2012 Spring Weight Loss Challenge Winner
*Results not typical
Before I started the 90-Day Challenge at Life Time, my activity level and healthy eating habits were quite sporadic. However, it wasn’t always that way. When I was in high school, I was very active. Between sports, working and activities, there was never really a time when I sat around doing nothing. I would work out five to six days a week, doing both cardio and heavy weight lifting. As an athlete, staying fit was crucial. Working out became such a huge part of my routine that when I didn’t work out even for a few days, I would feel sluggish and restless. Sounds like the right track to living a healthy lifestyle, right? But everything changed once I began college.
When I first started at UIC, I tried to maintain the regimen that I had followed in high school. And I was able to do so, for at least a while. But as classes became more difficult and my workload increased, I began to make excuses for not going to the gym or eating healthy. Finishing work for class became more important than fitting in a workout, and grabbing a quick meal from a nearby fast food restaurant became easier than preparing a healthy one at my apartment. Living on a college campus in the city, I was surrounded by an endless string of unhealthy choices. And in the usual American tradition, the unhealthiest restaurants were the most accessible, both in price and convenience. It was not unusual for me to eat out three to four times a week. Pair that with the stress of my biochemistry major and my lack of sleep, and I quickly developed undesirable habits.
As my college years progressed, so did my poor eating habits and my inattention to my overall health. My classes became more difficult, which left me with less time to focus on my health and more time focusing on my studies. My sleep schedule was anything but regular due to all-nighters and random naps that I would try to sneak in during the day. This especially became a problem at the end of the semesters when final exams and projects would build up, sending my stress levels through the roof. My energy levels were sluggish at best, my weight rose, and I became increasingly self-conscious. The worst part: I was in denial. I kept telling myself that I could start losing weight “tomorrow,” but I was always made excuses.
When I graduated from UIC last spring and moved back home, I convinced myself that I would get back to my healthy habits from high school. But again, I kept making excuses. In December, I began working as an EMT for a local ambulance with the intention of accruing enough patient contact hours to apply for Physician Assistant school. As an EMT, much of my job involves dealing with people ridden with illness. Many of these individuals are morbidly obese with a laundry list of preventable life-threatening conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Even worse, many of them are relatively young — in their forties. The more contact I had with these patients, the more I realized that my lifestyle was similar to theirs. I could very well be heading down the same road as them, even at the young age of 22. In contrast, I also have assisted patients who are well into their nineties, most of whom have very few health issues other than those which are inevitable as you reach that age. It is often apparent that these individuals have led a healthy lifestyle. It quickly became clear that I had to make a change if I wanted a life as long and healthy as those of my older patients.
My motivation finally kicked in when I received a Life Time membership for Christmas this past year. Now I knew I had no excuses for not going to the gym, especially when I had access to a nearby gym with all the resources and amenities necessary to help get me on my way to a healthier lifestyle. Just a few weeks after becoming a member at Life Time, I heard about the 90-Day Challenge. I knew right away that this was what I needed to get my life back on track. I signed up for the Challenge immediately, telling myself that I would no longer make excuses for my poor choices.
From day one, I completely changed my eating habits. I knew that if I didn’t, I would never make it through the 90 days. Right away, I adopted a vegan diet. At first, I wasn’t sure I could actually go through with that kind of program because I have always loved meat. I wasn’t convinced that mostly fruits and veggies and other light foods could sustain me. And because I hadn’t worked out in quite a while, I wasn’t sure where to start. When I weighed in at the start of the challenge, I was able to consult with one of the trainers to create goals for myself. Based on my goals, he offered a number of suggestions to get me started. I found this helpful, and it eased me into creating a new routine for myself.
The transition was pretty difficult; I often found myself craving fatty foods and high-sugar snacks. And of course, there were days when I would rather lie on the couch and watch sports than go work out. But I wouldn’t allow myself to make excuses this time, and kept telling myself to take it one day at a time, knowing that it would pay off. I was reminded of this each time I assisted an overweight patient. I knew that that would be my fate if I didn’t stick to my plan. By the end of the first week, I started noticing some big changes. I stuck to my vegan program and made visits to Life Time part of my daily routine. Already I was beginning to feel more energized, and I was more alert than I had ever been while eating junk food. Noticing how much of a difference one week made motivated me even more.
My activity level increased tenfold. When I wasn’t working, I was at Life Time. I took advantage of everything I could, from the pool to the cardio machines to the free weights. I pushed myself harder every day, knowing that I was ingraining a new mindset. As my friends and family began to notice the changes, I became even more motivated. Knowing that others noticed my efforts was gratifying, and I even thought that I could help motivate others by setting an example of determination and persistence.
As the challenge progressed, it became about more than just losing weight. I felt a renewed sense of self, and I was gaining confidence. The way I think about food has changed tremendously. Over the course of the 90 days, I acquainted myself with foods I probably never would have tried before, but they will now continue to be a part of my daily intake. I am no longer consuming empty calories. Instead, I know that every piece of food I put into my body is not only natural, but is also packed with nutrients that I need and wasn’t getting before. I couldn’t imagine going back to the eating habits that I had before the challenge, but I know how easy it can be to fall back into those bad habits. This time, however, I know how much is at stake if I go back to my old routine.
Even though the 90 days are over, I know that I still have a long road ahead of me to continue a healthy lifestyle. However, I’m confident that with my continued persistence and utilization of Life Time’s resources, I am well on my way. I’ve learned that as long as you set a goal and take it day by day, anything can be achieved.