78 people are taking the Smyth County 2017 weight-loss challenge | Local

Losing weight is about much more than vanity for Meagan Dame. The 25-year-old wants to be able to set free the adventurous spirit that resides inside her. She’s tried to be healthier and lose pounds many times, but the regimes didn’t go the distance. Now, Dame is hopeful that lasting change is possible.

In August, she and 77 other people decided to give weight loss another try.

Just over five weeks into the Smyth County Weight Loss Challenge 2017, they’re finding success.

Dame has lost about 20 pounds. She’s excited by that achievement, but she’s even more energized by the community support she’s experienced.

Dame described a process familiar to many people who’ve struggled with weight issues. She’d be motivated to try and would start a new diet or go to the gym. For a while, the process would work, but over time something would happen and derail the diet or exercise program. That’s why one aspect of the chamber of commerce-sponsored challenge particularly appealed to her.

Dame noted that it’s a 10-week program – long enough to transform the practices into habits and “get a good routine going” that will last long beyond the challenge’s November end date.

Dame, who just moved to Marion about two years ago, is buoyed by the community support she’s receiving. She’ll go to the Lifetime Wellness Center, a challenge partner, to work out and people come up to her, offering words of encouragement.

While the support is essential, Dame appreciates facts and education too.

She lauded chamber executive director Sarah Gillespie for regular emails offering recipes, weight-loss techniques, meditation and even the science behind weight loss. She noted that often people are told what to do – eat fewer carbs and less fat – without an explanation of why that’s important. She’s been getting that information through the challenge.

With all its tools, Dame feels confident not only about finishing the challenge, but staying on a healthy path long after it’s concluded.

Dame is an adventurer at heart. She wants her body to be able to do all that she imagines, including taking on thrilling amusement park rides that she often can’t enjoy now because she exceeds their weight limit.

The occupational therapist knows too that she’s lucky. She recognizes that obesity puts her at risk for a variety of health conditions, but so far she’s been relatively healthy and she wants to keep it that way.

That was one of the goal’s Gillespie set for the challenge. “Our hope is that in doing this 10-week course people will develop healthier habits that stay with them long after this program ends. We hope they continue to practice healthier nutrition and stay active for the rest of their lives because they learn that being healthy is a lifestyle.”

Gillespie saw the challenge as a way of helping address the community’s health. “I initiated the idea for the program as a way to keep finding ways to support and improve our community.”

She’s excited with what has happened thus far. “The success so far has been great!”

She noted the lost pounds and the encouragement. “The support they are showing each other is amazing!”

Smyth County Community Hospital joined the chamber and wellness center in hosting the challenge, which is featuring free weekly workouts, free healthy cooking and lifestyle help, running/walking groups, team challenges and more.

The participants take part in weigh-ins, cholesterol screenings, a group workout, and before and after photos.

The team with the highest percentage of weight lost will receive Fitbits, a wellness basket and a three-month membership to the Lifetime Wellness Center. The individual with the highest percentage of weight loss will receive a one-year membership to the Lifetime Wellness Center and a meal-prep subscription. In case of a tie, the team/individual with the highest number of workouts attended will be declared the winner.

Dame took part in the chamber’s Color Run and is looking forward to the organization’s Super Hero 5K on Saturday, Oct. 7, on the Salt Trail in Saltville.

Runners and walkers will be welcome for this event to benefit the Imagination Library. Participants are encouraged to dress up as a super hero, including hometown heroes. Those hometown heroes (military, police, firefighters, EMTs, nurses and doctors) will receive a registration discount with ID. Children six and under may take part for free.

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78 people are taking the Smyth County 2017 weight-loss challenge | Local

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