POCATELLO — Seven years ago, Brittany Ward lived what she described as a sedentary lifestyle. She weighed more than 350 pounds, smoked cigarettes and lacked the energy and ability to enjoy life with her children.
Then doctors informed her that they’d discovered a precancerous polyp during her routine checkup.
She stopped smoking and completely altered her lifestyle. Now, she is down to a muscular 150 pounds and is preparing for the Idaho Cup — a fitness and physique competition that will take place Oct. 21.
“In the beginning, I just started with small changes — little things like going for a 30-minute walk and incorporating an active lifestyle,” said Ward, now 45.
Over the past few months, the changes have been much more drastic. She goes to the gym daily — often twice a day — and does more weightlifting and strength training, as opposed to the cycling, dancing and other forms of cardio she had been doing.
As she gets closer to her competition, which is now fewer than 30 days away — but “who’s counting?” she joked — she is taking her diet to a new level. She is limiting her daily caloric intake to 920 — the amount in a single Baconator from Wendy’s.
Her physique, she said, is not something she would be able to — or even want to — maintain. When she set off on the journey to a healthier life, Ward said her goal was 180 pounds. So, once the competition is behind her, she plans to gain 20 pounds or so and return to what she considers a more sustainable figure.
Sustainability, she said, is huge for anyone attempting to reach a significant life change.
“Little goals,” Ward said when asked if she had any tips for people attempting to make major changes. “Don’t make them big; they don’t have to be big. You have to be patient.”
She wasn’t patient at first, Ward admitted, and that was something she had to learn. But her patience has paid off in every facet of her life.
A registered nurse at Portneuf Medical Center, Ward said her job is easier and more enjoyable “by leaps and bounds.” She is not only able to do more of the constant movement but is happy to do so.
“You’re a better nurse, you’re more patient, because you have more energy. It’s easier on you and you feel better, at the end of the day,” she said.
At home, she is able to spend more quality time with her husband and children. Before losing the weight, Ward said she wasn’t able to do the fun things she can now.
Despite having grown up in the Pocatello area, she never did much exploring of the outdoor activities the area offered. She had never seen City Creek until just three years ago.
“I didn’t even know it was there. It’s beautiful,” she said.
Ward has also developed a more active relationship with her friends, who share her fitness aspirations.
Having friends who want to work out, go for a walk or on a trail run, she believes, has made her journey easier. They will often call each other with fun new exercise challenges.
Over the past seven years, Ward has gone from searching for that inspiration to becoming it for others. While teaching Zumba classes at Gold’s Gym in Pocatello, she developed a friendship with one the students in her class.
Jacee Christensen told EastIdahoNews.com that Ward and her accomplishments are “super-inspirational” as she takes a similar journey. Christensen said that she had been trying to lose weight but was not seeing any success, until she started following Ward’s lead.
“It’s really inspirational to see her get up as early as she does to go to the gym, and push through going to the gym even when she doesn’t want to,” Christensen said. “It’s really important to have those people there who push you, who give you the motivation to get up and go.”
Ward is excited for her upcoming competition but says preparing for it is the “hardest thing I’ve ever done.” When the idea to take part in one of these, she said she originally planned to do one next year. But her beloved friend and fitness coach, Jack Mccormick, is undergoing chemotherapy for Stage 4 esophageal cancer, and she wanted to make sure he was around for her competition.
“I have the world’s most amazing coach. He’s helped me get here — he’s changed my whole world over the last year,” she said.
Ward would not commit to the idea of doing additional similar competitions in the future, do the immense amount of work it has taken this time. But, she added, if she ends up having fun and falling in love with the competition, she could see challenging herself to do it again.
In the meantime, Ward said, she and her friends have a credo when it comes to wild fitness ideas:
“That’s a terrible idea — what time?”