“My reasons for entering the Body Challenge are many. My dad had diabetes, high blood pressure, and an enlarged heart. In February 2010 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and two short months later, he was gone. I am certain that be- ing overweight and not exercising took a toll on his health, possibly contributing to the onset of the cancer. Watching my dad’s health deteriorate made me very aware of my own mortality. I felt very unhealthy for a very long time, even telling a friend once that I felt like if I didn’t do something about my weight I would die at a young age. I feared that I wouldn’t be around to see my kids graduate, or know my grandkids.

My doctor was concerned that I was pre-diabetic, was monitoring my blood pres- sure, talking to me about taking meds, and suggested gastric bypass. I have de- generative arthritis in both ankles, and had been getting steroid shots for about two years to take the edge off of the pain. My ankles were huge (my kids had fun mush- ing my skin, playing with the synovial ?uid that had built up). My doctor told me that my only options were to continue shots until I couldn’t stand the pain any- more, or to have surgery, fusing the joint. I would lie in bed at night with throbbing ankles, feeling broken. I planned to get the joint fusion in 2011. My body was a mess, and I felt like I would never improve, that I would only get older and suffer more. I felt like a disappointment and an embarrassment to my my husband, my kids, my mom, and myself.

My life changed when my best friend gave me a 7 day free trial at Anytime Fitness. I decided it would be fun to hang out for a bit, but had no real intention of continu- ing on. Then I met Jen at the Mt. Pleasant branch, who immediately made me feel welcome. There was no judgement in her eyes, only encouragement. I discovered Zumba, cardio-kickboxing, and group training with Linda from USA Elite. Jen, Linda, and former Body Challengers started talking about the 2011 Body Challenge, and even though I was completely out of shape, they assured me I could do it. I signed up! At the very ?rst meeting, CJ said something that really inspired me. He said that he has a gift for looking at a person and seeing the ?t and healthy version of that person. That was when I knew this was the program for me.

My frequent gym time came to a screeching halt in the Fall of 2011. I had to have a complete hysterectomy and my gall bladder removed. The ?rst question I asked my doctor about recovery was, “when can I go back to the gym, and to Zumba?” I found myself watching Zumba and Insanity infomercials, longing for activity! I counted down the weeks, then the days, and the day my six weeks of captivity/ recovery was over, I was in the gym! I missed it so much, but keeping in touch with gym buddies through Facebook helped. I gained a little of my weight back during the six weeks, and knew that I’d be doing the Body Challenge again to get completely back on track.

I entered the 2012 Body Challenge to continue what I started in 2011 – to get ?t and healthy, to be a role model to my kids, and to and prove to myself I could tackle any challenge. After all the support and encouragement my husband, David, has given me during both Body Challenges, I so badly want to give something more back to him. I am in it to win it! A free annual membership would mean that David could also come to the gym. He takes high blood pressure medicine, and getting ?t would mean going off of it. He said that if he started working out, he would bring my 16-year old son as well, which not only gets them both living an active lifestyle, it would give them much-needed one-on-one time (which is hard to come by with two other siblings).

My goal this year was to lose another 50 pounds. I jumped in with both feet im- mediately. I read the Body Challenge books over and over, listened intently to every bit of information given to us, planned, and worked out harder than I have ever done before, faithfully following each phase. I took (and still do) every class available, and visited another place for two extra rounds of Zumba every week. Four Zumba, two cardio kickboxing, and one abs class per week, and usually 5-6 additional hours of cardio every week, trying out every form of cardio available to keep my body from getting used to any one thing, I not only reached my goal of 50 pounds, but surpassed it for a total of 64 pounds! About three weeks ago, my goal changed. My new goal was to reach a total loss of 100 pounds by summer. Phil told me I could do it by the end of challenge. He asked me if I wanted it, to which I replied “Yes!”. “Then do it,” he said. I amped up the workouts, and when I weighed in on May 5, reached a total overall weight loss of 106 pounds!

