Former student enters magazine’s fitness competition

When Natalie Hays was a freshman, she was tempted, like most students, by novelty food options like slices of pizza smothered in cream cheese and stuffed chicken cheddar wraps. As a result, she gained the notorious “Freshman 15.”

She didn’t think she would pack on the pounds, but dorm food, the stress of a new school, classes and parties distracted her from a healthy lifestyle. After one year at the University, Hays decided to return home to Overland Park to continue school at Johnson County Community College. To get back on track, she hit the gym and planned a disciplined diet.

“Goals don’t happen in a blink of an eye, you need to have the patience and the confidence knowing that you CAN DO IT!!!!” Hays wrote as her Facebook status on Sept. 13.

Now a junior at JCCC, Hays has managed to shed over 20 pounds, lose six percent of her body fat and regain her confidence. She is working to motivate other ladies to not give up on their bodies.

“We need to be comfortable in our own skin,” she said.

In addition, Hays entered HERLIFE Magazine’s fitness competition earlier this month for the chance to be on the cover of the January issue. Not only is the competition motivation to work out, but the magazine strives to empower women in all aspects of their lives.

Currently, the magazine’s Facebook page displays photos of approximately 40 women, including Hays, who are competing for twelve spots to train with different Title Boxing Clubs. The contestants will be chosen next month based on the highest number of photo likes. After eight weeks of training, the woman who loses the most body fat will be the featured cover girl.

“Why not enter if you have a good chance of winning?” said Hays. “But even if I don’t win, it’s OK.”

So far, the number of likes on the photos ranges from nine to 654, and Hays lies in between at 156. Voting ends Oct. 1.

“[A magazine competition] is interesting because it’s just a different way of showing others how hard you’ve worked and how you’re happy with yourself,” said Makenzie Koehn, a sophomore studying human biology. “It’s wanting to display that success so that others might be encouraged to take the same step in a positive direction.”

As if maintaining a strict fitness schedule doesn’t keep her busy enough, Hays will grace the stage as a Miss Kansas USA pageant contestant in December. As a proud Jayhawk, her title is “Miss Rock Chalk USA.”

Hays has been competing in pageants since 2004 but realized she needed to make changes when she compared her Miss Kansas Teen USA pageant pictures from her senior year in high school to those taken her freshman year at Kansas in 2011.

After checking out a few different fitness programs, she took a new approach in March and began working with Derek McQuinn, an independent trainer at Excel Wellness Studio in Overland Park.

“We train five hours a week but ultimately, she’s the one who puts in all the work,” said McQuinn.

McQuinn said he hopes she achieves her goals, but believes that whether she wins competitions or not, her true life story will help other girls understand that there are healthy ways to lose weight.

“I’m just myself,” Hays said. “I don’t want to be somebody else.”

Even though she is content with her decision to move home, Hays said she misses the University. A people person at heart, Hays will apply to Kamsas’ nursing program after JCCC to further achieve her goal to help other people.

“Apparently, if you work out the night before a test or exam, it helps you relax,” Hays said. “I’ll have to do some more research about that.”

  • Updated Sep. 25, 2013 at 12:44 am
  • Edited by Emma McElhaney