OREM — She was overweight, had high blood pressure and was above the healthy body-fat percentage limit. She wanted to lose 30 pounds, so Shelly Weber of Pleasant Grove decided to join the 100-Day Heart Challenge sponsored by Utah Valley Heart & Vascular Services.

When doctors checked her cholesterol levels, they were so high that she changed her focus from losing weight to lowering her cholesterol and getting healthy and active. Weber was recently named the winner of the challenge. She lost 25 1/2 pounds, and her cholesterol level, blood pressure and body fat percentage are now all in the preferred ranges.

"It feels so great," she said.

Beginning in March, Weber and 14 other women participated in the challenge, which included a strict diet, regular exercise and attendance at weekly nutrition classes. The challenge ended May 23.

Weber said the most difficult part of the challenge for her was working out regularly and eating right. With four children, a husband and a job, getting everything done was difficult and sometimes meant long nights, she said. It also meant trying to eat healthful food on limited time.

"I'm a junk-food junkie; eating right was pretty difficult," she said. "The whole house went on a diet when I did."

Weber made an effort to stock her fridge with fruits and vegetables and made them easy to pick up as a snack. She also successfully changed some old habits. She said that after the challenge was over she allowed herself to indulge in a Big Mac.

"I got it, and it didn't taste as good," she said. "I trained my body to like the healthy stuff."

Dr. Eric Carter, a cardiologist at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center who unofficially participated in the challenge and fielded some health questions, said that everybody can implement their own challenge that can have results. Being heart healthy involves exercising and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low on fats, meats and sugar, he said.

"That's it, and it's the sort of the stuff that everybody knows and nobody does," he said. "Everybody wants a magic bullet."

Carter said that at the beginning when he was tested, he was 15 pounds overweight; his blood-sugar levels were high, and his cholesterol numbers were in the warning zone. After the 100 days, he had lost 17 pounds, and both his blood sugar and his cholesterol were back to normal.

He noted that people can condition their bodies to want healthful food because that's what people's bodies were designed to eat.

"The perfect diet would not have much in the way of those very rich 19th- and 20th-century foods," he said. "The reason is our bodies weren't designed to handle those kind of foods."

A magic bullet doesn't exist for a quick fix to health issues, he said.

"It's paying the price every day, taking the time to eat healthy and making the time to exercise," he said.

E-mail: [email protected]