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AWARE Ink Newsletter

100 Pounds Down & Counting

Zach Watts, 28, is making fitness a family affair. A few days a week, exercise has brought his family of nine together – and it’s also helped Zach experience a weight loss success of 100 pounds while doing it.

Together, Zach and his family have been going to the local YMCA in Billings since last year. AWARE Early Head Start Family Advocate Joni Ackerman helped Zach and his family connect with the local YMCA in Billings.

Currently, Zach’s two-year-old daughter, the youngest of seven kids, attends the Early Head Start Center in Billings. Zach says that Joni has not only helped support the two-year-old while at the center, but she has helped the entire family with “little wins,” to help them all feel better.

Accessing reduced-rate programs and activities like those offered at the YMCA is just one way AWARE supports the families we serve.

Zach says that going to the YMCA has helped his family become more active. Instead of spending so much time in the car driving his children around, the stay-at-home dad stops by for a break before taking everyone home after school and appointments.

“The kids love it, and it’s a great bonding time for us,” Zach said.

Specifically, swimming has been key to Zach’s 100-pound weight loss. Starting at 550 pounds, Zach is now down to 450. Zach says that swimming is a good way to work out because the water supports his body and joints. Plus, the entire family gets to swim together.

As part of his weight loss, Zach’s sleep apnea has improved. He is no longer using a bipap machine or a narcolepsy prescription.

Losing 100 pounds is “like night and day,” Zach said.

Recently, he and his family all took a two-week-long vacation to attend a wedding out of state. Zach says that now that they’ve returned home, the family is heading back to the gym, perhaps more often now that school is out. As he continues to lose weight, Zach’s looking forward to lifting weights with his two older sons.

“We really appreciate Early Head Start and AWARE,” Zach said. “We keep busy and have fun down at the Y.”

Zach, congratulations on your weight loss success!

For more information about AWARE’s Early Head Start program and support from our family advocates, go to

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