July is Weight Management Month. Find some inspiration here!

July is Weight Management month and we’re celebrating by sharing some stories of individuals who have made a healthy change in their lifestyle! Throughout the month I’ll be posting three inspirational stories from coworkers here at Blue Care Network.

First we have Amy Howell, a Documentation and Training Specialist who has been with BCN for 17 years. She is single with no children, but has three teenage nephews that she loves spending time with. Amy is an avid traveler and is currently working on her doctorate degree in Higher Education. She also teaches part time at Davenport University.

Amy Howell before.
Amy Howell before.

Niccole LaDue: What was your health like before you changed your lifestyle and what is it like now? 

Amy Howell: I was morbidly obese and unable to walk around the mall or grocery store without running out of breath and needing to sit down to take a break.  I had back and knee pains every day, my blood pressure was elevated, and my sugar levels were increasing.  I was unable to go to the clothing store to purchase clothes because they were not large enough and ordered them online.  Now that I have lost 200 pounds I am able to shop for clothes in any clothing store, I am able to walk around the mall several times and can even walk longer than my nephews.  I have no health problems.  My blood pressure and sugar levels have decreased and now I can walk with limited pain.  I have more energy and am the healthiest I have ever been.

NL: What made you decide to take that first step towards a healthier lifestyle? 

AH:  I was always frustrated with the fact that I was a young person who couldn’t even walk around a mall without taking breaks.  I never really acknowledged how much weight I was gaining and never stepped on a scale to see what I actually weighed.  One day I did and I was sick to see what the number was.  I knew I had to do something or I was going to become so obese that I would eventually become immobile and would die.  I watched the TV shows about the half ton man or the 600 pound woman and I did not want to be one of those people.

NL: What is your most important motivating factor?

AH: My health.  I can’t guarantee that I won’t be diabetic or have high blood pressure in the future; however, by adopting this healthier lifestyle I have reduced my risk tremendously and extended my life so I can enjoy many more years with my family and friends.  It is all about me and sometimes that can be a good thing.

Amy Howell after
Amy Howell after

NL: What was the most challenging obstacle you faced during your weight loss journey? 

AH: The biggest challenge for me is to maintain the motivation I need to keep my lifestyle healthy every day.  A big challenge going out to eat.  I always identify ahead of time the restaurant I am going to and I look through their menu to find the healthiest food option. I know ahead of time what I am going to order before I get there.  However, when I arrive at the restaurant it is hard to keep that motivation going when I see other individuals eating all these deep fried, greasy, and sweet foods and I set there wanting those instead of the food option I already have chosen.  To stay motivated, I keep a picture of myself at my very heaviest in my wallet. If I am feeling like I want to eat a big dessert or large plate of fries I just take that picture out and remind myself of what life was like then. I don’t deprive myself of treats but now they are just treats and not a daily indulgence.

NL: Where did you find you had the most support during your journey? 

AH: I am very fortunate to have a great support system.  My family is my biggest support.  They know I have adopted a healthier lifestyle and want to keep off the weight I have lost. When holidays come along my mother always lets me know what the menu is and if they are having dishes like string bean casserole, she asks if I would like to have just some green beans kept out for me to eat. Or if they are having a meat item that I don’t eat she will ask if I would like a grilled chicken breast instead.  Also, when we go out to eat my family asks where do I want to go so I can plan ahead of time.  My friends have all been encouraging and supportive of my weight loss journey. I have been very grateful for all the support my family and friends have given me.

NL: Did your family as a whole become healthier as a result of your lifestyle change? 

AH: My family as a whole did not adopt the healthier lifestyle; however, my youngest nephew has watched me lose weight and become healthier.  He has commented on my increase in energy and if we are at the grocery store he looks at the nutritional values of different foods and asks me what is healthier.

NL: What is your current goal (fitness, nutrition, lifestyle…)? 

AH:  I still have about 5 more pounds to lose and hope to do that this year.  My goal is to walk first in a 5K and then a 10K.  I would like to achieve my first goal of a 5K next year and then continue on from there.  I am always researching and looking for new fruits, veggies, and other healthy foods to enhance the food I am currently eating so I will not become bored with the same old routine.  I still enjoy walking and while I am at work I will walk on my lunch and/or breaks so I am getting my exercise and boosting my energy throughout the day.

NL: Do you have a new favorite exercise or healthy recipe you’d like to share with us? 

AH: My exercise is walking.  I have an iPod that I filled with all my favorite music and I put that on and start walking.  The one thing that has really been the most beneficial to me is that I cook most of my food at home and bring my lunch every day to work.  The recipes I use most of the time come from Hungry Girl.  Her recipes are low fat and she uses many different fruits and vegetables to enhance the flavors. She gives great tips and finds in the grocery store to help guide you to healthier food options.  She also gives information on restaurant foods so you can have an idea of what the best options are available on the menu.  One of my favorites from her is the Tiny Taco Salads.

NL: What is your best piece of advice for anyone out there trying to live a healthier lifestyle?

AH: Don’t try to do it alone.  When I made the decision to lose weight and be healthy I found a group and a plan that worked best for me.  I joined Weight Watchers.  I attend the meetings every week and in the meetings I am able to get ideas, information, support and tips on what is the healthiest food options.  When I decided to begin this journey, I said I would not even begin this journey if this was going to be called a diet and I was not giving up my favorite foods.  So I decided to change my eating habits to create a healthier lifestyle for the rest of my life and also have my favorite foods, not every day, but as a treat once in a while.

Every day I hear from people who experience some of the same challenges and struggles as Amy dealt with. What matters is what you decide to do when a challenge arises! Do you turn it into an opportunity like Amy did or do you give in to temptation?

Photo credit: Amy Howell

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