Losing weight helps woman win big

Jessica Chicas and her sons Aiden in stroller and Noah Thursday January 8, before she jogs at the Jervey Gant park in Ocala.

Jon Singley/Star-Banner
Published: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 12, 2009 at 10:04 p.m.

Jessica Chicas was a winner and a loser last year when she became one of five grand prize winners in the 2008 Weight Watchers Inspiring Stories of the Year contest. Since joining Weight Watchers in 2007, Chicas lost 52 pounds.

Her competition entry told her story about gaining weight in her early teens and finally shedding the pounds. Chicas and the other four grand prize winners were among 27 finalists out of 1,500 entrants nationwide. They are featured in this month's issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine.

Chicas remembers being teased and isolated as an overweight youth.

"I started as a teenager gaining weight, probably in my early teens," she said. "You're not as playful as you are as a child. You just kind of seclude yourself. When I was about 13, I started noticing that I was a bit bigger than the other kids."

Now 33, Chicas taps that memory as an incentive toward a healthy lifestyle.

Married to Nelson Chicas in 1997, Jessica put on even more weight during two pregnancies.

After her second child was born, she decided to join Weight Watchers, and lost a few pounds in the beginning.

Although Nelson was an avid triathlete and kept very fit, Jessica didn't get serious about losing weight until May 2007 when her husband ran in a race in Crystal River.

"He was coming across the finish line and wasn't wearing a shirt, and he was really toned, had a six-pack and all that," she said. "It was really hot. I'm thinking I was always so proud of him and how amazed I am with him. A couple ladies standing next to me, were like 'Wow! Look at him.' All of a sudden, I had this immense feeling that I was ashamed. I pictured him walking up to me and them knowing he was with me and saying, 'What's he doing with her?' I felt, I do not deserve to feel this way. I owe it to myself not to feel ashamed anymore."

During their ride home, Jessica told her husband she wanted to train for a triathlon.

"Basically, I started training," Chicas said. "The first time I ran out to the mailbox, and, you know, I'm dying, and I was crying, and my husband was next to me and said, 'Come on. We're just going to walk.' "

Chicas stayed with the program and entered her first super sprint, a mini triathlon, three months later. Since then, she entered several 5-K races and participated in three more triathlons. Now she's training for the Ocala half-marathon in February.

Chicas credits her success to the help she received at the Weight Watchers center in the Heath Brook Shopping Center. The program combines healthy eating and exercise, and the big plus is the support received from other members, she said.

"They celebrate your weight losses and they help you through. If you're having a rough week, they tell you it's OK. Between my husband and Weight Watchers - I couldn't have done it without either of them. Now, with me winning this contest, the people in my group are beside themselves. They're excited for me. They look at me as an inspiration. That's really good for me, that I can inspire somebody else."

Chicas said she is so happy with the results, her goal is now to lose 15 more pounds.

"It's so much fun to go shopping now," she said. "I can pull something off the rack and say, 'OK, this is going to fit me.' I feel fit, and that feeling, to me, is worth more than anything else. I never in my entire life could run a mile and now I'm fixing to do 13."

Looking back over the last 18 months, Chicas' Weight Watchers coach, Dee Collier, said Jessica seemed enthusiastic right from the start.

"It's been so exciting to watch her progress," Collier said. "She inspires people in the meetings with her changes, attitude and behavior. My first impression was probably that she was someone that needed to be there. She had a spark in her that was a determination that she was going to succeed, and she certainly has. She's a wonderful example of what our program can do. It takes work, but it's worth it in the long run."

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