Back in April of 2012, I was in my first Wellness Challenge at the YMCA in Torrington. I had already started to lose weight... I was 299 pounds at the start of the challenge, which was actually down from 345 pounds in November of 2011. After losing 45 pounds, my weight loss had slowed down. I decided to try the Wellness Challenge and figured it might kick start the weight loss again, as I still had a long way to go in order to get to a healthy weight.
The kickoff meeting at the first challenge changed my lifestyle completely. After that, I followed the guidelines that I learned and still follow many of the guidelines. As they say, it's about a lifestyle change more than it is about a temporary reduction in weight.
The challenge consists of four people per team. Each team competes by performing weekly weigh-ins together, planning a healthy team event, keeping a food journal, walking a minimum of 70,000 steps a week and submitting a recipe for a book compiled at the end of the challenge. At first it seemed overwhelming. I remember talking about the steps with a co-worker and the both of us were thinking, how is it possible to walk that much in a week? We thought it must be a mistake.
Well, here I am over a year later and still walking 10,000 steps a day, long after both challenges ended. The American Heart Association recommends 10,000 steps a day and since walking got so easy for me, I decided to keep it as part of my routine. I wear a pedometer every day, although to be honest, I probably don't need to. I can get to 10,000 steps so easily just by using the treadmill a half an hour and walking the dog.
Also, I still keep an online food journal. This tool really helps you see what your eating. The journal I use actually tells you how much protein, sodium, fat, calories, you name it! I'm usually under my calorie goal and with the food journal, I've been able to maintain my weight. When I reached my goal weight, I was worried I would not be able to keep the weight off. But by practicing what I learned at the challenges, I was able to successfully keep the weight off for seven months so far and lowered my blood pressure as well.
Other habits I learned through the challenge include drinking a minimum of eight glasses of water a day, eating small frequent meals (usually nuts or fruit every couple hours) and the importance of working with a team. By being on a team, there's a feeling of not wanting to let the team down. All the team mates cheer you on when you lose weight and encourage you when you gain.
I highly recommend the Wellness Challenge at your local YMCA if they offer it. If you follow the rules of the challenge, not only can you lose weight, but you can get a healthier lifestyle. If I didn't reach my goal, I would've have done another one. But since I'm already at my ideal weight, there's no need, which proves it's a successful program!