Teresa Erger Stays Strong by Adapting and Overcoming
When life becomes challenging for people, they’re either going to get defeated or become more determined. Teresa (Tess) Erger of Brandon, Iowa, isn’t one to get knocked over and stay down. She has learned to overcome challenges by focusing on what she can do to make a positive difference in the world around her.
Teresa is a wife, mother of two, grandmother of eight, and an entrepreneur.
“Because I have my online gym, I don’t have any excuses not to work out,” says Tess. “I can take my ‘gym’ anywhere I go. I carry my iPad with me wherever I go. Last year when the combine broke down, I did my workout in the middle of a corn field. I also have grandkids, so that motivates me. I want to be a positive role model for them. I want to be the grandma that rocks, not the one who sits in a rocking chair!”
In April 2019, Tess opened her virtual gym. She has learned to overcome excuses and makes time to exercise daily. She also encourages others to do the same. Fifty-nine women and nine men join her regularly for virtual workouts.
Tess was an aerobics instructor in the 1980s, but like many of us, she has had lots of other demands on her time based on each chapter of life. She operated her own beauty salon for 15 years. When her children started high school, she went back to college and earned a degree in elementary education with endorsements in Pre-K Special Education and Reading. Tess also earned a master’s degree in Differentiated Instructional Strategies.
While she has always helped on the farm before and after her off-farm job and on weekends, Tess has served as her family’s official grain cart operator for the past 10 years. She has learned to adapt and fill a need as it arises.
“On November 19, 2015, our family was hit hard with the reality of how quickly life can change in a blink of an eye,” says Tess. “My husband, Dave, had a massive heart attack at the age of 52. He underwent emergency surgery that day and was resuscitated twice. You prioritize and look at life differently when you almost lose love someone you love.”
“Fast forward one year, and Dave’s health continued to decline. Doctors couldn’t pinpoint why, so we ended up going to the Mayo Clinic. After three days of testing, Dave was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus, Hashimoto, Sjogren’s disease. All three are auto immune diseases for which there is no cure. Dave’s disease is treated like cancer, so doctors use various medications to trick the disease into remaining dormant,” adds Tess. “We have spent so many hours, days, and weeks at the hospital dealing with the damage this disease has caused to my husband’s internal organs. His diseases have attacked everything from heart, lungs, kidneys and his nervous system to his eyes, teeth and skin. Eating healthy and getting fit became our main focuses to prolong and to give Dave quality life.”
“I didn’t like being put in a specific category as a fitness instructor or having limitations as to what I could or couldn’t do, so I created my own program, routines, and workout programs. I created a group called ‘Choose to Change Group Fitness.’ I have been able to adjust, modify, and develop a program that works for all ages and stages of life. One thing that was missing from my program was a nutrition, supplements/vitamins, meal plans, and helping people change how they view fitness, health, and wellness. That is when I found BeachBody®.”
“Beachbody has such a great success record with workout programs, meal plans, and nutrition,” says Tess. “I became a coach and got my certification in Portion Control. Then I started an online virtual gym for both women and men. People can now workout in the convenience of their own home when it fits their schedules, and they have me as their personal coach, motivator, and biggest cheerleader. I help people work on professional development and help them find confidence in who they are and who they want to become.”
Working vs. Working Out
“There is a huge difference in working and working out! I feel we need to workout at least 30 minutes a day to stay in shape, build muscles and stay strong, so we can handle all types of jobs and minimize the risk of getting hurt. Working out and getting our heart rate up also helps keep us from getting fatigued. When we workout, endorphins are released which make us feel better and makes us happier,” says Tess.
“On the farm, we work hard from dusk until dawn and even longer hours in the spring and fall,” adds Tess. “Some of the tasks and jobs that must be done require manual labor. Cleaning out a grain bin, for example, requires a lot of strength, endurance and cardio. It is back breaking work. The same is true with baling hay, picking up rocks, fixing equipment, feeding and caring for livestock, and more. There also are a lot of jobs that require sitting such as driving tractors, lawn mowers, going to agriculture meetings, and hauling grain to town.”
