This week The Hub heard from an amazing woman in Ritchie County by the name of Meggan Hostuttler. Meggan has spent the last three years on a weight loss journey that has seen her lose 90 pounds and complete many 5K races and half marathons with her son, Logan. She is currently training for the NYC Marathon, raising money the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research.
But while Meggan says she was lucky to have a lot of help from her family and employer, many people in places like Ritchie County fight an uphill battle from the start as they do not have affordable access to things like gyms, healthy eating classes and daycare that are necessary to transform your lifestyle.
I’ll let Meggan tell you her story…
I was always unhappy with my weight, even as a young child. But I lacked the commitment and self-confidence it took to make a lifestyle change to better my health. I battled bullying in high school and missed out on so many memories growing up because of my weight.
In August 2012, I was at the beach with my family and was taking pictures of my oldest son, Logan, in the lifeguard chair. I found myself repositioning him to cut down on the number of rolls showing on his belly. I took that photo through tears because I realized it was my fault. He was modeling his eating habits on my own, as well as my lack of physical activity. I decided, right then, that it was time to make a change for myself and for my children. When I got home, I rid my house of all processed foods, we eliminated fast foods, and we started exercising as a family. Our journey had begun.
But if I was going to help him, I had to push through myself.
I started with workout videos and completed one cycle but became bored. But I began to see some progress, which gave me a little boost of confidence that I could finally make this happen.
I needed something different. I read endless articles. I had tried all the fad diets and failed miserably. I saw a post on Facebook about a 5K run and became intrigued. I thought “I’ll give running a shot.”
I started out with 1/4 of a mile, which was miserable for me. But I kept a journal with some short-term and long-term goals for myself and for my son. One of those was to be able to run a mile without stopping. It took a few months, but we checked that off. We kept adding distance until soon we were running three miles consistently.
Logan signed up for his middle-school cross-country team, and I signed up for a program through my employer called Running 101. I found it helpful to take advantage of the encouragement, training plans and tips. My family and I signed up for our first 5K to support a friend. Logan did great for his first time!
My time was not what I had hoped, but I quickly realized the running community was exactly where I belonged. The encouragement and support that I felt was incredible. There was none of the judgment or belittling I had feared.
We were persistent in our training, and signed up for new races. The pounds began to drop for both of us and the quality family time we were spending together was amazing!
Since that first race, my family has completed multiple 5Ks across multiple states as a team! My family is stronger together and we cherish every mile.
But one thing that has become painfully obvious to me during this process is the lack of access many people in my community have to affordable fitness centers, healthy cooking classes, and other resources and support that is necessary to help people start this difficult journey.
There is a huge need and virtually zero access.
Our community does have a gym in Harrisville, but it is only open two evenings per week. There are few, if any, affordable and accessible group exercise programs or personal training programs to allow folks to get on the right path.
Our community does have a gym in Harrisville, but it is only open two evenings per week. There are only a few affordable and accessible group exercise programs or personal training programs to allow folks to get on the right path.
There are a few exercise groups that meet within the county but I think sometimes the costs associated with fitness classes discourages people, particularly in rural areas, from participating. Free group exercise sessions that are open to all fitness levels would be great! It’s a lot easier to do it with friends to help you out!
I grew up in a very loving home but physical fitness and healthy eating was not a priority. I felt like I was starting at square one when I tried to learn the ins and outs of healthy eating. There are endless articles online, but for most people in Ritchie County it is really difficult to find tools and resources to help people learn about proactive and affordable things they can do to improve their health.
The other issue is child care. There are plenty of youth groups or kids looking for community service that would be willing to volunteer in exchange for those hours if the opportunity was there. I have done all of this virtually on my own (I do have great family support!) because linking people up is nearly impossible without a common, organized goal – which should be getting fit!
Lastly, do not underestimate how important community support is to encouraging people to take those first steps. I was so intimidated to run in my local area. I was so embarrassed to put myself out there. Then people started seeing changes and all of a sudden I started passing runners and walkers on my same routes that would thank me for inspiring them.
If the community was promoting healthy living, more people would step outside their comfort zone and participate. There are multiple 5K races in and around my county, however, it often boils down to being able to afford to do them. I know a $20 entry fee doesn’t seem like much to most, but it’s a lot when you are living paycheck to paycheck.
We agree with Meggan that the places in West Virginia that have the greatest need to support physical activity and healthy lifestyles are the places with the fewest affordable resources.
If you want to get involved in a movement to help change that, get in touch with me at the email address below.