ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Michele Sheiko’s efforts to get healthy began last year, when she considered going on television’s “The Biggest Loser” to share her weight loss journey with others.

But the Annapolis resident was unable to stay away from work for as long as the NBC show would need her. Instead, she spent a month at a Utah resort affiliated with the show.

While there, she asked family and friends to sponsor her by donating to the Anne Arundel County Food Bank and Light House Shelter in her honor. The end result was 140 cans of food, $4,000 split between the two agencies and, to date, 39 pounds shed.

“I did not want to go through another winter with a lot of physical pain, and my weight was a main issue,” said Sheiko, 48, who does marketing and digital photography for real estate agents. “My initial step was to start consciously buying more fresh food and eating out less. The drive-throughs kill you.

Sheiko made her decision during the winter of 2010, when the region was buried under a record of 80 inches of snow. Getting around worsened Sheiko’s arthritis and she was also caring for her father, who was suffering from diabetes and dementia. He died last year. Sheiko realized if she didn’t get healthier, she faced a similar future.

She shared her thoughts with some friends, who encouraged her to try out for “The Biggest Loser” when the show held tryouts in Washington D.C. last year. But since she works for herself, she knew she wouldn’t be able to get away for as long as the show needed her. Instead of going to the tryouts, she tweaked her lifestyle. She ate out less, bought fresh food and avoided sodas.

While television stardom was out of reach, Sheiko decided the Fitness Ridge Resort in Ivins, Utah was not. The weight loss spa opened in 2009, and costs about $2,000 a week. Sheiko made arrangements to stay for one month in January.

Before leaving, she asked friends and co-workers at Coldwell Banker to donate to the county Food Bank and Light House Shelter. Those who couldn’t donate food, gave money. The pantry of the Light House Shelter, which provides resources for the homeless, was emptying out at that time.

“It was so wonderful of her to have made this extra effort to do this for herself and turn that into something to help so many other people,” said Pam Siemer, the Light House Shelter’s director of development. “It’s really commendable and it made a big difference here.”

Sheiko’s stay started on Jan. 1. Her days began with a yoga or stretching class, followed by a three-hour hike. In the following weeks, her workouts advanced to playing kickball and tennis.

The dietary focus was on lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grain and foods that were good sources of lean protein. She created a blog to document her journey — By the time she returned, she had lost 19 pounds and 9 inches off her waistline.

She celebrated her return earlier this month, with food and cash given to her agencies of choice. Sheiko has pledged to stay in shape.

“For me, it wasn’t about weight,” Sheiko said. “I wanted to focus on feeling better and feeling stronger.”


Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md.,

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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