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Thursday, May 3, 2012 11:09 am

Losers are winners in Lose Big contest

Shedding pounds and making lifestyle changes at the YMCA


Dave Morris, who began the YMCA Lose Big contest at 218 pounds (before), lost 52 pounds during the contest.

On Jan. 9, 1990, Dave Morris experienced a life-changing event. So on Jan. 9 this year he decided to change his life again. He enrolled in the YMCA Lose Big contest.

Morris was in his garage working on changing a leaky fuel pump on his father’s Chevy Corvette, when he noticed that the pump had leaked a significant amount of gasoline around him. Before Morris could react, a nearby kerosene heater ignited the gasoline’s fumes. Flames shot underneath the car at Morris.

  While on fire, Morris grabbed a blanket to put himself out. The blanket didn’t help, which led Morris to begin rolling around in the yard to stop himself from burning. Morris eventually put out the fire, but the accident left more than 36 percent of Morris’ upper body with second and third-degree burns.

So, when Jan. 9, 2012, came around, Morris decided to make a change.

“That date is a significant date for me,” Morris said. “When I saw the date the YMCA’s Lose Big program began on, I took it as a sign.”

The YMCA’s Lose Big contest was a 12-week activity program for members and non-members wanting to lose weight and learn about good nutritional habits. The contest included 180 participants from the YMCA’s Kerasotes and downtown Springfield branches.

The program featured motivational instructions from YMCA trainers, good nutrition classes and a variety of fitness classes ranging from the upper body, legs and all-around fitness with Zumba, a Latin-inspired dance fitness program.

The culmination of the program for the contestants was a walk down the runway at J.Parsons, located at 3425 Freedom Dr. in Springfield.      

Morris, a control room operator in the electric division of City Water, Light and Power who began the program weighing 218 pounds, said he lost about 52 pounds through the program and by running 15 to 50 miles a week. Morris, with the help of his wife, Kathleen, also changed his eating habits by cutting back on junk food like buffalo chicken horseshoes.

“My wife would prepare a lot more chicken and fish, but there are only so many ways to prepare those,” Morris said. “I would occasionally cheat the diet…I would cheat big time. But on the flipside, if I did cheat, I would go work out even harder than normal.”

Morris, a Springfield resident, finished the program in third place at the YMCA’s Kerasotes branch.  

At the YMCA’s downtown Springfield location, Melissa Ashley finished in first place on the women’s side, losing around 46 pounds.

Ashley, a registered nurse at Memorial Medical Center, said she was initially motivated to join the YMCA because she wanted her two-year-old daughter to take part in the social programs for children the organization offers. Ashley then noticed the YMCA’s Lose Big Contest and immediately enrolled.

Ashley said that her favorite part of the program was the Zumba classes and the resulting extra energy that she felt from getting in shape. The toughest challenge for her was following the 1,200-calorie diet that the YMCA’s Lose Big program requested.

“There were a lot of challenges, but more than anything you are going to fall off the wagon and have a junk food day. You just have to wake up the next day and make the decision to eat the good stuff,” Ashley said.  

Margie Cartee, who lost 27 pounds during the program, said that she became interested in enrolling in the YMCA’s Lose Big Contest after her doctor suggested that she should lose a little weight to avoid a recurring injury that she sustained during her second pregnancy.

“I was about 35 pounds overweight so my doctor said you need to lose it or you will have problems again,” Cartee said.

Cartee, a mother of two children, said she took a variety of classes during the program and that she has broken a lot of her former bad habits.

“I have so much more energy now. I used to sit and watch a lot of TV, but now it’s in my mind to just get up and do something,” Cartee said.

Contact Neil Schneider at nschneider@illinoistimes.com

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