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How one woman lost half her body weight while gaining her community’s support.

Exactly how do you lose 400 pounds? “One healthy choice after another, a belief in yourself and support from your community,” says Betty Bevans, who is a great example of how small, steady changes can lead to big results.

Betty’s story started after she was laid up for over a year and gained a lot of weight. At the time, she estimated her weight to be around 500 pounds. But reality hit when she found herself standing in a hallway of the Moncton hospital, waiting to be weighed on a scale they use for the laundry carts–the only scale in the building capable of calculating her exact weight. She was shocked when she saw the number. “I found out I weighed 720 pounds. It was really overwhelming,” says Betty.

Stunned by the news, she wasn’t sure how she could possibly get healthy again. But Betty is a fighter. Sherealized she was ultimately responsible for her current situation, and with support, she could start making some positive changes.

“After I got over feeling sorry for myself, I started making goals.” She took a long, hard look at her lifestyle choices and started a food journal. The journal showed her one of her biggest weaknesses: sugar. She was eating as many as 21 chocolate bars. “I was shocked,” notes Betty. “I had no idea I was eating that many.” She was also drinking up to 2 litres of pop a day. She knew that her sugar intake was a good place to start making some changes.

But Betty knew herself well enough to know that making big, drastic changes wouldn’t work for her. She’d have to start small. So she focused on simple, healthy choices that she could live with and that weren’t too painful. “I started to cut back to 10 bars, 5 bars – nothing drastic at first. Then I started cutting out pop. Once I started cutting back there, I started losing weight.” In fact, through these small changes Betty lost 100 pounds in the first year!

This marked the beginning of a pattern for Betty—focus on losing 100 pounds in a year and thentake a year off to maintain the weight loss. To keep herself inspired, she started a book of firsts. In this book, she records fun activities she’s done to challenge herself, like hiking one of the short trails in Fundy. These firsts give her fun accomplishments to celebrate while building up her confidence and keeping her motivated. “Make some choices,” says Betty of her approach wellness. “And have some fun.” She also started adding more fruit and vegetables to her diet, realizing that she quite enjoys trying new things. She continued with these gradual changes until she had lost 400 pounds—without any surgery, without any gimmicks.

Then, she hit a rough patch in her life where she slipped back into her old habits. She regained 100 pounds. It was heartbreaking to face such a setback but that didn’t deter Betty. She relied on her support system. Her husband, family and friends encouraged her. Her husband helped her think about her food choices and asked her if she’d gone for her walk. Riverview Mayor Ann Seamans, who had heard of Betty’s journey and with whom she had built a bit of a friendship, started checking in with Betty periodically to encourage her and cheer her on.

“The people around me always supported me no matter what. I made the decisions and they backed me up,” says Betty.

After a while, Betty wanted to spice up her personal challenge by making it public. As an added incentive to get back into her healthy habits, she partnered with a local radio station to start the Betty Bevans Get Healthy Challenge. “I didn’t want it to just be about weight loss, so we did things like encouraging people to give up smoking, to take the stairs instead, drink more water, whatever they wanted—and it became like a big community support group. It’s a lot of fun.”

As the event grew, even the mayors of Riverview, Moncton and Dieppe took up the challenge. People now come up to Betty and tell her what an inspiration she is and share their own wellness stories with her. This makes Betty feel like her whole community is supporting her on her wellness journey! “It’s amazing to have people come up to you to share their stories. It’s just wonderful to meet these people. Sometimes you share a tip, sometimes you just give them a hug.”

And Betty has no intention of looking back. “I feel 1,000,000% better! The difference is night and day!”

On the path to wellness, there is never a point of no return. When you feel you’ve hit rock bottom, reach out, there are resources and people to help you right in your own backyard. Betty is a living proof!

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