A Fresh Start

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It’s never too late to hit the reset button. Ask Ro Petersen. Since adopting a new and healthy lifestyle, she has lost more than 50 percent of her body weight—dropping from 320 pounds to 155 pounds. Finding the strength to start fresh didn’t come easy. But, as Ro sees it, she had no other choice.

“I felt like I was probably going to die by the time I was 50,” said Ro, a 45-year-old teacher’s aide who lives in Morris. “And that scared me because it meant I wouldn’t see my son go to college. That’s when it all changed.”

As a result, Ro began exercising regularly. Primarily using an elliptical machine she had at home, she managed to cut 75 pounds. Eventually the elliptical stopped working, however, and Ro began exploring other options.

During the summer of 2015, she joined the Morris YMCA. More devoted than ever, she kicked her fitness routine up a notch and hasn’t looked back since. Working out at the Y is now a part of her daily life. She visits the Y five days a week, if not six, to continue her weight loss journey. Once per week, she also trains with Health and Wellness Director Ian Stewart, who has guided her along the way.

“Ro is by far one of the hardest working individuals I know, inside and outside of the gym,” Ian said. “She has embraced everything I’ve thrown her way. She does her homework.”

As it turned out, exercising was only half the battle. Not only did Ro have to commit to fitness and exercise, but she also had to smarten up about her nutrition. For Ro, that meant shaking some unhealthy eating habits.

“There are a lot of people who are addicted to alcohol. There are people, unfortunately, who are addicted to drugs. I’m addicted to food,” she said. “That feeling of ecstasy that somebody would get from drugs or alcohol—I get that from food. And it’s difficult because I can go into Jewel and get a bag of Oreos and ice cream, and it’s totally legal.”

Nevertheless, Ro overcame her old eating habits by formulating a diet and swearing to it. She learned about calorie intake; she gave up late night snacking; she swapped junk food for fruits and vegetables; and now, she is healthier than ever.

“The Y has really helped me focus. I’m really glad they’re here in Morris,” she said. “When I workout, I want to eat better. When I eat better, I want to workout. I feel amazing.”

Ro is living proof that you can make a change for the better. She’ll be the first one to tell you that it’s not easy. But she’ll also tell you that it’s absolutely worth it.