have their snack drawer at home, with fruit snacks, Teddy Grahams and goldfish crackers, but Frueh prohibits herself from visiting that drawer, other than to restock it.

The family’s diet has moved from meat and potatoes and bread to meat, but with more vegetables and fruits.

Cost Control

She’s also learned that there are challenges to eating healthier.

“It’s expensive to eat healthy. It really is so that was something that I had to keep in mind,” she said.

Getting her husband and kids on board helped, especially with fresh vegetables and fruits with a limited shelf life.

“If you can get your whole family on board to eat it, the food gets used and eaten and it’s not going to waste,” Frueh said.

Far from being dismayed, the guests at her bureau meetings have welcomed the addition of a fruit plate or vegetable tray to the usual offerings.

“I’ve had more people than I’ve ever thought I would thank me for bringing some bananas or some apples because they’re diabetic and they can’t eat the pastries or they’ll tell me, ‘I’m trying to cut down on the doughnuts, too,’” Frueh said.

She laughs when asked what husband Jared, who works as a district sales manager for AgriGold, thinks of his wife’s transformation.

“When I was starting this, I think he thought — although he never said it — he was probably like here we go again,” she said.

While the visible focus is the weight she’s lost, Frueh said her personal focus, regaining and maintaining her health, remains her goal. While the three-year time frame might seem discouraging, she knows that long-term process makes it more likely for her to stick with the program.

“I get up and weigh every day, but it’s just a mind frame. I’m not losing weight for a trip to Mexico or for an event. I’m losing weight forever, so there was no timeline in it,” she said. “I was OK with it being gradual and not like all of a sudden 10 pounds come off in a month because this way, you know you’re going to keep it off or hope that you keep it off. Initially, it wasn’t for the weight anyway. That was a great follow-up. It was great that it worked out that way.”