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Entries in 90-Day Transformation (16)

Sunday
Aug242014

Mark L. – Warrenville, IL

Average. That's me…just an ordinary, average guy. I have never been an athlete; I am not wealthy; I don't have a high-profile job; and I am just as easily overlooked in a crowd as the next guy. My whole life I've just kind of been a regular, average guy. So, when I began seeing the Transformation Challenge posters popping up at the gym, I took notice. I found myself staring at the “before” and “after” photos of past contestants in amazement. The changes these regular people underwent were so incredible that they seemed almost unreal.  I soon found myself wondering just how I might look in a “before” and “after” photo. After a couple weeks of daydreaming about what I might look like with an awesome body, I had one of those tiny cartoon light bulbs illuminate above my head. This challenge was all about making choices....

Clearly, I had already made the choice to go to the gym with the intent to better myself. However, had I really been making the best choices? Was I always getting in a full workout, or did I regularly find reasons to end my workout early and head home? Likewise, was I making good choices with my diet or with my sleeping habits? The truth was no, I really was not. I wasn't making horrible choices, so I found it fairly easy to convince myself that the decisions I was making were “good enough.” But in reality, I was actually making poor choices, and my “blah,” average body was a direct result of these poor choices. I took one long look at myself and decided that today was as good a day as any to begin making better choices regarding my life, my health and my appearance. I went home and spent some time reading about the challenge on the Life Time Fitness website. I then marked my calendar for Weigh-in Weekend, pieced together a basic plan of attack and, next thing I knew, I was competing in the 90-Day Transformation Challenge!

My transformation plan of attack had three basic components: Exercise, Nutrition and Rest. I acknowledged that all three components needed work, so I began with the element that seemed like the easiest win - rest. It took some rearranging and plenty of planning ahead, but I managed to juggle around all the parts of my life enough to get in eight hours of sleep (or something very close) almost every night. I have three young sons, so continuous sleep was seldom possible. However, if my total hours of sleep added up to eight, I considered that night a victory. Consequently, I was waking up feeling refreshed and energized every morning.

My greatest hurdle when exercising has always been myself. I would all too often go to the gym without any set plan, wander around for a while lifting this and that, lose focus and eventually convince myself that I'd be better off heading home for the day. I knew that I needed to make better choices regarding how I spent my time at the gym and which exercises I was performing for the day. The day I signed up for the 90-Day Challenge was the first day I marched into the gym with a pre-set workout plan. I never wavered off of my plan, even on the days that I really didn't quite feel like working out. After a few weeks of sticking to a schedule, I discovered that my workouts were actually becoming easier - at least the mental portion. No matter how you spin the concept, burpees never actually get easier!

Aside from keeping myself focused and following the plan, the exercise component of my transformation was fairly straightforward. Each week I would complete five days of weightlifting and core exercises, coupled with three to four days of cardio. I also made a point of taking a rest day after every three days to give my body adequate time to recuperate. At my trainer’s suggestion, I tracked my weights, reps and notes in a journal. I quickly discovered that watching my numbers increase was highly motivating and kept me excited for my next workout. A few times I had to travel away from the gym. On those occasions, I would take a kettle-bell and find a little corner of the world to run through a HIIT workout. Finding the strength and discipline to fit in all of my workouts, as well as sleep a full night, was certainly challenging at times. However, the real challenges began when I attacked the nutrition element of my plan.

Growing up, I basically lived on cereal, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and boxed noodles with ground beef. For the most part, my diet really hadn't changed much over the last thirty-seven years. Common sense told me that these processed choices weren't the ideal foods for my body, but I was not entirely clear as to what would be better alternatives. So, like any guy would do, I turned to the Internet for advice. I quickly found a diet that I believed suited my needs and dove in head first. Two weeks into the competition, I found myself angry, confused, hungry, tired, gaining weight and eating something in the ballpark of six bananas a day. I needed guidance, and I needed it quickly.

