Category Archives: Operation: Motivation

Operation: Motivation – Size 14 to 4 and a Duathalon… Deanna’s Story

Note:  Deanna is a sweet pal on MFP.  She is a rockstar in that she hasn’t let some pesky setbacks and knee problems stop her from conquering her goals!  Totally inspiring to me.  Thanks, Deanna.  I needed to read this right now… gives me a nice square kick in the patootie! 


My story is success story may not seem as grand as most, but for me it was more than just weight loss. I didn’t have a ton of weight to lose, but I think that where I started was similar to many others out there. After the birth of my son, I looked in the mirror and realized that I wasn’t happy with my body and was sick of making excuses for myself.

Years ago, I was the thin girl that could eat almost anything and never gain an ounce. Then again, I was very active too. In my early-twenties, I stopped taking care of myself the way that I once had. I let a very angry man get inside my head and fill it with lies about how I was worthless and ugly. I lived those lies for years to come. He physically hurt me regularly and it took time, but I finally had the courage to leave. I thought I had moved on, but inside it was still affecting my ability to love myself. This toxic relationship left me with emotional and physical wounds which would prove to be difficult to heal from. I left this relationship in 2000, but after many unexplained falls found that it actually left me with a pretty ugly knee injury. I had an ACL replaced (not repaired) and meniscus repaired/removed in 2005. For the first 3 months, I was in bed if I wasn’t at physical therapy. It was depressing and very painful. I gained a lot of weight during this time. In all, it took over 6 months to get full range back in my knee and to this day I experience pain on occasion.

Years down the road, I have found happiness with my husband and in 2007 we welcomed our son Noah into our lives. As most new mothers, I had expected to have extra weight. What I didn’t expect was to hang on to every extra ounce of the nearly 50 pounds I had gained during my pregnancy. In 2008, I had lost about 20 pounds by dieting alone. The next 2 years were a constant attempt at dieting, but it was always a yo-yo. At this point, I have not resumed exercise since my knee surgery.

On June 1st 2010, I decided that today was my day. I would not make excuses and I was going to regain control of my weight and my self-esteem. I weighed 158 pounds at this time. I began exercising right away, along with a healthy diet. Within 2 months, I was at the orthopedic specialist due to knee problems. Due to the lack of activity, I would have to start off slowly and rebuild my muscles in my legs that support my knees. I began strength training 3 times per week immediately. By January 1st 2011, I had weighed in at my lowest weight since high school. I weighed 130 pounds. I have never felt better! I had gone from a size 14 to a size 4.

In February, I began to train for a 5K. It was very difficult for me to run, but for me this wasn’t about the exercise. This was to prove a point. In May, I competed in my first 5K finishing in 29 minutes and 24 seconds. I then continued to train all summer and in September competed in the Iron Girl duathalon. I finished this 2 mile run-22 mile bike ride-2 mile run in 2 hours and 15 minutes. This was nearly 30 minutes faster than my training pace.

I look back on what I’ve been through in the last 12 years and I wouldn’t change a thing. Today, I am stronger because of it. Physically, emotionally, and mentally. Sure, weight loss for me was the goal but in the end I gained so much more. I have proven to myself that the only person that can hold me back from my dreams is me. I let this man hold me back for years, even once I had the courage to leave. The ability to run after the injury he inflicted on me was symbolic to me in so many ways.

Whitney’s Note:  She rocks, right!?  Hit up the comments to give her a high five or 12! 

Deanna Before...

Deanna After...






Filed under Operation: Motivation

Operation: Motivation – Master Rachel’s Story!

*** Person #3 guest blogger… set to inspire and motivate.  This week is Rachel, a former roommate and co-worker of mine!  She was around when Whitney used her train whistle oxygen machine when she had the weight-induced sleep apnea.  Not a pretty picture.  Anywho… THANKS to Rachel for sharing the story of getting her master’s degree and her research.   It takes a lot of persistence to get you one of those! 


