Success Story: Joy Gianakura
Joy Gianakura—the associate dean of student academic services within the Seidman College of Business—says she has been “battling the curse of the short girl” her entire life. She has spent most of her life yo-yoing from being fit, to being in less than ideal shape. In an effort to stay away from medication and improve blood pressure, and with two neurological disorders that had been diagnosed within her immediate family, Joy decided it was time to take her health more seriously.
Having a mother with Alzheimer’s, Joy began doing her own research on brain health, and learned that brain health is linked to gut health. In the meantime, her sister was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which is the result of the body not making enough dopamine on its own. Aside from medications, cardio exercise has proven to be beneficial to individuals with Parkinson’s. Joy says, “Moving is the means to living a productive life with Parkinson’s disease.”
In lieu of her situation, Joy says, “I knew I had to be ‘on’ for my family. I knew that I needed to be stronger and do what I can to combat whatever may be coming my way.” As a result, she decided to change her diet and activity levels by “living like a healthy athlete,” which Joy says is humorous if you know her.
Joy has been running 5 and 10k’s since the age of 40, and decided to become a Spin instructor at the age of 48. She loves having this as a cardio outlet, and simply adores her “’usual suspects’ who have faithfully been in the saddle much longer than I have been teaching at GVSU,” she says. Though she is an active individual, Joy realized that “you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet.”
“Food is 80% of the equation, but exercise keeps you healthy. It feeds the body in different ways than food.”
In terms of her diet, Joy says, “Food to me now is medicine.” She tends to eat food that is good for her gut, brain and nerves, and tries her very best to stay clear of foods that are not. Since starting her journey about a year ago, Joy has lost 26 pounds and is completely med-free, but says the biggest change is the amount of energy she has at 54.
In addition to adopting a better diet, Joy has become more involved in the faculty and staff Group Exercise classes on campus. Among her favorites are TRX—for her improved strength—and Spin, which continues to be her first love. Joy says, “We do have the power to change our bodies inside and out, and I am so grateful for the opportunities my employer provides me to make this a sustainable part of my life!”