“Overweight, chunky, thick, and my favorite “big-boned” had all been used to describe me while I was growing up. There is no nice way of putting it, I was heavy and had been most of my life. While I was pretty active and competitive in sports, playing basketball, soccer, softball, and volleyball, I was by no means the picture of perfect health. It was hard being the heaviest one in my group of friends and never feeling comfortable in my own skin. I realize I have had body image issues since I was in Middle School trying diet after failed diet. In fact, I think I have been “dieting” since I was about 12 years old. Who diets at 12 years old?! I have tried the Slimfast diet, Sugar Busters, and even found some success with Nutrisystem (only to put the weight back on), but nothing seemed to teach me the fundamentals of healthy eating in combination with exercise.

I think my final breaking point was after I re-gained 40 pounds that I had lost on Nutrisystem in College. I knew that eating pre-packaged meals to lose weight and keep it off was no way to live the rest of my life. One day after Zumba, I heard a previous Challenge veteran talking about the Body Challenge and how much success she had with the program. After bombarding her with questions about the exercise routines and diet I thought “Maybe this could be my solution!” As it turns out, it was one of the BEST things I have ever done for myself.

When I originally signed up for the Challenge I set what I felt was a reasonable goal weight of 160. I figured if I made it to 160 I would be around my post-Nutrisystem weight, which at that point was the thinnest I had ever been. I wanted to be able to feel confident about myself and tighten and tone everything. I honestly wasn’t 100% sure what I would be able to accomplish in those twelve weeks, but I knew it would be better than feeling sorry for myself and trying to wish away the weight. What I never thought would happen was meeting my goal weight and looking so incredibly different! I went from a starting weight of 188 pounds and a size 12 to 154 pounds and a size 6! I’m the smallest I have EVER been in my entire life! I am still astounded by the results. Someone actually referred to me as “little” the other day, little! I never thought the “big-boned” girl would ever be referred to as little. The combination of healthy eating, cardio, and lifting has transformed by body completely! I have definition in my arms and legs, a much smaller waist, no more love handles, and best of all… no stomach rolls! Not to mention I am in the best shape of my life. Half way through the Challenge we ran the Falcon 5k and I managed to place second in my age group. If you asked me back in September if I would ever run a 5k, let alone place in one, I would have called you crazy and then taken a bite of extra cheesy pizza. Even after reaching my goal weight I am still so incredibly motivated. I have since lowered my goal weight even more and have no intention of giving up. I even want to participate next year to keep myself motivated and in check.

The Challenge has given me a whole new perspective on dieting and exercise. While I enjoyed exercise before I started the Challenge, my love for it has grown tenfold. My daily visits have become something that I look forward to and I feel lost when I’m not in the gym taking a class, lifting, or doing extra cardio. I find myself scouring the internet for 5k’s to run and maybe even 8k’s in the near future. Of course the other important component to my success was the diet. The diet portion initially had me very scared. I’m an extremely picky eater and I thought the diet would be difficult for me to follow. Although I was scared, I threw myself in to it and watched my diet completely transform. I eat and actually enjoy healthy foods I wouldn’t previously have given the time of day. I’m eating more fruits and vegetables and I have even dabbled in the world of tofu. Yes, tofu. Tofu noodles were my savior during the Challenge! Low in fat and carbs, these babies taste just like regular pasta when a little bit of seasoning is added. When I go to the grocery store I now know what nutritional information to look for on foods and what I should avoid. I have learned the difference between good and bad carbs and I also managed to grasp the concept of portion control! That has always been my biggest adversary in the dieting game. I know what 3oz of Chicken looks like and I’m actually full after eating it! I’ve also become somewhat of a low fat/low carb recipe wizard in the kitchen. My co-workers especially seem to appreciate my healthy cooking. In fact I have started a healthy eating trend at work. Far gone are the days where the other graphic designers and I would go out for lunch. Now our break room refrigerator is full of cutesy lunch boxes filled with healthy lunches and snacks. We all keep almonds and fruit on hand to fight the hunger cravings and resist the temptation of the monthly Birthday celebrations. No cake for us!

It’s amazing the support I have received from USA Elite trainers, the other Challengers and staff of Anytime Fitness. I don’t think I would have been anywhere near as successful without them. The veteran Body Challengers and Anytime staff were always encouraging especially if I didn’t see the numbers I was hoping for that week or just felt exhausted. They would make sure I knew how great I was doing with words of encouragement and comments like “skinny girl.” They even tossed out suggestions like, “make sure you’re drinking ALL of your water every day,” or “try cutting back on your carbs a few days out of the week.” It was also great sharing recipes we all discovered on Pinterest. It was like Christmas when I would come in the gym with a new recipe or another Challenger would have healthy cookies for us to try. All of those early morning lifting and cardio sessions before work would have become monotonous if it weren’t for my team. I could count on them to be there with me and for me. They are like an extension of my family and I must say we ROCKED this Challenge!”