Heather Garland, 33, shows up to group fitness classes ready to handle business — with high energy and sporting brightly colored clothing. She bounces across the gym floor and loses herself in the routine.
“She's become quite a gym junkie,” said Tiffany Acker, a fitness instructor at the gym where she works out. “She doesn't just show up — she fully participates.”
At her heaviest, Ms. Garland weighed about 184 pounds. Her enthusiasm for fitness classes is paying off. She's dropped 50 pounds, and then gained about 10 pounds of muscle.
Mrs. Acker said she is impressed by Ms. Garland's strong drive to succeed as evidenced by her commitment to a healthy diet and exercise. She's seen Ms. Garland, who is naturally shy, transform into a social butterfly.
“She really is a changed person, even confidence-wise,” Mrs. Acker said. “I'm very proud of her. I'm motivated by her. She is a great role model.”
Like many women who enter a gym, Ms. Garland was intimidated by weight lifting. Mrs. Acker, who teaches Body Pump, asserts that lifting weights revs up the body's fat-burning mechanisms. She said it's an activity that more women should add for maximum results, including weight loss and elongated, toned muscles.
“She's not one of the heaviest lifters, but she gives it her all,” she said of Ms. Garland.
While she touts Ms. Garland's success, Mrs. Acker warns that people shouldn't compare themselves to others. The lesson is to learn to adhere to the basics of weight loss — consistently eating right and exercising.
When Ms. Garland's weight began falling about three years ago, so did her desire to work out more. She said she loves group fitness classes, including Zumba and Body Pump.
She works out five days — sometimes six days — each week. On some days, she participates in two different group fitness classes.
Ms. Garland said she's “kind of an extremist,” realizing that many people don't care to or need to work out as much.
“I'm an all-or-nothing girl,” she said. “When I can get away with it, I do three classes on one day a week. I love it. It's my therapy, and it's my fun.”
Mrs. Acker said this regimen is healthy as long as she limits exercise to two hours daily and participates in different types of exercise.
“This is a very good thing,” Mrs. Acker said about Ms. Garland's regimen. “You want that. You so want to be in shape that you crave it.”
MAKING HEALTH A PRIORITY
She's a single mom who home-schools her daughter and works for her parents' business from home. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a teenager.
“She doesn't let that stop her,” Mrs. Acker said. “She has her bag full of goodies and tests her blood levels daily.”
Mrs. Acker said it's easy to find excuses to not exercise or eat well when people age and face the challenges of taking care of their families.
“It's really hard because there is no time,” she said. “We have modern conveniences yet we still don't have enough time so it's very easy to lose motivation. … (Ms. Garland) made it a priority.”
In the past, weight loss was hard for Ms. Garland. She finally tried Weight Watchers and got the weight off.
“I was always on the heavy side,” she said. “I was always yo-yo dieting. I would lose weight on a diet, but you can't just keep up. It's not healthy. Then I would start eating normal and it would come back on, and I would do the same thing over and over again.”
She doesn't remember when she decided to finally get the weight off. After all, it came two years after getting sick and being hospitalized. The hospital visit sparked a desire to treat her body better.
Her eating habits are now engrained. She eats fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly spinach, as well as grilled chicken and fat-free cottage cheese with cinnamon.
Although she hasn't participated in a Weight Watchers' program recently, the program's principles are with her, including the practice of eating smaller meals throughout the day.
“I eat all of the time,” she said. “When I eat healthier foods, I feel better mentally and physically.”
Changing her diet was easy. But, as she explained, other people may need more time to gradually change their diet and allow more flexibility with treats.
Ms. Garland has maintained a healthy lifestyle since 2009, and because she loves the way she feels now, she shows no signs of diverting from that plan.
Mrs. Acker said having fun is the key to staying motivated. She said gym memberships offer people that motivation as well as trained staff who teach the correct form and ensure safety. Ultimately, no one can do it for them.
“The biggest battle all of us have is really with ourselves,” she said.