Gray: Change to a healthy lifestyle makes a huge difference

Amanda Freeland of Alpena proudly says that she was born to be a teacher. It’s in her DNA. But a dramatic change in life helped her explode her potential in the classroom. Take a peak inside Amanda’s kindergarten class today and you’ll see her educating and inspiring our youth with fun, flair and boundless energy.

A few years ago, she had the same determination, but not the energy to match. What changed? Her health.

When I first met Amanda as my son’s teacher at Bingham Arts Academy, she was a newlywed who had just moved to Northeast Michigan and landed her first job. It was a lot of change all at once, but she seemed eager. She was in love, excited about her career, but battling something greater lack of confidence.

After hearing that I worked in health and fitness, she confided in me. She said the stress of planning a wedding, moving to a new community and starting over had thrown her off track. She was consuming a lot of processed foods, spending too much time on the couch and was uninspired. In fact, she even found herself bored or lonely in her spare time. Her husband worked different shifts and was often gone on the weekends. So, she stayed in. She was young and out of shape and had no path to change it. She didn’t grow up in a physically active household and never considered exercise as a way of life.

She described her steady weight gain as feeling like she was “zipped up in a fat suit” and lost in her own body. She knew she did not like the way her clothes fit, or how tired she felt at the end of the day, but was not sure how to turn the corner.

Soon after this conversation, I was teaching yoga to the young students in her class. We practiced hopping in a tree pose, rocking like a boat and doing a swan dive off a cliff into the ocean. Her young friends lit up and so did she. After they settled into their afternoon rest time, she leaned to me and said, “I really enjoy doing yoga with the kids. It calms their nerves and helps them focus for the afternoon. What I didn’t realize is that it would do the same for me.” Her journey had begun.

Fast forward to today. Amanda and her husband Ben, an occupational therapist at Alpena Regional Medical Center, have overhauled their priorities, their kitchen, their schedules, their relationships and their lives. They are walking billboards for health and fitness. Why? Because it worked.

Ben is 30 pounds lighter, sleeps better and feels stronger. As a therapist, he is often advising patients to exercise more and choose better nutrition, so he is proud to be walking the walk.?He exercises regularly on his lunch hour and has swapped burgers and fries for healthy meal replacement shakes, sandwiches and fruit.

Amanda lost 20 pounds and has more confidence in all areas of life. She shares her love for wellness with her students and their families to inspire others to live better. She routinely exercises with her kids in class and promotes healthy snacks and lunches. Amanda found her own way in fitness by attending group classes. She was hooked and earned a TurboKick certification. She now teaches her own classes at the health club and leads school-wide special fitness events, like Glow Turbo in the dark. She lights up the room with her smile. The young woman in the mirror today is a simply a better version of herself.

When the Freelands married, they did not envision a healthy lifestyle because they did not know what it looked like. Surrounding themselves with like-minded, healthy people has rubbed off. This couple has transformed from video games, couch time and TV dinners to workouts, 5Ks and home cooked meals. Throughout this journey, Amanda taught herself a valuable lesson – her health fuels her future.

Trina Gray is the owner of Bay Athletic Club, a mother of two, a national presenter on fitness and wellness and a change agent in the community. Her wellness column appears monthly.