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Challenge: Dedicating 30 Days

The thought of breaking old habits and getting out of our comfort zones can be intimidating. Change takes effort. It takes drive and desire. Sometimes it even takes a little sweat and sacrifice. During the month of January, Oregon Healthy Living is giving two volunteers the opportunity to start 2014 by making sustainable changes in their health habits by pairing them with experts in fitness and nutrition. With the guidance of their coaches, Jami Young of Central Point and Mark Sanford of Ashland will work towards personal goals, giving updates on their progress at OregonHealthyLiving.com. Meet them now and learn their "after" story in our March issue.

Healthy Eating: Jami Young

With a milestone birthday on the horizon, the 30-day challenge was an opportunity too good to pass up for Jami Young, who works in the student office at Hanby Middle School in Gold Hill.

"I have been heavy since the birth of my first daughter," Young says. "I gained about 60 pounds when I was pregnant and I think it stayed because it liked me so much." She chuckles at this, but it is clear that she has become frustrated with her unsuccessful attempts at losing weight.

Young has tried various weight-loss plans with some short-term success, but as is common with most diets, the results were not lasting. "It worked well for a while," she says. "It was just that when I actually ate food, the pounds came back."

The temptations are everywhere. "I am a complete snacker," Young admits. "When I am hungry, I eat whatever I feel like. I love to bake and cook. I love to see a new recipe and try it."

Working with a qualified nutritionist, Young hopes to lose about 50 pounds. "I just want to be healthy and active enough to keep up with my family. I want to embrace it, not fear it. When asked to go on a hike, I want my first response to be, 'I need to pack my backpack!' not some lame excuse for why I can't go."

Spending time at the gym has been discouraging for Young, who says it's very difficult to participate while carrying the extra weight. "I tried the yoga class a few times and it is really hard when you are a plus-size women. Your fatty parts get in the way! But some day in the near future, I hope to embrace it."

With three athletic kids to keep up with, Young wants to be part of the action. "My motivation is my family," she says. "I am almost 40 and my life has to change! I really want to wakeboard next summer. Everyone in my family does and I do not want to be left behind. I am motivated to be a healthier me."

The Nutrition Coach

Medford nutrition therapy practitioner, Kellie Hill, is founder of The Right Plan Nutrition Counseling. She holds a bachelor's degree in nutrition and a secondary certificate in nutrition therapy, which embraces using whole food as medicine. She is also the radio talk show host of "Eat Well to Live Well" on Voice of America's Health and Wellness channel.

Forever Fitness: Mark Sanford

Never content with the status quo, Sanford is a man who continually sets challenges for himself. One of his most difficult tests was quitting smoking some 30 years ago. As a retired sociology professor and author, he is inclined toward deep thought and self-analysis, so he became curious about why it is so difficult to make changes in habits that can significantly impact our health.

"I've been very disciplined for years," Sanford says. "I fell into it when I tried to stop smoking and I had such a terrible battle doing it. Eventually, I succeeded, and that's how I became interested in health and fitness, and more importantly, the whole psychology of getting yourself to do something that you know you should do, but you can't."

At 73, Sanford maintains a remarkable level of fitness by walking daily and biking 80 miles a week. He is rewarded with amazing vitality and living medication-free.

Even with his self-discipline and willingness to exercise, there are still goals he wishes to achieve. "I have not done much for my upper body in terms of flexibility and strength, like weight training. I love to walk, play tennis and bike, so I get plenty of cardiovascular exercise, but I've never been strong in the upper body development, so I'm looking forward to doing that with Steve."

Maintaining a healthy weight is also a concern. "I was overweight at one point and then I lost 50 pounds. I've managed to gain about 10 to 15 pounds back, so I hope that with this program I can lose maybe a pound a week or so."

Sanford is looking forward to making the most of his time with a defined program and the support of a qualified trainer. "I feel very motivated and I think I'll be able to succeed," he says. "For me, being a role model for others is a big part of what's involved in a fitness program because if people see that you do it well, they think, 'If he can do it, I can do it.'"

The Fitness Coach

Steve Thomas, the owner of Aspire in Medford, has an extensive background in health and fitness. "I've been a personal trainer for 11 years and I have a bachelor's degree in health promotion and fitness management from Southern Oregon University," he says. "I also have three personal training certifications. I've been involved with health my whole life."

Thomas and Sanford seem equally enthusiastic about the challenge ahead. "I'm excited about it," Thomas says. "I think it's going to be a lot of fun."

- Photos by Andrea Allen-Sis and Brian Dierks