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Burnaby Green Fighter looking to make life changes

It wasn't that long ago that Burnaby's Tina Palazzo was feeling at her best.

It was 2006. "I was at my best weight and fit as a fiddle," said Palazzo, one of 13 contestants in the Kin's Green Fighters Challenge.

Then life took her on a series of detours.

Palazzo was in two car accidents three months apart. She lost her job to the recession. She went through the breakup of a relationship.

"I was going through a transition, I lost my self-confidence," said Palazzo, 49.

Healthy eating and regular exercise were the last things on her mind.

But now her life's back on track. She's got her "dream job" working as a guest service ambassador for the Vancouver Convention Centre, and she's got an active social life.

However, physically, she isn't feeling as good as she'd like.

So when she saw an ad calling for contestants for the Green Fighters Challenge, a competition to see which participant can improve their health the most after 13 weeks, Palazzo jumped at the opportunity.

"I'm doing it for me, but I need the kickstart to get it going."

The competition is an initiative of Kin's Farm Market, with Black Press and the Canadian Cancer Society among its partners on the project. Contestants were chosen from about 300 applicants and includes one in each of the 13 communities where Kin's has a store.

Palazzo believes that by participating, the payoff will be longterm, not only feeling better but living longer with less risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

She'll also be blogging about her journey over the next 13 weeks at kinsgreenfighters.com. There will be weekly prizes and a grand prize of a cruise to help motivate contestants, but Palazzo stressed even the health assessment done as part of the contest is a prize in itself worth hundreds of dollars.

The assessment has opened her eyes to what she needs to do.

At five-foot-six, she now weighs 162 pounds, more than her ideal maximum of 145 pounds. She was particularly concerned that her body fat is at 40 per cent. For a woman her age, it should be between 25 and 38 per cent.

The doctor doing the assessment noted she's lucky she carries the fat on her hips instead of her belly both because it doesn't show as much and because it's less of a risk for diabetes.

"I used to be 145 [pounds], I know what 145 feels like. It feels good, it feels healthy. I can go up 10 flights of stairs, no question."

To that end she's trying to make lifelong changes beginning with her eating habits. She's started eating more fruits and vegetables, and eating out less.

Eating out four times a week socializing is a weakness, she admits. There's the social component, but it's also out of convenience.

"You're not eating the best, especially if the Canucks are playing, lots of greasy food."

And she's started exercising again in earnest, cycling, walking and working out with weights.

Palazzo laughs at her younger days when she was in her mid-30s and working out regularly at the gym.

"I used to work out with the boys and was respected in the gym because I was there to work out." Her body fat at the time was only 18 per cent and her arms were so sculpted they guys at the gym used to call her "pipes."

"It's unrealistic to be that way now," she said, "but I want a healthy body."

• Tina Palazzo will be at the Brentwood Town Centre location of Kin's Farm Market on Saturday, March 9 from 2 to 4 p.m. where she'll complete her first in-store challenge, including collecting donations for the Canadian Cancer Society.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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