Kristi M. Howell-Ikeda, president/CEO of the Burlington County Chamber of Commerce, figures out how much she gained after losing weight.

This past year has proven challenging to me. I suddenly woke up and realized I spent most of my time running around with my hair on fire, just making things work. I didn’t have a balance of anything. I always – always – put myself last.

I was entering my tenth year as president/CEO of the Burlington County Chamber of Commerce. When I started the job I was 30, so that meant I was about to turn 40. The two milestones made me take notice of my life, and I wasn’t too happy with what I saw, especially when I looked in the mirror – could I really have gained forty pounds in one year?

I was out of control. I had been going a hundred miles an hour for years. I wasn’t sure if I could keep up the pace, or what this hectic lifestyle was doing to me.

It was a friend who advised me to make myself a priority. I wasn’t even sure how, but she gave me some concrete steps:

Leave the office before 6:30 pm.

If you have work to do, work at home for one hour later at night (which is how I wrote this article).

Work out for one hour a few times a week.

I listened closely, and while I was hesitant to make the changes, I did. I forced myself to leave the office. I went back to the gym. I found a diet online that allowed me to eat real food. I started to slowly lose weight, but then I hit a roadblock when I had a revelation: I hate the gym.

I picked up a flyer for a personal trainer, but I quickly nixed the idea because of the cost. Luckily, my friend’s advice came back to me, and I realized the expense was an investment in me, and it was time to invest in my good health and, ultimately, my happiness. I started working out with my trainer Christine two nights a week (sometimes even three).

I’m proud to report that seven months later, I’ve lost over 25 pounds and three dress sizes. I control the hours I work, and I don’t let work take over my personal time. I’ve made several significant changes in my life. It was difficult, but I did it. Sometimes, of course, life takes over and I go back to old habits, but I get back on track.

As the weight was coming off, I started to like the person I saw in the mirror, and I began to see all aspects of my life in a new way. Despite being at the same job for ten years, I saw opportunity there. I could create new programs, forge new partnerships and move the company in any direction I chose. I finally had a grip on my reality. My weight had thrown my whole life off-course, but now I controlled my destiny.

It’s taken almost a year, but I’ve found a balance. I’ve made me a priority – not an easy task for any woman. I encourage you to do the same. No need to run away because you don’t know what’s next.  Craft a plan. Follow it through. Most important, make sure it leads you to your happy place. That’s where I am, finally.


May 2012
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