Stacy Mantooth holds a plank at the Fit Nation kick-off weekend in February.
PHOTO: John Nowak/CNN
Stacy Mantooth holds a plank at the Fit Nation kick-off weekend in February.

Story highlights

Stacy Mantooth has seen improvements in his endurance and mental toughness

He also has a better body composition but says he still has work to do

Mantooth has more goals to accomplish after crossing the Malibu Triathlon finish line

Editor’s Note: Stacy Mantooth is one of six CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Follow the “6-pack” on Twitter and Facebook as they train to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on September 8.

(CNN) —  

When I started the Fit Nation program, I was a big guy. Seven months later, I’m still a big guy.

I’ve run endless miles, biked endless hills, swum endless laps. Is there less of me? Yes. Am I fitter? Yes. Am I healthier? Absolutely. But am I finished? NO WAY!

There has been quite a debate raging in recent years about whether you can be “fat and fit.” There’s no easy answer to that question. Perhaps the answer changes from person to person as our goals change.

Over the years, everyone in the Fit Nation family has achieved great success, but in many cases, the pounds don’t always dramatically disappear. We’ve all gained strength and improved our cardiovascular health, but I never thought of this as a weight-loss program. At least for me, the real changes have been in my body composition (more muscle and less fat), my overall endurance and my mental toughness.

I’ve learned that being healthy is ultimately about being honest with myself. It’s about being honest about what I can accomplish and what I can expect to accomplish in the short- and long-term. I think I would be doing myself and my health a disservice if I accepted the premise that I could be fat and fit, or at least as fit as I want to and can be.

While I’m healthier now that I was at the beginning of the year, I still have improvements to make and fitness to gain. I hope to continue making gains for the rest of my life.

Good health: The best birthday present

We all joined this program for different reasons, but the one thing that united us is that we wanted to take steps toward better health through a more active lifestyle, for ourselves and for the people we love.

The one thing that Fit Nation has taught me is that I now know where I want to go, and I feel like I’m better prepared mentally and physically to get there.

Getting what you want doesn’t always come easily. I am about to achieve my short-term goal of finishing the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. I didn’t expect to cross the finish line as an elite racer, but I did expect to become healthier person. Mission accomplished.

Setting goals is really pretty simple, when you think about it. A goal is something for which you’re willing to work. And you get what you want by planning and putting that plan into action. I have more goals to set and more success to achieve.

Training for a tri: What I wish I’d known

The only true measure of my accomplishments is to compare myself to how far I’ve come and to see how much farther I have to go. Most importantly, I’ve come to understand that fitness is a journey and not a destination.

And I’m just getting started.

Follow Stacy on Twitter @TriHardStacy