BM Fitness 2

“I have to get in shape, I have to start exercising,” says Jeanine Whitney, secretary at Colonial School District, recalling what she told herself back in early 2015.

How many of us tell ourselves these same things each and every year? But this time, for Whitney, things were different. Because of a Colonial School District Wellness Challenge, she got up and started moving. Three years later, Whitney is still actively pursuing her fitness goals.

Challenge on

It started in 2015 with a wellness challenge filled with incentives for engaging in healthy behaviors. Each week there was something new ­— eating fruits and vegetables, exercising and drinking more water, among other practices. The challenge set Whitney up for success in two ways. First, it gave her a platform to surprise herself with a newly discovered competitive streak. Second, it helped her define realistic, attainable goals.

“When you’re competing against other employees, even for fun, you just want your name at the top of the leaderboard,” Whitney says.

The incentives helped, too. In order for your name to be drawn for a prize, participants were required to complete the entire challenge. Whitney’s most valuable prizes were forming the habit of walking more and leading a healthier lifestyle.

The right mindset

At the start of the wellness challenge, Whitney weighed 257 pounds. Instead of thinking about ambitious achievements, she set small goals: losing five to 10 pounds, taking more steps each day, eating a few less treats and spending more time on her self-care.

Armed with realistic goals and a competitive format, Whitney had the mindset she needed to get started and stay motivated.

Step it up

Whitney’s first goal was increasing her number of steps.

“It started out as a simple walk,” she says. “My son would drop me off in one neighborhood at the top of a hill and I’d walk to my house.”

To remind her to keep moving, Whitney followed a colleague's example and purchased a FitBit. She has been wearing it ever since.

At the start of her journey to better health she was well on her way to turning those morning walks into a habit. After a month of walking regularly the activity became a natural part of her daily routine. Only then did she start paying more attention to other healthy choices, specifically, watching her consumption of treats and drinking more water.

BM Fitness

Jeanine Whitney has adopted a healthier lifestyle since participating in a Colonial School District wellness challenge in 2015. This includes walking regularly and changing her diet. By the end of 2017, she had lost 60 pounds from her starting weight of 257.

And her steps? She went from averaging 5,000 steps to about 12,000 steps per day.

“People try and do everything at one time,” she says. “Then they get frustrated and are done.”

Routine activity

Whitney’s walks quickly increased in both length and difficulty. During the challenge and up until December 2017, her workdays began at 9 a.m. Each morning before work, she walked a minimum of three miles.

The walks also incorporated a routine of emotional self-care. When she first began, her son, Nick, would drop her off at a friend’s house where she would spend time socializing before walking down the hill back home. Soon, however, she began walking up the hill to her friend’s house.

As the walks grew longer, Whitney began listening to prayers and music. Occasionally, her teenage daughter, Jordan, walked with her, which gave the two a chance to spend time together. Sometimes she walks again after work.

“It’s my time for myself,” Whitney says. “My peace time. It feeds my mind, body and soul.”

Persistence pays. At one point Whitney was down to 187 pounds, but these days she faces a new challenge. Her workday now begins at 7 a.m., and she does not feel comfortable walking in the dark. Consequently, she has gained a little weight. But she is not discouraged.

“Life happens,” she says. “Things change. You just have to keep a positive attitude.”

True to her philosophy, Whitney focused on the growing daylight hours and walking when and where it’s possible, such as in the mall or walking in place. It’s this successful attitude that keeps her going.

“I do this for me,” she says. “It’s part of me and what I do.”

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