It started with a personal goal: Get 50 pounds lighter, regain some energy. Mike Chandler, 47, never expected to win the 2011 Lowndes County Shrinkdown challenge.
Chandler, of Caledonia, has a goal to lose 50 pounds. With the eight-week YMCA program Shrinkdown, he has lost 30 already.
“I saw the Shrinkdown as an opportunity to get back in the habit of working out,” Chandler said Friday, before accepting his award for losing the highest percentage of weight, at the downtown Columbus YMCA. He lost 10.95 percent of his body weight, working out and weighing in at the Caledonia Y.
Aside from being forced to confront the scales every Friday, the Shrinkdown offered a chance to hear from health and wellness professionals who offered tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Chandler, city of Columbus employee, learned to control his portion sizes, eat slower and cut out unhealthy foods, many of which have high calorie counts and little nutritional value.
Lakezia Ham, 33, knows the importance of cutting back. Since the Shrinkdown program began three years ago, she has shed up to 100 pounds. Despite recovering from major car accident and giving birth to second daughter since then, she has been able to keep off 70 of those pounds.
Ham won the Shrinkdown contest for most participation, for the second year in a row. This year, Ham shares the prize with Donna Burns, 53, a retiree.
Diabetes runs in both women”s families.
“I wanted to do something for myself, so I don”t end up having a lot of medical problems,” said Ham.
Prior to the 2008 Shrinkdown, Ham wasn”t working out as regularly as she is now, though she had begun to work out at the Columbus Air Force Base gym in 2007. Ham works on base.
Now, Ham works out five times a week between the base gym and the YMCA. Zumba is a favorite for her.
“You have to find something you like,” she said. “I used to be on the elliptical, and I”d look down and, ”Oh no. I”ve got 20 minutes left.” With Zumba, you”re exercising but you”re having fun, so it doesn”t feel like exercise and you”re not looking at the clock.”
As far as nutrition, Ham focused on portion sizes, not dieting. Portion control, she said, can even help when treating yourself to sweets or fried foods. Once a week, she eats whatever she wants and just eats a small portion.
“I got my mom involved in (exercising),” Ham said. “Now, she”s doing the program at Mississippi State.”
Burns participated in the Shrinkdown last year, as well, losing 17 inches and gaining muscle tone. This year, Burns lost 10 inches and 4 pounds.
Prior to the Shrinkdown program, Burns, who retired from the Department of Human Services in 2009, did not exercise.
“I wanted to lose weight, to meet other people (trying to lose weight), because this is a competition,” Burns said.
Burns learned about mypyramid.gov through the program”s Friday lunch-and-learn series.
“I started tracking my calories, and you take in more calories than you can burn off in working out just in soda, potato chips ice cream,” Burns said. “I cut down on a lot of that stuff.”
Chandler, Ham and Burns all have more energy since they began exercising regularly. They also admit to suffering from “withdrawal” when they skip workouts.
For those putting off an active focus on exercise and nutrition, the Shrinkdown winners say, “just do it.”
“Make the first step and try,: Ham said. “Every once in a while, start walking. Start with 10 minutes and then increase the time.”
“The biggest thing that I have found is staying at it,” Chandler said. “There were weeks when I didn”t lost a whole lot, but I still kept at it.”
“I go in there feeling like I don”t wanna do this … but you”re gonna feel better in the long run,” said Burns. “Your clothes will fit better. I say just do it, and the results will pay off.”
Ham also shared some wisdom she learned from lunch-and-learn talks: “You don”t have to join a gym to exercise.” Taking a few extra steps a day, such as parking farther from a store, and even lifting canned goods at home can make a difference, she said. “You can incorporate exercise into your everyday routine.”
Chandler received a six-month membership to the YMCA and a check for $250.
Ham and Burns elected to split their prize rather than be entered into a drawing to decide who would win. Each received a three-month membership to the YMCA and a check for $125.
The YMCA partnered with Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle on the Shrinkdown. JDS Wealth Strategies and John Acker, State Farm Insurance agent, sponsored the prizes.
This year, the Shrinkdown started with 287 people; 115 completed the program. Combined, participants lost more than 1,000 pounds.