Secondary Story

Feeling Fabulous after losing 140 pounds!

Gloria Hafemeister

Most people don’t want to be losers but Amy and Ray Banaszak are proud to be losers.

Using a common sense approach to weight management, Amy has lost 60 pounds and Ray has lost 80 pounds during the last year.

Ray’s incentive to lose weight was his health. Having four heart surgeries since he was a child and two angioplasties, he knew that carrying an additional 80 pounds around would place more stress on his heart.

“When I wanted to join the fire department, my cardiologist was a little hesitant to let me take on the task,” he says.

Now that he has lost the weight, he says he knows he is able to perform tasks of being a firefighter easier. He initially volunteered for the Iron Ridge Fire Department and now is a “paid-on-call” fireman in Mayville.

He says, “It’s not a lazy man’s job. The fire department motivates me. If I’m not in shape I put the guys around me in danger.”

He mentions that he initially noticed a huge improvement during a simple practice exercise that the firemen do, climbing a ladder with roughly 80 pounds of gear, stepping off onto a roof and then descending again,” he said.

Amy’s incentive was to get back into the clothes she once wore. It was more about her appearance.

She picked up weight gradually after her pregnancy until she peaked at 208 pounds. She went from size 20 to size 12, losing more than 60 pounds. She keeps a pair of size 20 jeans around to remind her how far she has come.

The Mayville parents of two boys say they really feel better now. Amy says, “On my job (at the Horicon Bank) I often run upstairs. I have asthma and used to get winded. Now I don’t.”

When they get discouraged they look at photos of how they once looked and they put on a sand-filled 50 pound vest as a reminder of how much work it is to carry around the additional weight every day.

“It’s easy to get discouraged but it’s good to look at how far you’ve come rather than how far you have to go,” he says.

They agree it was helpful to work on their weight control together. They also agree it is important to use a common sense approach, losing weight slowly but steadily rather than crash dieting.

Ray stresses, “Ninety percent of it is in the kitchen. You can exercise all the time but if you eat the wrong foods a diet won’t work. Watching calories but not exercising won’t work, either.”

While they do a variety of types of exercise, they say it isn’t necessary to join a gym to get in shape. Much of it can be done at home. They use simple weight-bearing exercise equipment that strengthens and builds muscles and provides aerobic activity.

Ray sometimes joins friends using exercise equipment at the Tag Center in Mayville. Amy likes to check out exercise DVD’s from the library.

She says, “If you get bored with it, you’ll quit. That’s why we do more types of exercise and we often exercise together. In the beginning, Ray really had to push me. I got tired and discouraged.”

One simple piece they used in the beginning of their journey was a “kettlebell”. By swinging it in a variety of ways they get both an aerobic and muscle toning workout.

As for food, they have looked to the Internet to find some healthy recipes that work for them.

The online diet guide they like best is at

Through this program they enter ingredients in a recipe to determine the total calories and then divide it by the number of portions. Using a bar code reader via Smartphone app, they scan purchased prepared food packages to find the number of calories and nutrition facts. You can also use the search function to type in the food you are in search of if you don’t have a Smartphone. The program helps them calculate their daily calorie and nutritional values that they need to meet each day.

“It’s a lot of work, especially when we started,” says Amy. “We laugh about how much time we spend figuring things out, but at the end of the day it is worth it.”

But she says the program keeps them in check.

Amy points out, “Often it’s those little things you don’t even think about that are adding extra calories. Small examples include tasting when I cook, or the flavored coffee creamers that seem insignificant all add up.”

Weight control, according to the pair, is really as simple as eating healthier. Fast foods contribute significantly to weight gain and they are also usually unhealthy. Too much sodium in prepared foods and restaurant food is also an issue.

Ray’s goal is to displace the fat on his body with muscle. This takes time even with working out consistently. He also supplements his diet with a daily multi vitamin and whey protein powder shakes after workouts. He says it is important to consult your doctor about supplements, especially if you are on medication as he is for his heart.

Balance is important and they pay close attention to things like carbohydrates, fats and saturated fats, protein and fiber. They have come to understand that fad diets, are not always healthy.

In addition, strictly counting calories without considering the source of those calories will not be beneficial in the long run.

Water is also important. While the recommendation for most people is eight glasses of water a day, Ray makes it a point to drink a gallon of water a day.

Both agree it is very important to get enough water in the system when taking part in a strenuous exercise program. Water helps improve circulation and without water the body becomes dehydrated.

So what do they advise others interested in losing some weight? Amy says, “Make it a lifestyle change. Keep at it. Eat a big variety of things and smaller portions at a time and find fun ways to exercise.”

Ray adds, “Snacking is fine but make sure you have healthy snacks – fruits or veggies – around or you’ll be tempted to snack on something that provides empty calories. Just because a label says ‘reduced fat’ doesn’t mean it’s good for your diet.”

They say it’s also helpful to find people who have the same goals. It’s important to have a support network.

When they started their weight loss journey, they took part in some 5k run-walks. The first year of running was fun but a challenge.This year they ran in a charity run in Beaver Dam and in another, sponsored by the Horicon Bank in Fond du Lac. They found they reduced their completion time and didn’t get winded as quickly and that’s a satisfying feeling.

​Admitting that it was Ray who pushed her to exercise more, Amy now states, “A body in motion stays in motion. It’s satisfying to see how far we’ve come. We couldn’t have done it without each other’s encouragement.”

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