Gray: It’s never too late to create a new normal

What if eating healthy and exercising daily became your new normal? You would change your whole life and inspire those around you to do the same. You can start at any age, at any stage, with any obstacles in the way. You can start living better today, and it would matter.

You don’t need to wait for the right time. It won’t come. You don’t need to wait for permission from someone else. It won’t come. Just decide. It starts as easily as cutting fast food and soda (including diet) and adding water and real, whole foods. It starts as easily as a 10-minute workout every day and building up to more. We have powerful local proof that big changes can happen in your life in one year.

Bay Athletic Club recently hosted the annual Fitness Inspired Gala where 30 local people shared how they transformed their lives in 2013. No magic pills, no fad diets, no tricks. Just better daily decisions.

The gala is my favorite night of the year. I’m biased, I know. I host this event that celebrates the struggle and triumph of people in our community. But truly, I speak for all the attendees when I say we left “different people” than when we came. My husband Jeff admitted afterward that he had to just “stop pretending not to cry and own up to the tears because the stories were just that emotional.”

Here are the words from one of the honorees that night, Stephanie Stachlewitz:

“Thank you for such an awesome evening. I cringe to think where my husband Jim and I would be today if we had not participated in the Corporate Fit Challenge and become “Inspiration Stories.” I wonder what stage would my MS be in if I weren’t as healthy as I am. I wonder how I didn’t notice how much weight I had gained over the years. I wonder why it took us this many years to start. When I see my video transformation story, it makes me sad and happy. Sad that I lived that unhealthy for so long and happy to know that I will never go back there again. I am living grateful!”

If you missed the Gala, I want to share some of the magic. It might be what you or a loved one needs to hear to get well in 2014.

We heard from Mary, a grandmother in her 60s who was too unfit and overweight to pull herself out of her kayak. She cleaned up her eating, started exercising, lost more than 30 pounds and became a half-marathon runner with the encouragement of her family and trainers.

We heard from Bradley, a young man who lived life feeling unnoticed and quiet. He discovered fitness, met new friends, lost 50 pounds and found his voice.

We heard from Mason, a college student who kicked excessive video games, TV and fast food for the gym and his own home cooking. He lost 30 pounds, found a new body, a new hobby and a new level of confidence.

We heard from Kellie, a mom and nurse who was an overweight, unhealthy eater, numb to emotion – never happy, never sad. She got off antidepressants and checked back into life by losing 95 pounds, healing her body with real food and daily exercise.

We heard from Bob, a 50-year-old, active father of six who juggled lots of roles in life to get in the best shape of his life and invite others to join him.

We heard from Tom, a grandfather who used to ridicule fitness until he noticed that the people around him were changing with it. He started exercising every morning with his daughters and lost 67 pounds.

We heard from Mya, a 25-year-old Alpena woman who won the hearts and votes of the audience with her story of living morbidly obese at 360 pounds.

Mya was sleeping hooked up to a CPAP machine for her breathing and was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. She took control of her health when her doctor told her she’d never have kids. She cut out fast food, soda and started eating fruits and veggies. She began exercising at home for hours per night. Then she joined a health club. She got involved in strength training camps, cardio classes and got support from others.

In less than two years, Mya lost 182 pounds. She dropped from a size 28 to a size 8. Every time she hit a smaller pant size, she promised herself she would never go back. She shed the weight, shed the unhealthy habits and found a beautiful, confident, poised woman within herself.

At the gala, she blew the audience away with her stage presence and her story of triumph. Two years ago, she was on the early road to dying. Today, Mya lives with no health risks. Her success came from creating a “new normal” for her life. Congratulations to Mya and all our community members (including YOU!) who got healthier in 2013. I’d love to hear your story of triumph. Email me at