Good Friday 2012 was the day Melissa Pierce decided to change her life.
The 36-year-old Duarte resident made a plan, hopped on a bike that was in her garage, signed up for Weight Watchers and began a weight-loss journey that left her, eight months later, 80 pounds lighter and feeling 100 percent better.
“To me, it’s a matter of life and death, and I want to live,” said the now-slender Pierce. “For me, the battle’s not over. It’s still a day-to-day process. I have to make a plan every day.”
That’s one reason Pierce signed up for the Foothill Fitness Challenge, City of Hope’s friendly competition between local cities to motivate our neighbors to be as healthy as they can be. The goal is for participants to make lifestyle changes – such as getting to a healthy weight and starting an exercise program – that can reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes and other diseases. For Pierce, the goal is maintenance.
After Pierce joined Weight Watchers, she began educating herself about the right foods to fuel her body. That first Sunday of her plan, she spent a portion of the day cooking and planning out her meals for the week.
The start of her exercise program didn't require as much planning. “I picked up a bike in my garage that was in there, just sitting there,” she said.
She started to pedal. That first day, she rode about a mile. Now, she bikes 12 miles for fun.
Here are a few of Pierce's tips for success:
1. Plan ahead. Pierce has kept the habit of making enough food on Sunday to serve as her meals for the week. She took note of the weeks in which she lost weight and tried to keep close to those meal plans.
She also recommends having a plan for holiday parties and office pizza parties – both to avoid tempting foods and to increase workouts to compensate for the extra calories.
2. Find support. Pierce found helpful information and support through Weight Watchers, but she also turned to social media. She posted her workouts on Facebook, and the encouraging comments kept her motivated to continue.
3. Find the exercise you like. For Pierce, that meant staying outdoors and taking advantage of the gorgeous weather and natural beauty of the San Gabriel Valley. Her workouts were tough, but they felt a lot less like work than they would have in a gym.
At parties, when too many people are hanging around the snack table, Pierce suggests volleyball or another fun activity to get moving – and away from the chips.
4. Think short-term. When Pierce started to exercise and diet, she wanted to lose 80 pounds, but she never looked at the “whole picture.” Instead, she focused on small, short-term goals, such as losing a pound or two in a week.
5. Keep positive. “There were plenty of times I didn’t see what I wanted to see on the scale,” Pierce said. Still, she persisted with her workouts and fueling her body with the right foods.
Of starting to change her lifestyle, Pierce said: “I work for a ministry.... I was praying about it for a while, and I don’t know. I think I prayed and it just snapped into place. I just said, ‘Today’s the day.’”
Is today your day? Start healthier habits now with the Foothill Fitness Challenge.