The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Jill Callan & Stephanie Jawhar

Friends Achieve Healthy Lifestyles at the Y

Since joining the Y in early 2012, Jill Callan and Stephanie Jawhar have supported each other in their determined efforts to live healthier. Friends since high school, they have lost a total of 130 pounds.


While they're proud about their weight loss, the La Crosse Central High School graduates agree it's more important that they're committed to exercising and to eating healthy. People often ask them what diet they're on. "I answer that it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change," Jill says. "I drink a lot of water, eat a variety of fruits, and before I go out to eat, I think about what my best choice will be." Stephanie shares that she has two salads every day and has eliminated sugar from her food plan. They aim for the recommended 1,800 calories a day.


Exercising daily at the YMCA-North Branch is a major key to their success. Jill became a member of the Y in February, after asking Stephanie what she was doing to look so good. Stephanie shared with Jill that she joined the Y the month before.


Although both of them work out in the evenings in the Wellness Center, they only talk briefly as they pass by one another. Stephanie trains from 5:30 until 7:30, and Jill exercises from 7:30 to 9:30, joking sometimes that the staff has to kick her out of the gym at closing time. 


Stephanie burns calories and increases her strength and endurance by utilizing the treadmill and free weights. Jill gets energized and decreases stress by also using the treadmill; she builds her muscles on the weight machines. Jill also likes to participate in water aerobics. She considers it a great way to warm up her body before continuing with the rest of her program. Jill says, "I told one friend that she had better sit down for what I had to tell her: I enjoy exercising!"


Both of these 35-year-olds have made a commitment to working out at the Y, even though they both have full-time jobs. They also juggle family responsibilities. Jill is married with three children, and Stephanie is married with six children, including twins. 


Chatting through Facebook is the main way they support one another. They'll swap exercise tips and favorite health foods and check in about their goals. They are aiming to lose more weight, but again it's more important to them that they maintain their healthy disciplines. Both of them have come to realize that they quality of their life is directly linked with how they manage regular habits with fitness and nutrition. Stephanie was born with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. She suffers from painful flare-ups. She knows losing weight and exercising has helped to boost her immune system and minimize the days she's sick and in pain.


Jill has a strong family history of heart disease and diabetes. She's aware that her risk factors for these diseases can be lowered with working out and eating well. Together the friends support each other through health concerns and family issues. Both women reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, including not only weight loss but also quality sleep, decreased stress and increased energy. Stephanie and Jill agree, "Exercise always makes everything better."


- By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC. 2012