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Health & Fitness

Your Neighbor/Fitness Star

We can see why Women’s Health was as taken with Darcy Wion as we were. This month, the Upper Arlington native will find out whether she made the magazine’s cover as potential winner of the fifth annual Next Fitness Star competition. In the meanwhile, we focused a local lens on the System of Strength trainer and [...]
Jeni Ruisch



We can see why Women’s Health was as taken with Darcy Wion as we were.

This month, the Upper Arlington native will find out whether she made the magazine’s cover as potential winner of the fifth annual Next Fitness Star competition. In the meanwhile, we focused a local lens on the System of Strength trainer and how she channeled a lymphoma diagnosis into a new career path—one centered on fitness of self and of community.

Six years past her initial diagnosis, the 30-year-old has had learn how to be patient with her body, according to her contest submission,  inspired to become a trainer by battling the physical and mental hurdles that were out of her control. “Working out is about enduring discomfort,” she told Women’s Health. “I fully believe that if you can survive the struggle in the gym, you’ll be stronger outside of it too.

What does the week look like for you in workouts?

I believe cardio, strength, stretch, and recovery are four pieces of what you need in a week so without one of those you aren’t going to get your body everything you need and so I think that’s a unique approach to how some trainers look at it. They may specialize in the spinning aspect, the strength aspect and they kind of saddle themselves into that. I think it’s all of those that you need, so incorporating the high intensity training to get your heart rate up, and then the strength to build your muscles, the toning to work those smaller muscles, and then the recovery yoga to really stretch your body out and recover from a week’s worth of hard work. In any given week I’ll be doing all of those.

What does your diet look like? And other aspects of wellness for you besides working out?

I will say the other fifth piece of that is nutrition. I truly believe you can put in hours and hours in here but if you go home and you eat bad it’s going to reflect what you look like. I mean 98% of how you look and how your body changes and what you’re able to do when you work out is because of what you eat, and I really believe that. Lots of times I think people struggle and that’s the missing piece. They feel like they’re doing so much and everything right and they just don’t have that in line, and so food wise: proteins, fruits, veggies, whole grains. I really move toward eating 3 meals a day versus snacking just because if you keep busy and truly eat solid meal, you’re not really hungry. Sometimes people do five smaller meals a day, it just depends on what works with your schedule.

Everyone in this issue keeps saying that same thing: You can work out all day long but if you don’t have a balanced diet it’s not going to do anything for you…

You can’t out-train a bad diet. Everything is about balance. Like, I love donuts and every Sunday I eat donuts and don’t workout. That’s what I look forward to all week and I can do that because I know it’s coming. I don’t believe in any sort of super restrictive diet because that’s not manageable long term. I think it gives you the results quickly but then you can fall out of it very quickly, too.

You mention “deposits” and “withdrawals.” Can you explain that?

We set it up as think of your body as a bank. So, everything good I do, I’m putting in deposits and getting myself in the green and everything else is stuff I withdraw and take out from the bank. Our program sets up as you get two withdrawals a week—whether that’s two drinking nights or whether that’s two cheeseburgers and then a cupcake and then the rest of the week you’re following your proteins, veggies, fruits, grains. Those are kind of free-range for the most part.

Were you really active growing up?

I think a lot of where my mindset comes from is from my family. I was raised in an active family where we went on walks instead of watching TV. I could probably count the number of times we ate McDonald’s on one hand. My mom is the athletic director at the high school I went to and my dad was a college athlete, so it’s kind of just our mindset. I was a swimmer in high school and then going into college I just kind of kept those habits with me, incorporating fitness into my life, eating healthy. It always was something I get to do and not something I necessarily have to do.

So part of your story is you talking about your diagnosis… when did that happen?

I was 23 when I was diagnosed, so that was right after college. I had been talking about liking to eat healthy my senior year. I stopped and gained a little bit of weight and then after college I was increasing my workouts trying to lose the weight, started to eat really clean—low-grain diets—so I kept attributing all these symptoms such as fatigue and headaches to working out harder. Since I was working out harder, it was probably okay that I was tired. I was experiencing some blackouts. So after like three or four months of that I was in a spinning class and I truly blacked out—almost fell off the bike—so I left early, which is something I never do and I called my mom crying and said something is wrong for real… We went to the doctor, did a chest x-ray and I guess in terms of having lymphoma I was diagnosed and pretty much from there everything was a blur.

How did your diagnosis play into your current career path as a trainer?

I looked at why I put off going to the doctor for so long—I was [working out] because I hated my body, because I wanted to lose weight. I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I’ve grown up my entire life doing it because I liked it—because I wanted to do it.

Now, I want to portray in every class to live a fit lifestyle because we love our bodies—not because we hate them. [Think about] how much more this life has to give than a number on a scale and how you look in a dress. The second you stop worrying about those things—when you incorporate this into your life—the endorphins you release, the toxins in your mind … I mean this can become your sanctuary.

I can imagine that sanctuary being extra important when you’re also battling a potentially fatal disease.

Maybe it’s the only time you get to yourself—that 60 minutes to workout. Just tune into yourself. It’s not selfish. Going through chemotherapy and radiation, I was frustrated because I was at a really good point physically and trying to work out more and eat healthy and lose the weight I gained. So I felt like I was getting stronger and then to experience having to go through chemo and radiation and not being physically able to do things, it was very hard during that time for me to not be hard on myself. When I went to workout and I was super breathless; the radiation made it so I couldn’t hold weights; the chemo in my veins, totally messed up my grips. When I was really going through it, it hurt to touch. Now, I know one more burpee or 10 more seconds in a plank—all of that is manageable because I’ve been at the point where physically I couldn’t.

