Canada Weighs In

Our continuing series on healthy living.

Friday, September 15

Reg Sherren caught up with Christal from January's pedometer challenge, and found out she's had some amazing results.

The National and CBC News team up for a special report on health and well-being.

Canada Weighs In is part of  Live Right Now  - a CBC multiplatform initiative designed to motivate Canadians to live healthier lives.

The following are a series of updates about Christal Levy's journey to get healthy after participating in the pedometer challenge that aired on The National in January 2011.

Read 'The Journey Continues' by Christal Levy

September 16, 2001

The time has come for my follow-up testing.  The CBC came on Tuesday, August 30, to see what I have been up to since completing the pedometer challenge.

I have been exercising regularly after having found activities that I love to do.  I am having fun and it makes living a healthy lifestyle a little more "doable" for me.  The question is - has all this hard work made a difference?

After getting on the treadmill once again with Reg Sherren in the background waiting to see what would happen, I rocked it!  The results, once again, did not lie.  I went 3.0 mph, at a 6% incline for a number of minutes and I could have kept going.  The most amazing statistic to me is that my body is now burning fat and not just burning carbohydrates.  Now, I am no scientist, but Bryon McKay (the PhD candidate who did my testing) told me that the statistics mean my body is working more efficiently. Yahoo!

Because of my test results, I know that I am ready to challenge myself a little more physically.  Back to Zumba I go!  And I am excited about winter coming so I can start cross-country skiing.

My eating plan continues to be a challenge for me.  Being on this journey has made me evaluate many areas of my life and realize that in order to be successful at getting my weight off and keeping it off, there are some things I need to address.  It has been difficult at times to face some of the "mental barriers" that have developed over the years, but with the strength and courage I proved I have, I will continue to push forward to accomplish my goal.

When I think about the past 11 months, I can’t help but thank McMaster University’s Department of Kinesiology and the CBC.  If it were not for these two Canadian institutions, I might still be searching for the help I needed and I might not be as healthy as I am today.  My success is not just my own and I want all of Canada to know that.

Thank you for allowing me to share my ongoing journey and giving me the support I needed to find out that I CAN DO IT!

Read 'Time Flies By' By Christal Levy

August 8, 2011

In nine months there have been a lot of wonderful changes and some setbacks as well.

I continue to take belly-dancing classes with my beautiful and talented instructor, Alecia May, and to go Nordic Walking guided by wonderful leader Jim Mackey. I still attend Weight Watchers meetings regularly with my favourite leader, Cindy Sinclair. 

I have added bicycle riding to my list of activities. I recently spent three weeks in Nova Scotia and bought a bicycle to ride while I was there. The hills proved to be challenging but coming down on the other side was a blast. How did I reward myself? With lobster of course.

I have an Aunt who walked right by me in a store because she did not recognize me, I have lost 56 pounds since the last time she saw me.

But, I have had my challenges. I knew the time would come when it would get harder to continue on my path. Getting out of a regular routine has proven to cause some setbacks for me. I have continued to exercise but an irregular summer schedule has made it difficult to be consistent. Then there are the barbecues with hot dogs and hamburgers. What is important is that I have not given up. I have accepted my task of "maintaining" for the summer and now it is back to work.

I have handed out a number of the pedometers that the Department of Kinesiology that the Associate Vice-President of Research at McMaster University supplied to me. It is wonderful to see people wearing their pedometers and telling me stories about their "step counts" while walking their way to better health.

When I consider what I was doing last year at this time, I am so thankful for the pedometer challenge. Last year, I could not cut the lawn. This year, I cut the front and back lawns in less than 20 minutes. Last year, I drove everywhere. This year, I don’t mind going for a walk or riding my bicycle. Last year, I was in tremendous pain. This year, the pain isn’t nearly as intense and definitely isn’t getting in the way of activity. Last year, I had my first blood glucose test that alerted medical professionals that something was not right with me. This year, my blood glucose levels are under control with no medication.

I guess it is safe to say that I am not the same person I was. My journey continues and with the help and support of those I have met along the way and those who have known me and stood by me waiting for this moment, I thank you so very much.

I especially want to thank Dr. Gianni Parise, Dr. Martin Gibala, Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis, Dr. Arbour-Nicitopoulos in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University, Dr. Fiona McNeill, Associate Vice-President Research at McMaster University and the CBC for continuing to support me in the most important challenge of my lifetime.

Read Christal Levy's June blog entry

June 13, 2011

It is now well over 6 months since I first began the pedometer study at McMaster University. At first, I thought I couldn’t get through a week and now I’ve been at it for over 6 months.

