A Better Me in 12 Weeks

Local mom shares progress in the American Heart Association’s BetterU Makeover Challenge

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Last November, I embarked on a 12-week journey with the Duchess/Ulster American Heart Association’s BetterU Makeover Challenge to help me makeover my health and reduce my risk of heart disease.  Before I tell you more about the BetterU challenge, let me tell you about me. 

My name is Merlyn, I’m 36, and a single mother of a very energetic 5-year-old boy. I live in Poughkeepsie with my mother, son, and disabled older brother and work full-time as a Recycling Coordinator in Kingston.  I’ve struggled with my weight since adolescence and have always been one to help others before helping myself.  My family and work responsibilities have always risen to the top of my priority list, and any weight-loss efforts sank to the bottom.

Heart disease runs on both sides of my family. My mother suffered two silent heart attacks and my father had a stroke at age 70.  All these factors add up to why the BetterU Makeover Challenge was a good idea.

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The AHA began the BetterU Makeover Challenge to bring awareness to the fact that heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths every year with stroke following closely behind at number 5. Unfortunately, symptoms of heart disease appear differently in men than in women, and few women are aware of lifestyle choices that could help minimize their risk of heart disease. This BetterU program is a free, 12-week health, nutrition and fitness program to help women make meaningful lifestyle changes to improve their cardiovascular health. 

I'm very excited to be one of the thirteen local women selected for this year's program. Participants receive a three-month membership at Gold's Gym in LaGrange, sessions with a personal trainer, and a baseline medical evaluation done by Health Quest Medical Practice to record our starting weight, cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.  We will also attend the following:

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  • A seminar presented by a nutritional counselor
  • A tour of Adams Fairacre Farms grocery store in Poughkeepsie by a certified health chef and coach  
  • A credit health check by Bridgeway Federal Credit Union to assess our financial health, since finances are a major source of stress that affects women's health
  • A stress management seminar presented by a health and clinical psychologist

I'm very excited to have been chosen for this challenge. I'm hoping the seminars and personal training will help me stay on track with my eating and exercise, as well as help me focus in on my own health.

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My personal goals for the BetterU program are to become more active, set aside time for exercise, establish healthier eating habits, and lose weight. By doing this, I will also set a healthy example for my son and have more energy to play with him.  He’ll be getting some much needed activity of his own as he tags along with me, and plays at Gold’s KidsZone center.  

Stay tuned for next month’s issue to hear more about the program and my progress! There’s sure to be sore muscles, gym class fun, and plenty more for me to share!