Felida woman in top 10 on ‘Dr. Oz’

She could win $1M for health makeover

By Paul Suarez, Columbian web producer

Published:

 

Mary Ellen Brunaugh switched up her daily exercise regimen on Monday to make time to catch a TV show. She wasn’t kicking back to take a break; she delayed her routine to see herself on national TV.

Brunaugh, of Felida, was chosen as a top 10 finalist in “Dr. Oz’s Transformation Nation: Million Dollar You” health challenge. A segment featuring her and the nine other contestants was shown on “The Dr. Oz Show” on Monday, inviting people to vote for

the grand prize winner by visiting doctoroz.com. The winner, who will receive $1 million, will be announced May 23.

Brunaugh said she isn’t in it for the money. The 65-year-old former principal in Vancouver schools decided to get into shape after going to Hawaii late last year.

“When I first started … I went on a trip and I didn’t feel very well, and that frightened me,” she said. After surviving breast cancer, she thought she shouldn’t be overweight or drink alcohol.

When she returned, she saw an episode of Dr. Oz announcing the competition and thought she’d sign up and give it a try.

That meant changing her eating habits and making exercise a daily routine.

“My husband, being the good man that he is, brought me to exercise every day,” she said, noting that many times she went “kicking and screaming.”

Now she visits the Lake Shore Athletic Club daily. Her usual routine is 45 minutes of aerobics, followed by weight lifting. She takes Zumba, step and Pilates classes.

As for her diet? Now she eats a lot of fruits and vegetables. She cut back on red meat and upped fish, chicken and turkey.

A new favorite meal is grilled tilapia or a green salad with spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, vinegar and sunflower seeds.

She doesn’t eat her old favorite -- lasagna with lots of meat and cheese -- much these days.

She’s gone from size 12 to size 4, and lowered her cholesterol in the process.

“I feel better than I did 15 years ago,” she said.

She was motivated to get healthy for her family, including seven grandchildren.

If she wins the $1 million grand prize, she hopes to start a charitable foundation to help children with autism.

More than 1.2 million people registered for the program, which has seven steps including weight loss, knowing family health history, sleep, stress reduction, fitness and forming a relationship with a doctor, according to a release. People were asked to lose 10 percent of their body weight to reach or maintain a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9.

Seven judges went through the submissions of the top 50 applicants, who were asked to submit an essay describing their personal experience and motivation.

Brunaugh got a phone call about a month ago saying she was in the top 200 contestants.

“I said, ‘Oh yeah, right,’” she said. A week later, she heard she was in the top 50. Then she found out she would be going to New York in the top 10.

She left May 1 and returned home late Friday.

“It was fun, and it was wild, and it was busy,” she said of the trip. “It was like being a celebrity, almost.”

She isn’t planning on winning the grand prize but is happy to have her health.

“The main reason I would want to win is to establish a foundation, beyond that having my health back is worth a million dollars,” she said.

Paul Suarez: 360-735-4522 or paul.suarez@columbian.com.