Christine Ales nearly became a shut-in. She wouldn't leave her house. At 230 pounds, this 56-year-old grandma who goes by Chris was depressed. How did it come to this, she would ask herself. She'd sit on the couch feeling sorry for herself. Then the wake-up call no one wants came. Ales was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes.
"I was going to be damned if a disease was going to take hold of my life because I was fat," Ales said.
So she changed things, quickly. Eating habits, joining the YMCA in Spring Hill. She picked up a trainer to help her exercise right.
"When the weight started coming off, I thought, 'Maybe this is something I need to take very seriously,' " Ales said.
Time went by and it did get serious. Ales starting shrinking, as though she was folding into her clothes. Seventeen months later, she had lost 103 pounds. She went from a size 24 to a 4. Her illness that required shots and pills three times a day wasn't even a factor anymore, except that she has to check her blood glucose levels daily.
The woman who was disgusted with her image did a 180 and pulled a remarkable self-improvement story from behind her back.
"There were plenty of times when I was in a dressing room at a store and I cried my eyes out," Ales said. "It was because of the way I looked. … There were plenty of times where I wanted to say, 'The hell with this. I want to eat.' "
But she didn't give up. Along the way she hit plateaus that required even more changes in her diet and exercise, but that's where her trainer, Jeremy Beck, helped.
"I'll give Jeremy credit for all this because I never kept to anything," Ales said. "He made it fun for me, but I still needed someone pushing me, so a lot of this is thanks to him."
Beck recalls that Ales was at first tough to reach, that she needed to see results before she really buckled down and pursued her goals.
"She didn't have very high hopes because she was in very bad shape," Beck said. "But she wanted to try one-on-one training because she wasn't being motivated properly. I think it was not only the diabetes, but her perception of herself that got her rolling."
Her husband of 35 years, Al, realized Chris was going to have to do things differently than she had in the past. Al says Chris tried diet fads and trends and nothing worked. She ended up in the yo-yo dieting pattern.
It was time for a major change.
"The diabetes really got her in gear and I've always said to her, 'If you don't go work out and use some weight, you're never going to lose this weight,'" said Al, who lost 38 pounds himself while working out with his wife. "When you diet, only eating 1,000 calories a day, her body had to adjust and she needed some help getting through that."
An exhausting diet takes a toll on the body, physically and mentally. Chris struggled at times, as everything wore her down.
She cried. She got angry with herself as weight stayed on at times. Chris was tired, beaten down by a lack of food.
She had ignored a rumbling stomach and the urge to eat more.
"A lot of times my body just didn't have it (in me) to work out," Chris said. "I did cry a lot because I didn't like who I was, but I'm just so glad I got a push."
Now, many people don't recognize Chris and even people at the YMCA who don't know her will come up to her and remark on the weight loss and her appearance.
But remember, while she wasn't pleased with the Chris staring back at her in the mirror, it was the Chris who had to battle diabetes that sparked everything.
It was the Chris that wanted to get healthy, not only for herself, but her family.
For her four grandsons.
"Obviously she just got better," Al said. "There's no better feeling to finally see her succeed at this. She reshaped not only her body, but her life, and this time it was a huge reshaping."
Community Sports Editor Mike Camunas can be reached at (352) 544-1771 or firstname.lastname@example.org.