I am not overly stubborn or proud, but I really stink at asking for help. If I could offer just one small bit of advice to any future participants in the 90-Day Challenge, it would be this: Ask For Help!!! Life Time Fitness is more than simply a gym. It is a group of properly-trained, highly-motivated individuals whose sole purpose is to help average people like me become awesome. My trainer had been checking in with me and kindly reminding me that she was readily available should I need help with any part of my transformation. I truly wanted to believe that I could do this all on my own, but I took a good look at my body and diet and realized that I needed some guidance from someone with actual knowledge. Shortly thereafter, I scheduled an appointment with my trainer to get a MyHealthScore and review my diet and transformation plan.

In all honesty, I would not be even close to where I am today if my trainer had not steered me in the proper direction. She took a look at my diet plan and promptly directed me to the club dietitian. With the help of my trainer and the dietitian, I started a regimented high-protein, high-vegetable diet with a moderate amount of healthy fat (and I took a hiatus from excessive banana-eating). Additionally, I was introduced to amino acids, fish oil and multivitamins...which had a huge effect on my energy and how quickly I recovered after difficult workouts. Before long, I found myself checking in with my trainer and nutritionist regularly and found that they were genuinely interested in seeing me improve myself.

Toward the last month of my transformation, I hit something of a wall. I noticed that I wasn't burning fat as easily and my energy had dropped to a level that I wasn't comfortable accepting. I met with the dietitian, and we reviewed my attack plan and diet. My workout schedule was fine, but she suggested that I was eating too little fat (which I didn't realize was even possible) and that I should add in a bit more healthy fat each day. This slight increase in fat actually allowed my body to release some of the old stored up fat. She also suggested that I make UCAN superstarch a daily part of my diet. The addition of UCAN into my pre- and post-workout meals helped me sustain the energy I needed for a full day. With the help and support of my Life Time team, this average guy quickly began burning fat and building muscle again.

These past 90 days have been incredible. I have learned so much about myself, about self-discipline and what I am capable of accomplishing. I'm not going to lie...this is the most challenging thing I have ever done. Every single morning I had to take a look at myself in the mirror and make a choice. Do I continue trying to improve myself and my life, or do I take the easy way out and quit? Some days were certainly tougher than others, but I made the choice every single day to stick with my plan. I found discipline and strength in myself to do things I would never have imagined possible. However, I also had to humbly rely on many people around me to succeed. My family supported and endlessly cheered for me, and my “Team” at Life Time coached me every step of the way.

I am now undeniably, undoubtedly, officially no longer just “average.” I am incredible! I feel like I could take on the world and accomplish any goal I set my sights on. I have confidence, I feel great, I eat healthier, my family eats healthier, and I am not afraid to take on new challenges. This has been a truly transformational experience that will fully shape my life moving forward. This is Awesome!

Sunday
Aug172014

Melissa S. – Austin, TX

I saw the sign. That’s how it all started. There was something in the word “transformation” that stopped me in my tracks. Three months ago I felt like my mind, body and spirit were confused and lacking direction. I was tired of failing to keep it together. I had never been healthy, but after gaining weight through two pregnancies and experiencing gestational diabetes, I knew that if I did not do something drastic, things were only going to get worse. Weight gain, brain fog, mood-swings, low energy and always feeling like a victim to my cravings -these things were controlling my life. After doing some soul-searching, I made a decision and then announced this decision to my friends and family. I signed up for the transformation, and from that point on my commitment was fueled by the vision of what I wanted for my life.

I first began seeing real weight loss when I adopted the Paleo diet about a year ago. With little effort, I lost 37lbs. I felt great, had better skin and plenty of energy. However, over time I found that my emotions were controlling my level of commitment. I hit a plateau and found myself drinking heavily, experiencing anxiety and feeling out of control. I realized that it wasn’t just my diet that needed an overhaul.

