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Article posted: 3/18/2013 6:00 AM

Progress has her making new plans for the future

By Melynda Findlay

Six weeks ago, I was asking one of my bosses for time off at the beginning of May so I could attend the Fittest Loser finale celebration (and so I would have time to find something to wear for it, obviously).

He asked me if I had any other plans for that time, and I told him I was going to sleep late and eat pizza and Cheetos every day. We laughed about it, but I wasn't kidding. That actually was my plan six weeks ago.

I can proudly say that's no longer the plan.

I'm now at the halfway point of this journey, and I'm already a different person in many ways.

I'm significantly smaller. I've lost 20 pounds and 2.5 percent body fat, plus 2 inches off my chest, 7 inches off my waist, 3 inches off my hips, 1 inch off my right thigh and a inch off my right arm. I don't feel sick every time I eat, thanks to a gluten-free, unprocessed food diet.

I'm definitely stronger and able to do so much more during my workouts than I could at the beginning. Just the other day, I realized my top speed on the treadmill when I first started now is my warm-up and cool-down speed.

And there are less tangible -- but still very important -- changes, too. According to the New Leaf testing done at the Academy of Athletic Advancement in Schaumburg, my metabolism -- both at rest and while active -- is working more efficiently than it was six weeks ago, too.

The New Leaf testing, by the way, is pretty cool. It measures how your body uses calories for energy and recommends a workout program based on that so you can exercise efficiently and avoid plateaus.

Of course, there also are the changes that only matter to me. A workout shirt that didn't fit me when I bought it six weeks ago now fits pretty nicely, and is on the way to being too big. Even though I work second shift, I've been waking by 8 a.m. or earlier almost every morning. Yes, even on weekends, because the chronic insomnia I've always dealt with hasn't been a problem. I wake up feeling refreshed, which is something I've never experienced. In fact, I think I might even be a little bit of a morning person sometimes. It wasn't that long ago that getting up before 2 p.m. was early for me (in all fairness, though, I don't start work until 4:30 p.m. most days).

The most unexpected benefit of a healthy lifestyle, though, is more room in the kitchen. My boyfriend and I used to keep a corner of junk food sin on one of the counters, which eventually morphed into half a counter of junk food sin. We also had a freezer so full of junk food that anytime we bought any new frozen foods, we had to play what we called "Freezer Tetris." Like the Tetris you know, but with frozen pizza, tater tots and ice cream instead of bricks.

There's none of that anymore, and for the first time since we moved in here, we can actually prepare food on the countertop and not worry about what we can fit in the freezer.

So, that brings us back to that week off I have coming up in May, when all this is over. Instead of looking forward to daily pizza like I was six weeks ago, I'm really, really hoping for good weather and a few nice, long hikes.

Ÿ Melynda Findlay is a member of the night copy desk at the Daily Herald, where she's worked for 14 years. She lives in Arlington Heights and really loves grilled cheese sandwiches.

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