Here’s a success story to start your New Year off with a little motivation! It’s from Sandi Nelson of Missoula. A very inspiring, thoughtful and entertaining read. Thanks for sharing this personal story Sandi, and best wishes for continued success in this new year!

“…the damn WellCheck had come to town again. What treasures would it hold for me when the blood was drawn, the measurements made, and the data processed?”

A curvy past

I’ve never been a small girl. Coming from a small town, everything that makes you different is brought into the spotlight. I wasn’t big by any means, but being one of 4 girls in my graduating class, the fact that you couldn’t snap me in half like a pretzel stick was quite evident. I’m built with a lot of muscle, but being 165 pounds in high school in juxtaposition with their 110 showed. I ran as far away from that place as I could when I came to college (at least as far away while staying in the 406), and decided I would never let a small town’s scope of what is a socially acceptable size affect me again. After 6 years of college and two degrees, I had blossomed in what could be called a hefty gal––I had turned in my toned 165 for a solid 240 pounds fueled by PBR and Mo Club Burgers.

The next 5 years continued with much of the same eating habits and my workouts consisted of 12-ounce curls (of the Bud Light and Dr. Pepper variety) and settling in to a sedentary life in my desk job. There was one silver lining to my lifestyle-–-it was maintaining. After an additional 20 pounds of weight gain after wrapping up my education, my weight was staying consistent year after year at my WellCheck. However, all the rest of my stats were climbing ever higher. As someone who has a family history of high cholesterol and blood pressure, I needed to start honing in on some of my other stats and take action. Then, in fall of 2015, I hit a sad realization – I had gained a pound! While not earth shattering in its own, it definitely started the ball rolling that a change needed to be made. I earned my Fitbit through the MUS Wellness Program just in time for the New Year, and was going to make some REAL changes…

2016: A New Year

…until I didn’t. I kept drinking Dr. Pepper like it was my lifeblood. Funyuns were their own food group and were a staple to at least one meal a day, if not for two (even breakfast—disgusting, I know). I found out that with the 2016 Wellness options for Fitbit, you could order the Aria scale. Having never had a scale in my house (thus my motivation for never changing my habits), this appealed to me a bit. However, the thing that stood between me and the scale (besides the next bag of Funyuns), was a spring WellCheck. After I got my results, I was heartbroken – I had gained an additional 3 pounds. While looking back on it, this gain could have easily be attributed to water weight, my cycle, or the clothes I chose to wear to Wellcheck. However, this total gain of 4 pounds in a year-and-a-half threw me for a loop. My destructive personality took over. Dr. Peppers were being consumed at a rate of 3 or 4 bottles a day. Funyuns became a three meal staple, and it wasn’t uncommon for meals to consist solely of the magical corn rings. I didn’t care what I ate or how it would hurt me––full-on wrecking ball had commenced.

My Aria scale arrived on Tuesday, May 3, 2016. This is a day that forever changed my life. After my “Sandi Gone Wild” time, I was ready to get my life in order-–-I just wasn’t fully aware exactly how much wrangling it was going to take. I got that bad boy home, set-up to my WiFi and synced to my phone––I was ready to step onto it for the first time. The number that greeted me made me break down in tears and destroyed my day. I had gained 10 more pounds since mid-March. That was 5 years of maintaining, followed up with nearly 15 pounds in a short time. I got in my car, found myself some beer and a front porch with a friend, and enjoyed a carbo-loaded Jimmy John’s sandwich. This would be the last day that I let food rule my life, and I just needed to use my vices one last time before it was time for a change.

