Picture of Health

What does good health mean to you?

That's the question we asked in December when we kicked off our second annual Prevention/ABC News Now Picture of Health contest. Some entrants answered eating right; others emphasized exercise or spoke of nurturing the mind and spirit.

These five women do all three and more -- plus they encourage others to do the same. They showed us that life does get better after 40, and that you can find your healthy path no matter how many twists and turns it takes to get there.

Be inspired, and then tell us: Who is the 2008 Picture of Health?

Choose the Winner

Cast your vote for who you think should be the next Picture of Health. Here's how:

1. Visit abcnewsnow.com/pictureofhealth.

2. Watch our finalists' videos and read their personal essays.

3. Vote for your favorite finalist by midnight Eastern time May 31, 2008.

The woman who gets the most votes will receive a $5,000 prize and a $5,000 donation to her charity of choice. She'll also appear on Good Morning America and in our September issue.

Health Is My Lifelong Passion

Maria Ruoff, 69, Shillington, PA

For Maria Ruoff, the good stuff is just beginning. "I feel good, I'm happy, and I'm grateful," says the almost 70-year-old artist. That's because for the past four decades, she has fought hard for her health.

Ruoff was only 24 when her husband passed away, leaving her with a toddler and an infant. "That's when I changed my life and got vigilant about my health," she says.

She attended seminars on nutrition, read medical books, and researched herbal supplements; she even volunteered in a health food store. "I knew echinacea before echinacea was born," she laughs.

Ruoff applied what she learned in her own home ("I banished fried foods and aerosol sprays") and passed information to her loved ones. To this day, she reads health books to stay up-to-date and puts that knowledge to good use: Just last year, she lost 50 pounds by increasing her exercise and tweaking her eating habits.

Medically, Ruoff has had her ups and downs -- cancer at age 37, Lyme disease and fibromyalgia years later -- but she keeps her spirit strong. She continues to inspire others to stay healthy through her art (her latest painting is about women and heart disease) and looks forward to spending many more years with her second husband, Dave; her children; and her four grandkids.

"I feel like I'm starting a new chapter."


SMILE at a stranger. "It feels wonderful to spread good things. When I smile at someone, they feel happy. And usually, they smile back."

WALK. "I do three 15-minute sessions on the treadmill throughout the day and a series of leg lifts at night. It helps ease pain from fibromyalgia and makes me strong."

PRAY. "That's how I've started my day since I got pregnant with my first child 46 years ago. It keeps my mind and spirit healthy."

I Thrive on Laughter and Play

Colleen Kelley, 47, Shutesbury, MA

Part of Colleen Kelley's job as an environmental educator is to teach preschoolers about nature. "I get them to explore outdoors and discover new things," says Kelley. She believes in her message; it's how she lives her life.


More from Prevention:

The Picture of Health -- see the photos of the finalists!

Fight Fat After 40

Boost Your Metabolism

Meet the 5 Flat Belly Foods On some mornings, Kelley swims across a nearby lake. Other days, she'll go for a run. She also does Pilates and splits logs for her wood-burning stove.

Her motivation is impressive; her energy, infectious: Three years ago, Kelley encouraged eight of her coworkers to bike instead of drive the 100 miles to an annual conference. She also inspired the wives of her husband's running group to form a ladies-only team. "The men were too intense; we ran for fun," she says. A year later, they did a sprint triathlon to support cancer. Two years later, they did it again -- this time, with their daughters.

"I cried when we finished," says Kelley, who participated with her then 17-year-old, Hannah. "It was tough, but she never gave up. Her passion inspires me every day."

Hannah says the same of her mom, whom she nominated for this contest, and speaks proudly of planting her feet on the same healthy path. Next up for Kelley: Maybe a long-distance bike ride to promote the environment, perhaps a short stint teaching overseas. "Anything that has purpose, that's fun, and that lets me live every minute of my life."


LAUGH. Hard. "I find the humor wherever I can. No day is complete without a good, hearty chuckle."

TRY to do nothing for 10 minutes. "That means no talking, no reading, no nothing. People are overstimulated--it's vital to take the time to decompress and tune in to your needs."

START with an affirmation. "I have these angel meditation cards, each with one word at the top, like joy or love. They give me focus for the day."

My Condition Made Me Stronger

Eileen Friedman, 46, Plantation, FL

In 1997, Eileen Friedman walked six miles to raise money for multiple sclerosis; her brother had been recently diagnosed. She did the annual walk twice more, but in 2000, she stopped. That was when doctors told her she had MS, as well.