If you’re like me, the answer to the question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has changed over the years.  I don’t think you would have heard the words “sociologist” or “researcher” or “medical transcriptionist” escape my lips in response to that question.  It was always “doctor.”  I was never athletic or considered myself to be pretty, but I did consider myself to be smart and compassionate.  I am fascinated with health and the body, good with words, and love learning new things.  I enjoy helping people.  These were my reasons for choosing this career path.  Everything I did in high school was done with the goal of becoming a doctor in mind.  I took a medical terminology class and then CNA and phlebotomy courses.  I got a job working for an oral surgeon and eventually started working in the medical transcription field.  When I began college, I began my pre-med course work with my focus on going to medical school.  During my undergrad, I took a medical sociology course that changed my life.  The thought of going to medical school became less appealing for several reasons including disillusionment with our current healthcare system (don’t get me started!), the massive amount of debt I would incur to attend, the years and years of work both in school and in residency, and the fact that physics still doesn’t really make sense to me caused me to modify my goal of being a physician.  I realized after careful thought that I could be as fulfilled getting a master’s degree in medical sociology.  I would still be involved with health, learning, and helping people, but on an even bigger scale than a physician.  The research I could do as a sociologist could have a great impact on more people than a physician would ever treat in practice.

I was accepted into the master’s of sociology program at Utah State and began my course work in the fall of 2004.  My course work included research methods, modern and classical social theory, social statistics, epidemiology, and a few other elective classes.  I learned about things like social network theory and logistic regression models.  All of this course work was meant to prepare me for the one thing that frightened me about graduate school: writing a thesis.  When it came time to write my thesis, I had this huge block.  I felt like I had been in swimming lessons for the past year and a half and then had been thrown into the deep end where I couldn’t touch and had to swim on my own.  I seemed to have forgotten everything I had learned and was clinging to the side of the pool immobile.  I had all of the tools and the knowledge to write a great thesis, but I started to doubt my ability to put it all together in a way that I could actually defend it.

When I finally got brave enough to let go of the side of the pool a little, my first step was to create a clear and concise research question.  I had done some survey research with my major professor and he graciously allowed me to use some of that survey data for my thesis.  Using the survey questions, I thought it would be interesting to study self-rated health (where the respondent simply answers on a scale of 1 to 10 how healthy they think they are) and how that health measure related to social networks (friends, family, etc.) and how attached people were to their communities.  Once I was able to narrow down my research question, I was able to actually start moving.  It was a step by step process and I had to take it a small piece at a time.  I remembered how to do logistic regression modeling and what a statistical index was and how to make one.  I became proficient at using the statistical software and figuring out what my numbers were telling me.  I found studies others had done on my topics and learned from them.  I started to remember big words like “colloquial” and what statistical significance was.  Compared to the my colleagues, my thesis was relatively short, but it was mine and I was proud of what I had accomplished.

My lack of confidence in my abilities returned as I was preparing my defense presentation.  I found myself focusing on the research of others instead of my own.  I kept running out of time to present my own findings.  When I told myself to buck up and describe my findings and own my thesis, my presentation finally flowed and felt complete.  I remember so well how nervous I was.  I was worried about getting the projector set up right, that my Power Point was in the right format, etc.  When the defense was done, I was asked to leave the room while my committee deliberated on whether or not I had passed.  I finally felt calm as I walked out of the room.  I had done the best I could.  When they invited me back into the room, they all congratulated me on my defense and let me know I had passed.  The relief was overwhelming.  When I walked in graduation the next week, it was surreal to me.  I was so proud of what I had accomplished because there were heavy doubts along the way.

So what does this have to do with weight loss?  Maybe a few things.  Most people who have struggled with their weight have the tools necessary to solve their problems just like I had the necessary tools from my course work to actually write my thesis. Weight loss really is a simple prospect when you strip it down.  It’s just about expending more calories through physical activity than you are consuming. Sometimes we become paralyzed at the prospect of getting started and forget about our tools.

