BEST PART OF THE JOURNEY: I have gained so much confidence. I am able to go places and not constantly worry if people are staring at me or wondering what they are thinking. I have much more energy and am able to focus better during school. I can authentically share the many positive effects of exercise since I know them firsthand.
LIFESTYLE CHANGES: I now know how great it feels to be happy with my body. The mental health effects of exercise keep me going to the gym daily. My hobbies are more active now such as taking runs with my mom, bike rides and pick-up basketball games with friends. I have lifelong friends at the Healthplex and couldn’t ask for a greater group to spend an hour with every day.
OVERCOMING CHALLENGES: Exercise is the easy part. Making healthy food selections can be a huge obstacle. I try to plan out my meals each week to help keep me on track. I also like to give myself a cheat meal once every two weeks to help with cravings because I’m only human, and I love ice cream and pizza.
WORDS OF INSPIRATION: If you fail, keep trying. I tried to lose weight throughout my entire adolescent life and was unsuccessful. Find what works for you and stick to it. Decide why you are changing your life and put a reminder somewhere that you will see every morning. Fight for it. You are the only person who can change your life, and your body is a diary of your lifestyle. After being accepted into the nursing program at Lincoln University, Lauren Allen decided it was time to get her own health under control. Over the course of 12 months, she dropped 130 pounds and has successfully kept off the weight for more than a year.
“It was clear to me that if I wanted to spend my life helping others improve their health, I needed to first help myself by setting a good example,” Allen says.
Her trek began at Sam B. Cook Healthplex where she attended group exercise classes and admits: “I was more than nervous to walk in and participate alongside others who had been attending this gym for years, but to my surprise everyone was extremely supportive and encouraging. When I started to see weight come off, I was instantly hooked. This group is like a small family, and they keep me accountable. My daily routine has become habit and it helps me relieve stress, feel better and catch up with the friends from the group classes.”
Remembering back to early childhood and through her first year of college, Allen was never able to wear the clothes she wanted simply because they did not come in her size. Although she played sports in high school including softball, basketball and track, the extra weight made running a struggle. “I made jokes at myself before others had the chance because it hurt my feelings less,” she says. “During college I was constantly tired and couldn’t even walk stairs without feeling completely exhausted.”
As for many people, food became a reward and a way to console herself during times of stress or sorrow. “We live in a society that incorporates food into nearly every activity of daily life including family gatherings and
outings with friends,” Allen says. “Soul food was coined for a reason. It is easy to splurge more than you realize.”
Although Allen attempted to lose weight repeatedly, her former attempts were disappointing and never lasting. “I didn’t have the resources I needed. Previously, I would walk into a gym and feel as though everyone was
staring at me, and I didn’t feel like anyone was willing to actually help me.”
Today, dropping from size 22 to 12, Allen attributes her success to Healthplex instructors who tailored a program geared to her specific struggles and successes. “I love the high-intensity workouts and the encouragement they give me to come back each day and be better than the last,” Allen says. “The group fitness classes are the answer I had been searching for, and [instructors and classmates] keep me accountable if I do miss class. This program has also taught me so much about nutrition. I used to make food choices based on my emotions, but I’ve learned how to provide my body with the nutrients it needs. The energy and support here is contagious for success.”
For more information about Healthplex, contact Kay Benward, fitness center supervisor, 573-632-5614 or Jennifer Seaver, membership coordinator, 573-632-5634.
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