Tiffany Eckerle of Caldwell took the arrival of her 40s and a series of unhappy events as a challenge. She wouldnt get bummed. She would get fit.
Eckerle weighed 357 pounds on Dec. 20. Since joining a fitness studio and a team competing in a weight loss challenge, she has shed 100 pounds and is halfway to her goal. She skinned her knee during a run but kept going, and broke her leg but went to workout class in a boot. Someone gave her the nickname Honey Badger, taken from a video that went viral last year, because honey badgers dont quit, they do what they want, she said.
Eckerle was one member of a group of 16 Canyon County residents who bucked the national obesity epidemic this year by losing weight. She and her teammates were led by trainers at Nampa Fit Studio.
Obesity is tied to expensive and life-altering in some cases life-ending conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer.
A recent study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for Americas Health warned that Idaho is on track to nearly double its obesity rate by 2030 and recommended that Idahoans cut their body mass index by 5 percent. Most experts agree that health and fitness are about more than body mass index, though. Thin doesnt always mean healthy, and BMI doesnt account for the many human variations.
Statistically, Idahos weight problem isnt as bad as the nations. Still, more than one-fourth of Idahoans were obese last year, based on BMI of 30 or higher, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, the CDC says.
But heres where Idaho shines, according to the CDC:
Were much more active than the country as a whole. That applies to both adults and children in upper grades, and is true across much of the Intermountain West and Northwest, which benefit from the popularity of outdoor activities.
Idahoans have more access to healthy food in retail stores than the U.S. average.
Idaho high school students drink less soda, watch less television and eat meals with family more often than their U.S. counterparts.
There is plenty of room for improvement, though. About 9.2 percent of Idaho students were obese last year, according to state data. And 10 to 15 percent of low-income preschool Idahoans are obese, according to the CDC.
We continue to trend upward for childhood and adult obesity, said Sue Linja, former president of the Idaho Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of S&S Nutrition Network in Boise. Kids are moving less, and theres such access to foods that are unhealthy and fast and easy.
Linja is encouraged by what she says is Idahos ahead-of-the-curve approach to school lunches. Some Idaho schools fill cafeteria trays with several local foods in a day, she said, offering as examples Idaho trout, tortillas and tomatoes. Less transit time and packaging means fresher foods that still have nutritional integrity, she said.
I believe the best way to focus energies is to focus on prevention of obesity, she said.
That means getting kids active during recess if they dont have a gym class, encouraging adults to hop on bikes instead of driving, and making sure walking paths are safe and accessible.
Kim Rose, owner of the Nampa fitness studio that Eckerle attends, said a vital element in losing weight is acknowledging obesity.
Most of the people I started with were 300 or 400 pounds, she said. That was something I focused on with the team. You have to say it out loud, you have to accept that.
The weight loss has given Eckerle a new outlook. She started school and expects to re-enter the workforce after almost 10 years. Shes no longer diabetic and isnt battling severe asthma anymore.
Eckerle hopes shes setting a positive example for her two children including a daughter who is diabetic.
Its all because of one little change I made in December, to take control of my life and get healthy, she said.
Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, Twitter: @IDS_Audrey