"I was devastated," says Friedman, who spent the next two years sick from her medication and angry at the world. The jolt she needed came when she happened upon a Web site for Alan Osmond, brother to Donny and Marie, that read: I have MS, but MS doesn't have me. "Those words made me realize that while I do have an uncontrollable disease, I can take control of how I treat my body." She added more organic foods to her diet, started taking supplements, and went back to playing tennis.

In 2004, she did Walk MS again. Twenty-four hours later, she started training for a marathon.

"Life stopped being about what I couldn't do," she says. "It became about what I could."

Friedman joined the Achilles Track Club, a nonprofit for people with disabilities, and represented them in the NYC marathon that year. She's done two more since, and in 2007, also raised $24,000 for MS research. When she isn't running, she and her family volunteer and cheer along the route.

Friedman still has moments when the pain from MS sets her back: "But I know that after I weather every attack, I can start over. That's what gives me power and joy."


CHOOSE pretty good over perfect. "If I'm tired, I skip exercise; if I want cake, I have it. No day is 100 percent -- and that's okay."

BUILD up my support team. "I surround myself with positive people, and ask for help when I need it. That's just as important as doing for others."

FIND purpose in my disease. "Whether it's raising money for research or offering a sympathetic ear, I pay it forward."


More from Prevention:

The Picture of Health -- see the photos of the finalists!

Fight Fat After 40

Boost Your Metabolism

Meet the 5 Flat Belly Foods

I've Led Hundreds of Women Across the Finish Line

MaryKay Mullally, 47, San Diego

We've all experienced the moments when you look around, wonder how you got there, and wonder what's next. For some, those moments simply pass. For MaryKay Mullally, one changed her life.

"I was working 12- and 14-hour days running a software development team," says Mullally. "One day I thought: There has to be more to my life."

She signed up for self-development seminars and as part of one of her courses, developed a half marathon-training group. "I ran my first marathon at age 40. I felt so empowered," says Mullally, and she wanted to share that experience. She put together a training schedule for 50 women, and ran with them some mornings and on weekends.

What started out as a class project turned into a calling: In 2004, she left her full-time job, took on a more flexible consulting role, got her coaching certification and, the following year, launched Step Up for Life, a beginners half marathon-training program for women. She offered three sessions a year and has since led more than 600 women across the finish line. Now, Mullally is developing a wellness coaching practice as well.

"Every person I touch touches someone else. That's what lights my fire."


COMMIT to one hour of exercise. "No matter how busy I am, I've made that choice, and nothing gets in the way."

PRACTICE what I preach. "Gandhi said: Be the change you want to see. This inspires others and keeps me accountable."

BUST through boundaries. "I thought technology was all I could do. But now I refuse to set limits."

I Lost 200 Pounds -- and Now I Offer Hope

Becky Griggs, 42, Oregon City, OR

When she weighed 352 pounds, no one would look Becky Griggs in the eye. People wouldn't even say "excuse me" if they bumped into her. "Despite my size, I was invisible to the world," she says.

She tried the popular diets, but nothing worked. "Just getting out of bed would make my heart beat so fast," she recalls. "Sometimes I was scared I'd die."

Then one day in September 2003, Griggs walked out of a weight loss meeting and proceeded to down a sugar-filled protein bar instead of the apple she'd planned to snack on. "At that moment, I realized I had no idea what it meant to be healthy," she says. "I was morbidly obese and living without parameters." So she slowly established some: French fries were the first to go, followed by white sugar. She also cut portions, counted calories, and later joined a gym, taking the same "baby steps" approach.

Today, Griggs weighs 150 pounds and works as a certified personal trainer at the same gym she first walked into four years before.

"There's no better feeling than to help someone achieve their goals," says Griggs. "My life is a 'get to' now. I get to encourage people, to help them believe they will be successful."


More from Prevention:

The Picture of Health -- see the photos of the finalists!

Fight Fat After 40

Boost Your Metabolism

Meet the 5 Flat Belly Foods The best part? "I'm the same person on the inside, but people see me now, and I can bring them hope."


SAY I love this me. "I'm proud that I have great arms and shoulders; I think it's okay for people to acknowledge what they like about themselves."

TAKE one choice at a time. "If I want ice cream and cookies, I have it -- and I'm okay with it. I can make a different decision next time."

CELEBRATE the small stuff. "Being able to tie my own shoes, to cross my legs, to dance -- it all makes me stupidly happy. I take nothing for granted anymore."


More from Prevention:

The Picture of Health -- see the photos of the finalists!

Fight Fat After 40

Boost Your Metabolism

Meet the 5 Flat Belly Foods