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Linda Collins-Brown didn't let some health problems get her down. She kept pushing.

The contestant in The Times' Lose 19 in '19 weight-loss challenge adapted her workout routine to the knee pain she was having. She joined a gym near her home in Gary with a friend who was also experiencing medical issues.

The 67-year-old also focused on what she could control: her diet. She loves fried chicken but now limits her intake, baking or broiling the meat instead. She eats more vegetables, greens. If she craves a cookie, she buys graham crackers. When she wants her favorite cappuccino, from Speedway, she gets it without fat or sugar.

And her resilience has paid off.

The retired case manager recently got lab results from her doctor, and they were "very, very good," Collins-Brown said. She had been borderline diabetic at one point.

"My mother was diabetic," Collins-Brown said. "That's a path I don't care to travel."

She said she's been encouraged by the staff at Franciscan Health Fitness Centers Schererville, where she does her monthly weigh-ins for Lose 19 in '19.

"My hardest test was getting started," she said. "You guys helped me get started. ... Now I'm going full force. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be involved in this project."

Collins-Brown is just one example of the resilience required to get into and stay in shape. Some of her other Lose 19 in '19 participants have also faced obstacles on the way to losing nearly 350 pounds in the first half of the contest.

The summer season presents its own challenges for individuals trying to lose weight or keep it off: barbecues, vacations, hot weather that forces people inside.

Jason Clinton, a personal trainer for Franciscan Health Fitness Centers Schererville, has some suggestions:

"When scheduling a vacation, be proactive and search for hotels (if staying in one) that offer an exercise area that can be utilized during your down time," he said. "Also, if you have home-gym equipment like dumbbells, bands, kettlebells, jump rope, etc., make sure bring to something so you can stay on track with your exercising. Even if it’s not a normal workout that you would do at your home gym, anything is better than nothing.

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"If you are sticking to a strict diet and are invited to a barbecue, I would suggest eating before you attend," he added. "This way you shouldn’t be as hungry and wouldn’t have to worry about pigging out on foods that you may be trying to avoid or restrict at that time.

"Still leave a little room to enjoy some food if you choose to, but eating before should keep you from overdoing it. Summer is an excellent time to not only put in the work but also enjoy the weather and the fruits of your exercise labor. Take advantage."

Steve Clark, a contestant from Merrillville, said he struggled with overeating in May, so he took action.

"I had to humble myself and get some counseling for addictive eating," he said. "I didn't know if I wanted to talk about that or not, but it's part of my journey."

"When you're trying to lose weight, it's a long-term deal, and you can kind of get in a rut," he added. "This time when I lose weight, I don't want to put it back on. I want to make a lasting change."

The product specialist has been trying to do more activities outside with his family rather than things like going to movies or watching TV, and eat more salmon and chicken for protein.

He is reaping the benefits of his hard work. He's now able to shop at regular, rather than big-and-tall, stores. He hopes to get skinny enough to ride a Pittsburgh Steelers-themed rollercoaster on an upcoming trip to the city.

"One of the things that I think has helped me be successful is setting small goals," he said. "I'm trying to focus on having my percentage (of body fat lost) go up every time."

Dino Ramirez, a 41-year-old contestant, moved to Cedar Lake recently after going through a separation and child-custody battle. He said he "fell off" a bit on his nutrition routine, relying more on convenient options like fast food.

"Right now, while the storm is happening, I'm trying to maintain where I was without going backward," he said.

So the career-services coordinator and adjunct professor still does high-intensity interval training and weightlifting. He is participating in a wheelchair softball tournament this weekend in the south suburbs.

"I'm consciously aware that I'm in this competition, so I'm still trying to make the best of of it, the best-choice decisions," he said.

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Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.