67th NWW contractor sheds 100 pounds, gains new lease on life

Carly York, the 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 3 lead system administrator, weighed 349 pounds in September of 2011. She saw pictures of herself at a wedding and with health problems on the rise, York knew she had to change or she might not be in her young son's life long enough to see him grow up. She started slow, but since then has lost 100 pounds and ran three legs of the two-day, 200-mile Ragnar Relay from Miami to Key West Jan. 4-5. (Courtesy photo)

Carly York, the 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 3 lead system administrator, weighed 349 pounds in September of 2011. She saw pictures of herself at a wedding and with health problems on the rise, York knew she had to change or she might not be in her young son's life long enough to see him grow up. She started slow, but since then has lost 100 pounds and ran three legs of the two-day, 200-mile Ragnar Relay from Miami to Key West Jan. 4-5. (Courtesy photo)

Carly York, the 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 3 lead system administrator, and 11 others from around the country who averaged 100 pounds of weight loss each ran three legs of the two-day, 200-mile Ragnar Relay from Miami to Key West Jan. 4-5. The team met in person for the first time right before the race. The documentary "From Fat to Finish" is scheduled to air this summer. (Courtesy photo)

Carly York, the 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 3 lead system administrator, and 11 others from around the country who averaged 100 pounds of weight loss each ran three legs of the two-day, 200-mile Ragnar Relay from Miami to Key West Jan. 4-5. The team met in person for the first time right before the race. The documentary "From Fat to Finish" is scheduled to air this summer. (Courtesy photo)

Carly York, the 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 3 lead system administrator, and 11 others from around the country who averaged 100 pounds of weight loss each ran three legs of the two-day, 200-mile Ragnar Relay from Miami to Key West Jan. 4-5. The team met in person for the first time right before the race and was interviewed after the race on The Today Show. The documentary "From Fat to Finish" is scheduled to air this summer. (Courtesy photo)

Carly York, the 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 3 lead system administrator, and 11 others from around the country who averaged 100 pounds of weight loss each ran three legs of the two-day, 200-mile Ragnar Relay from Miami to Key West Jan. 4-5. The team met in person for the first time right before the race and was interviewed after the race on The Today Show. The documentary "From Fat to Finish" is scheduled to air this summer. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas -- Carly York crossed the finish line of the two-day, 200-mile Ragnar Relay in Key West, Fla. Jan. 5, but she's far from finished running, getting fit and inspiring others.

York, the 83rd Network Operations Squadron Detachment 3 lead system administrator, was weighing in at 349 pounds in September of 2011 and was having a really hard time keeping up with her 5-year-old son.

She'd struggled with her weight as long as she could remember and her breaking point came that September when she saw pictures of herself at a wedding. She knew she had to change or she wasn't going to be able to be there for her son.

"I had high blood pressure, asthma, knee pain and high cholesterol," said the Air Force contractor in her seventh year with the 83rd NOS, a subordinate unit to the 67th Network Warfare Wing and 24th Air Force. "I knew that if I didn't lose the weight my life was going to be short and I wanted to see my son grow up. I hated that I couldn't play with him at the park or even fit down the slides with him."

York, who wore a size 28 at the time, has now slipped down to a size 16 and counting. She credits much of her success to changing how she looks at food. She said she'll always keep her favorite foods in her life, but to a much different degree and has switched from centering events around meals to the fun that comes with being out and about.

"I can do so many little things I couldn't do before," she explained. "I'm no longer a lazy mom. When the weather is warm, I will put my son on his bike and then run next to him. I have more energy, in general, to play with him. Instead of going to a movie or out to eat, we will go hiking or swimming or play ball. I hope I can influence him in a positive way."

York didn't start out running marathons and wowing everyone around her. She started small. She began by tracking her calories on sparkpeople.com and benefited from the community of support there. A natural goal setter, York signed up for the "Couch to 5K" training program. It took her three weeks to finish the first week of the program - running one minute and walking for 90 seconds, eight times consecutively.

"Seven weeks later I ran my first 5K at 330 pounds," she said. "Even though it took me over 50 minutes to complete it, I didn't stop to walk at all. A couple months later my friends talked me into training for my first half marathon and I was able to lose more weight."

York said she gets a lot of comments on her blog (www.carlyshrinks.com) warning that it's dangerous for someone who weighs more than 300 pounds to run. She stressed that she took all the right precautions - including a visit with her doctor beforehand.

"I had permission from my doctor, got fitted for good running shoes and really listened to my body," she said. "I cannot stress the importance of starting slow and easing into running, or else you could seriously hurt your body. I truly believe rest days are just as important as running days."

And she did hurt. She wasn't injured, but her body talked back to her about abruptly changing to a pattern of fitness after years of avoiding the gym. Her friends heard all about it and stood by her the whole way.

"For the last year-and-a-half, my friends have listened to every complaint about sore feet or food that I miss, and have been nothing but encouraging," she recalled. "They even signed up, trained and ran my first half marathon with me."

Some of her co-workers were even so inspired by her commitment they joined her quest for fitness by starting their own workout regimens, said Maj. Mark. Reith, 83rd NOS Det. 3 commander.

"I think the entire unit is inspired not only by her accomplishment but also by her willingness to share her experience with others," he said. "It takes courage to share our personal challenges with others, and the fact that she acknowledged her weight as a problem and took steps to improve herself is an inspirational message to the rest of us. I believe she's also recruiting the rest of her work center to participate in the next Air Force marathon."

Training for any marathon takes dedication, but York remains dedicated to pushing through the barriers in her way and even experienced a moment of enlightenment while running her third leg of the 200-mile team relay from Miami to Key West. She'd been invited to become the teammate of 11 others who'd lost and kept off and average of 100 pounds in 2012. Together they made up a group of unlikely heroes who'd never met until coming together for the Ragnar Relay.

"My leg three run lead me over a bridge in Key West at sunset," she recalled. "I was listening to Katy Perry's 'Firework' and when she sang 'there's a spark in you,' I realized that I had finally found it! I felt more alive than ever and it was the most amazing way to celebrate my (and my team's) accomplishments. We earned those moments and I am pretty sure we all experienced something like I did."

Although the team first met in person the day before the race, they'd been in contact via blogs, a private Facebook group and conference calls for some time. York said they got to know each other pretty well and relied of their budding friendships for support along the way. One of the ladies on the team works for a production company and with everyone's concurrence, the documentary, "From Fat to Finish" began.

"This was a great celebration of our accomplishments and was even captured on the Today Show the week after," she said. "I would consider them now some of my dearest friends who understand what I've gone through and what I'm going through more than anyone. They continue to inspire and support me constantly."

York ran 5.6 miles, 2.9 miles and 3.5 miles during her portion of the relay and never stopped to rest. Her team was interviewed by The Today Show after the race. She said filming for the documentary began when they arrived in Miami and followed the team throughout the relay and the Today interviews. She said it was an "awesome" thing to be a part of and the production company will try to air the movie this summer.

"There were cameras on us 24/7 that entire trip and it was cool to see the 'behind the scenes' stuff, especially when we got to do the Today Show stuff," said York.

For more on the documentary, go to http://www.facebook.com/#!/FatToFinish or http://www.fromfattofinishline.com.