Countless American women make a New Year's resolution to lose weight each year. They promise themselves that this year will be different, and that this will be the year that they finally get fit.
Chrissy Mayernik of Lehighton has been making this resolution for years. At 4 feet 10 inches tall and 161 pounds, she was unhappy and risked damaging her health. She had high cholesterol but was determined to reduce it through diet and exercise before turning to medication.
On Jan. 1, 2009, Mayernik took the first steps that would change her life forever.
"My New Year's resolution has always been to lose weight," she said. "It felt different this (time), like I was really committed. I wanted to take better care of myself."
Mayernik didn't join a gym, because she's had memberships before only to waste the money. It was difficult for her to work full-time, raise two boys, and find time to get to the gym. She decided to start with a healthy diet and work in exercise as often as possible.
She didn't follow any formal diet or trendy gimmicks. Instead, she began the new year with a new mindset, determined to make healthy choices. She followed a low-fat, healthy-carbohydrate diet, adding lean protein such as fish, chicken, low-fat beef and egg whites.
By eliminating junk food and eating only healthy carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables, she lost five pounds in the first month.
By February, people were starting to notice Mayernik's weight loss. A friend at work told Mayernik about her own success with a personal trainer, who came to her home twice a week. Mayernik was surprised she didn't realize that home-based personal trainers existed, and thought they might eliminate some of her excuses for exercising. She called the trainer that same day.
She wasn't sure what to expect, but personal trainer Greg Tymon of Advanced Personal Training quickly taught her that losing weight and becoming healthy doesn't have to happen at the gym.
He designed an exercise program based on the equipment and furniture she had in her home, including the house's staircase, her sons' jump rope, and a few weights laying around the home.
Her first workout included running up and down the steps, sit-ups, and push-ups. When she finished the routine, Tymon told her to do it again.
"I've never worked out to that level before, and I knew that I was going to get much different results than other years," she said.
The most important lesson that she's learned, however, is accountability. She credits Tymon with pushing her to stick with an exercise schedule and for holding her accountable for her actions, something she hasn't been able to do on her own.
"If you do a few push ups and then stop when it gets hard, what does that accomplish?" asked Tymon. "It's those last few push-ups that I make sure she does. That's my job, that she challenges herself to that level. This is how I ensure that my clients get results."
He added that while personal training is not for everyone, it is sometimes the motivation people need to push themselves into a healthy lifestyle.
Mayernik is thrilled that her lifestyle has changed so dramatically. She has competed in 5Ks and triathlons, a biathlon in Central Park, and a 5K in the new Yankee Stadium with her husband Mike and children Kyle, 8, and Michael, 11.
Mayernik also looks for exercise opportunities everywhere, like jogging around her sons' baseball track instead of sitting in the bleachers. She continues to meet with Tymon twice a week and exercises on her own another four days a week, with one rest day.
"Physically, I feel very fit. I feel great about that," she said. "I've developed more confidence. When I first started working out with Greg, I kept it a secret, fearing what others might think. Now I'm hoping to share my story, so that others who need that extra motivation and accountability will consider personal training. I'm going to get fit, and I don't care what people think anymore."
Once a woman who didn't want to exercise in public, Mayernik now jogs down her street, stops in the driveway for push-ups, and encourages friends to work out with her.
"Sometimes people need a little bit of help. I did," she admits. "There is no way I would have the same results. This is not easy. It's harder than I ever thought."
Mayernik encouraged those who want to lose weight to stick to healthy habits, noting that the first few months of change are the hardest. Over time, positive habits will become automatic, and you'll look forward to exercising and healthy snacks.
"It's the first step that's the hardest. You have to do something to start," she said. "Now that I'm working out so much, I don't want to undo it with a piece of cake." She tries to include healthy foods like fruits and vegetables into each meal, but also makes room for the occasional sweet. "At my son's birthday, I knew I would have a piece of cake. I planned for it."
Think of food as fuel for your body and brain, added Tymon.
"If you put junkie fuel into a Ferrari, you're not going to get very far," he said.
Over the past year, Mayernik lost a total of 34 pounds and 34 inches. Her cholesterol has come down 50 points, without having to take medication. But most importantly, she's stopped focusing on her weight and now focuses on her long-term health.
"When Chrissy and I met, it was all about losing weight," said Tymon. "But as she's becomes more fit, it's become a lifestyle. Her goals changed to doing 5K's, learning how to swim and bike and even training for triathlons. As you get closer to an ideal weight, it's less about what the scale says."
He added that as men and women become more physically fit, they usually discover that everyday activities such as carrying grocery bags or walking up stairs are much easier.
"It's unbelievable, the difference in the way they feel," he said. "She's so much stronger, but lugging around less weight. Life is just so much easier."
Mayernik noted that she owes her husband and children much credit for her success, adding that their support has made it possible for her to focus on lifestyle changes.
"I couldn't ask for more support," she said.