Editor's note: In honor of National Women's Health and Fitness Day, women from Mifflin and Juniata counties were invited to submit before and after photos along with a success story detailing how they've changed their lives for the better. While we only included three finalists, The Sentinel would like to congratulate everyone, men and women, who are working toward improved personal health. The grand prize winner will receive a $100 makeover package from Vibe Hair and Nail Salon.
Grand prize winner
Lisa Stroup, Reedsville
"I have struggled with my weight all my life. I was always the chubby girl all through my school years. I have tried different diets, pills and exercise programs, only to gain all the weight back. I became my heaviest when I was pregnant with my last child at 233 pounds. I started going back to a program called T.O.P.S. (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly) that I have been doing for 10 years on and off, but I knew I had to do more. Then I had a friend invite me to one of the Zumba classes she instructs.
"I instantly fell in love with Zumba. I started out doing just Zumba then worked my way up to strength training classes, too. I can honestly say I am in the best shape of my life! I have lost a total of 90 pounds. It's not just about losing the weight though, it's also about getting fit and healthy.
"I also have health problems that run on both sides of my family. On my father's side there is heart disease, which he passed away from in May of 2001 at only 57 years old. He had his first heart attack at 41 years old. I am now 43 years old and I've had no heart attacks. On my mother's side, there is diabetes, stroke as well as heart disease. On top of all that, my mother also had to have a knee replacement from being overweight.
"I want to live past the age of 57 without having to be on blood pressure and cholesterol medication and not have to be on insulin for diabetes. I have three young children that I want to see grow, graduate, get married and become parents someday, too. I want to be able to show them ways to stay healthy and fit.
"Now that I have lost the weight, I've become more confident with my appearance and I'm not afraid to be up and in front of people anymore. I used to stand in the back of my exercise classes, but now have moved to the front. I even went and got my certification to be a Zumba instructor so I can help others with their weight loss journey as well.
"I am eating right, getting two to three exercise classes in a day and I feel terrific. I want to keep this going and be able to live a long and prospering life."
Runner up: Melinda Brought, Burnham
"The journey to change my life began five years ago. Not a weight loss journey, but rather, a journey to become healthy. I knew I was overweight, but truthfully never realized just how overweight and unhealthy I really was. When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy, I had to change my eating habits. That was my light bulb moment. At a time in a woman's life when she is supposed to gain weight, I lost 24 pounds. That was the beginning. In the past five years, I've lost 150 pounds; 80 pounds in the last two years. At 40 years old, I am in the best shape of my life.
"When my son turned 3 weeks old, I started on the elliptical trainer. Ten minutes and I was spent. But 10 minutes slowly turned into 30, which turned into fitness videos in my living room, which lead to boot camp at the local YMCA. From there it was a 5K and now it is six days a week of exercise. My workouts are now a mix of Zumba, R.I.P.P.E.D. and running. My diet has changed as well. I went from fast food to healthy balanced meals.
"My life is definitely different since practicing a healthy lifestyle. Before, I used to feel horrible about myself. I felt like everyone in the world was laughing at me. Now, I feel great. I have more energy and a positive outlook. I even have the self-confidence to become a Zumba instructor.
"My family and friends have supported me along the way. I want to be healthy, not only for me, but for them. I am a caregiver by nature, and at times it's a struggle and I feel guilty for going on a run or working out. But I have to realize, that in order for me to take care of them, I have to take care of myself first. I also have to instill healthy habits into my children because I do not want them to walk down the same path that I did."
Runner up: Sherry Shank, Lewistown
"My weight loss journey began seven years ago when I was at my highest weight of a whopping 223 pounds. My husband decided we needed to get healthy, so we changed the way we ate and we went to the YMCA six days a week. I dropped down to 160 in about 10 months and then I hit my plateau mark. I was stuck there for a while.
"Then my world changed and I suddenly lost my mother and, like most women, I was an emotional eater. The weight came back and I gained back the 20 pounds I had already lost. I went up and down for the next several years, getting burned out with going to the gym and walking. I wasn't enjoying myself, plus I did not like how I looked and felt.
"I found out that Zumba was being offered locally and I decided to try it and fell in love with it immediately. I would go six days a week, but still hit that plateau mark and be stuck. I'd get discouraged and eat the wrong things and then the weight was back up again.
"I can say it was a roller coaster ride until Taz Fitness offered a challenge for 60 days starting June 24 until Aug. 24. The challenge was to eat six small meals a day at 250 calories per meal with seven grams of fat, 22 grams of carbohydrates and 25 grams of protein per meal. You also had to do two R.I.P.P.E.D. classes a week plus either Zumba Toning, Zumba or Piyo with one day of rest.
"I am very proud of my accomplishment. I completed this challenge and am very proud to say that I am still doing it to this day. I'm under my plateau and 11 pounds from my goal weight I set seven years ago."