“My workouts are my therapy,” says Tess. “I feel lost when I don’t do them. Once you start this journey and you do it every day, it becomes part of your daily routine just like brushing your teeth or combing your hair. You do it without really thinking about it. I also need to release those positive endorphins in order to stay positive and keep my mind right. Dealing with a sick husband is stressful. Farming isn’t easy and it takes a lot of dedication and self-motivation to keep going.
Plan for Success
Planning ahead and learning portion sizes is key to success, says Tess. She uses Portion Control Containers because they take all the guess work out of how much to eat and what types of foods to eat.
Because the containers are color-coded, it’s easy to track and measure each of the food groups:
- green for vegetables
- purple for fruit
- red for proteins
- yellow for carbs
- blue for healthy fats; and
- orange for seeds or dressings.
“Many times, we order a salad thinking we are making a healthy choice, but it often is large enough to feed two or three people,” says Tess. “I plan meals on Saturday and prep on Sundays. I keep pre-measured snacks in baggies in the refrigerator, so they’re read to grab and go. I make it a rule to not eat in the car.”
Grapes, carrots, celery, strawberries, diced watermelon, peanuts and almonds are a few of Tess’s prepped “to go” snacks.
“When we go out to eat, I often request a burger without a bun, choose a vegetable or a fruit instead of fries, and take it easy on dressings and sauces. Remember, ‘dip, don’t drench’,” coaches Tess. “I choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. I try to stay away from pre-packaged or processed foods. If God created it, then you can eat it!”
With that said, Tess doesn’t believe in denying oneself from special treats. She says she isn’t going to pass up a piece of birthday cake or a homemade cookie. She just eats sweets in moderation.
“I eat to fuel my body not to fill my belly. I eat when I’m hungry not because it’s time to eat,” she says. “I monitor my moods and make sure I’m not emotional eating or sabotaging the progress I’ve made because I’m upset. Instead of eating to deal with my problems, I choose to push ‘play’ and do a workout instead. The most important thing is to make up your mind to get more active and eat healthy. We all can find time to do a 20 or 30-minute workout or move our bodies. You just need to find something you like to do and make it a priority to fit it into your schedule.”
Remember to practice patience. Results will come.
“It takes 21 days to build a new habit, three months to make it a routine, and one year for it to become automatic,” says Tess. “Keep in mind that our health is our wealth. Invest in yourself!”
To help you take a step toward healthy eating, today Tess is sharing with us a one of her recipes for Perfectly Portioned Lasagna Roll Ups. Perfectly portioned Lasagna Roll Ups use poultry sausage, frozen spinach, and three cheeses to make a crowd-pleasing dinner! Do yourself a favor and make a double batch. It freezes well.
Perfectly Portioned Lasagna Roll Ups
- 8 whole wheat or gluten-free lasagna noodles
- Olive oil spray
- 1 pound ground sweet Italian chicken sausage (don’t like? Use lean ground beef or turkey)
- 10 ounces of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and completely drained
- 8 ounces part skim ricotta or cottage cheese (I used cottage cheese and it was GREAT!)
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- salt and fresh pepper
- Sprinkle of crushed red pepper (optional)
- Your choice of pasta sauce or tomato paste
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Cook lasagna noodles al-dente.
- While noodles are cooking, spray pan with olive oil spray. Then cook sausage until browned and no pink remains. Remove from heat; drain and let cool slightly.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Combine cooked sausage, spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, HALF of the mozzarella, egg, salt, black and red pepper (if using) in a medium bowl.
- Place a piece of wax or parchment paper on the counter and lay out lasagna noodles. If necessary, pat noodles dry with paper toweling.
- Add 1 cup of pasta sauce to the bottom of a 9×12 baking dish
- Take about 1/3 cup of sausage mixture and spread evenly over one noodle. Repeat until all noodles are covered. Roll each noodle carefully and place seam side down into the baking dish.
- Ladle more pasta sauce over top the roll ups in the baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese over noodles.
- Cover and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese melts. Uncover for the last few minutes if desired.
Makes 4 servings and is approved for the 21 Day Fix nutrition program. If you’re using those containers, 2 lasagna rolls count as 1¼ RED, ¾ GREEN, 1 BLUE, and 1 YELLOW.