The first month, I felt unstoppable. I started the 90-Day challenge by cleansing my diet of sugar, alcohol, sodas, processed foods, etc. It was enormously empowering to attend birthday parties and celebrations with people who were shoveling pizza and cake into their mouths and not feel tempted. As I said before, the vision of what I wanted was so powerful and tangible that there was no food and no amount of peer pressure that could take it away from me. That month I took back control. And while it wasn't easy, it was simple. I had to make the time to prepare my foods and walked 45 minutes each morning before eating breakfast. I was on fire and full of energy. I was very fortunate to have Sam, a certified trainer, show me how to properly lift a variety of heavy weights without injury and work out more efficiently.

In my second month, I took things a step further and introduced regular yoga practice. This increased my strength, flexibility and ability to focus and meditate, thus clearing my anxious mind on command. One thing that stood out about the second month was my husband’s involvement. He had always loved me the way I was and insisted on eating fried, carbohydrate-laden comfort foods. When he saw my results and the transformation that was taking hold of me in every respect, he became more supportive than ever and even participated himself!

My relationship to food had officially changed. I no longer saw food as a hiding place in dark times. I rather saw food as a way to nurture and heal my body and mind and give it what it desperately needs to thrive - not just survive! I realized that I had been abusing my body with inflammatory foods and toxins that were causing my body to prematurely age, making me irritable and further degrading my health and happiness.

I would like to say that this transformative process continued steadily along an exponential curve, but that wouldn’t be honest. In the third month, I dropped from 10th place in the nation to 27th and was flooded with self-doubt and self-accusation. I wondered if I had really given it my all, and the immediate temptation was to view this as a failure and give up. On top of that, I became afraid that I had alienated myself or brought on criticism from friends because I had lost so much weight. I know this sounds absurd - because it IS absurd! It was during this time that I experienced a significant personal victory. I was able to recognize that I had been using the competitive aspect of this challenge to motivate me, and when I was no longer “winning” I had to reach deep within me to find if I truly believed in my heart that I was worth all this effort. I had to know and believe that even if I did not win a prize or recognition for my efforts, that MY transformation was itself the ultimate reward.

Now that this 90-Day Challenge has come to a close, I reflect on the most notable changes in my life. I now know that I run the show. I now see someone in the mirror that I had never had the courage to believe could exist. I am stronger mentally, physically and spiritually. I have incredible clarity about my life and how to get what I want from it by defining my goals and making a plan to attain them. I have surrounded myself with those who inspire and encourage me and who let me borrow their belief when I had none for myself. I want to thank Sam, the wonderful crew in the child care center, my friends and my family for boundless support.

If you considered joining this challenge and for some reason did not, I encourage you to reconsider. This challenge is for those who still have a dream and a vision for their lives. If you are satisfied with where you are and have no desire to change, then it is not for you. But if you have the itch for a transformation that is about more than just your weight or body, and if you believe that there is so much more you could be and do in this lifetime, then rearrange your life to make it happen. You will be so glad that you did! Feel free to borrow my belief.  

Sunday
Jul272014

Ben T. - Kingwood, TX

My journey began a long time ago when I was in middle school. It started out as an unhealthy one with bad eating habits and a lack of motivation to change them. I was always one of the heavier kids in school, and I was even jokingly called “The Candy Man” because I had a bit of a sweet tooth. With all of those factors in play, one might say healthy eating and exercise were not part of my life. With more unhealthy habits and zero motivation to exercise, as I got older the weight just kept piling on. I then got married to my wonderful wife, Erin, and began a career as an Air Traffic Controller. Air traffic controlling is a demanding job that requires high levels of responsibility, making it one of the most stressful jobs. Unfortunately, stress is one of the leading causes of unhealthy eating habits and excess fat storage. My wife and I had a son in 2010, and when he started to walk and run, I found myself struggling to keep up with him. That is when I realized that if something did not change soon, I wouldn't be there to enjoy life’s precious moments with my family as we grew older.

