Thank you for your participation in the AHA Red Dress Award. Voting is now closed.
The winner will be announced and recognized at the American Heart Association Heart Run in Anchorage on April 25th and the Heart Walk in Fairbanks on May 16th.
Along with the recognition of being the 2015 Alaska Red Dress Award recipient, the winner will receive 20,000 Alaska Airline miles from Kendall Auto Group.
GAIL FORREST, ANCHORAGE ALASKA
It is embarrassing and deeply emotional for me to share my story, but I do so because I believe if I can turnaround my health, anyone can. I truly hope this helps others overcome their daily struggle, one day at a time.
I have been the poster child of unhealthy living my entire life. This month I turn 60, and I have spent six decades of my life gaining and losing hundreds of pounds instead of facing the emotional issues driving my comfort eating; ballooning to over 300 pounds. I was a “party animal” and drank until – at 40 – I admitted I was an alcoholic and finally decided to give my heart and liver a break! I had health issues since I’d been a small child and was permanently excused from gym class: I never learned the value of exercise and I hated anything physical. My definition of a workout was getting up from the couch for another bag of chips or driving out to dinner. By the age of 50 I had so abused my body and my poor little heart, that I nearly died of Congestive Heart Failure. It was the wakeup call that saved my life.
Today I am half my prior weight (I lost 150 pounds with the blessed jumpstart of extensive counseling and a bariatric surgery program) and have learned to “eat to live,” not live to eat. It is still a daily struggle, but I am now in year four of maintaining this healthy new vessel that carries me through life. “Move more, eat less” is my mantra. I love the gym, I am up several days a week at 4 am to be at the gym by 5 am. It is the best way to start my day! And more, I am active in every way and able to enjoy all the great quality of life that Alaska offers: backpacking and hiking, zip lining, kayaking and whitewater rafting, and many more things I never would have dreamed of doing. (I even co-chair an annual run for my company team! I wouldn’t have been caught dead in sweatpants in my prior life.)
To give back I joined the American Heart and Stroke Association Alaska Board of Directors and the Go Red Leadership Team. I am committed to making a difference in preventing heart disease and strokes, and in helping others make the small incremental changes – one day at a time – that can eventually become a healthy heart “life transformation.”
ALICIA PORTER, ANCHORAGE ALASKA
I cannot begin to say how honored I am to be considered for this award, and how humbled. It has been a long journey, and there are still miles (and pounds) to go. And I am so grateful for my friends and family who have been so supportive along the way!
I am a cardiac patient. I had some extreme delivery complications, including arrhythmia, deep vein thrombosis, and a pulmonary embolism. Rock bottom was around Easter 2009. I was 326 lbs. I nearly died when I got swine flu on top of the cardiac and pulmonary issues: I drove myself to the hospital, and found out that I was inadvertently driving while in stroke conditions.
Forcing myself to take care of my health and making that a priority made me re-think my life. Becoming a single parent made me ask the question who is going to raise my child if I cannot? My child needs me, and I need him. It has not been a fast journey, and there are still several hurdles to jump (including an ablation at some point, when my body can no longer stand the medications, and 50 more lbs) but there have been a lot of good things that have come out of this process. I have lost 100 lbs over four years. I did 11 triathlons last year. Each one helped me realize I could do the next one. I was dead last doing the Sourdough ½ ironman last year, but I am very proud of that sweatshirt. During the winter NCC triathlon challenge, I won an award for putting 2000 miles on my bike in 3 months. Doctors no longer tell me that I won’t see my son graduate from high school because of my weight.
I hope that my story will help encourage someone else to join me on making some positive changes. But however you make your changes, don’t forget that you have value, and that there are lots of people here in Alaska that are willing to lend you a hand to help you reach those goals.
DIANDRA AMSDEN, FAIRBANKS ALASKA
Jan. 2014 A realistic new year’s resolution was set, to complete one 30 day detox and walk in the Midnight Sun Run. That’s where this began. I started the detox February 14th, with a low carb, low dairy, no extra sugar, no caffeine, no red meat, and no alcohol diet; I was on my way to completing my New Year’s resolution. The first 2 weeks were brutal, I was lethargic and moody. I wanted to do cardio after working 12 hours a day. At first I was only doing 10 minutes and quickly started working my way up to 30+ minutes. I was embarrassed to say 10 minutes out loud, but quickly would follow it up with “That’s 10 more minutes than I would be doing”. A co-worker had a fitbit and encouraged us other co-workers to purchase them, leading to most steps walked in a day or weekend competitions. I participated in the Women’s Walk for Wine as well as the Midnight Sun Run with a timed goal in mind of 2 hours. Some may say that is a lot of time, but for a person who was in no cardio shape before this goal seemed attainable, and with the help of a friend we accomplished our set goal. I encouraged others to join me in the Color Run; what a fantastic way to just get out and move. You don’t care what your time is, you are exercising and having a good time! I had knee surgery in mid-November that has slowed me down the past few months. I was unable to walk for the first 2 months I was still moving around, I would tell people it was SLOWING me down, not KEEPING me down. Weight loss has been a BONUS, but my self image/esteem has been worth every minute of the New Year’s resolution and continuing journey.