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WGMC fitness class, healthy eating lead to employee Cynthia DeBall's weight-loss journey

Thu, March 16, 2017

WGMC fitness class, healthy eating lead to employee Cynthia DeBall's weight-loss journey

My Success Story: One of my favorite quotes is “Success is failure turned inside out,” and I am definitely living proof of this. I started in the first fitness class Mark McCloud ever taught at WGMC in 2013. I was at my heaviest (279 pounds) wearing a size 22/24 or 2XL/3XL and size 9 shoe.  

I was such a slug that I couldn’t last more than 10 seconds doing a plank. I couldn’t do a push-up or sit-up, but I showed up faithfully to his Monday and Wednesday 4:15 p.m. class and struggled through as best I could.

I wasn’t serious about it when I first joined, as it was done as an incentive for Vitality points, as well as a chance to meet others trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. Then life became complicated, and I encountered my first of a set of failures that were a road block on my health journey.  

 I sat out of Mark’s class off and on for the next 18 months as I dealt with a divorce, moving, and other stressors that made exercising a low priority. When things got better, I knew it was time to head back again.  

I was still just going through the flow. I lost some weight and was seeing improvement, not a lot, but more than in the first few classes I’d taken. Then, boom, an old back injury sat me out for six months (four of which I was not allowed to exercise outside of physical therapy).  

By the time this happened, I was already developing the habits needed to sustain a healthy lifestyle. I was down 75 pounds, so upon release from my doctor and physical therapist, I went back to the exercise program in July 2016 and began working on losing the 25 pounds I gained during my forced hiatus. 

I am still a work in progress, and I will get to my goals by the end of 2017. I am currently at 194 pounds wearing a size 12/14 or M/L and now at a size 8 shoe. (Yes, I lost weight in my feet too!)    

Turning Point: I began getting serious right before being released to head back to an exercise regimen. I wanted to return because I missed hanging out with people on the same journey, but I was still only seeing the social aspects. I wasn’t as serious as I should have been on working towards being healthy. Others in the class understood my struggle, and like Mark, were encouraging as they did their own regimens for their physical and mental well-being. 

My true wake-up call happened on a string of dates when I met men who lost their significant others. The women’s ages ranged from 36 to 52. I was 44 at the time and realized I really needed to continue on this health journey to avoid becoming a statistic as their mates had become.   

When I came back in July, Mark worked with me to modify all exercises to protect my back. He taught me there are no excuses to avoid exercise. Something can always be done; you just have to make up your mind to do it. 

That saying of 21 days to make a new habit was true for me. It is now my lifestyle.  If I can’t make class, or if class is cancelled, I don’t see it as a pass. I find something to do to stay active for that day’s missed session.

Diet Plan: I despise the word “diet” because I associate the first three letters with the word DIE; it makes me think I will die dieting, so I prefer thinking “meal plan” and “lifestyle change.”

 The first thing I did was eliminate soda. I’ve been soda-free since April 2014.  My first beverage choice is water, and I drink half my body weight in fluid ounces daily to assure I stay hydrated.  As far as food choices go, I focus on protein, good fats and fiber-rich foods. I also try to watch my carb intake. I’m still working on this, as I haven’t found what foods work best for me. Now that I burn so many calories, I have to work on calorie intake so my body doesn’t think I am intentionally starving it. 

I read nutritional labels. On days I falter, I add additional minutes of exercise to offset the bad food choices I made. I do try to monitor calories and avoid empty calories whenever possible. Everything is in moderation; I don’t give up comfort foods, but I am way more conscious of serving sizes so I stay in-zone on my caloric intake. I also try and plan for special events by avoiding “the graze” and keeping a food diary. I have to stay accountable.

Exercise Plan and Tools: I have to find fun in what I do, or it feels too much like work. In addition to the boot camp classes, I take Zumba a couple of times a week. I bought a bike so I cycle whenever I can on bike trails around Georgia, and I walk a few miles at least five days a week.  

I also just started a belly-dancing course. I went from a 90-minutes-a-week exercise regimen four years ago to my current 90 active minutes daily at least four days a week. 

Like my food diary, I keep track of my exercise. I am big on technology, so while I still use pen and paper to write in a diary, I also keep electronic logs via applications on my smartphone. I use a Fitbit Flex to monitor my steps and active minutes as well as Map My Fitness and Strava.  

I play Pokemon Go as I walk on the Square or use the Fitbit challenge courses when I walk. It has made that portion of my exercise fun, and I sometimes have no idea how much I walk because of it. I also use the stickK app for my weekly weigh-in and accountability.

Biggest Challenge: My biggest challenge is staying motivated. I am a visual person, so reminders such as the memes that Mark sends with the exercise routines are helpful to focus on where I want to go.  

I also created a visual board with things I wanted to see happen in 2016. It ‘s in my office, and I look at it especially on the days I don’t feel like exercising. The board was a major help through my last setback. Two motivational posters I have plastered on my wall remind me that this challenge is why I will continue to turn my failures to successes. 

I have now created a 2017 board for my office, and I have done more from this year’s board in two months than what I accomplished the previous year. 

How Has Life Changed: Where do I begin? I’m a smaller size for starters; I never thought I would ever get back to a misses size or even a junior size again.  I thought that was a thing of the past as my weight issues have plagued me since age 25.  

Now at 45, I am four dress sizes smaller, 85 pounds lighter, have an incredible amount of energy, and sleep better than I had been. I am a lot more productive at work, and I am nowhere finished on this journey. I am working towards being healthy, and I will get there. 

My biggest achievement is seeing the fat turn into muscle.  When I seriously made the changes in July, I started at 213 pounds and 50 percent fat. I am now at 34 percent fat, and I love seeing my lean mass increasing. Today I can plank for close to three minutes, and do push-ups and sit-ups. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to see your feet instead of the belly! 

I hope my story may inspire others who want to become more healthy. I would be glad to talk with anyone who is interested in starting the health and fitness journey that has changed my life in so many wonderful ways.

Originally from Texas, Cynthia DeBall has lived in Georgia for the past 20 years and has worked at WGMC since 2007 as a medical coder. Mark McCloud, WGMC’s speech pathologist for the past 30 years, teaches free fitness classes for WGMC team members.