Aerial View of the Dowagiac Campus

SMC student grows while she shrinks

Samantha Jackson of LaPorte

After shedding more than 40 pounds, Southwestern Michigan College sophomore Samantha Jackson is meticulous about measuring what she eats.

The 20-year-old business major from LaPorte, Ind., is a third of the way to her 120-pound goal.

Jackson works out every day but Sunday at the Student Activity Center of the Charles O. Zollar Building on the Dowagiac campus.

Weighing herself last summer, “I hit a number I didn’t ever want to see again,” said Jackson, who followed a cousin to SMC and works at a residence hall front desk.

She graduated from South Central Junior-Senior High School in Union Mills, Ind. Her family owns a coffee shop in LaPorte, where her father is a city police officer.
Her youngest sister, a freshman in high school, also dropped 50 pounds.

“My other sister is just lucky,” Jackson said. “She’s already skinny and can eat whenever she wants and not gain anything.”

Jackson, studying business to become an event planner, not only feels better about herself, she wants to set a positive example that encourages others.

“Never quit,” she said. “You just have to have the mindset to get that confidence and keep going. Once I started, it became easier to keep going.”

Being bigger had become a detriment in her life.

She played basketball and caught in softball until exiting team sports as insecurity mounted and self-esteem slid.

“I just had to stop,” she said. “I couldn’t keep up with the conditioning.”

She developed exercise-induced asthma, with an inhaler to bolster her labored breathing.

Now, “Random people stop me on campus,” she said. “They know me, but I don’t know them. They have questions about what to do in the gym to get to their goal or, ‘I’m eating this, is that okay?’ I like it, but I feel like I’ll be more helpful once I get to my actual goal. I do a lot of reading on health stuff. The gym helps burn calories, but eating is the main thing. I realized I was picking up stuff when I was out or snacking when I was bored. I don’t eat out of the chip bag anymore. If I really want Doritos, and one serving is 15 chips, I count them into an individual plastic Baggie.”

In October she acquired MyFitnessPal, a smartphone app.

“You put in weight and height information and it spits out how many calories your body should be having. When you work out, as a reward, it gives you extra calories back. Every 10 pounds I drop my calories. I started at 2,500. Now I’m down to 1,700. Minimum for women is 1,200. You never want to eat less than 1,200.

“I’ve learned what to look for when I go grocery shopping. I feel like I pay a little bit more for healthier food than grabbing quick and easy, but I’ve learned to make a lot of stuff. We have a really nice kitchen. I have a blender and make a lot of smoothies.”

She “scans everything with a bar code” into her app.

“I realize how much I ate before without thinking,” Jackson said. “Logging it, you really see what you’re eating. It’s hard, but I have so much motivation right now, it’s easy.”

“Each week I try to lose two pounds. When I hit that, I feel better. When I hit 40, that’s more than I’ve ever lost before. The last time I tried to lose weight, I made it to 20 pounds and stopped — then gained it back.

“This summer I’ll be here, taking classes and ‘living’ at the Student Activity Center. I work out for an hour, but I’m usually there for two. I’ve been on all those cardio machines. I do some weights for tone. And I love to swim — I used to be a lifeguard — so I use the pool. I’m doing the virtual triathlon and the Dirty Bird, which I did last year. It’s hard with the obstacles.”

After finishing at SMC in December, she expects to transfer to Purdue North Central in Westville, Ind.

How will she celebrate attaining her goal?

“I really want to throw a party,” Jackson said, “but I know I can’t stop there because of my body type.”