I’m not ashamed to admit that I love this state. Michigan has a bad rep in the news media — for a lot of reasons. Some deserved; some notsomuch. But I love this place. And I absolutely love my fellow Michiganders — sorry, no matter how many times you try to tell me it’s now “Michiganians,” I will ignore you.
And it bothers me that Michigan is the 10th state in the nation for obesity rates of adults — a full 31.7 percent of my beloved Michiganders are obese, with the rate climbing every year. Last September, Gov. Rick Snyder presented an address on health and wellness, where he attributed approximately $3 billion in annual medical costs in Michigan to obesity. I could go on and on. But I won’t. You can read the depressing statistics for yourself in the links above.
My reason for this post? It’s not all doom and gloom. There are solid efforts among Michigan citizens to improve the overall health and well-being of the citizens of this great state. Personally, I try to share my story and talk about health and fitness as often as possible — to the annoyance of some. Because I know it’s a hard road, but it’s one people need not fear — especially in this land of plenty for outdoor adventure. There’s so much more of Michigan you can enjoy when you’re healthy and fit.
Someone else spreading the fitness love in The Great Lakes State is Cari Draft. Her latest effort, with the help of an extremely talented team, is the Lakeshore SlimDown Challenge. A quick backstory: I first “met” Cari through my participation in EcoTrek Fitness, which she founded.
Anyway, when Cari asked me to serve as one of the “appraisers” for the initial participant selection in the challenge, I didn’t even have to think twice. What an amazing way to share my love of a healthy, fit lifestyle with people who were truly seeking help.
The crew of six appraisers listened as 41 contestants shared their story — in two minutes or less — about why they needed Cari’s help. Some of them were easier to rule out than others, based on what they shared. (I can smell someone who fakes commitment from a mile away.) Others? It was tough. There were a lot of people who came out who were seriously grasping. In the end it was about commitment, desire, personality and drive. And eight were chosen.
Cari is an incredibly inspiring, outgoing and positive force in West Michigan’s fitness realm. As I mentioned, she founded EcoTrek Fitness. And she’s a personal trainer. But she’s ohsomuch more than that. Check out her blog and see for yourself.
Cari was approached by a former client, Darlene Cyr — a contestant in the challenge who works for David Loring Productions — about doing a “Biggest Loser”-esque type show in West Michigan. Cari, not a fan of “Biggest Loser” for several reasons, was game — as long as it wasn’t some “cheesy, local cable show.” After some discussion and compromising, the Lakeshore SlimDown Challenge was born.
“It’s not really about getting these eight individuals ‘skinnier’; it’s about providing the right tools to make real, long-lasting lifestyle changes — and have that happen in their real day-to-day lives,” Cari said. “We’re not shipping these people off to a ranch to do this. We need these changes to happen with the support of their family and friends. And hopefully these lifestyle changes will carry a ripple-out effect to those around them.”
In 2010, Cari was awarded the Presidential Council on Healthy & Fitness Community Leadership Award for EcoTrek Fitness providing communities new options to get fit and healthy outdoors. Only 50 of these awards are handed out each year across the nation.
There simply isn’t enough space to share the stories of these eight wonderful people the way they deserve to be shared. (You should definitely check out the show.) But, let me just say, a couple of them made me cry. And several of them made me smile — really big.
To give you a taste of what some of these fine folks had to say, I thought I’d share a few quotes from my after-selection interview with them. Because you need to hear it in their words.
Darlene: “In the last year my 17-plus-year marriage ended and then I found a man that loves me for who I am and doesn’t mind the ‘curves.’ This took the pressure off of me to lose the weight for someone else. I am happy with my life, stances I took, the business woman I’m becoming and the love in my life. But I am NOT happy with the fact that I can’t physically do the things I want to do with Jeff and the kids. Now is the time because I have the support I need without any guilt or unrealistic expectations.”
Diane: “I lost 70 pounds last year and need to lose more and keep it off.” So, why now? “Something snapped and I started to get serious about it. (This time) my mind frame is different. I want to live healthy instead of just losing weight.”
Stacy: “My biggest challenges are remembering to make time for myself. Sometimes I get caught up in taking care of everyone else I forget to take care of myself …. After the challenge I want to just live an active and healthy life; I want to have fun with my boys and raise them to be happy healthy little people. I want people to know it can be done, and there are a lot of people out there to help if you need them.”
Don: “I would say that, at first blush, I along with many other people will say that their busy schedule is their biggest obstacle, but that really isn’t it at all. It’s my inability to prioritize health and fitness to the point that it is part of that busy schedule. Be it an excuse, or laziness, is immaterial — the priority has to be just that. I’ve always thought, ‘well, I can do this myself,’ and failed. This time I am really focusing on the learning about nutrition, and how it interacts with my fitness, and the leadership from Cari and the experts, I respect, and hope we can drive this home.”
The Lakeshore SlimDown Challenge is an eight-week fitness challenge, led by Cari. They meet every Monday at Anytime Fitness in Grand Haven, where they talk about their week and “enjoy” an group workout with Cari. Oh, and there’s a camera filming them while they do it. They also have “homework” from Cari to complete during the week, including everything from food makeovers to workouts. Throughout the week, they all stay in touch with each other — and the world — through a special Facebook group, open to anyone who wants to follow along, chime in or get some tips themselves.
Throughout the eight weeks, the show will be recorded — and will air Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. (Get the full details here.) What’s more, there’s a weekly radio show running concurrently, where Cari and the contestants — as well as special guests — talk health, fitness and, well, life.
It was a complete joy — and my honor — to have a small role in this amazing effort to help get Michigan in shape — one, or eight, at a time. And, yeah, you can bet that as soon as my radio appearance is posted I’m going to be sharing it with you — even if I don’t know if I can bring myself to listen to it.
One last little bit of goodness — for those of you who stuck around ’til the end who want to know how you can take control of your life: “No. 1: Grab a buddy and move your body! Healthy living is contagious, but you’ve got to start,” Cari advised. “Go for a walk, breathe fresh air, nourish your body with fresh food and speak to a trusted health professional about what’s right for you!”
Or, as I like to say:
Feet on the floor, butt out the door.