I have lost 56.1 lbs to date and continue to include regular exercise as part of my healthy lifestyle. I have learned to ask for help when I am struggling and to keep positive people around me who encourage me to keep on going.

Some amazing things have happened in the past month.

I grew up in a small country town on a strawberry and apple farm. At the school I went to there were only 120 children from Kindergarten to Grade 8. Obviously, we all knew each other and each other’s families. Our teachers were like a second set of parents because many of us had the same teacher for multiple years. Lorraine Kitchen was my French teacher and Pat Barry taught me from Grade 2 to 4. Both of my old teachers are now wearing pedometers that I was able to provide them with because of the generous support from the Department of Kinesiology and Associate Vice-President, Research and International Affairs, Fiona McNeill at McMaster University.

Mrs. Kitchen and Mrs. Barry got a pedometer, a calendar and guidelines to begin an exercise plan based on the study that I did. Mrs. Barry aptly wrote, "The teacher has become the student, and the student has become the teacher." What a pleasure it is to be sharing with others the joy of taking "steps" that will truly change your life.

Speaking of steps - yesterday my friends and I completed a 5K walking marathon sponsored by Weight Watchers and The Running Room. I have never been part of a marathon before and it was lots of fun because I was with some great, supportive friends. After completing the marathon I gave myself another reward; I bought myself a bicycle and went for a bicycle ride for the first time in well over 10 years.

Another one of my accomplishments this month has been being able to climb the stairs at work. I work on the 3rd floor, so climbing the stairs has always been a bit of a challenge. I tried to climb them about a month ago and still found it difficult, but this past week a co-worker challenged me to do it, so I did! Now I have started climbing the stairs regularly.

My final "wow" moment for June is one that is very, very important to me. Back in January, I mentioned in the CBC story that my doctor said I failed a blood/glucose test. He told me that if I didn’t continue to exercise and watch what I eat, I would end up a Type 2 Diabetic. My exact words were, "I don’t want to go there." Well, my doctor conducted the same blood/glucose test and I passed with flying colours. I have actually reversed the pre-diabetic condition.

I can only imagine what the next 6 months will bring!

Read Christal Levy's May blog entry

May 9, 2011

Another weight loss reward is on the horizon - at 50 lbs lost I am getting my hair done. I only have 2.8 lbs to go!

I have registered for a 5K walking marathon on June 12th and my Huttonville girls (friends from public school) are joining me along with my adventurous pal Pam, from work.

People are really starting to notice a change in my body and I am noticing the change in my health.

It is great to be reaching my goals. However, it is by no means an easy road. There are days I just want to sleep. There are days when I have to face the reality of the body that I am in, versus the body that I am aiming for.  And, of course, there are days that I just want chocolate.

These days happen and the support I have around me is a reminder that I can and will have bad days, but that doesn’t mean I give up.

In the past I have lost weight by dieting, I know I can lose weight if I really put my mind to it. What was difficult was maintaining the lifestyle and the weight loss - a person cannot maintain a diet lifestyle. That is what is different about this time. In real life, we have good and bad days. Sometimes want we want comes easily and sometimes it requires tremendous effort. As I reflect on where I have been, physically, I realize that whenever I lost weight, I always ended up gaining it back plus and additional 50 lbs. I simply cannot handle doing this to myself this time. My body and my health will not be able to handle another back slide.

So how do I intend to prevent a back slide? I have to continue to keep supportive people around me. I have to continue to monitor my daily food intake and most importantly, I have to continue to wear my pedometer and walk with the intention of getting in 10,000 steps a day.  I also have to continue to plan my physical activity just like I plan to go to work. Kathleen Martin-Ginis from McMaster University’s Department of Kinesiology talks about this a lot. Click here to see one of her talks on rethinking solutions to Canada's physical inactivity crisis.

I know all of these combined efforts will equal success for me. Every time I get to share my story, I am reminded that I can do this!  There are people cheering me on, and that inspires me. 

Some of the members of the Department of Kinesiology: Martin Gibala, Gianni Parise, Kathleen Martin-Ginis, as well as Fiona McNeill (Associate Vice-President, Research) have proven to be some of my biggest fans. They have made a commitment to provide me with pedometers that I can give to those I meet that want to do what I am doing. Of course, I don’t give out a pedometer without giving a little talk on the importance of planning exercise. The pedometer is accompanied by a calendar similar to the one I received during the study I was in at McMaster University. As Kathleen Martin-Ginis said, "You are turning into the exercise counselor!"  Who knew?

Read 'A lot can happen in one month' by Christal Levy

April 4, 2011

A lot can happen in one month.

Since the last blog entry I have lost 10% of my body weight. I have now lost over 35 pounds and I am feeling great!

