by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
As 2013 closes, let’s pull from the triumphs of the world around us. Be positively influenced. Allow the stories of these members to help you become even more amazing in the New Year …
Although these members are being set apart, there are many among us who undertake huge challenges with great success. By highlighting these exemplary individuals, we are motivated to greater heights. We all continue to evolve as we journey closer to being our best, and giving our best.
We congratulate these extraordinary members. And, please, congratulate yourself. Be confident that wherever you find yourself today can be used to improve your tomorrow.
Sharon Wilbur, An Incredible Loss
When member Sharon lost, she gained big. Shedding 180 pounds brought her to a healthy weight of 135. Sharon struggled with her weight since middle school. Being a heavy person, with special sizing needs, was all she knew since pre-teen years. She credits her own “fear factor” as the catalyst for a commitment to change.
In 2011, Sharon suffered a stroke at 45 years old. This was the outcome of the many weight-related illnesses she endured. At that young point in life, Sharon had suffered high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, gout, and an aneurism. All of these were directly related to obesity, including the cancer, which her physician informed her typically only occurs in much older adults. With her health– and possibly her life– in imminent danger, Sharon took action.
With the inability to work from her post-stroke condition, she joined the Center and spent time at the Biggest Loser resort in Utah. Her weight-loss journey began. Sharon’s days at the resort were intense with long hours dedicated to exercise. There, she learned what Center staff would continue to reinforce. “I needed to realize I could push myself further. I needed to know I could do it,” she shares.
The Center provides the tools Sharon needs to expand on the time spent at the resort. Upon return from Utah, she spent all day, every day at the Center. Now, she is able to work again. Her definition of “cutting back” on fitness translates into a morning workout six days a week, with an additional evening workout on four of those days. She continues to redefine her limits, safely pushing to farther heights with the motivation of her Personal Trainers John Dohanic and Meghan Ciaccio. “You can go a lot farther than you think. Having the trainers there encourages me, with reminders of this,” says Sharon who weight trains and does aquatics (including lap swimming almost every morning).
“The Center makes it easy to commit to this healthy lifestyle. The facility is clean. Everyone is friendly and helpful. It’s a good place to go,” she says. Yet, Sharon is the one doing the great work.
Sharon just completed her first 5K, running or walking nonstop. Her goal is to entirely run her next 5K. Only her blood pressure remains a concern these days. All other health problems resolved with the weight loss. She continues to be motivated by her improved health– and wearing an easy-to-find size medium clothing for the first time ever.
Guisella Houlahan, Cancer Survivor
The teenage years are usually punctuated with typical blemishes. Life lessons are learned, which, hopefully, make for a better, smarter future. At eleven years old, member Guisella began her teenhood with a problem of adult proportions: cancer. She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the white blood cells.
Detected early, her prognosis was good. She began chemotherapy treatment, which caused the weight gain typical in young patients. Guisella underwent chemotherapy for four years. As the treatment battled her cancer, Guisella was unable to prevent the subsequent weight gain. This was inconsequential at the time. Her body conquered the cancer, the ultimate priority.
Fourteen years later, at age 25, Guisella finally began to feel recovered from the cancer and treatments that ravaged her body. “Joining the Center was a way I could finally take control of my health. I needed to get myself on track,” Guisella said. The Center was a good fit, conveniently located near the college she attends.
“Right away, I felt support from every person I met at the Center. Luckily, I have all the tools anyone needs to succeed.” Guisella met daily with Personal Trainer Brandon Swanner on the Exercise Floor. She returned in the evenings for her cardio workout.
“Training with Brandon has changed my outlook on who I am and what I truly can accomplish. I cannot thank him enough for all he has done, and continues to do with me every day,” Guisella emphasizes.
Guisella is due her share of thanks. She has shown us the sky is the limit, as long as we ceaselessly challenge ourselves. She tells how her trainer has been there with her through successes and failures. Yet, her actions are the stuff of inspiration. They reflect a tireless ability to push forward despite it all.
Beyond all this, Zumba is what Guisella notes has been life-changing. She loses herself during that hour-long class when nothing matters but you and the music. “Instructor Donna Friel has been one of the most influential people in my life. She is one of the strongest women I know,” Guisella says emphatically. Her positive experience led her to become a certified Zumba instructor. Guisella’s mission is to make people smile, just as her mentor Donna does for her.
She lost over 70 pounds in 11 months. She gained a better life. “As a member, I know I’m on the right track to getting healthy and continuing this new lifestyle. This was not the end for me. It’s one chapter. I couldn’t be any happier than I am today.”
