Tara Powell knows what a healthy heart looks like. She’s an x-ray technician in Kettering Medical Center’s Cath Lab. She scrubs, circulates, and monitors during procedures, seeing first-hand the effects that unhealthy choices have on people’s health.
When her cousin invited her to participate in a March of Dimes 5K, she knew it was time to start taking care of her own heart.
“I realized I wasn’t sure that I could walk a 5K,” Tara says. “That was eye-opening. I’ve got kids, and if I can’t even walk a 5K, where am I going to be in 10 years?”
She calls that moment the catalyst for her lifestyle change. She started by walking, eventually adding exercise to her routine. She enlisted help from cardiologist Dr. Harvey Hahn who designed a day-by-day exercise plan for her.
Fast forward a year, and Tara felt better, but was still overweight. That’s when she found a boot camp class through a local YMCA. The instructor talked about the importance of combining nutrition with exercise. By focusing on both, Tara started seeing dramatic improvement.
“The instructor was doing a January weight loss challenge, and my neighbor and I decided to sign up,” she says. “By the end of the year, I lost 60 pounds. It was pretty impressive.”
A lasting change
Since being invited to the March of Dimes 5K, Tara has participated in multiple Heart Walks, ran various 5Ks, and even completed the Flying Pig Half Marathon.
“As soon as I crossed that finish line, I cried,” she says. “I was just so happy. It’s a crazy sense of accomplishment.”
She has also maintained her focus on nutrition, preparing and packing her breakfast, lunch, snacks, and even dinners when on call to avoid the temptation of unhealthy food.
“A lot of Cath Lab patients have modifiable risk factors, like eating better, exercising, and taking their medications,” she says. “I just want to make sure I’m doing as much as I can to watch my modifiable risks. Being healthy for me is definitely a priority.”
Making a difference
Tara hopes that her own wellness journey serves as an example for her children.
“I’m hoping that, as they get older, they will make exercise and nutrition part of their routine, because they’ve seen me do it,” she says.
Tara’s lifestyle changes are impacting not just her family’s life, but even the lives of community members.
“When I first started in the Cath Lab, I was overweight and out of shape,” she says. “I feel like I’m a better healthcare provider for my patients now because I can physically keep up with the demand.”
She is also promoting health choices to the community by getting more involved with the American Heart Association. In addition o participating in Heart Walk every year, Tara organizes the Can You Kick It? Kickball Tournament. Last year’s event raised about $6,200 for the nonprofit.
“Every year, I try to do more and more,” she says. “It’s a good example for my family and kids, showing that one person can really make a difference.”
Persistence is key
Before making lasting changes, Tara tried losing weight through many different methods. She would lose a few pounds and then gain it back.
“We are fantastic about negative self-talk,” Tara says. “It’s OK to struggle, but you need to forgive yourself and then just get back with the plan.”
Tara’s biggest lessons from her experience: it takes time to make changes, and it’s OK to make mistakes.
“It’s not going to happen overnight; it’s a journey,” she says. “Don’t give up and be kind to yourself.”