Two years ago, I had an epiphany.
I realized that I was purely existing and not truly living. I had a three-year old son that I needed to take care of and I didn’t feel like I was doing my best by being a good role model for him. I grew up an overweight child and it pained me that still, at age 36, I hadn’t yet figured out how to be healthy.
I almost always had the desire to be a healthy person, so much so that I majored in Health Studies in college and graduated with honors, although I could never get it to work in my life. One day, while driving, I thought to myself that I would probably be dead by 40 if I didn’t truly change my life. I decided that I needed to “Be There For Ben,” and from that day on, that has been my mantra and my motivation.
My journey began when I read about the Y’s Weight Loss Challenge Program in their program guide. See, I had been a member for years, but I only worked out a handful of times during those years. I used our membership primarily for the wonderful children’s programming. This time around though, I wanted to to make time for me. After all, if I wanted my family to be healthy, it had to start with me. So I registered for the class and, even though I was terrified, I took the biggest and hardest step of my life—walking through those doors. By doing so, I met Kevin and Lisa Hir, who, while I did not know it at the time, would change my life forever.
Their Weight Loss Challenge class was incredible. They are the “no nonsense, no excuses”-type but they GOT IT. They both had personal, compelling success stories that resonated with me. I knew I had to be willing to change if I wanted to have a better life for my family and me, so I committed to doing what they said, even if I didn’t want to for the entire 12-week program. This meant following a certain food plan and journaling everything I ate.
It also included weekly weigh-ins, an education session on nutrition and exercise and, lastly, weekly group workouts. With our first workout, Kevin led us in a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) style workout and I was terrified. I honestly did not think that I would be able to finish. He showed us modifications and, somehow, some way, I did it. After class, we huddled as a team and he told us he was PROUD of us. I broke down in tears. That was a life changing night for me.
By the end of the 12-week program, I had lost 38 pounds. I completed the class with a renewed sense of confidence. I enrolled in Nutrition For All during the spring session to continue on with the nutritional guidance. In this class, we were to complete a 30-day Paleo challenge. Again, I reluctantly agreed but soon found that it actually wasn’t that hard. I experimented to figure out which foods worked with my body and which ones didn’t. After much trial and error, I learned that my body does not do well with gluten/wheat, soy or most dairy. I don’t like to label how I eat. I just think of it as eating real food.
My fitness journey has progressed through many stages.
I started with the HIIT classes and doing workouts on my own. I gathered the courage to go to Boot Camp, which is an amazing class with a true family of really inspiring and supportive people. I added strength-training classes such as Body Pump and Synergy 360. I was lovingly convinced to try a spin class and now absolutely love cycling. I added in yoga to keep things flexible and balanced.
Last September, at the age of 37, I started the Couch to 5K program and ran one mile straight-through for the first time in my entire life. It was then that I realized that this journey is 90 percent mental. I truly believe where the mind goes, your body will follow. I continued running and participated in a few 5Ks.
In January, I registered for my first sprint triathlon. I completed that tri in June 2014 and participated in another one in August 2014. I have continued running and am currently training for my first half marathon. I have lost 140 pounds, gone down 10 pants sizes, and have physically done things that I never thought were possible. That is nothing in comparison to what I have gained – a newfound confidence, purpose and appreciation for life. It’s taken two years and I am almost to my weight goal, but I am not done yet and I don’t think I will ever be truly finished. It sounds so cliché, but it truly IS possible for anyone!
I share my personal story as a sincere, heartfelt thank you to the C.W. Avery Family YMCA and its entire staff. Not only the trainers, but also the Kids Korner workers who take care of my child so I can take care of me. The awesome front desk staff. Everyone. There are too many people to name, but you know who you are and you are all so incredibly special to me. The YMCA has become my home away from home and I am not exaggerating when I say that this place has saved my life. It has not always been easy, but it has been so worth it.
I think I’ve had tears of frustration, fear and doubt with almost every instructor, and each one has picked me back up, encouraged me to try and helped me realize that I CAN do the things that I thought I could not do. I have made so many friends that make coming back each day so wonderful. I have to also credit my amazing physical therapist who despite me being injured through this entire journey, has made me a stronger person both physically and mentally by making it possible for me to continue working out.
My ultimate goal is to be a good role model for my son. I want to be here to see him grow up and see him lead a healthy life. Being an overweight child myself, my desire is to create a program to work with children to foster good self-esteem and show them that living a healthy life can be fun.
To anyone out there thinking about doing something to improve your life and well-being, my advice to you is to just start doing something.
Now. Not Monday. Monday may never come around.
Make small changes. Small changes add up to big results. When you don’t feel like going to the gym, put on your workout clothes. It will motivate you. The only workout you will ever regret is the one you didn’t do. One hour is four percent of your day. Make the time for you and your loved ones. Keep searching for something you enjoy. Be brave and try out a new class. It just might be the thing you love to do. (By the way, no one is judging you or paying attention to you. If anything, they are proud of you for walking through that door, and likely have been there too at some point.)
Keep challenging yourself. If you stop, you won’t continue to grow. Get outside your comfort zone. As I said, it’s not always easy, but it is most certainly worth it.
Editor’s Note: This success story was bravely written by a Y member named Jill.