I then took the first healthy step in my journey when I joined Life Time Fitness in January of 2012. When I joined, I was at the heaviest I had ever been - 248 pounds - with high blood pressure, and I couldn't even run a mile. The personal training staff eagerly jumped in and helped with fitness tips and nutritional guidelines, and taught me how to set my own fitness goals. The trainers told me about the 90-Day Weight Loss Challenge. This struck me as the perfect opportunity to start by setting a competitive goal. With a healthier diet and a lot of cardio I won first place at my Life Time location and came in 10th in the nation. My blood pressure dropped, and I felt great, but I needed a new goal. At that point I decided to try for a duathlon, then a triathlon, and then a marathon. After tackling all of these goals, I then ran two half-marathons and achieved a qualifying time for the Houston Marathon, which I plan to run in 2015.

As I kept my journey alive, the holidays were not so kind to me. At the end of 2013, I found myself slipping back into bad eating habits. At that point, I decided to make another change in my lifestyle and set a new goal. Soon after the New Year, I saw the sign for the new 90-Day Transformation Challenge. I signed up immediately, and again the Life Time personal training staff was great at getting me motivated to make the change. Dustin at Life Time Kingwood suggested that I should add supplements to my diet to help balance my body’s needs. I started by taking L-Glutamine, fish oil, and multivitamins and could instantly feel a difference in my energy levels. I also did research to discover what I was really putting into my body when I ate the way I had been in the past. I compiled a new diet that consisted of all natural things like lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and berries. I took away all processed and complex carbohydrates, like rice, grains, and pastas, and recorded everything I ate. I used a food diary application on my phone to record all of my calories in and calories burned. My main goal this time was to lose fat and gain more lean muscle mass. Running, stair climbing, swimming, and biking were my main sources of cardio, and this time I added weight training to my routine to create a perfect balance. All of that together jump started my metabolism and helped my body burn fat more quickly.  

I started the transformation challenge at 207.5 pounds and 21.4% body fat. 90 days later I am proud to say that I am now at 166.7 pounds and 4.4% body fat.  Not only do I feel and look better than I have in my entire life, but I have completed another goal and can’t wait to find a new one. I think that the most important thing for anyone, regardless of age, gender, or weight, is to find what works best for your body. Set goals that inspire and motivate you, and never let anybody tell you that you can’t do it, because YOU CAN!!!

Sunday
Jun222014

Shawn Z. – Algonquin, IL

Starting Body Fat: 18.1%

Ending Body Fat:  5.8%;

Total Lost:  67.96%

With the Midwest experiencing one of the worst winters in decades, it was difficult enough to get out of bed let alone get in a freezing car and drive to the gym. Unfortunately, bikini season is not thwarted by winter’s freezing temperatures. So, like it or not, it was time to kick-start a fitness regimen that would help to get me in bathing suit ready form.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, even with every excuse including weather, I rarely miss a day at the gym. This does not mean I’m super fit, but it does mean I’m dedicated. So, when I walked in just like I do most every other day, it wasn’t a celebratory or bizarre event. It wasn’t until I skipped the locker room to stand in line to weigh in for this 90-Day Challenge did it start out as something different than the norm. I almost jumped out of line. What was I doing here again? I reached for my phone…. “This challenge is for men and women who are looking to get ripped, get toned, look great at the beach, get six-pack abs, gain more lean mass and lose body fat percentage.” Fine, I thought to myself (deep breath). Bikini season awaits.

Let me digress for a moment and mention that I had previously entered into every 90-Day since February of 2013, and aside from the first one, never made it past week 3. I lost the true purpose of the Challenge, which should have been to find a new plan - a sustainable plan - that would enable an overall new way of fitness.  Instead, I spent more time fixated on numbers, and I personally lost focus. This year, I proclaimed it would be different, and - for whatever reason - it already felt that way.

I stepped on the scale and saw results that were not awful and also not completely unexpected. My body fat was average, but not where I wanted to be. I set a realistic body fat % goal coming out of my weigh-in and when asked what my specific goal was over the next 90 days in non-numerical form, my answer was “I want to lose fat, I guess.” 