My life has changed in so many ways. After my success with 2011’s Body Chal- lenge, I stopped getting steroid injections, and with this year’s additional success, I no longer take painkillers for my ankles at all! My ankles are almost as small as they were two decades ago! I can hold my head high, and know that my family is proud of me. Exercise is a lifestyle, not a fad. I actually become grumpy and out of sorts if I go too long between workouts. My diet is much cleaner, I cook more, and have learned so much about alternate food choices. I’ve come to know that the lowest carb tortillas are found at Farm Fresh, the lowest carb/high protein yogurt is at Kroger’s, and Harris Teeter and Trader Joe’s offer a wider variety of more unusual food choices. It is so important to talk to others who eat healthy to share ideas, recipes, substitutions, etc. It not only inspires more creative thinking about food, but helps me stay on track with clean eating. Treats are just that…not a part of my everyday menu.

My daughter and I started walking before school during last year’s challenge. This year, my oldest son wanted to go on before-school bike rides. We only have two functioning bikes, so when my daughter wanted to go too, it meant two before- school bike rides for me, which works out well. I came home last week to all my boys (husband and two sons) working out with weights. I’m very happy that they’re taking an interest in being more active.

The kids have gotten in the habit of looking at food labels now. At ?rst, it was for me, but I’ve noticed them commenting things like, “Wow! This has a lot of sugar!”, and making better food choices in general.

Memorable milestones moments during the program: Falcon 5K – beating my 2011 time by nine minutes! About a month ago, my husband picked me up and twirled me. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but this was the ?rst time in 18 years I was light enough for him to lift me! While I was in bed reading, my husband came in and said, “you hardly take up any space in the bed anymore”. Chaperoning a ?eld trip to D.C. last month: My son told me that his friends wanted to know if I was going to make us jog around D.C. all day (they’ve seen me heading to the gym A LOT!), running to the top of the Lincoln Memorial, realizing I was not even out of breath! At the Air and Space Museum, I rode the ?ight simulator. Again, this doesn’t seem like a big thing, but not long ago, I wouldn’t have ?t in the seat, or been able to buckle the seat belts! While changing shirts, my daughter walked in and said, “Mom! You’re so skinny!” Realizing that my children (and the oldest is 16) have never known me as small as I am now. Post-team challenge at Trashmore – on the way home, I felt very emotional, felt like I was ?nding the girl I used to be with every new bit of weight loss. It’s a hard feeling to describe. In my head, I have always had the energy and desire to do so many things, but was depressed because of the knowledge that my body could not physically carry them out, and really doubted things would ever change. Now, I can JUMP! I can DANCE! I can RUN! It is such a freeing feeling, and I never knew I’d enjoy sprinting! Without exaggeration, at least one person every day (usually more than one), tells me I look great, asks about how much weight I’ve lost, and how I did it. I am a walking commercial for Anytime Fitness and USA Elite Trainers! It is exciting for me to be able to share my journey, and encourage others. I talked about the 2011 Body Challenge with one of my co-workers all year long, and she joined the gym and did the Body Challenge with me this year! My husband, my mom, and my boss telling me how proud they are of me. Being told that I am an inspiration. I am so happy that I can pay it forward- inspire people as others have (and continue to) inspired and motivated me.

There is no going back for me. I look at the “before” pictures with mixed emotions: remorse, disbelief, and determination, because I will never be that person again. Knowing that all of the staff are here because they truly want others to be healthy was an amazing discovery. The trainers have a way of getting in and staying in my head. When things are tough, I hear CJ, “You can do anything for a minute”, “If you feel like Jello, that’s good because Jello is no-fat”, “You have a minute to win it!”. Sometimes it’s Phil’s voice, “Do you want it? Do it!”, or George, “You’ve got this!” And Jen Dick, encouraging us during our Saturday workouts, participating during the around-the-building lunges, the Mt. Trashmore workouts-always right there with us. And our team-such awesome motivators! Keeping in touch with teammates through Facebook, Anytime Health, and MyFitnessPal, we shared every trial and triumph throughout the program. We shared recipes, advice, meal plans, shopping tips, and so much more. The friendships we have made won’t end with the Body Challenge.

Words cannot express how grateful I am to be a part of this family, to have been a part of the Body Challenge for two years, and for all the continuing support. Thank you is not enough, but please know that I am eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to take the Challenge!”