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Small changes yield big loss

Jul. 11, 2010 @ 08:08 AM

HUNTINGTON -- When Shannon Murray heard about Huntington's Health Revolution beginning in early June, she knew she wanted to be on board.

"I first heard about it on Facebook. Even though we had the whole 'Jamie Oliver's (Food) Revolution' and I loved the way a lot of the kids finally bought into it and the way the teachers really bought into it, there wasn't anything for the community," said Murray, who works at the Cabell County Board of Education. "Then, one of the teachers started spreading the word about this program that was trying to encourage not just the school community, but the whole community to get involved. I was in.

"I thought it was great because I needed to lose weight anyway. It was a great way to not only back up the school systems and my friends, but do something for myself."

Since June, Murray has shed 30 pounds off her 5-foot, 6-inch frame and it came at just the right time.

"I got a wake-up call. My doctor told me I had all the signs of diabetes and if I didn't do something, I was going to end up on insulin or dead. It was time for me to grow up. I'm the three F's -- fat, female and forty. I wasn't doing well with my diet on my own. It was good to see this community and nice to know I wasn't the only one," she said.

The 90-day challenge issued by Huntington's Health Revolution and Ebenezer Medical Outreach is a lifestyle change plan for all ages. By implementing small changes in three areas -- diet, exercise and spirit -- the goal is to improve health and overall well-being. For example, participants are encouraged to subtract one dessert per week, do a kind deed for someone and try a new form of exercise. The challenge began in early June and continues through the end of August.

Murray said she liked the idea of small, singular changes such as week one's recommendation to eliminate one sugary drink and add a glass of water each day and to walk 30 minutes total each day.

"It really did seem very easy and made a lot of sense to look at one thing at a time rather than trying to tackle everything at once," said Murray, who said she had tried -- and failed -- with both the Atkins and South Beach diets.

Before the Health Revolution, Murray's diet consisted of a cup of coffee for breakfast, snacks of popcorn and chips, fast food lunches and "huge amounts" at dinner.

"I didn't realize until I stopped to look at it that I was basically eating from the time I got home at 5:30 p.m. until I went to bed," she said.

Now, Murray eats a boiled egg for breakfast, snacks of celery with peanut butter or grapes and cheese and lunches with cottage cheese, yogurt and vegetables. Once a week, she attends an exercise class at her church and she spends evenings walking in her neighborhood while her children bike.

"Just the fact I've been able to lose weight, I feel better and I have more energy," said the mom of three, all younger than 8. "This has changed not just my life, but my outlook. It has been a complete habit change for me."

Yvonne Jones, executive director of Ebenezer Medical Outreach, which has lead the revolution charge in Huntington, said she is certain Murray's story will encourage and motivate the other 200-plus participants and even a few who might be considering joining the cause.

"This is not a sprint. It's a marathon. If a person is 40 years old, it's taken them 30 years to develop bad habits. It won't take you nearly as long to get right, but it will take time," Jones said. "Shannon has really gotten into it and, in my opinion, one person losing 30 pounds makes all of it worth it."

Murray said her weight loss goal starting out was 50 pounds, though she admitted she needed to lose "an entire person."

"I like the results and I want to keep going," she said. "I was looking to lose 50 pounds and I'm going to get there pretty quickly, so I'll keep going."

Jones said it is not too late for others to join the Health Revolution.

"The whole idea behind this was that someone could start on this at any point," she said. "The thing about changing behavior is realizing there's a problem and getting the motivation to do something about it like Shannon."

Ready for the challenge?

The 90-day challenge from the Huntington Health Revolution is a lifestyle change plan for parents to guide their children, spouses to motivate each other and loved ones and friends to work together for improved health.

The mission of the Huntington Health Revolution is to inform and promote physical activity each day, eating a nutritious diet, getting preventative screenings and avoiding risky behaviors among citizens of the Huntington area.

Do you want to take the challenge? You can sign up anytime and view the weekly tips and guidelines by visiting http://www.herald-dispatch.com/specialsections/healthrevolution.



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