SOWI athlete Heather Binkowski of Schofield is a bubbly, fun-loving people person who adores everybody. But, as is unfortunately still the case with far too many SOWI athletes, she was bullied in school as a child.
And, as is unfortunately the case for many people, Binkowski resorted to unhealthy habits when she felt down. “I used to watch TV all the time and snack on food when I was depressed,” Binkowski said.
But after years of competing in bocce and bowling through SOWI, observing her father and brother partake in healthy activities like weight lifting, and learning about ways to live a healthier lifestyle through the likes of SOWI’s Health Promotion stations at Healthy Athletes, Binkowski is now healthier and happier.
“Bocce helped me to be more active. And now I lift weights and ride my bike,” Binkowski said.
She also now makes it a habit to dance around the house, which is a great way to stay healthy and have fun. Some of her favorite songs to dance to are Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars and Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus. Binkowski saw him in concert once and that makes hearing the song even more special.
But it isn’t just more activity that has helped her to feel healthier and happier. She has also learned to eat healthier, which is not always an easy task considering the fact that she works at a fast food restaurant. However, Binkowski has been able to eat a more balanced diet and now instead of snacking on unhealthy treats, she snacks on peaches or blueberries. She’s also started to eat more salads, including some without the salad dressings that often are high in fat, calories or sugar.
“I was delighted to meet Heather at our Health Promotion event at Carroll University this summer! She is a shining example of the many athletes we talk to in our venue who genuinely want to learn to eat healthy and live active lives,” said Judith Stych, clinical director for the Healthy Promotion program.
Binkowski still indulges in items from her restaurant from time to time of course, but understanding that balance is key, she’s been able to offset those meals with healthier decisions by and large.
Her healthier, happier ways have rubbed off on other people too. “More athletes, like Heather, are becoming health advocates themselves, offering even greater health education impact directly with their peers,” Stych said.
Binkowski has gone from the bullied teenager who struggled with depression to a leader on her bocce team where her teammates look up to her as a role model. She is also involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, where she mentors a “little sister.”
In fact, her confidence and leadership helped propel her bocce team to a gold medal earlier this month at the state tournament at Carroll University in Waukesha. It was her first gold medal in bocce at the state level.
It’s possible that her improved diet and increased activity helped her on the bocce field in other ways too. There’s ample scientific and medical research that suggests a proper diet and healthy lifestyle can improve athletic performance.
So the next time Binkowski dances around the house for fun and fitness, she’s certainly earned the right to do it to the Queen classic, “We Are The Champions.” And the small changes she’s made in her habits and lifestyle just may have helped her reveal the champion in herself, and others, a little bit.