I have a confession: I think maybe I don't like cake anymore.
It truly boggles. I have always had a pretty legendary sweet tooth -- I couldn't be trusted around frosting, and I've often counted a certain local fast food chain's chocolate cake among my very favorite things.
Melynda Findlay, 49, Arlington HeightsStarting weight: 226
Current weight: 185
Weight lost this week: 7 pounds
Total weight lost: 41 pounds
Total percentage lost: 18.1 percent
So not being interested in cake? That's like me saying "I'm not 100 percent convinced gravity exists" or "Comic Sans is a lovely and terribly underutilized font."
But here we are after just one bite of cake on Mother's Day, when I found myself thinking "It's just too sweet." (Who knew that was even a thing?!)
It's just one of the many huge changes that have taken place over the past three months during the Fittest Loser challenge. It was my second time participating, so I thought I knew what to expect -- but I still managed to be surprised daily.
I wasn't in the best place when I started back in February. Sure, I weighed a lot less than I did when I started in 2013. But I was dealing with anemia -- a low blood count that zapped my energy and sometimes caused me to have trouble breathing. When I started working out with my trainer, Push Fitness owner Joshua Steckler, I had to sit down and rest between every set. Even so, I was tired afterward and usually went home and took a nap before starting work on my second-shift job.
As for workouts on my own, well, they were less than stellar initially; for the first couple of weeks, I couldn't get past about 2.8 mph on the treadmill. I also couldn't do a single push-up or situp. And while my diet never went back to being as bad as it was before I started Fittest Loser the first time in 2013, let's just say it still included quite a bit of cake and cake-adjacent items.
But as I approached a milestone birthday in December, I thought about what was at stake -- growing older gracefully and healthfully (hopefully in much smaller pants?). So I stuck with it. And before I knew it, I started seeing changes. They were really small at first -- like being able to kick up my treadmill speed a notch or two, or not needing to rest between sets. Then the bigger changes came along.
I lost 41 pounds. I, a nonathlete and non-runner with bad knees, completed a 5K in a better time than I expected.
My formerly noodly arms and wimpy core deadlifted 100 pounds. I recently did 30 situps. I get really excited about things like cauliflower rice and zoodles and learned that meal prep doesn't have to be the chore I'd always believed, thanks to the awesome students in Stevenson High School's Food Revolution Club.
I just bought jeans in a size I haven't worn since about 1990 -- and they're on the verge of being too big. My cholesterol numbers are better now than they were back in my 20s and 30s. And, for the first time in my adult life, I saw a picture of myself and didn't cringe or think "Wow, I'm so fat."
I said this after finishing Fittest Loser in 2013, and I'll say it again: Josh clearly is a miracle worker, because this transformation is nothing short of miraculous. It's not just about the weight loss, although that's pretty great. It's also that he absolutely believed I could accomplish nearly anything, even when I doubted it myself.
All I ever wanted from Fittest Loser -- both in 2013 and 2018 -- was to lose a few pounds and not embarrass my employer or Push Fitness. What I got was so much more than that: I look better, for sure, but I also feel better, both mentally and physically, and I am much healthier than I've been in years, thanks to exercise and a completely sustainable diet plan.
There's an old proverb that's been running through my head lately: Opportunity only knocks once. For me, though, it definitely knocked twice -- and I'm so grateful I took advantage of it.
• Melynda Findlay is a multiplatform editor at the Daily Herald, where she's worked for 19 years. She's still kind of clumsy but signed up to take a jazz dance class this summer anyway. It's her first dance class in 15 years. Pray for her.