If you could speak to the average reader, who isn’t extremely fitness-minded, what would you say to them?

The majority of people want to [work out] but don’t know where to start. This life of fitness is for everyone, no matter age, modifications needed, or where you are in your fitness journey. If you’re starting or you’ve been in it for 10 years and you’re looking for a change, I truly believe it’s for everybody. Even if something like System of Strength is intimidating to you, go out and find anything that may be physical, just to get your feet wet. Columbus, in general, has become such an amazing fitness community. I mean there are studios popping up everywhere and so I feel like just getting out there and trying a couple things— a cycling class, all the Metroparks do free yoga—there’s so many options just to do things for free to see what you like and what you don’t like. The story I wanted to tell through Women’s Health was “What’s Your Why?” In general, I just want to be a motivation or inspiration for people that are going through or may go through a struggle. Unfortunately, struggling is part of our journey and it’s really what you make of it and how you come out stronger on the other side. This is the only body that you’re given and if you’re not making the most of it—you’re not going to be able to help anyone else with what they’re going through.

Voting for Next Fitness Star ends 8.4, with finalists will gather for a winning announcement on The Insider 8.22. For more, visit

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Health & Fitness

Truth or Trend: 30 Day Challenges

Becca Kirian RD, LD, CNSC



@DietBetch, a popular Instagram account with over 213k followers, tends to post memes that subtly poking fun at our diet culture. But recently, I was disappointed to see a post about a "30 Day Challenge" that reinforces the unhealthy, fad diet-obsessed world we live in.

This "30 Day Challenge" prohibits participants from consuming foods that many people often associate with being “unhealthy” like soda, candy, and doughnuts.

As a dietitian, I’m not going to disagree that the foods listed do tend to be higher in nutrients of concerns—like added sugars and salt, and overall calories—but, I absolutely believe they can be part of a balanced diet.

By completely removing foods from the diet with a 30 Day Challenge like this, one will simply think, “No…for this month." This purge-style challenge won't teach healthy sustainable eating habits like intuitive eating or portion control.

Take-away: Instead of tagging a friend for a restrictive diet challenge that doesn’t set either of you up for long-term success, try implementing a small sustainable change. Maybe instead of going out for fast food every day of the workweek with a friend, you both could try packing once a week and share recipes and meal ideas!

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Health & Fitness

Truth or Trend: “His” vs “Her” portions

Becca Kirian RD, LD, CNSC



It’s not uncommon to scroll through Instagram and see beautiful plates of food labeled “his” and “hers.” Typically the “his” plate is larger in all portions of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

But, this depiction of portioning is inaccurate and can be damaging to the way women satisfy their hunger.

Gender does not determine the quantity of food people “should” eat. From a science perspective, there are so many variables that affect metabolic rates that are not specific to sex, such as amount of muscle mass, fat mass, location of these deposits, physical activity, and more. 

For example, a very active, self-identified woman with high lean body mass can have significantly higher maintenance caloric needs compared to a more sedentary male identifying person.

Take-away: Don’t let social media tell you that gender determines the amount you deserve to eat. Listen to your body and your hunger cues. Fuel your body for what you need!

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Health & Fitness

Truth or Trend: Late night eats at Steak ‘n’ Shake

Becca Kirian RD, LD, CNSC



Waist trainers, crash diets, colon cleanses—all things touted as the next miracle solution for weight loss. With the help of our new Registered Dietitian columnist, we’ll sort out the truth from the trash when it comes to health trends on your social media feeds, and provide healthy, sustainable alternatives for those to-good-to-be-true fixes. Welcome to Truth or Trend.

Steak ‘n’ Shake; a long-standing staple for a greasy, late night bite to eat. While "Eat This, Not That!" calls their signature items “two of the most precarious foods on the planet” on Instagram, is their fear mongering all it claims to be? Stick with me as I explore the truth behind a post by the account comparing the healthiness of two popular menu items: a Single Steakburger with Thin 'n Crispy Fries v. Portobello and a Swiss Steakburger.

First, the nutrition information provided for the two options shown in the post is inaccurate (click here to see more). Additionally, the caption claims most shakes are more than 500 calories and most salad options are 600 calories or less which is an incorrect generalization.

And while the Single Steakburger with Thin 'n Crispy Fries is the lower-calorie option like "Eat This, Not That!" says, what the post doesn’t account for are some other important nutrient factors that set the two options apart.

The Single Steakburger with Thin 'n Crispy Fries combination has 1380 mg sodium, which is 60% of the maximum recommended daily intake (2300 mg) in one meal, compared to just 890 in the Portobello and Swiss burger. The “Not this” option also boasts a higher protein content of 29 g compared to 17 g in the combination and about half the carbohydrates at 36 g v. 62 g.


There are pros and cons to each of the menu items here, so saying to “Eat this, not that” is painting broad strokes. If you’re a patron of fast food chains, remember to review and weigh all the nutritional facts before making a decision about which one is "healthier." Or, if you’re out for a special late night treat, choose the option that is going to satisfy you!

Becca is an Ohio native and University of Cincinnati graduate who works as a traveling consultant dietitian, currently living in Juneau, Alaska. She owns Centum Cento Fitness LLC, a company dedicated to using evidenced-based practice to help empower clients to build sustainable and healthy lifestyles through nutrition and fitness.Follow Becca on Instagram!

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