Weight loss isn’t just about inches and pounds. It can mean eligibility to donate blood, ability to have a baby, or staying on the road to recovery. It can mean being an inspiration and even a teacher to others, improved relationships due to a new-found confidence, or better performance in sports and life. It can also mean independence.

These are some of the real-life experiences from the 15 finalists of the Fitness First New You Achievement Awards (NYAA) 2011 held last July 28 at the Unilab Bayanihan Center in Mandaluyong. Categorized into Health, Shape, Sport, Strength, and Staff with an Overall winner coming from the category winners, the event recognizes—for the third year in the country and for nearly a decade globally—the health and fitness achievements of Fitness First members.

In keeping with the awards night’s Mardi Gras theme, which bids farewell to bad habits, finalists shared their life changes during the program hosted by fitness enthusiasts Steve Patrick and Gelli Victor.

Charm Valenzuela lost 95 lbs from 233 lbs within a year and nine months of working out at Fitness First Platinum Trinoma. “I am a doctor who, ironically, was a hypertensive smoker and an emotional eater. Gradually embracing exercise and eating right made me become a better version of the old me. I am an example of just how much people can actually surprise themselves if they only make the decision to take better care of themselves,” said the Overall winner and Shape category winner.

Gerry Dakoykoy, Strength category winner, said that he enrolled in Fitness First Cebu at age 71. “I had never worked out in my entire adult life but the desire to live longer and healthier pushed me to engage the services of a personal trainer who gave me the right program for my age. Now being able to keep up with much younger relatives and friends makes Fitness First my best investment,” said the retiree.

Sports category winner Alfred Delos Reyes finished 7th in the 2011 102K Bataan Death March, placed in the top 25 in 6 other ultramarathons, and 7th in a 42K marathon. “I ran the race of my life but it took a lifetime for me to actually believe I can. Finishing strong proves that an ordinary gym-goer like me can believe, train and work hard to achieve any goal I set. At 38, a training program gives me that advantage,” said the language teacher and Fitness First Alabang member.

Angelita Mercado had a stroke when she was 31. The possibility of a recurrence motivated her to enroll at Fitness First RCBC. “Regimen results of weight reduction, toned muscles, improved endurance, and positive disposition at 46 prove that I can take control of my life. I know that I am as physically capable as any regular 20 to 30 year old, and my family has also now made exercise and healthy eating a part of their life,” said the Health category winner.

Recognized under the Staff category was Abby Liquigan, club administrator of Fitness First RCBC for seven years now. “I wanted to stop feeling embarrassed by sometimes being mistaken for a man, shopping in the men’s section, and having to suffer a variety of medical conditions that include hormonal imbalance, polycystic ovaries, scoliosis, and apnea.” Most of all, Abby achieved her primary reason for enlisting the help of a trainer and nutritionist: she’s currently expecting a baby.

“The New You Achievement Awards is an annual celebration but in truth, everyday in our 18 Fitness First clubs in the Philippines, we celebrate the stories of our members; stories of overcoming personal challenges, emerging better versions of themselves, proving something to themselves and inspiring others.

Special awards were also given to Ederlyn Maneja and Donna Guanzo for the outstanding results they achieved under the Fitness First exclusive weight loss programs Lose Big and Lose it! respectively, both designed by Dave Nuku, The Biggest Loser Asia Blue Trainer and Fitness First’s Regional Fitness Manager.

This year’s panel of judges included acclaimed fashion designer Frederick Peralta, film director Joey Reyes, NYAA 2010 Overall Winner Ivan Camasura, Fitness First Fitness training manager Joann Santos and Fitness First Head Nutritionist Rency Caga-anan.

NYAA 2011 was in cooperation with Athena, Manila Nature’s Link Corp., Metrobank, and Belomen. It was made possible by Colgate Plax and Nestle Ice Cream Special. Special thanks go to Enervon HP, Fruit Magic, Jordan Rice and Lux Asia.

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