I started my diet new relationship with food the very next day. I began a very regimented meal structure and exercise plan. I researched what foods would help most for my body type and risk factors. Proteins in the form of sliced turkey and string cheese with fruits for breakfast every weekday. No exceptions. My days of Einstein Bagels and high-calorie coffees were over. Stupid salads with ground turkey and light dressings for lunch became the norm. I required 7,000 steps put on my Fitbit before I could have dinner, and 10,000 before bed. At first it was easy. The semester had wrapped up and we were in the easy, breezy days of summer. My biggest enemy were weekends when I would normally go out for drinks with friends, but these turned into motivation setting days. “Is it Brewfest in Missoula this weekend?” Better go hike up Mt. Sentinel first to earn those calories I’m about to consume. Family is coming to town to visit? Time to get some sunrise lifting in before they’re ready to start eating the fried food that is their staple to any vacation. How could I ever keep this whole thing interesting? The MUS Wellness program gave me new things to try, new challenges to take head on, and a way to keep things new and interesting. I was taking this full on, and had dropped 40 pounds before the summer came to an end.

Working through the struggle

I am currently coming out of a major plateau that has lasted a month and a half. School started up and I once again became bound to my desk. Exercising after work had become a chore as the weather was changing and limiting my options to those inside. Eating the healthy things that I once looked forward to had become boring, and with an office change to a location right next to the sandwich shop in the building, temptation was literally wafting into my office daily. The only positive was the fact that the change in scenery had landed me with a standing desk so I was at least standing through the day instead of sitting like a lump in my chair. October was the toughest month of this change in lifestyle. Finally, I found my silver lining: the damn WellCheck had come to town again. What treasures would it hold for me when the blood was drawn, the measurements made, and the data processed? I was BEYOND ECSTATIC when my results were released in early November. Most of my numbers had plunged drastically. My cholesterol dropped––not only a few points, but over 100 points! My good cholesterol is at the highest it’s ever been, while the bad cholesterol has dropped to its lowest. I’m out of the “very high” risk category and in the borderline high for the few items that are of concern. I know it all still needs work, but considering this was a 7-month turnaround from the last reading, I’m chalking this up as a success. After a current 50 pounds of weight loss, I still have plenty far to go, including dropping 23 more pounds before the dawn of 2017 to leave this year in a completely different weight class than it started, then working my way to my final goal of 165—the weight I wore so well in high school. I know that with my new-found motivation and consistent challenges being provided by the MUS Wellness Program, I will be able to show the world what I can really do.   —Sandi

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Two photos taken a year apart in the same dress.
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My Fitbit scale showing me the fruits of my labor.
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A snapshot of the drastic 7-month drop in my Cholesterol to HDL ratio as it was cut by 42%.

6 thoughts on “My Transformation: A Success Story

  1. Congrats Sandi! That is indeed inspirational. I can entirely relate to most of your story. It’s so easy to stay on the easy path of going to work, eating the same way and not making time for getting your steps and other exercise fit into this crazy thing called life. I too started the year with simple plans and worked to change my relationship to the food I eat. I started with the simple (or not) task of getting rid of sugared creamers in my coffee and tea and got back on the wagon with running 2-3 times a week. Towards the summer I was introduced to the Whole30 concept and completed my first round in July. The biggest takeaway I got from it was that what the scale said didn’t matter. In fact, the recommendation is to hide or toss the scale. It was the NSVs (Non-Scale Victories) that were keeping me motivated; sleeping better, clearer skin, clothes fitting better, less aches and pains, no bloating, no afternoon energy drop, energy to exercise, all while eating healthy, delicious food without measuring or counting calories. It’s SO freeing! In the end I lost weight and I gained a new appreciation for what I was putting in my body and how much control I have over how I feel. And while I went off track a bit during the fall and over the holidays, there’s always a little something at the back of my head saying “is that office donut or Christmas cookie worth the ‘side effects?'” This month I am doing a Whole30 reboot and because of keeping somewhat inside the lines of healthy, I am a third of the way through and some of the ‘detox’ effects I felt last summer aren’t a problem at all this time around. It feels easy. It feels natural. It feels good. I received the book “Food Freedom Forever” for Christmas and I’m looking forward to finishing my #JanuaryWhole30 and reading it with the intention of knowing that food doesn’t control my life. I also know that my next WellCheck is going to show some amazing results. Thanks for sharing your story and good luck with the rest of your journey.

  2. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I don’t have words to accurately describe how inspiring Sandi’s story is. Kudos and congratulations seem “small” compared to the victories!
    And … I’m jealous.

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