I had just finished Alpha training and asked myself why a 42-year-old, 100 lb woman needed to work on cleaning and pressing (unless it involved laundry) and other movements that more resembled strongman events than a sustainable form of exercise. I was fairly confident I didn’t miss a call from the Olympic committee about needing a lightweight to round out their strongman team. So, why was I doing something that felt awkward and unnatural? I made the decision that I needed more personal focus and decided personal training might be the answer to help achieve my goals over the next 90 days.

Once on board, my personal trainer informed me that my initial goal to “lose fat, I guess” wasn’t a very specific one, but the clock was ticking and off we went. We started training, and I spent the first couple of weeks just going through the motions. He had a plan for me, even if I didn’t know exactly what that plan was.

Particularly on the days without my trainer, I felt awkward and self-conscious in the weight room. Others chuckled as I grabbed my 10 lb dumbbells or benched with just the bar. I would re-read my training manual every 2 seconds and find something I didn’t want to do. I fought to do things my way and wondered why I felt like every time I did legs I had to do squats, why I needed to do pull-ups (I can’t do those), and I’d mentally cross things off the list. While I was certainly working with weights more often, I admittedly was not doing all the sets or at the weights prescribed, and I found myself struggling through every workout.  I also wondered what happened to all the cardio in my program…. Was there a page missing? Did I lose that page? Regardless, I haphazardly went through my workouts and did what I felt like most days. 

Although I wasn’t 100% committed, I did see small gains the first few weeks but quickly hit a plateau. I wasn’t really progressing in terms of increasing the weight I could lift and wondered if this “personal training” thing was working.  It was week 3, and I hit my usual frustration point. I asked my trainer what was wrong.  Why wasn’t I seeing results? I was lifting (sort of). I had given up part of my extensive cardio routine. When he questioned my diet, I answered, “I eat PRETTY well.” As soon as I said it, I realized it wasn’t true. I started a food diary, which helped me understand the magnitude of the problem.

While I initially thought lack of cardio and weights were holding me back, I came to realize the bigger problem was food. I needed to re-evaluate what went into my mouth. If I was serious about change, I had to be committed, and it had to start in the kitchen. I looked into Life Time’s 15-day D.TOX plan. Maybe this was the jump-start I needed – training myself to eat properly.  I entered D.TOX with one of my friends (another trainer). We read the manual and did our prep. About one month into the Challenge, the real fun began. At the same time, I added a few measureable goals for myself: to increase muscle and add strength, and to perform at least one unassisted pull-up. These changes proved to be the catalyst for what would result in my personal transformation. 

On the D.TOX front, I did not falter once.  Not once, even with the arrival of my Girl Scout cookies, my daughter’s 18th birthday and 2 family events. As far as training, I followed everything that was written down on my sheets of paper. Everything.  Even the things I really didn’t like. I put my headphones on and shut out the chatter around me. I stopped asking “why” on things I didn’t want to do, stopped the eye rolls and deep dramatic sighs when asked to do something I really didn’t want to do, and just followed the instructions I was given.

At the end of my 15 days, I weighed in and my body fat had changed 3%. I thought, “Are you kidding me - 3%? That’s it??” I felt mislead. I felt like I was promised some body- altering potion between more focused training and D.TOX that would produce marked rapid results and quite honestly it had not worked. Strangely enough, the trainer doing weigh-ins that day seemed thrilled. She told me my body fat would likely keep decreasing as the weeks went on if I mindfully followed a maintenance plan and kept lifting. I heard this but wasn’t really listening (for the moment), stormed out of the room, went home, and promptly did what any rational adult would do: ate a piece of cake that was approximately the size of my head.  For a brief moment, I felt better. Then I asked myself what I was doing. I stepped back and put everything in perspective. The marginal decrease in body fat might not have been the exact outcome I was expecting, but I reminded myself I’d pledged this time was going to be different. A minor setback in the form of an unrealistic expectation was not going to be my undoing. I put my fork down.

