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Jun 30, 201401:04 PMOpen Mic

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Get Fit challenger takes healthier approach to second fitness journey

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Ten professionals and 10 teams are competing in the 2014 Get Fit Challenge, a spinoff of IB’s popular Fittest Executive Challenge. Who will earn the healthiest marks? Follow along on Facebook and then find out at the In Business Expo & Conference on Oct. 22. This week, IB checks in with Jen Brydges of Insurance Services Group, which is competing in the team challenge. Brydges’ co-workers Nick Krey, Brendon DeRouin, and Josh Meester round out the team.

I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life. I participated in sports growing up and have been an avid swimmer since I was a child. Yet I was always overweight. Blame it on family genetics and my love of delicious, bad-for-you food. But even overweight, I never felt bad about my body or my lot in the genetic pool — in fact, I was ridiculously confident.

Even in my early 20s I didn’t feel bad about myself — I was a good person, had great friends, and got an exciting job after grad school. My weight didn’t really bother me. I was active and having the time of my life.

Then came the day that I binged on The Biggest Loser. Episode after episode brought me to tears. Tears of happiness for the contestants who worked so hard and lost so much. Tears of commiseration. While I wasn’t as big as some of the contestants, I certainly understood what they were going through. Tears of fear. If I kept going in the direction I was going (not working out consistently and eating whatever I felt like), was I going to turn out like some of those people on TV — or in my family — who had major health problems and struggled to move through everyday life? If those people on TV could do it, why couldn’t I?

It was that day in May 2007 that I decided it was time. Time to get moving, change my eating habits, and shed some weight. I cut back my calories and logged them — every day. I worked out for at least an hour, if not more — every day. I fell in love with running and, somewhere between May 2007 and January 2008, lost 75 pounds. I worked my butt off to get there (literally and figuratively).

I ran my first full marathon in September 2008 and subsequently ran four more fulls, a couple of half-marathons, and as many 10Ks and 5Ks as I could. I longed for that feeling of accomplishment and the “runner’s high” that I got from participating in races and pushing my body. I loved training. There was nothing better than getting out on the roads for hours at a time.

The funny thing was, even though I was now at a “healthy weight” and a marathoner, I struggled. During the weight-loss process, I began to think that if I only lost five more pounds, I would be a better person or my situation would change. I’d get a promotion, or I’d find a crazy-hot husband. Five more, five more, five more. I didn’t recognize myself anymore. Sometimes I’d look in the mirror and see myself as I was 75 pounds heavier. Sometimes I would see too much bone and think I was too thin. It was at this point I realized that if I kept going in this direction I could have some serious problems. I worked with a psychologist and, while I wasn’t “diagnosed,” I was heading down the road of body dysmorphic disorder.

It took me a lot of time and hard work to realize that I could eat a french fry or enjoy a beer with my friends again and it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Over time, I got my food and body issues in check and regained that confidence I once had. And the best thing was, I finally realized that since I was constantly training for a marathon, I could eat much more than I had been and not gain weight. This was AWESOME … until I took a break … and turned 30.


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