Bullied during high school and college when she weighed her heaviest, 220 pounds, 23-year-old Jessica Gerlock is now half the weight. The petite (5 feet, even) Thornhill resident blames body shaming, overeating comfort fast foods and a genetic predisposition to obesity for her weight gain. Her 100 pound weight loss was courtesy of a healthy diet and three to five workouts a week at Garnet A. Williams Fitness Centre.
As a high school student, the name-calling and cyberbullying took an emotional toll, and Jessica opted to homeschool for a semester. During college, where she studied graphic design, Jessica lived alone. She isolated herself from friends and overate to eventually reach her heaviest and unhappiest.
After graduating from college Jessica made a decision: “I don’t want to be this unhappy person anymore.” She purchased a membership to her community gym – the place where, as a child, she participated in many recreation programs. “It felt comfortable,” she says. “I never felt judged.”
Too intimidated to ask for an assessment (complimentary for all new fitness members), Jessica created her own cardio workout routine and lost 15 pounds within the first month. She hired a CrossFit personal trainer, and combined strength training exercises twice weekly with four weight lifting sessions. After five months, Jessica felt comfortable enough to work out without a personal trainer, and within a year and a half she had lost more than 100 pounds.
But working out is only half the battle; eating right is the other. For a year, Jessica restricted herself to a daily 1,200 calorie diet without red meat and carbohydrates, drank lemon water, and snacked on three apples a day. Lunch is her biggest meal and she doesn’t eat after 8 p.m.
To maintain a healthy weight, Jessica works out three times a week for one and a half hours, combining cardio with upper and lower body strength training, and ending each workout with a 10 minute stretch. She admits that it’s harder to maintain the weight than to lose it, but stays motivated by the Garnet A. Williams community, who has experienced her transformation.
Maintaining weight loss is a matter of portion control, healthy food options and staying physically active suggests Melissa McDermott, the centre’s fitness co-ordinator. “In the weight loss stage, you’re decreasing your overall caloric intake, and to maintain a healthy weight you’re reintroducing calories into your diet to level out and maintain, not to lose or gain.” Reintroducing the right food is important, and for those who need help, the City recently launched in-house nutrition consultations, which include a diet analysis and meal plan.
Jessica is happier now. She’s more confident personally and professionally; she goes out with friends on the weekend, and even launched a new career. She recently became a certified personal trainer, with a special mission to mentor young women struggling with obesity.
As part of #YouthWeekVaughan, students aged 13 to 17 years are invited to visit any of the six Vaughan Fitness Centres for free this Friday, May 6. Besides trying the cardio and weight training equipment, students can also attend yoga, spinning or boot camp, play squash or go for a swim. For information about Vaughan Fitness Centres, including personal training and nutrition consultations, visit vaughan.ca/fitness.
Recreation Services, City of Vaughan
Visit the City of Vaughan’s website at vaughan.ca.