Leah Jackman-Wheitner understands the frustration felt by many men and women trying to lose weight. She has started and stopped diet and exercise programs over and over again.
“I’ve been up and down the road more times than I can count,” said Jackman-Wheitner, who found a new determination last summer.
She became a gym regular and watched as her commitment to exercise translated into a drop in clothing sizes, pounds and inches.
Last summer, she was wearing women’s sizes 18 and 20. Now she slips easily into 10s and 12s. The 5-foot-2 Columbus resident has lost more than 50 pounds and hopes to lose another 50.
Since June 11, she has not missed a day working out at a gym — as of today she’s up to 253 days. Her goal is at least one year straight.
Jackman-Wheitner set up basic rules for herself to stick to her goal. The workouts had to be at a gym, not at home.
She already was a member at Total Fitness in Columbus and was working out with a personal trainer, so the groundwork was set.
And just to be safe, in case winter weather caused Total Fitness to close, Jackman-Wheitner reactivated a membership she had at Anytime Fitness, where she could access the gym any day of the week at any time.
She even considered other contingencies, such as if she happened to be traveling. She said many hotels have workout facilities, and a lot of gyms offer one-day passes for nonmembers.
Her usual workout sessions range from 30 minutes to an hour and a half, but on busy days, Jackman-Wheitner might exercise 15 minutes or less. Keeping her commitment to go to the gym and at least do some form of exercise is the important thing.
“When I started out, I went every day because I was afraid if I didn’t go I would quit,” she said. “Now, it’s kind of a grudge match with myself. At first, I said I’d go 100 days, then 200 days. Now I’m going to do a year.”
She also is the type of person who is a record-keeper and goal-setter. She tracks her progress on her computer, smartphone, on an Excel spreadsheet and a blog. The challenge has been to be patient since losing weight and becoming physically fit does not come quickly.
At the gym, workouts might include cardiovascular exercises, strength-training, riding a stationary bike, walking on a treadmill, using an eliptical trainer or attending classes.
She also completed a mini-marathon, by running and walking, giving her a huge boost in self-confidence.
“The first three weeks I felt awful,” said 45-year-old Jackman-Wheitner, who in June weighed more than she had in her life and was far from her size 5 frame in high school.
She pushed through the aches, pains and self-doubt, wondering if she could succeed this time when so many other times she quit and went back to her old habits.
She remembers when her breakfast sometimes included two, 20-ounce colas and a bag of M&Ms. Exercise was walking from her house to her car.
Jackman-Wheitner can’t remember a specific moment when the light bulb came on, but something finally clicked. Maybe it was when her jeans no longer fit and she refused to buy a larger size.
“I think I just hit rock bottom in terms of feeling bad about myself and knowing it had to be different,” said the career consultant and mother of two teens.
“I was afraid to hope that I would succeed, but I was willing to try again. That was the hardest part, being afraid to risk trying again.”
Jackman-Wheitner said what works for her is not going to work for everyone.
She wants people to understand that even if they have started and stopped fitness programs before or lost and regained weight, they should not give up. They have to find what motivates them to keep going.
“To me, it’s way harder to work out at home,” Jackman-Wheitner said. “I was self-conscious about my family walking in on me, but here, everyone is working out.”
Personal trainer Christal Downing remembers working with Jackman-Wheitner when she was having trouble getting motivated and saw how she was frustrated, emotionally and physically.
Downing tried to keep it simple, focusing on strengthening Jackman-Wheitner’s knees, ankles and core muscles so the workouts would become easier and Jackman-Wheitner would become stronger.
“People want to jump right in on the bandwagon, but you need to take baby steps and not do it all at once,” Downing said.
She encourages people new to the gym not to be embarrassed because others might be working out harder or are in better shape. They respect anyone making the effort, she said.
Downing saw a turnaround in Jackman-Wheitner on multiple levels, including her weight, physical strength, endurance and self-confidence.
“I’m very impressed with her attitude,” Downing said. “I love it because she’s now a ray of sunshine and doesn’t have that block on her shoulder anymore.”
Jackman-Wheitner admits she had a negative attitude before. She was proud of herself for other accomplishments in her life, including earning a doctorate degree and owning her business, but her inability to lose weight and improve her physical appearance always bothered her.
Desire to help others
Jackman-Wheitner knows her journey is not complete. She wants to lose more weight, keep up her streak of days working out and not return to her old, unhealthy ways. And she wants to motivate others.
Christine Rice, a friend of Jackman-Wheitner’s, believes the level of commitment and determination to her goals shows her desire to help to others.
“If she’s able to help inspire someone else to make their life better, it sparks something inside her to do more for herself as well,” Rice said.
Rice also believes Jackman-Wheitner can help others develop their own goals. And it doesn’t have to be working out every day.
“The bottom line is: No matter how many times you fail, you just have to keep trying,” Jackman-Wheitner said.