The first day you start working at a health organization is not the ideal time to discover that you are out of shape – but, such was my first day at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

As part of my onboarding, I was required to get my annual physical examination. My doctor told me that my weight had gone up, and that my BMI and cholesterol levels had increased, too. Things were looking up, but not in a good way. He gave me a pretty clear directive: lose 30 pounds over the next year.

It wasn’t news to me: I had gained weight over the past two years – most of it due to stress (I ended a romantic relationship, changed jobs, and started a graduate school program) and a bit (OK, maybe more than a bit) due to my insatiable sweet tooth (in college, my favorite hangout was a place called “Eat Dessert First”).

The call-to-health did not hit home until I had a biometric screening at the UVM Medical Center two months later as part of our workplace wellness program. Let me say this: there is nothing that will motivate you to shape up more then having a really cute wellness coach weigh you and measure your waist circumference. It was both humiliating and enlightening. I learned that, if I did not act now, I could be at-risk for health crises like stroke and cardiovascular disease down the road.

That was a wake-up call. It wasn’t just about looking good on the outside anymore – it was about what was happening on the inside, too.

So, I did what any self-respecting 30-year-old, tech-savvy woman would do: I downloaded a bunch of health apps, took to Pinterest to create a “fitspiration” board; then, I got moving…literally. I took the shock-and-awe approach: I registered for my first-ever spinning class. And, it was hard – like, your body hurts when you wake up the next morning hard — but I signed up for a second one, then a third one – and, well, you get the picture. I went spinning with my friends. It made it both social and fun. I told my colleagues at work about my fitness goals and they supported and encouraged me (and complimented me when I lost weight).

Then, a funny thing happened: not only did the pounds start sliding off, revealing a more fit, athletic woman beneath – but, I actually got hooked on wellness.  I discovered that I was an athlete and that fitness was actually pretty fun. Now, I love spinning and running (I ran my first 5K at the end of 2013 and my first 5K of 2014 on January 1), trying out new recipes for juices and smoothies and preparing my own foods (versus eating out), talking to my friends about their fitness goals, and researching the latest health apps and social media tools. Most of all, I truly feel great: confident, healthy, and sexy.

Today, I have lost 30 pounds, but I have gained so much more:

  • I learned that I don’t need to deprive myself when it comes to food: I simply tweaked my diet (less bread and sweets) and eat in moderation (I still enjoy favorites, like cheese, but I just have two small bites with my lunch, or I will treat myself to a seven layer bar every now and again. Yum!).
  • I found the apps I need to stay on track: Weight Diary, CalculateBMI, MyFitnessPal, and RunKeeper.
  • I discovered a whole closet full of clothes I now fit into again (this is a HUGE bonus).
  • I love the stress relief that comes with a good workout session.
  • I have a better understanding of the fat and caloric content of the foods I eat, thanks to great RDs like Kimberly Evans (a member of the UVM Medical Center team).
  • I found a new appreciation for the friends and family who encouraged me – and made new friends through my “wellness” activities.

Now, I can’t wait for my annual physical so I can thank my doctor for challenging me to be a “healthy new me.” Then, it’s back to Pinterest to find some new recipes and exercises to try next week. Did I mention, I plan to run the relay in the Vermont City Marathon this year? That’s what happens when you start making your health a priority – you realize you can do things you never thought you could. And, that feels incredible.

Alexandra Tursi is social media strategist at the University of Vermont Medical Center. 

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