Even when you have your tools and you know what you need to do, you still have to have a place to start.  When I was finally able to narrow down my research question, the other things started falling into place.  When we can identify our specific problem areas with clarity (lack of being active, overeating in general, eating too much sugar, etc.), we are better able to formulate a real solution.  Just like my thesis, it was a step by step process and I had to use different tools at different times.  There were several stumbles along the way in my thesis.  I remember spending hours in the library computer lab fixing variables in my statistical program because I had entered something wrong.  You can’t let the stumbles paralyze you and keep you from making progress.

Sometimes our progress is small and is completely not representative of the effort we have put in.  The countless hours I spent working on my statistics don’t necessarily reflect in the length of my thesis.  Your rate of weight loss, like my thesis, might be a little different than others, but when you stop comparing yourself to others and actually take pride in the progress you have made and own it, nothing can stop you.

I have a long way to go on my own weight loss journey and have felt paralyzed at times by the same things that stalled my thesis. I can start and continue the process of becoming healthier in the same ways I was able to finish my thesis.  In parting, I will share one little nugget I learned from my research.  I don’t want to overstate the significance of it because I know there are flaws with my research, but those individuals who reported better health on our survey had a higher number of friends.  Don’t ever underestimate the power of your social network.  If you want to read more about my findings, here is a link to my pride and joy.  And yes, I do answer to the title of Master in case you were wondering.

Rachel on graduation day (though, the date on the picture is wrong… stupid camera date settings!)  I think all those awards behind her were hers too… she just hadn’t had the chance to taker her ball bat to the glass and retrieve them!  😛  I KID!

Question of the Day:  Have you ever considered getting a higher degree in education?  Also, show Rach some love in the comments! 

If you missed them… here are the links to the previous Operation:  Motivation stories:
TJ’s Weight Loss Story
Julie’s Weight Loss Story

PS – If any of you who were interested in sharing your “stories” still want to share said stories, my inbox is open!  I’d love to have you join in the guest blogging motivational series!



Filed under Operation: Motivation

Operation: Motivation – Julie’s Story…

*** Yay for the next inspiring person on my list of majorly inspiring people!  Julie’s story is today.  She has come so far in her journey and is totally an inspiration for me.  She’s doing all sorts of active and impressive things these days.  The following is in her words!  Thank you, Julie!


Trusting people has been an issue for me since around the 4th grade. It was around that time I came to believe that people were hurtful and not to be trusted.  This feeling was reinforced in the 12 years to come, and I began to retreat.   Poor habits became a way of life.   Food seemed to comfort me while eating, and torment me soon after.  Food became like a pacifier to a baby. I used it to cheer up, calm my nerves, make me tired enough to sleep, or simply just refocus.   And so, began my struggle with weight.

Years past, my weight crept higher.  I tried to convince myself and my friends that I was not bothered by my weight.  Sometimes I wasn’t, but I often felt vulnerable.  My best friend was getting married and I was going to be the maid of honor.   Unfortunately, the bridesmaid dresses didn’t come in “plus” size according to the boutique attendant.  Of course she made the announcement in front of all the other bridesmaids, the bride and two other women in the store.  My friend had that particular dress picked out months ago, so I ended up wearing a different dress than the other girls.  Mine was navy cotton with a peplum jacket, purchased off the rack, in the Plus Size section, at Belk’s.  The other bridesmaids’ dresses were  sleeveless, in a burgundy wine satin.  I convinced myself that at least I could get another wear or two out of mine.  I didn’t, too many humiliating feelings attached to that dress.  Eventually, it was too small.

Because the world seemed full of hurtful people, I found I preferred being around children and animals.  I worked in childcare and started fostering animals at home. My time was filled with responsibilities as a mother, wife, employee, and other volunteer activities I could squeeze in. Staying super busy helping others, kept me from focusing on myself.

After many failed attempts at various diets…  I just kept getting bigger in the long run.  In 2006, I heard about the Lap-Band.  I took out  $20K loan.  I lost 25 pounds on a liquid diet before surgery and another 10lbs in the two weeks after.  When I introduced solid foods, I experienced terrible, unrelenting chest pain, and the sweats, until either enough time passed, or I’d finally regurgitate the food.  I was supposed to feel full, not sick as a dog, right?   After several unsuccessful “adjustments”, it was clear, I gave up on it.  The weight I had lost, started creeping back on.

