HUNTLEY – She was an overweight fifth-grade teacher who was not happy with where she was at physically. She was never very athletic. She didn’t play sports. She had just received her master’s degree and had gained a bunch of weight in the process. Weight management was forever a struggle for Huntley resident Irene Kok.
Seeing her today, you may not believe it, although she talks about it in great detail in her new book, “Girlfriend’s Guide to Weight Loss.”
Owner of GetUFit Fitness & Nutrition, Kok took a serious audit of her life and decided that it was time for a change. She joined a gym and “started doing step classes like crazy.” She was encouraged by her instructor to also become an instructor, so she did, and never looked back. Teaching step classes on nights and weekends soon turned into a part-time job that worked around her busy schedule of teaching and raising four kids. In 2004, she gave up teaching elementary school and made fitness her sole focus. In 2010, she received her credentials in nutrition, and her new job, became a career.
“That was the big piece that really helped me to take off,” Kok said. “Exercise is one thing, but nutrition is such a major piece of the road to success.”
Kok steers people away from crash diets, as well as marketing gimmicks that try to act as quick fixes.
“People see this stuff and they think it’s real, but cutting in line will not get you there,” Kok said. “It’s not normal to lose 10 pounds in a week. You have to take your time with it.”
The personal trainer, nutritional coach, life coach, certified yoga and group fitness instructor, running coach and the “GetUFit with Irene” radio show host said, however, nutrition is not the biggest and most important part of weight management.
“People don’t understand that the biggest piece in achieving and maintaining lifelong fitness is the mindset,” Kok said. “Although the exercise and nutritional portions are important, none of it will fall into place unless you have the mindset. A good mindset is knowing that you are capable of meeting your goals, understanding that this is a lifelong adventure, and that it’s not going to come in one week or even six weeks. Having the knowledge and understanding that you should focus on the big picture and not the day-to-day is key.”
Kok said that so often people focus on the scale, but you have to go day-by-day and every little bit of progress is going to make a difference. Don’t beat yourself up for the things you do wrong, but rather, celebrate what you do right.
Kok also offers reboot programs, which incorporate custom food plans based on foods you like, weight-loss goals, allergies and schedules. The three-month program also offers lessons on constructing your own food plan, recipes, daily communications with Kok via text, weekly workout videos and daily inspirations. Kok is gearing up to start her 2019 GetUFit Autumn Reboot on Oct. 21.
“It started with a couple of clients and now I have over 1,000,” Kok said. “It’s me. It’s not an app. I don’t have any employees. It’s really cool. It’s like my little tribe. The program keeps them accountable and the results are insane. They don’t just change their weight. They change their mindset.”
Woodstock resident Sarah Zirin started on Kok’s food plan six years ago, breaking her leg shortly after, which put her on crutches for 12 weeks.
“I was so distraught,” Zirin said. “I had finally decided to commit to my health and I get hurt. I was so worried about gaining even more weight because I couldn’t walk, but that didn’t happen. I kept on the program and my husband drove me for upper-body training once a week and I lost weight and kept losing weight.”
Zirin lost 43 pounds in six months and still has not gained any of the weight back.
“I tried Weight Watchers, Atkins, shakes. Some of them sort of worked, but never long-term,” Zirin said. “Now I know I’d never go back. It’s real food and you’re not restricted. You feel accountable. It’s truly not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. And Irene, she’s amazing. You truly feel like her only client and you feel it, from the bottom of her heart, that she wants you to succeed. She’s completely engaged with you.”
Members of the Huntley Fire Department have been working with Kok and her program for about two years. The department was looking for help with their fitness and nutrition and sought Kok out, however, they couldn’t fund the program, so she volunteered to do a year for free. Kok now goes to their four stations three days a week. She trains them with cardio and weights and recently got them into yoga.
“If you look at what they go through both physically and mentally, the yoga stuff is so important for them,” Kok said. “When I started, they couldn’t even stretch and now I get all yogi on them and ask them to clear their minds and erase their brains. It really helps with injury prevention.”
Kok also got them on nutritional plans, which has improved their health stats. She also cooks lunch and dinner for them every Tuesday.
“It shows them how to cook healthy and gives them a break,” Kok said. “I also introduced them to the Instant Pot and they have their little Irene recipes that they make. I feel like they’ve really changed the way they’ve eaten and are now eating cleaner. They still have their pizza on Friday, but they’ve really changed their thinking.”
Kok practices her healthy habits at home with her physical education teacher husband, Matt, and children, Samantha, 21, Alyssa, 20, Nicolas, 17 and Ava, 10. Kok is a marathoner, having completed more than 50 marathons, including the cult favorite Barkley Marathons in Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee. On Oct. 13, Kok will run marathon No. 52, the Chicago Marathon, alongside her daughter, Alyssa, who will be running a marathon for the first time.
For information on GetUFit Fitness & Nutrition and available services, visit getufitfitnessandnutrition.com.