I thought about what the trainer said and kept up with my lifting and clean eating for another week. This time when I stepped on the scale, I was shocked to find that my body fat was down again. She was right! It was at that point I had surpassed my body fat % goal. I was thrilled. I truly thought my journey had come to an end.  Then I remembered the pull-up:  I had to do one. I had momentarily forgotten that part of my goal. I walked over to the pull-up machine, grabbed on and just hung there almost paralyzed. For a moment, I heard myself think the word “can’t.”  And then I remembered something I had read:“Your biggest challenge isn’t someone else. It’s the ache in your lungs and the burning in your legs and the voice inside you that yells “can’t.” But you don’t listen. You just push harder. And then you hear the voice whisper “can.” And you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are.”

The voice in my head told me that although I might not be able to do this today, I would eventually do this if I worked for it. I still had 46 days. I was actually only half-way through the Challenge and just weeks into developing a sustainable lifestyle of healthful eating and exercise. During the first half of the Challenge, while I wasn’t quite there in terms of strength or overall muscle, I had developed and started to master a new outlook on food. The focus was on more good food, protein equivalent to my body weight daily and more water, which left me less hungry and resulted in fewer tradeoffs. The continuous logging of food through FitBit also helped to keep me accountable. 

Since I felt like I had cleaner eating behind me, I became more serious about lifting.  My weekly workouts consisted of four days of weights (2 upper and 2 lower body) with 20-30 minute bursts of cardio, two days of group fitness (kickboxing) and one free day which included any weighted exercises I felt I needed more work on (or wanted to do), yoga or walking. And while the results did not come overnight, shortly thereafter, I started to observe measureable gains. My weights and strength were increasing. My body had started to respond to this new plan. 

During the same time, I enrolled in the 10K-a-Day Step Challenge, so my cardio changed slightly to ensure I got my steps in. I also enrolled in the Life Time sponsored GFI (group fitness instructor) class in hopes of being able to teach. This course, not only from a practical perspective, but from a theoretical perspective, helped to put all the pieces together for me. For example, when my trainer would say, “This works the biceps brachii,” I actually knew what that meant! To say I was committed and busy? That would have been an understatement.

At one point during the 90-Day Challenge, even after I really had progressed to a fitness level I never thought possible, I told my trainer that I felt I had more work to do. He asked “Work to do for you or someone/something else? Are YOU happy now? How do YOU feel?” It was then it finally hit me. How do I feel? I feel unbelievable. I feel like I should feel. For the first time in a very, very, long time, I feel like me. It was at that moment, I stopped. I temporarily stopped obsessing about weigh-ins and logged measurements. In fact, at that time, I didn’t intend on formally weighing in again because I realized I had far surpassed MY goals. And as more time elapsed, I also realized the changes I made were not temporary. I did, however, continue to weigh in to stay accountable, and my body fat continued to decrease without any marked difference in training or diet. I had honestly found the fitness recipe that was working for me, and I no longer needed the scale to tell me so. I had transformed into a fitter version of me.

Other folks started noticing as well. This was initially startling to me as I don’t spend time looking at myself in the mirror. Typically I grab my go-to, 3-sizes-too-big Adidas track pants (circa 1994), which tend to cover up any measureable “gains.” So, when a friend approached me with an unsolicited photo she took of me doing a pull-up (I could do those now), I couldn’t believe how my body had transformed. And all I could think was … this is how I want to stay.

This 90-Day challenged me in so many ways that will shape my fitness for years to come. I far surpassed my goal not only in numbers, but also with what I have learned and can practice every day. I reflect on so many achievements over the last 90 days that have changed my confidence level more than anyone will ever know or understand. It’s very empowering. My whole body and being have changed in ways I never thought possible.   