Just a year ago I found out that diabetes was in my family, so my chances of getting it just went up dramatically.  I knew the ramifications.  I tossed and turned that night and finally decided to search the internet for success stories of people having lost 100+ lbs and then find the ones who have kept it off and find out how.  I was done with “diets” and decided to learn how and how much to eat of real food, that I liked.  I taped Dr. Oz, The Doctors, Extreme Weightloss, Biggest Loser, Addicted to Food, anything I could and fast forwarded to info on weight loss.  Then, BONUS, I found MFP!  I had an outlet to share thoughts with others in the same boat!  I started counting calories, then added exercising, and slowly, but surely… pound by pound… the weight came off.  I started and finished Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred, and read her book Making the Cut”.  I became more confident and started doing more activities with the kids.  Before long, I was canoeing, mountain biking, kayaking and even paddle boarding! Finally, I fit comfortably into life jackets, roller coaster seats, plane seats (with the tray down!), restaurant booths, movie seats, all the things that used to cause me stress.

A friend suggested I sign up for an event, so that working out would be more like training, and help with motivation.  I signed up for a Sprint Triathlon. I went to the library for training books, started and finished the C25K program, swam, biked, ran.  I finished that race, and ended up coming in 8th place in my division, of about 70 women.   I am now training for a 60-mile charity bike ride.

It’s not been “easy”, but it has been doable.  I’ve had to convince myself I can handle stress, conflict, any problem head on, without needing to escape.  I’ve refocused on how and where I spend my time.  Time is much more valuable than I had realized.  I’ve learned to drop my guard and let people know my weaknesses.  I was amazed at how many people took time to help me along the way.  Indeed, I asked for help, but they were willing!  The C25K was completed with a friend who had also never run before, and we ended up taking Yoga together too.  An avid biker and I just rode over 30 miles this morning.   Another friend helped me with “core” exercises like twisting crunches, v-sits, glut push-ups and planks.  I had no idea so many people were willing and wanting to help.  I found that MFP helps me by refocusing and refueling my desire and motivation.  I’ve learned a lot, changed my appearance and outlook on life dramatically.  Life is good, and the best lesson I’ve learned is that “most” people really are trustworthy.

Julie Before:

Julie After:

*** Whitney’s Note:  Amazing, right?  Isn’t she a beautiful woman?  Now, who wants to go for a bike ride!?  Let her know what you think in the comments!  Thanks again, Julie!  😀


Filed under Operation: Motivation

Operation Motivation: TJ’s Story… How She Lost 119 Pounds!

Note:  I’m totes excited… my very first Operation:  Motivation story came today…  TJ is one of my friends on MyFitnessPal.  She is totally an inspiration to me because we have the same thoughts and methods of weight loss and she has lost a whole dagnabbed person!  Seriously now… that’s some poundage!  The following is in TJ’s words… her story.  I hope you all get as much motivation out of it as I did.  I want to go walk a half marathon now!  Thank you, TJ!


I have been overweight my whole life.  I have no idea what it is like to be thin.  I remember being in the fourth grade and we had to do an exercise that involved coloring in a picture of a thermometer gauging our weight, and I lied on mine, even after the teacher had weighed me,because I was the only kid in class over 100 pounds.  I don’t have an accurate track of when Igained the weight, but I do know that I was over 200 before I turned 12 and Iwas over 300 at 16.  Most people couldn’t tell you what it is like to weight over 300 pounds, but I lived half my life that way.  For me, it was normal.

Like most overweight people, I always said that I wanted to lose weight, and I would even half heartedly try to for short periods of time.  My mom tried bringing me to Weight Watchers more than once, and it would work for a short period of time, but the changes would never stick.  The truth for me, and for most people, is that I didn’t care about losing the weight.  I just wanted to feel like I fit in and that people accepted me for who I was.

