In the 14 years, I have been in the fitness industry, I have heard some interesting stories about people reaching their breaking points with their poor health.
For one client, it was when he was told his weight rendered him ineligible for the bucket truck he worked in & that he would be moved to a desk job. For another, it was not being allowed to participate in a beloved hobby beyond a certain weight. For a third, it was collapsing while on a hike.
But for my client & friend Sheri the breaking point came with an audible snap. In October 2017, Sheri was out to dinner with friends & slipped in some water. Her broken foot was complicated & required surgery. Surgery was followed by 12 weeks in a boot, non-weight bearing.
Sheri had been over-weight most of her life & as she shared with me in February of 2019 was “good at telling herself lies.” As a result, she had given up trying to lose weight.
The boot changed all of that. It made it very difficult to get around, as she lacked the strength & cardiovascular conditioning to support her body weight on crutches. Instead, she needed to use a scooter, which in turn made “everything a big deal.”
During this time Sheri had been promoted at her work as a therapist. She was now a supervisor of other therapists & she believed that she could not tell others how to care for themselves when she was not doing the same.
On February 5, 2019, Sheri started Weight Watchers online. She had done Weight Watchers many times before but liked the changes that WW’s rebranding had brought to the program. She had lost 50 pounds four separate times before, but this time was different. Between the broken foot, the supervisory position & the new WW approach to food, things clicked into place, physically & emotionally.
Sheri began by focusing on her diet. She did not try to take on exercise or fitness but focused on filling up with protein & vegetables & healthy fats. She began to lose the stomach-ache that had plagued her for 45 years.
She also began the difficult work of unpacking & examining her relationship with food. In doing so, she realized that anytime she had a negative emotion she turned to food. Instead, Sheri began to force herself to sit with her bad feelings, to sit & sit no matter how uncomfortable, & she learned that they passed. As a result of this exercise, she also began to learn what true physical hunger felt like & how easily it was satisfied, as opposed to its emotional equivalent.
As the food piece began to fall into place, Sheri felt that she was ready to tackle her next obstacle: exercise.
She started walking outside until the weather turned & then took to the track at the gym. She had always “hated exercise” but knew that adding movement was the next step in being successful in the long term. Her simple walking program began to log mile upon mile. Sheri does not use headphones when she walks, finding the silence & physical sensation of her footfalls to be almost meditative.
She also used this time to continue to examine her thoughts & feelings around food & weight. While she was very proud of the progress that she had made, she also began to realize that all of the things that she had done in her life that she considered a “success” - her career, her two Master degrees, her marriage, & her children - were accomplished & achieved while she was heavy. She decided “Who I am, is who I am,” & the weight loss would not change any of those things.
It was during those many laps on the track that I came in.
Sheri & I have been friendly, moving in the same mom circles, for over 20 years. When I saw her in October 2019, eight months into her journey, I did not recognize her at first. When I finally did, we chatted about her journey & what she had done to get to her current point. I gently suggested that the last piece of the puzzle was a strength training program. Sheri was game & we began to meet once a month to develop & then tweak her program.
Sheri feels that even though the period of time that she has been lifting has resulted in the smallest amount of weight loss in the last year, it has resulted in the biggest changes in her body composition. She is able to increase the amount of weight that she lifts for every major body part & is one of the strongest people that I’ve trained.
Even so, these outward signs of progress didn’t always connect on the inside. Sheri had a shirt that she wore to training that was enormous on her. I told her many times that I could not check her form very well. She kept wearing it. I finally told her, only partially kidding, “I will not train you again unless you get some clothes that fit you.” She shared with me how hard it was to let go of the old clothes & believe that the changes were permanent.
There were two things that made Sheri’s journey & success stand out to me & made me want to share with my readership.
The first was how she broke the process down into steps: food first, & after that was mastered, adding movement. When that became a habit, Sheri added strength training. She became proficient at each step before she attempted the next.
The second is the hard, emotional work that she has done to get to this place & her relationship with food after a lifetime of abusing it.
Sheri’s honesty with me about her thought processes, before & during this journey, was sometimes hard to hear. I have always seen an energetic, bright & bold woman when I have been with her. But as we all know, we do not always see ourselves as others see us. Her daily battles now include trying to see herself in that bright light.
I love how she acknowledged her true value in life had nothing to do with her weight or her size. This journey is now truly about health & wellness, not trying to be a new or better her. The “old/original” her was pretty terrific, as is this current rendition. Who she is, is who she is - she just has new habits, less stomach trouble & medications.
You may notice that I did not mention pounds lost, sizes dropped, foods to fill her up.
None of that is the point. Those are her personal victories & others will have their own.
Sheri’s hope is that by sharing her story she may be a small part of them.
Certified Personal Trainer/Rock Steady Coach