by Sasha Reddy
On the last day of weigh-ins during HAC’s annual Lifestyle Challenge, one fit 46-year-old mom of three floated into the room with a confidence high like she hadn’t felt in years. “And here comes our clear winner!” Rachel Evans, who was facilitating the challenge weigh-ins, began to cheer. An avid exerciser and cardio-lover, Amy Chilimidos has gone through plenty of ups and downs when it comes to fitness. Now, after having claimed the title of Lifestyle Challenge winner, she’s excited to see steady success moving forward.
Amy was always very active growing up. “I come from a family of swimmers,” she says, and she stuck to her family’s tradition in her early teen years. As a high school student, she experimented with various other sports: tennis, volleyball, track, and even shot put and discus. Amy began working with a personal trainer for the first time in her early 20s. At that point, she was in the best shape of her life. “I was just so happy.”
Amy and her husband Jerry moved from their home in North Wilmington to Hockessin in 2003, at which point Amy stopped working with the trainer she had loved so much. Soon after that, their first child was born, and with parenthood came distraction. Over the years, as her daughter grew and her two sons were born, fitness fell further and further down Amy’s priority list. “Really, it was just not watching what I was eating and not taking care of myself,” she admits. “The pounds were adding on.” The family became HAC members in 2013, and while Amy was making regular trips to the gym, the motivation to work out just wasn’t as fierce as it had been fifteen years before. Gradually, her weight continued to increase. By 2017, she was the heaviest she’d ever been.
A Promise Made
In January of 2018, Amy’s father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Despite months of chemo followed by surgery to remove the tumor, his cancer continued to spread. It was an extremely stressful, difficult time for her family, but it also helped Amy re-establish the importance of her own health and well-being. During one of their last conversations, Amy’s father told her that she owes it to her family to keep her health in check. “‘You take care of everybody, just like your mom does,'” he told her. ‘”You have to take care of yourself.'”
His words hit home. Amy had started making more frequent trips to the gym in the previous months, but the exchange she had with her father at the end of his life completely changed her outlook. In October of that same year, Amy’s father passed away, and Amy promised to make fitness a serious priority in her life.
Things Have Got to Get Better
Over the next several months and years, Amy began focusing on herself and working out with greater intention and motivation, though she admits, “I kind of teetered here and there.” By the start of 2020, she was stopping at the gym nearly every day after work. “I put my headphones on. I’m in my own little world. I’m just thinking about stuff that I have to do or stuff that’s been on my mind, trying to plan out my days.” Once the pandemic hit, she coaxed herself to wake up earlier in the mornings, jump on her home elliptical for 30 minutes to an hour, and even follow up with a quick free weight workout. Though she’s not exactly a morning person, Amy grew to enjoy the new routine, as it became a great way to kick off each day with added energy.
Around spring 2020, Amy also began intermittent fasting, limiting her food consumption to an 8-10 hour window each day. “I dropped down to like 170lbs right before summer,” Amy says. After backsliding a bit between June and September, she decided to cut alcohol and nearly all processed foods from her diet as well – all changes that she maintained up until and throughout the 2021 Lifestyle Challenge.
From Zero to Hero
At the end of 2020, Amy participated in Project Zero – a free annual challenge HAC hosts each year. Participants are challenged to not gain any weight over the holiday season, Thanksgiving through New Years’. Amy had participated in the past with regular success, and this year was no different. That is until she got a call from Maria Crennan, HAC’s Fitness Director. Through her participation in Project Zero, Amy had won a free entry into the 2021 Lifestyle Challenge. The personal training, behavior modification, weigh-ins – when she learned everything that was included with the challenge, she realized how much of a game-changer it could be and was thrilled to participate.
Having worked with a trainer in her 20s and made frequent trips to the gym ever since, Amy felt that she already had the knowledge and skills to succeed during the challenge. However, she was confident that having a regimented training and weigh-in schedule would improve her progress even more. She went into week one with fiery motivation and a willingness to learn: “I’m going to take what I know from when I was younger and apply it now and tweak it to where I feel it’s meeting my needs,” she thought.
Through her sessions with HAC Personal Trainer Eric Neil, Amy was exposed to several new moves and methods of exercise that she likely wouldn’t have tried otherwise. High-intensity interval training and the Assault Bike specifically became a big part of Amy’s regimen throughout the challenge. “I was burning a lot of calories in a short period of time,” she notes, “Literally, you’re just dripping in sweat!” Eric also introduced Amy to kettlebell work, an area she hadn’t extensively “messed with” before. Though Amy has fallen in love with her cardio workouts at home, she’s grateful to have gotten the extra variety that personal training provided.
“When I really started watching what I was eating, and I cut the alcohol out, the weight started just dropping off.”
Even though Amy had already cracked down on her eating and exercise habits before the Lifestyle Challenge began, she credits the challenge for helping her become even more food-conscious. “When I really started watching what I was eating, and I cut the alcohol out, the weight started just dropping off.” Amy says. She came to really appreciate the effect of food on how she feels on a day-to-day basis, both physically and mentally. Once she realized how some of the food she’d been eating affected her, it became easy to drop those items from her diet. “I don’t want that stuff because, honestly, I’ve been there, done it. I don’t want to go back to it again. I want to continue the path that I’m on…and be happy and healthy, clear-minded and focused.” Now, Amy has no problem passing up a slice during family pizza nights or choosing non-alcoholic options even while out with friends.
“This competition really helped.” Amy says in sum. Competitive by nature, Amy set out at the beginning of the challenge, hoping to place in the top three by the end. “I’m going to push myself and give it my all because I can at least say that I did everything I could possibly do to get to number one.” She didn’t necessarily expect to win – instead, she wanted to fully commit herself to the challenge so that, no matter where she placed by the end, she could be proud of what she’d achieved. “I won either way because look at me!” Amy exclaims. “I’m over the moon.”