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Finding My Way to Fit: How a Health Scare Changed My Mind about Exercise
By Alonna J. Carter

Alonna J. CarterSomething wasn't right.

I was at work simply filling donut cases but I felt like I couldn't swallow and my neck felt squeezed. I immediately left and went to see my doctor, praying that it was nothing serious.

After close examination, he informed me that I had a thyroid condition and that the pressure I was feeling in my neck was from my thyroid being enlarged.

So: What the heck is a thyroid? The thyroid is a gland in the neck that regulates hormones and metabolism. When it is either hyper or overactive, or hypo—underactive, it can cause extreme weight gain or loss and trigger depression. I had hypothyroidism which caused the discomfort I felt, the 75lbs I gained, and increased my appetite. While more severe cases are treated with medication or removing the thyroid, my doctor had an easier solution: exercise. With a consistent program, I could possibly reverse the effects.

I was not thrilled. Running made my knees hurt and lifting heavy objects just wasn't my idea of fun. Knowing there had to be other options out there—that didn't involve me tripping over my own shoe laces, I joined a gym and discovered ZUMBA®—a Latin dance inspired fitness program. It was challenging; I was out of shape and engaging muscles that I had not previously been using… making me sore.

It took some time but, I grew to love learning cool dance moves to popular music, while sweating through a calorie burning workout. Four years later and I have dropped over 30 lbs and my thyroid is behaving normally. The ultimate silver lining is that exercising not only saved me from a life of medication but has become one of my great loves in life.

What I learned was that rather than waiting for a risk factor to appear to cause interest in getting healthy, we should start now! Find that thing that appeals to you and make it work whether it is dancing, running, or simply walking. Not only will you be happy you did it, your body will thank you later!

Alonna J. Carter is a freelance writer and Licensed ZUMBA® Fitness instructor. She can be reached at alonna.carter@gmail.com.

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