One thing I have come to realize during this journey is that if it weren’t for the supportive people in my life, I would not have made it this far. I have also had the opportunity to meet some really awesome people who are helping me to continue on my path.

Not only did I just try belly dancing, but I have signed up for classes. I met the most amazing belly dancing instructor ever, her name is Alecia and she is absolutely beautiful. What is amazing about Alecia is that she has lost 70 lbs and has kept the weight off for seven years. Then there is Sheila who is a Zumba instructor (another class I am now taking) Sheila has lost 125 lbs and is still going, she can really move! And then there is Jim, who owns NordicStride (an activity I have signed up for) and is one of only two internationally certified Nordic stride instructors in Ontario. Last, but not least, is Cindy, the best Weight Watcher leader in the world. Cindy has lost 100 lbs and kept it off for over 16 years. She is truly an inspiration to me. These people have become an important part of my life. When I am discouraged, I just think of their accomplishments and supportive words to me.

All of these activities I am involved in may seem ambitious and some may think it is not realistic (believe me, those were my sentiments as well). But the decision to change my old habits and develop an active lifestyle is something that requires commitment, determination, and perseverance. If I am going to change my old habits then I want to have fun. I want to do the things I have always dreamed of doing. I have always wanted to take dance lessons and now I am in a dance studio taking belly dance classes. I have always wanted to cross country ski and Nordic stride is helping me to get ready for next winter (that is if this one ever ends) and cross-country skiing.

Is this all easy for me? Of course it isn’t. My automatic response to celebrating a victory, or medicating my sad feelings, is to eat in my old way. I still have a hard time being around other people who are eating the food I love and sometimes I give in to temptation. But now, I get right back on track and most important of all I wear my pedometer every day and make sure to get some activity in, no matter what it is, or for how long.

So what’s coming up? Well I am going to continue doing what I am doing. I found some activities that I love and I am going to stick with them.  The question I have is: Canada, do you want to join me? Are you ready to start living a healthy and active lifestyle? If I can do it, anyone can.

Read '25 lbs less of me now!' by Christal Levy

March 7, 2011

It’s been 3 months since I finished the pedometer challenge that Reg Sherren invited me to take and 2 months since my last appearance on The National.

I feel like a completely different person already.  I watched the videos again yesterday and tears came to my eyes when I saw how hard I struggled just to walk.  Today, I walk regularly, being sure to wear my pedometer.  I have changed my eating habits and the combination of moderate exercise and healthy eating has helped me lose 26.5 lbs.

And I am having SO MUCH FUN!  I am learning a lot about myself as well.  For example, I have learned that I have the tendency to turn to food for comfort and that’s why it is vitally important for me to find activities that are non food-related that give me the comfort that I need; like reading a good book, having a bubble bath, making a phone call, surfing the web or even … are you ready … doing a bit of exercise!

After the show aired in January, the healthy workplace coordinator where I work came and introduced herself.  She asked me to join an exercise challenge at my workplace that was to begin in March.  "Yeah right," I thought to myself.   I also had a number of people offer to be my walking buddy at lunchtime.  One colleague said if I would be team captain for the workplace challenge she would join and, now, I have a team of 8 women registered for the activity challenge at my workplace.  Each week, for 8 weeks we have to increase our activities.   My team name is Christal Lights, rather appropriate considering I am getting lighter.  I am trying activities I have never thought I would.  A colleague of mine is quite the line dancer and we have booked a room for 30 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I can learn to line dance.  Talk about a workout!  I went to a Zumba-thon this past weekend with another colleague and honestly I can’t think of a better way to exercise than to dance around like you are having a party!

I meet with Kelly (my exercise counsellor) regularly and we continue to plan what I will do for exercise.   I keep this posted on my refrigerator as a reminder that I have to stay active.  I also made myself a list of prizes that I am going to buy myself as I reach my weight loss milestones.  My first goal was to lose 5% of my body weight (which I did) and my prize was any magazine I wanted.  My next goal is 10% of my body weight by March 31 at which time I will get a pedicure.  The ultimate goal, the weight determined by my doctor as healthy for me, A DIAMOND RING.

Even though I feel great and I am losing weight, I still have days that I don’t want to do what I need to do.  I just keeping looking at the videos and thinking about what my doctor said, I have to keep this up or I will become a type II diabetic and I don’t want to go there.  The last time I saw my doctor he confirmed that I am actually improving my health and I can’t think of anything I would rather hear from my doctor than that.

What’s coming up for me?  Well, I am going to try belly dancing  - which should be interesting!  Also on the agenda: salsa dancing, Nordic stride, tai chi and laughter yoga.

Stay tuned!