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Daily walks, smoothies are winning strategies

Deanna McNair landed on disability 15 years ago after a fellow motorist slammed into her vehicle from behind on a Youngmann Expressway ramp during a Buffalo snowstorm. She lost her job with Autism Services, weathered five surgeries on her back and one on her neck, and put on weight, in part because of one of her medications.

McNair, 35, of North Tonawanda, decided this spring to embrace a new push toward better health. She sought help from a dietitian and started going on walks. She started to lay the groundwork to return to college. And she entered the Independent Health and Buffalo Bills Health & Wellness Challenge.

Now she’ll be going to the Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguars game Oct. 25 at Wembley Stadium in London – as grand prize winner of the challenge.

“I’m still in awe. I can’t believe it happened,” she said this week.

McNair was one of 6,650 people who signed up for the latest challenge, nearly triple the number who took part in last fall’s inaugural communitywide health and wellness initiative. Participants boosted odds of winning prizes by reaching daily milestones of at least 20 minutes of physical activity, five servings of fruit and vegetables, and eight glasses of water.

Independent Health officials said participants collectively logged more 19,645 hours of physical activity, ate 287,330 servings of healthy foods, and downed 477,600 glasses of water.

Q. How did your exercise habits change during the challenge?

There’s a lot of times that I’ll tell myself I’ll go for a walk or something and it just doesn’t happen. But with the challenge, I made myself go out for the walk. On days when I had physical therapy – two times a week – I counted that for my 20 minutes of physical activity. I walked up and down my street, Robert Drive.

Q. How did your eating habits change?

To make sure I got the five fruits and vegetables every day, I made myself a smoothie and that had all five servings in it, including kale, avocado and frozen berries. That made it easy to get my daily check mark for the challenge. On top of that, I’d add blueberries to my cereal in the morning and I’d snack on carrots and hummus.

Q. Did you lose any weight during the challenge?

During the six weeks, I lost 6 pounds.

– Scott Scanlon