by Kaetlin Zink
By having lost a total of 12 pounds and 7.6% body fat, Katie Hook successfully tied for third place in the HAC’s 2018 Lifestyle Challenge. Katie’s experience has been quite unique from others in the competition. By already having lost a significant amount of weight beforehand, it’s fair to say that Katie’s weight loss journey commenced long before the competition’s onset.
Since Katie had been training with a small group fitness class at the club leading up to the Challenge, the initial motivation to participate was to look like many of the other girls she’d seen training, with seemingly minimal body fat. Another huge motivation was to take part in something challenging, something that would seriously make her want to maintain this lifestyle change. What may have started out as an unrealistic desire for perfection would soon turn into a very real desire for newfound happiness and peace within herself.
Leading up to Challenge
When Katie attended college at Salisbury University in 1993, she was part of the creation of the women’s rugby team. Being fit wasn’t difficult at the time; the sport both created and required it. Flash forward to today, and Katie is a mother with an entire family to care for — her husband, a paramedic who works in Baltimore, her very active two and 13-year-old boys, and a rambunctious yellow Labrador retriever.
Once Katie became a mother on top of her already stressful job as a Trauma Nurse Practitioner in Christiana Hospital, caring for herself started to take the backburner. This diversion of focus away from self care along with genetic predispositions for high blood pressure and diabetes created a downward spiral in her health.
The idea of working in healthcare and not adhering to a healthy lifestyle started to feel hypocritical. Katie knew she had to make drastic adjustments to her lifestyle — not just for her own sake, but for the sake of her family. “While it’s easy to have the knowledge on the ‘how,'” she says, “I realized the critical element is the ‘why’. My ‘why’ is my children, as they deserve my best energy and attention . . . my best me. I was elated I was able to be a mom again in my 40s, but the toll of not prioritizing my health had certainly been felt this go around.”
By staying on a strict dietary and exercise regimen, Katie successfully got off her diabetes medication and dropped 40 pounds before even starting the Lifestyle Challenge. While she found eating healthy to be a real struggle, she admitted that it got easier every time she noticed a reduction in weight. Whenever her work had food catered, like pizza, she told herself to eat what she planned: her nutritious, packed lunch. Vacations were not a break from food or exercise; she made sure the planning included meals and workouts. Katie even had her favorite classes from HAC’s fitness schedule memorized, or the app readily available on her phone, so she never had a reason to skip. If by chance she was at work during HAC’s work hours, she used a DVR program at home.
According to Katie, “changing my mindset was really what worked. I started to make myself a priority. Instead of viewing working out as something optional, I began to think of it as an appointment with myself that I can’t afford to skip.” In her jam-packed, color coordinated schedule planner, Katie prioritizes herself each week by finding time whenever she can to squeeze in workouts, even if her schedule only allows 30 minutes on a given day.
At the club, Katie would engage in routine workout sessions with instructors Milinda, Becky, and Dina. In Katie’s words, “taking workout sessions with these three has been a great way to just be around strong, motivating women.”
Katie emphasized how everytime she would take a cycling class, HAC Group Fitness Instructor Milinda would quietly ask everyone why they decided to come that day. Katie would then think to herself, “why did I…?” She’d focus and push even harder.
During the Challenge
For Katie, the Lifestyle Challenge was more about gaining the strength and encouragement to continue on her path to weight loss rather than being concerned with losing the most weight.
Since she’d had heard plenty of good things about HAC Master Personal Trainer, Dina Saitis, she decided to join a small group fitness class with her as the instructor. Some of the others who took the small group class, like Joan Burn (who placed 2nd in this year’s Challenge) and Judy, were also participating in the Challenge.
While at first Katie never thought she’d be able to keep up with the other girls in the small group class, she ended up being really comfortable around them. In her opinion, exercising in a small group works better than taking one-on-one sessions: “Since most of us were going through the same process together and shared similar goals,” she recalls, “we encouraged each other. Whenever any of us was going through a rough time, we would all share our best survival tactics on how to keep pushing forward. To tell you the truth, I would call it more of an encouragement session than a workout session because of how supportive everyone was of one another.”
For the small group sessions, Katie says Dina was the perfect match simply because her personality fits Katie’s so well. As Katie said, “She’s tough, but gets results.” Dina had a way of knowing if Katie wasn’t putting a maximum effort into a session. On those days, Dina would push her farther than she ever thought possible. “While there were moments where I thought I was actually going to throw up mid-session,” Katie remembers, “I don’t regret a single workout. With her, you work out with your full intention. Nothing less.”
With all the chaos and stress that goes on in Katie’s life, HAC is what she likes to call her ‘safe space.’ It’s the one place she’s certain she can go to free her mind and relax: “It’s my time. Even on days when I’m dragging my feet to show up, I know the club’s instructors and trainers will always get me motivated and refuse to let me slack off.”
As for advice for someone interested in doing a similar challenge, Katie recommends gaining control of your diet beforehand, considering the competition requires constant prepping to eat healthily. “I honestly felt the challenge was about 70% mental and 30% physical. Working out was the easier part — I just had to listen to what Dina told me to and do it. Making healthy decisions on my own, though, was definitely the more challenging part.”
Having enrolled in the Challenge has even afforded Katie the confidence to participate in Spartan races, something she would’ve ordinarily only done 20 years ago. Though she feels she still has a ways to go before her health journey is complete, she feels fortunate to have found help through HAC to maintain her progression.