Submitted photo Brandy Harris is overcoming health challenges from diabetes by participating in Healthier TN Macon County's Healthy Selfie campaign and hopes to form lasting habits from taking part.

Submitted photo

Brandy Harris is overcoming health challenges from diabetes by participating in Healthier TN Macon County's Healthy Selfie campaign and hopes to form lasting habits from taking part.

Lafayette resident Brandy Harris was diagnosed with diabetes in May of 2017, and has seen a cycle of ups and downs in her health since then.

However, by participating in Healthier TN Macon County's Healthy Selfie contest, Harris hopes to take her weight-loss journey to the next level and form lasting habits.

"After my diagnosis, I did really well at first but then I quit," Harris said. "I wasn't exercising or taking my medicine, and I was eating horribly. I thought, 'I've got to do something about this,' visited the doctor in September 2017, joined the gym and started working out."

For the next few months, Harris set a goal to work out at least five days a week and changed her eating habits. However, she faced a setback in her progress later that year.

"I lost about 24 pounds, hit a plateau in November and didn't see the scales move for eight weeks," Harris said. "I quit and gained all the weight back. When they posted that challenge, I wanted to take part because it keeps me accountable every day. I finally realized its not a diet anymore. This is how it's got to be for the rest of my life."

Harris credits the challenge with helping her push past her plateau after the holidays.

"At my age - I'm 42 years old - it's about more than losing weight," Harris said. "My insulin levels are better, and I feel better overall. I've strengthened my core and don't have constant back pain anymore. There's so many benefits, and I find myself posting (photos for the challenge) all the time instead of just once a day."

Many of Harris' posts have focused on her healthy, home-cooked meals that she has developed over the years. A majority of her ingredients are freshly-bought foods as opposed to canned goods.

"I love to cook," Harris said. "I've mostly been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, and there have been a lot of recipes where I've played around and developed my own thing. If it doesn't taste good, you're not going to stick with it."

Also taking on the challenge are Mary Anna Wisdom and her son Lucas, who recently returned home after he served four years as an Army medic at the Fort Campbell Installation in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

"We make time every night to work out," Wisdom said. "(Lucas) had a lot of his own personal workout equipment when he moved back home, and we've kind of made a space upstairs with it."

In addition to helping her learn more about health and fitness, the competition has been a way for Wisdom to spend time with her son as he prepares to start school at Western Kentucky University.

"(Participating in the challenge) has been really great," Wisdom said. "Lucas is teaching me a lot of stuff I didn't know about nutrition, exercise and equipment. He's really disciplined and organized, and he's been committed to being healthy for years. He's been trying to get me to do the same."

Wisdom said that the response to her posts on social media has been positive, with friends and family proud to see her beginning a fitness journey.

"I wasn't exercising at all, and now I look forward to it every day," Wisdom said. "I can tell it's made a difference. I've already started doing things like giving up cola in addition to the workouts."

People in the school system are getting involved as well, including Macon County High School senior and softball standout Allyson Shoulders.

"I've been working out with one of my close friends who graduated last year," Shoulders said. "It's always fun getting to be together and hang out. I still play high-school softball and enjoy working out and staying in shape."

Shoulders first heard about the challenge at a Lafayette Rotary Club meeting, and she is one of several students involved. Healthier TN Macon County plans to award $100 to the school with the most participation.

"For the community as a whole, I've been really surprised at how many people are participating," Shoulders said. "I've had a lot of positive comments on social media too, and seeing those encourages you even more."

Meagan Bell and Cindy Gammons of Healthier TN Macon County collaborated to start up the challenge, which has proven to be the organization's most popular community project.

"We wanted to do something to really bring people's attention to our cause in the county," Bell said. "Twenty-one days makes a habit, so that's why we wanted 30 pictures. We had the high-school art students design #HealthySelfie frames that are being used in the schools and both local gyms, and we've had some businesses reach out and want to use them as well."

As part of the 3-Star Healthy Task Force established by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2016, Healthier TN Macon County is asked to complete a certain number of community initiatives each year.

The organization can receive approximately $5,000 in funding for county projects, such as purchasing playground equipment for schools, by meeting their goals. It has previously funded a walking trail in Red Boiling Springs.

"This thing has blown up," Bell said. "People are telling me their feeds are filled with Healthy Selfie pictures, and I've had people jokingly complain that Walmart is out of health food. We're loving what we're seeing."