I do want to thank 2 people who helped me on this journey. One is my personal trainer, Adam. Never once did you give up on me. You pushed me farther than I ever thought I could go. You celebrated my gains and helped turn “can’t” into “can.”  I will never forget the look on your face and the tone in your voice when I did my first pull-up. The power of your training and friendship is without compare. The second is my friend and D.TOX partner, Jemal. You never let me give up. You have always been my strongest advocate and have always had the right thing to say, the right time to say it, and the right size shoulder when I needed it. I can’t say enough about your support always. Thank you to everyone at the Algonquin Life Time for their support throughout my journey. I could not have done it alone and appreciate everyone’s commitment to my transformation.

Sunday
Jan192014

Brooke R. - Coon Rapids, MN

Buddha: that is what they call me. A nickname assigned by my loving parents who adored their chubby baby girl. And guess what? The name stuck. By the age of five, I was a full-fledged member of the Clean Plate Club. Finishing my plate was not only a requirement before being excused from the dinner table, but it became something I enjoyed. At the time, I did not know I was developing a lifelong habit of the need to finish my food, even if it meant pushing myself beyond the point of being full.

My adolescence was spent being the butt of jokes from the neighborhood boys. I would hear taunts like “if you put on a yellow raincoat, people would start yelling taxi” or if I dared wear a red shirt I would hear “here comes Kool Aid!” Maybe it was just kids being kids, but those taunts had a major impact on how I viewed myself. I began to think of myself as a fat person. I was no more than ten-years-old, and I was already worried about my weight. The funny thing is I was never actually “fat.” Sure, I was a chubby kid, but in reality I was smaller than the kids making fun of me. Nonetheless, my self-image was founded in shame and self-loathing.

During my teen years, my weight was a roller coaster, and I never felt secure in my body. I was able to hide my poor body image from my friends, but internally I was unhappy. Once in college, my eating habits had been solidified, and let’s just say nutrition was not the priority. I was not worried about protein, energy, or nutritional value. A good meal was one that was quick, easy and possible to eat while driving to school. Seriously, to me Gardettos and a Diet Coke was a satisfying meal. This diet and lack of exercise left me overweight and lethargic. To be honest, I was quite unpleasant to be around.

Naturally, this led to continued body image issues and years in my early twenties obsessing about my weight. I lived my life according to the fad diet of the moment, diet pills, or simply denying myself food altogether. I dabbled in exercise routines but always found an excuse to quit. My weight continued to yo-yo, and my “health kicks” ended in a flurry binge eating any junk food I could get my hands on. My go-to “foods” were chips dipped in queso dip, copious amounts of wine, and entire boxes of macaroni and cheese. I was stuck.

Luckily, something clicked in my head and enough was enough. In January 2013, I joined Life Time Fitness in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. I began easing back into a workout routine. However, it wasn’t until I joined my friend, Kari, on a workout session with her Life Time trainer that I found a passion for fitness. From that moment on, I was hooked and have been working out regularly. Then, this past summer, Kari and I decided to sign-up for the 90-Day Challenge. I was pumped. Terrified, but pumped. I consulted with my trainer, James, and decided to do the transformation challenge. I worked out with James every Monday and then on my own five other days each week. My diet consisted of naturally healthy foods that are nutrient rich. Eating clean completely transformed not only my body, but my ability to perform in the gym.

I have gone from a person who could not complete one push-up and dreaded running the shortest of distances, to a person who looks forward to daily workouts and has completed both a 5K and 10 mile race. Not only have I lost over 30 pounds and over 16% body fat, but I am stronger than I have been in my entire life. Food is now something I not only enjoy for taste, but I look at it for what it’s intended to do: nourish, strengthen, and satisfy. I’m not sure if it was the support I got from my friend Kari, my trainer James, or the camaraderie of the other Life Time members that pushed me to complete the 90-Day Challenge. Maybe it was all three. The most important thing is that I took on the challenge, conquered it, and the lessons I learned from those 90 days will stick with me as I lead my new lifestyle. Yes, my close friends and family will still call me Buddha. The difference now is that the nickname is ironic and not descriptive of what I look like or how I see myself.