Childbirth is the most miraculous thing a woman’s body can go through. It’s incredible how we are built to produce a human being inside of us, with a beating heart, functioning brain, organs, and limbs. The aftermath, however, can be difficult for many – the stretch marks, deflated breasts, C-section scar, and overall pockets of weight gain that don’t seem to disappear.
I think all moms can relate to feeling some level of body dysmorphia after giving birth. I used to look in the mirror and barely recognized myself. I’ve been a fitness enthusiast and dancer my whole life so it was hard to stomach (quite literally!) my extra weight, which was due to the fact that I was carrying twins and breastfeeding (btw, it’s a myth that all women lose weight from nursing. Sure it may have helped my uterus shrink back to size, but my caloric intake had increased in order to produce milk for two hungry babies!)
When I was about six months postpartum, a friend of mine told me about a Mommy-focused fitness challenge she participated in and won (Go Aarti!) in our area. Right away, I asked “where do I sign up??” The Jersey City Slim-down Challenge was launched by moms Kausar Rasul (Founder of Golden Sneaker) and Dougmary Esquijarosa (Founder of A Green Unicorn) who aim to help mothers achieve their fitness goals, build confidence, and lead a healthy lifestyle for themselves and their families…for good.
How did you two meet and what compelled you to join forces to launch the Jersey City Slim-down Challenge?
Kausar: I began teaching “Mommy and Me” Zumba classes in 2016, and Doucky (Dougmary’s nickname) was one of my students. A year later, she launched her business as a certified nutritionist. I always wanted to offer programs other than just Zumba, so I reached out to her to see if we could work together. We both had a common mission, which is to help moms get their body back and start feeling healthy again. Our ideas and expertise gave birth to what is now the JC Slim-down Challenge.
Were you always into fitness & healthy living?
Kausar: My background is in biochemistry, but on a personal note, my whole life I struggled with my weight. Zumba was the best decision I made after having my first born. I began teaching Zumba and Zumbini (Zumba for kids) for a few years. I decided to go back to school and this year I graduated as a Nutrition and Fitness expert, which has helped me tremendously not only in my business but in my personal life as well.
Doucky: I really liked playing sports in school and while at university. I practiced gymnastics, soccer and Tae Kwon Do but nothing serious; I was never consistent with exercise as my studies took priority. I graduated with a degree in mass communications and worked for over a decade in advertising.
I became interested in living a healthy lifestyle when I found myself 25 pounds overweight, with very low energy, mood swings and digestive issues that I thought was normal after having a baby. I started exploring new foods and recovered my energy levels, which drove me to exercise regularly and allowed my digestive issues to disappear. At that point I knew I wanted to share my experience with the world. I used my Instagram account to post healthy, simple recipes and then I decided I wanted to become a Fitness and Nutrition Expert and dedicate myself to helping people change their eating and exercise habits.
Did you have an “aha” moment as a mom, where you decided you had to make a change in your life?
Kausar: When my daughter was 15 months old, I felt like I had no energy to keep up with her. I was always tired. I lived on 3-4 cups of espressos a day. I was still carrying 20 pounds of post-pregnancy weight at the time. I knew I needed to get bring about some serious lifestyle changes and get my body back to feel like myself again. That motivated me to get certified as a Zumba instructor.
Doucky: When my daughter started solids, my husband and I were really sick and overweight. I felt concerned because I didn’t want to raise a sick kid. I read a lot, practiced tons of recipes and learned about food labeling (the good, bad, and ugly!) in this country.
Also, after going to several doctors and finding no cure for our digestive issues, I felt the need to get to the root of the problem myself and go back to the basics. Now my husband and I are very active, eat the healthiest we have in our entire lives, and we even feel younger.
Tell us about the Mommy challenge, the criteria, and benefits.
Kausar: This JC Slim-down challenge is carefully designed for moms who are ready to get back into the fitness world. We provide support and accountability which is one of the biggest factors for most moms who have clear weight loss goals. We provide unlimited Zumba and conditioning/strength classes, a personalized nutrition plan, weekly meal plan, grocery shopping list, simple recipes, meal prep plan, 24/7 Q/A support, 2-3 at-home exercises, before and after photos, and fitness assessments & measurements so you can actually see the progress.
Doucky: After experiencing our own transformations, Kausar and I sat down and evaluated what worked for us. We analyzed the challenges that many mothers face when it comes to losing weight. For instance, we offer on-site childcare for anyone who needs it. Everyone knows that they have to exercise and eat vegetables so why are moms not doing it? We came up with ways to keep moms motivated like a private Facebook group for our challengers where they post their daily progress (photos of themselves post-workout, or what we call a “sweatfie,” their meals for the day, water intake, healthy recipes, and more). Having a support system makes a huge impact and helps keep people accountable.
What are some of the success stories?
Kausar: Our average weight loss/inches lost is between 5-13 lbs and 18-25 inches in just 6 weeks! Check out our challenger reviews here.
Doucky: Every single mom has her own success story because each comes with her own goals in mind. The end result is not only losing weight, but gaining confidence, feeling energetic, and being happier because their kids are eating healthy and are learning from them. You can check out more testimonials here
Have you noticed an evolution from the first challenge until now?
Kausar: We are constantly trying to learn, grow, and perfect our programs. After each challenge, we request evaluations so that we can come up with improvements as we go. From our first challenge till now we have added several features. It used to be 4 weeks but now it’s 6 weeks, we added a point system to encourage the challengers to work harder, and we tapped local businesses to sponsor fun gifts and prizes for our winners.
Doucky: We have had seven challenges thus far and they keep getting better. In fact, most of our challengers come back and want to participate again because we are constantly changing things up!
What do you like most about motherhood and running your own business?
Kausar: I love being able to spend ample time with my kids. I chose this career to give me flexibility and I LOVE it.
Doucky: I changed my career because I genuinely wanted to help people but also because I wanted to be there to raise my daughter. I didn’t want to miss a thing in her life. I had her after 8 years of marriage and I really, really wanted to witness her grow up. Now that I have this flexibility, I go to all her activities in school and am present in her daily routine. I love it and she loves it. It has been a win-win.
What are some songs on the Zumba playlist?
Kausar: My absolute favorite songs on my playlist are Badtameez Dil, Dura (Daddy Yankee), Mi Gente (J. Balvin, Willy William), Echame la Culpa, and Guarachar Salsaton.
What are some of the HIIT exercises you have the ladies do?
Doucky: I love burpees! It is one of the most complete total-body exercises. I know most people are resistant to do them, but they are really good for your overall endurance and strength. Suicide planks and plank jacks are my other favorites.
If you were to share one tip (fitness/nutrition) with moms, what would it be?
Kausar: Make time for yourself and your health. You are IMPORTANT.
Doucky: Make ‘living healthy’ a lifestyle, not a trend.