Michael Hopson, Healing Heart
Member Michael’s chest pain came without warning. A typical workday became a life-changer from it. The next day, Michael underwent triple bypass surgery. Today, he finds himself healthier because of it.
Michael lived his life, unaware of his failing heart. He enjoyed an active career, dashing around the campus of Rutgers University as director of administration. Business meetings were often lengthy and conducted over meals (not exactly the setting for “mindful eating”). Michael’s lifestyle was active but not necessarily healthy.
Post-surgery, Michael redefines active: “Exercise is a staple in my regular routine now. Although I was physically active, I was not gaining the benefits of a regular fitness program.”
Michael transitioned to an exercise program after finishing cardiac rehabilitation. He joined the Center in March 2011, comforted by the on-site nurse, continuous medical screening, and fitness evaluations. His own physicians visited the Center, met with training staff, and created a safe exercise regimen customized for Michael.
Although nervous to begin this journey, Center staff worked closely with Michael’s physicians who cleared him prior to any new phase of fitness. The transition from medical regimens to more aggressive exercise went smoothly. Michael has become an advocate for those recovering from injury or surgery. Impressed with the Center, his physicians brainstormed about how to transition other patients from rehab to fitness programs.
“My doctors are impressed with the highly skilled staff, caliber of equipment, aquatic therapy, and overall cleanliness at the Center. Knowing others may benefit from my positive outcome here makes all this worth it,” Michael admits.
Michael’s current routine mostly focuses on cardio fitness. This has allowed time for his chest cavity to heal. He just obtained approval to begin strength training so his new goals include weightlifting and weight loss. His advice to others in the process of healing: “Proceed gradually with your exercise regimen. As you do, you’ll start to feel better. When you feel better, you start to do better.”
Michael would like to see others follow his path of allowing an extreme medical condition to be a catalyst for becoming healthier. “Don’t worry that you cannot do what you used to do. You probably can do more! Your medical condition may have been the actual result of what you did not do [proper exercise and diet]. Hindsight is amazing.”
Value your mistakes and what they have taught you.
Laura Lindson, No Longer “Fed Up”
Tired of being overweight, and disgusted with her apathetic attitude about it, member Laura reached her limit. After a lifetime of being heavy, she started a weight loss journey that dropped triple-digit pounds.
At 29 years old, Laura wanted to keep up with friends on walks through the city. She longed to climb a flight of stairs without getting winded. Her thirtieth birthday was a milestone to be celebrated with improved health (and a slimmer wardrobe). Laura was on a mission.
“I needed to give weight loss one good try. I had to discover if I was capable of it. Turns out, I am,” she said with a smile. When she found the Center, Laura felt comfortable. It was a place where she could envision personal success. “Unlike other facilities, at the Center, I immediately felt accepted. I did not feel self-conscious. No one looked at me like I didn’t belong. I was welcomed and encouraged from the start.”
With a love of swimming, Laura began her fitness program in the Center’s Aquatics department. She swam and joined aquatic classes. As her weight decreased, she gained confidence. Eventually, she expanded to land workouts, with the Group Fitness class Sh’Bam as her introduction. “It was great fun so I began trying all the classes,” informs Laura.
Her additional favorites include taking BodyCombat classes, weightlifting with her trainer, and jogging on the treadmill.”A year ago, I’d say this was impossible,” she insists. “I can’t even remember the last time I could wear clothes that were not from the ‘plus’ department. I feel great!”
Laura’s longtime friends have been inspired to be more active. She hopes those at the Center, many with whom she has become close friends, are also inspired. She advises those trying to lose weight to avoid obsessing over numbers on the scale. “Watching the scale can be frustrating.” Instead, she suggests noting increased energy, improved mental and physical health, and the extra space in your clothes.
“Know it is possible,” she encourages. “You don’t need gimmicks or the latest weight-loss trends. You just need to be 100 percent committed to yourself. As you feel better, and you will, you will be motivated to continue.” Results were Laura’s driving force. Celebrating a 105-pound loss, she is positive they can be yours, too.
Awaken Your Courage
Success is not the easy path. Many desire it, yet wander aimlessly without direction. Let these stories be your compass. It is time to be brave. Look within yourself and you will find the answers. Be confident your unique direction will be revealed to you in the perfect time and place. You are more courageous and stronger than you realize. And, you are worth it.
Grow forth, friends …
Higher heights: www.flickr.com/photos/kyletaylor/7348876414/