Tammy Pence, we are so proud of you!
“I realized how bad I felt and how far I had let myself go. I stepped on the scale January 1, 2007 and realized that I weighed 312 pounds.” Tammy Pence, a member of the Niles-Buchanan YMCA, is a walking advertisement for changing lifestyle for LIFE! When Tammy turned 40 she took a serious look at herself and realized if she wanted to live, things needed to change. She knew in order to achieve long-term success it must be more than going on a diet, starving herself, or exercising to the point of exhaustion. It would take a change in thinking and lifestyle to achieve and maintain her goals in health, wellness, and weight management for a lifetime of improved health.
When I met Tammy in 2009 she was beginning to make changes in her life; changes in lifestyle for LIFE. She has literally changed the way she thinks about weight loss and management. She started working out at the YMCA and joined Weight Watchers. She works out at the Y a minimum of 4-5 days a week and faithfully attends weekly Weight Watcher meetings. Tammy has lost 169 pounds by implementing daily physical activity and healthy eating habits. “I was a very lethargic and unhealthy person with high blood pressure and cholesterol. According to my doctor, I no longer have to take medication for these conditions because they are under control due to changes in exercise and dietary habits.”
Maintaining a healthy body weight reduces the risk of disease, but weight loss is not the only factor in attaining better health; it has to be a lifestyle change. I asked Tammy if weight loss or lifestyle has been the most important change she has experienced. Her reply, "The lifestyle change has been the most important to me. If I had not changed my lifestyle habits I would not be the healthier, happier person I have become. The weight loss is due to combining good exercise habits along with healthy eating habits, and it is an added bonus to how I feel!” It is a change in the way you think. Making a change for a healthier lifestyle allows individuals to maintain a healthy body weight and achieve better health for a lifetime. Tammy states, “I no longer have to worry about going on a diet and losing weight. I have learned I can have what I want, but in moderation.” It involves implementing healthier practices in the everyday routine.
Tammy has faced, and learned to overcome, barriers on her journey to better health. She shared, “It was hard sometimes because my family and friends did not really understand the journey and how difficult it was. I have had people make comments about how I didn’t want to lose any more weight at certain times because I looked too skinny. They would also comment on what I was eating and ask if I was allowed to eat it. I was also told I needed to have an exercise intervention because I worked out too much. I had to learn to ignore what other people had to say and become selfish. If I did not put myself first, and do the things I needed to do to become healthy, I could not be here for anyone else.” That is exactly what Tammy has done. She changed her way of living to include healthy practices so she could maintain better health for a lifetime. Her family and friends are very proud of the fact she exercises on a regular basis and has achieved a lifestyle to make her a healthier, happier person.
Motivation for change has to be personal. It is important for individuals to set personal goals that are realistic and make a plan, one step at a time, to achieve the long-term goal. Tammy’s motivation was her own health and happiness coupled with the reality she might not be around to meet her family’s needs if she didn’t take care of her own health. “The pictures of me at 312 pounds, and remembering how unhappy and unhealthy I was, motivated me the most. My family needs me and in order for me to be there I have to take care of myself first.”
When changes are made for a healthier life and greater wellness it is contagious. Making healthy lifestyle changes not only improves personal health, it impacts and influences the lives of those around. In Tammy’s case she states, “I believe I have been an influence on my family. They see the changes I have made and they all try to follow suit. I think it makes them all a little more conscious of the decisions they make about their own well-being”.
As a health educator, it is difficult to hear individuals talking about being on a diet or participating in agonizing exercise routines to lose weight because the likelihood of those individuals maintaining health improvements is slim to none. I cringe when I hear about new fad diets, individuals starving themselves to attain a healthy weight, or the new fat blast supplement/product. Changes in nutrition and physical activity need to be practices that can become part of regular lifestyle, thought, and routine. Individuals who make practical changes that can be applied and maintained are much more likely to continue with the behavior. In fact, research shows, when individuals make lifestyle changes to improve health they are likely to continue to make changes for better health. The fact is they feel better and have more energy due to increased metabolism.
Lifestyle influences health exponentially! In fact, 80% of premature death in the United States is attributed to lifestyle; death related to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. It is critical for individuals to make it personal! Through goal-setting and planning, lifestyle changes can be the ultimate reward; greater quality of life and years of life to spend doing the things that are enjoyable. There are many places to get help with these changes. The YMCA is a great place to start. The Niles-Buchanan YMCA offers a Healthy Living Weight Management class that includes information about healthy eating and exercise, goal-setting, and overcoming barriers along with a multitude of exercise classes, pool activities, and weight and cardio machines. Lifestyle change for greater wellness is personal and achievable for all it just requires the commitment to achieve a higher level of awareness!
Tammy, we are so proud of you!