In Feb of 2010, I visited a periodontist at the recommendation of my dentist.  While I was there, he told me that the pattern of bone loss in my mouth was consistent with patients that have diabetes and strongly recommended that I visit a physician.  I was at an all time high weight, and diabetes is prevalent on both sides of my family. It was the wake up call thatI needed to realize I was throwing my life away.  I was literally orchestrating my own suicide through food.  I vowed that regardless of the outcome from the physician I was going to start losing weight immediately.

I had signed up for MyFitnessPal previously during a weight loss challenge I was doing with a friend. Remembering how easy it had been to keep track of my food then, it was the first tool I thought of to help me change my lifestyle.  I decided that my first goal was to just keep my calories under the daily goal, and I would ignore everything else.   Being as heavy as I was, my daily goal was well over 2k calories a day, and by making a few smart choices, it was pretty easy to stay under that number.  By the time I went to the doctor, I had already lost almost 15 pounds.  Thankfully the visit went well.  My blood sugar was higher than normal, in pre-diabetic range, but I did not have diabetes…yet!  Of course, if I continued to gain weight, it easily could become that.

My other great challenge was the gym.  I had a 4 year membership that I had paid for, and wasn’t using, so that wasn’t a problem. It was getting there, and exercising in front of all those people.  I was easily the largest person in the gym and completely embarrassed by my rolls of fat flying and bouncing in every direction.  I made up my mind that my first goal was to make it to an hour of cardio regardless of what type.  Honestly, the walk in from the car and up two flights of stairs to the gym was a struggle, so I had no idea how I was going to make it an hour but I knew I had to learn and I had to force myself to do it in front of all those people.  The elliptical was my nemesis, so I’d typically start there and go for as long as I could, which was only about ten minutes.  Then I’d switch to the recumbent bike for 10 – 15 minutes, then thetreadmill for another ten minutes. Basically I found that by switching exercises it made it a little easier to get through them.  Eventually I managed to start doing 20 minutes at each machine, and I did the happy dance all around the house that day for an extra calorie burn.  I also found that *most* people in the gym are more focused on what they are doing and they aren’t even watching you.  By putting on my headphones and focusing on some random point on the wall, I wouldn’t even notice if they were looking anyway!

This has already ended up longer than I intended it to be, so let’s fast forward to present.  I’ve lost 119 pounds to date, going from 374 to 255. I have a lot more confidence than I used to, and I’m getting better at being social.  I originally had to force myself into meeting one of my MFP friends in real life, but now she is one of my closest friends.  I joined her walking group and made even more wonderful friends. I am more fit at my size than most people would believe, and in fact more fit than most people I know that weigh far less than I do.  I typically walk at least a 5k every day, and I’ve started the C25K program to try and learn to run.  I’ve started committing to organized events to get out and get moving.  I walked my first half marathon (Hurricane Half in Hurricane, Utah) in April, in addition to a 10k, and a bunch of 5ks this year.  I have come a long way from the girl that could barely walk into the gym.

The most important thing that I’ve learned is that I’m not perfect and weight loss is not an all or nothing mentality.  I still eat “bad” things in moderation, and sometimes I’m even over my daily goals after exercise, but I’m still moving in the right direction.  A treat will not derail me, unless I allow it to.

The most important piece of advice that I can offer is that you have to make your changes permanent by turning it into a lifestyle.  You need to find things that you love to eat,that happen to not be high in calories. You have to find an exercise that you love to do so that you will keep doing it.  The easier it is, the more natural it becomes.  I see people on the discussion boards all the time saying things like “I want to quit because…”.  That is the surest sign that they have not made a lifestyle change.  You can’t quit life!  Now, go drink a big glass of water, and get out there and get moving!


TJ’s MyFitnessPal Profile

Whitney’s Note:  What did I tell you?  Did that not rock or what?  Hit up the comments and let TJ know it!  To any of my other motivational volunteers, hit me up with your stories (I have yet to recieve any others), you know you want to!  Barbara Walters would be proud!  😛


Filed under Operation: Motivation