MARQUETTE - Last summer, when a friend suggested she try participating in the Healthy Weight Journal Community Wellness Challenge, Suzanne Price of Marquette was skeptical at best.
"I don't like classes. I don't like trainers," Price said of her attitude before starting in the 12-week span of community meetings, training sessions and online tracking of exercise minutes and fruit and vegetable consumption.
That attitude disappeared after the first community meeting.
Marquette resident Suzanne Price found healthy success in the Healthy Weight Journal Community Wellness Challenge last summer. By walking, and eating a sensible diet, Price lost 37 pounds during the 12-week program, and has brought that total to 55 pounds since the program ended. Here she walks near her Marquette home. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
The Healthy Weight Journal encourages participants in Gwinn, Marquette, Ishpeming and Negaunee to hold some friendly competition with each other, seeing which community group can tally the most servings of fruits and vegetables and the most exercise minutes.
Although Price had already started eating a healthier diet and exercising more, she dove into the wellness challenge and hasn't looked back since.
In those 12 weeks of the program in the summer of 2011, Price lost 37 pounds. Meeting the goal of five cups of fruits and vegetables each day with little difficulty, Price also set a goal of getting 1,000 minutes of exercise each week of the program, which comes out to over two hours of activity each day.
"I did a lot of walking," Price said of how she filled those exercise minutes.
One of her main routes is from her apartment to visit the nursing home where her mother lives, a round trip of about six miles.
"The first couple weeks I'd come home and take a nap," she said.
Now the trip seems easy.
In addition, Price incorporated exercises and tips learned from the HWJ trainers at the group's weekly meetings, performing the strength training exercises throughout the week.
After losing weight several years ago, Price said she saw the weight slowly come back after life circumstances started to get in the way of health - a shoulder injury, loss of a job. That gain worried her.
"I knew all the things that lead to Alzheimer's (disease)," Price said, adding that her mother also suffers from the condition. "I can't go there. I've got to do everything I can to avoid that."
What really inspired her to make a lifestyle change, however, was a winter jacket. Price said she had been wearing the same jacket with a bulky sweater underneath it, but hadn't been able to button it - because of the sweater, she said she told herself.
When spring came and the sweater came off, but the jacket still couldn't be buttoned, she knew she had to make a change.
"I was pretty motivated," she said.
The first HWJ meeting - Price participated on the Marquette community team both in the summer and in the current round of the challenge - kept her coming back for more, even with her original doubts about the program.
"It was fun. The getting together with the other people I didn't think I'd like. But it really made a huge difference," she said.
In addition to getting motivation from team members, Price said she also enjoyed getting to work with the trainers involved in the program.
"I learned a lot of different exercises I'd never done before," she said. "It was like, 'oh, I've got this equipment at home.' There's so many things you can do."
Then the program came to an end, however, leaving Price to wonder how she would maintain her new lifestyle.
"About two weeks before it ended, I was having this little panic, what am I going to do to track?" she said.
After some searching, Price signed up for Sparkpeople.com, a free fitness, weight loss and goal-setting website, and continued to track her food intake and exercise there.
Since the end of the first Community Wellness Challenge, Price has continued to exercise 500-700 minutes each week and has brought her total weight lost to 55 pounds, which she is now working to maintain.
Her own success in the program, however, Price attributes to one thing.
"I was ready to do it," she said. "Go at least once. I didn't think after the first week I would want to go. You've got nothing to lose if you go try it out."
Those who are interested in participating can still join in the current HWJ challenge, which is in its third week. To sign up, go to www.fitup.org.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.