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Assistant principal resolves to lose weight
Rodney Stephens keeps 2014 New Year's resolution and loses 50 pounds
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West Hall Middle School assistant principal Rodney Stephens stuck to his 2014 New Year’s resolution to have a healthier lifestyle. The 44-year-old man committed to changing his eating habits by counting calories and he started exercising. Because of the change, Stephens lost 50 pounds in a year and is training for a half marathon. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Many people set New Year’s Resolutions. Few keep them.

Even fewer exceed them.

West Hall Middle School assistant principal Rodney Stephens did just that, after resolving last year to live a healthier lifestyle.

“I really wanted to make some changes,” Stephens said. “Of course, I was concerned with how I looked and how I felt. But I have young kids and being over the age of 40, it was really important for me to be in good health. So I made the commitment to myself to make some lifestyle changes.”

The 44-year-old educator started by counting calories strictly and limiting how much “normal food” he ate. He also began an exercise regimen and, for the first time in his life, became a runner.

“There was actually a little bit of a competition going on at work,” he said. “We called it our own ‘Biggest Loser,’ and I entered into that. I didn’t actually win it. I came in second place, but that was a motivator for me and a challenge for me.”

Today, Stephens is 50 pounds lighter and training for his first half marathon.

West Hall Middle principal Karla Swafford said Stephens’ new, healthier lifestyle has had a positive impact on his work.

“I always tell our teachers, ‘I can’t expect you to come here and take care of your student if you’re not taking care of yourself and your family,’” she said. “It’s important that people remember that. We need to take care of ourselves to take care of others.”

His exercise aim was simply “to complete a 5K.” Today, he is up to 10 miles.

Though it has not been a smooth process. In November, Stephens had a bit of a setback when he severely injured his ankle. But after training with a physical therapist, he’s back on track for a half marathon later this year.

And Stephens is not the only one affected by his choice for a healthier lifestyle. His wife, Ronnice, and daughters Anna Grace, 12, and Jenna Kate, 5, have had to make adjustments, too.

“It took a while for my family to be accustomed to me being gone for blocks of time,” Stephens said, noting one of the biggest challenges is committing to exercising regularly. “I’m not one to get up early in the morning, so usually when I come home in the evenings one of the first things they ask is, ‘Daddy, do you have to go run tonight?’”

His change also has made his entire family more aware and conscious of what they eat and how much they eat every day.

“My youngest is looking at calories and fat grams now, and she’s really making an effort to make conscious lifestyle decisions herself,” he said.

Swafford said all those at the middle school who made a resolution last year to live healthier and did are obviously happier today.

“I don’t know if it’s the endorphins or what it might be,” she said. “But it definitely gives you a more positive outlook. It’s not just a physical transformation; it’s an emotional one as well.”

Overall, Stephens said he will spend this year focusing on the half marathon and maintaining his new, healthier lifestyle.

“I know so many people in their mid-40s who are beginning to have heart disease and health problems, and I just didn’t want that to be me,” he said.

Stephens shared his success on Facebook, where many students, parents and friends have congratulated him on his success and even felt inspired to do the same.

“No radical diet, no magic drink, no disgusting cleansing regimen,” he posted. “Just good ol’ fashion common sense mixed with regular exercise, the way God intended it.”

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