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Chris Powell

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My Health Hero – Chris and Heidi Powell

Last week I received an email from the Outreach Coordinator at a company called Oscar Insurance who provides health insurance in New York and New Jersey.  They were looking for influential bloggers to write about their Health Hero, a person in their life that helps them stay on track and stay healthy as part of their campaign to help spread the news about their new approach to healthcare.

I’m not the type to take the word “Hero” lightly. When I say someone is my hero it’s because they are someone who I look up to. A hero to me is someone who has by some act or another saved me.  When you ask me who my Health Hero is, there is really only one true answer: Chris and Heidi Powell.

When you name someone famous as your hero usually you come off sounding like an obsessed fan. But the truth is though I am a fan, a big fan, I’m a fan because of how they have both helped me through some of the darkest moments of my life and encouraged me into the light during times that nobody else could.

Losing my father halfway through my weight loss journey was devastating

150519b2b2fb11e2b6f822000a1f8cdf_6My Father was the champion of my weight loss journey. His concern for me at 420 lbs., being treated for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, clinical depression and sleep apnea  and not wanting him to leave the world uncertain of how long I would be left in it was what propelled me to try to make some health changes.

Although I was still motivated to lose my weight, not having him there to say “I’m proud of you,” and cheer me on along the way left me feeling alone in what felt like the hardest journey I was ever going to take.

Around this time I wrote to Chris Powell for the first time expressing how much I admired him and what he does on his show and how much I desired to help others lose weight by becoming a Personal Trainer myself. I was so ecstatic when he responded to that letter and told me how awesome he thought I was. Having him say he was proud of me, not just for losing the weight but for the emotional obstacles I had overcome was the closest thing I could image to hearing my Father tell me he was proud of me.

Now I hated my body more than I ever had

I think many of us affected by obesity start out thinking that if we get skinny all of our problems will be solved. Since I was a little girl I believed that if I wasn’t “fat” my life would be much better. Boys would like me, girls wouldn’t bully me, people wouldn’t stare at me and kids wouldn’t make fun of me.

As an adult the same disillusionment that wouldn’t be so unhappy if I wasn’t so horrifically overweight followed me. Once I lost my weight I was startled to realize that I wasn’t any happier with the version of me I saw in the mirror than I was before I had lost my weight. Even though I had reversed all of the health conditions that obesity had caused me I still needed to deal with the depression and my new struggles issues with body image.

8ede362ab2fa11e2aee522000a9f15b9_6Luckily watching Chris Powell’s show Extreme Weight Loss had somewhat prepared me for this. His approach to total transformation and how in order to change your body you had to change your mind helped me start to wrap my head around food addictions and helped me start to understand why I hated my body so much. The realization that as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I associated my body with what had been done to me was a huge part of my transformation process.

The day Chris Powell became my Hero

I spent a year doing several rounds of reconstructive plastic surgery to have the skin removed thinking that I could cut it off and get rid of what I now considered the remnants of my abusers.  But no matter how many surgeries I had, there was always some evidence of the fact that I once weighed over four hundred pounds. The day I realized that those old ghosts still haunted me was one of the darkest moments in my life.

In a moment of panic I reached out to Chris again via Facebook and asked him to read a blog I had written, “If you’re still hearing my voice I could use a pep talk right now.” Once again he replied.

“Pandora you have come so far. Never forget that! I am still so proud of you. I hope you won’t give power to those who hurt you in the past and still haunt you. It is YOUR body. You have achieved much but the journey continues doesn’t it? When you look at yourself in the mirror I want you to see what YOU have accomplished not what the past may still try to remind you of.”

I’m not sure there was anyone else that could have said those words that I would have been able to hear them from.  Sometimes we’re not ready to hear a message no matter how much truth it contains. I honestly believe that Chris saved me that day with his words. Had he not answered me I’m not sure that I would have learned the lessons his words contained and I might have spiraled into very unhealthy place.

In a moment in my life where I literally felt like my past was burying me alive his words were the little bit of oxygen I needed to get me through as I started to dig my way out. He taught me to stop giving power to people who didn’t deserve it and to give that power to myself instead by learning to love myself, to appreciate and be proud of what I saw in the mirror because it clearly displayed how far I had come.

The Powell’s continue to be a pillar in my journey to a healthier mind and body

e46b8660b2fa11e2a47922000ae90d5b_6In the next year I got the opportunity to meet him and his wife Heidi Powell, who I instantly connected with because we shared the commonality of both having recently lost our fathers.

As time has passed there have been a couple other times that I’ve reached out to them. Sometimes I just need to hear them say they are proud of me.

When I was struggling with the number I was seeing on the scale after my last round of reconstructive plastic surgery and was emotionally paralyzed with the fear of re-gain, it took Chris telling me to stay off the scale and let my body heal for it to sink in.

In the last year or so I haven’t needed them as much in those ways because the lessons that they have taught me have stuck with me. They’ve added tools to my weight loss journey tool box that have left me better armed and now, my journey continues through my job as a weight loss and wellness coach and through sharing what I have learned with my clients.

But almost every day I see a post from Chris or Heidi that affects my life; A water check-in that asks me if I’ve drank half my body weight in ounces of water or a post asking me what exercise I plan on doing for the day that reminds me to move.

During the seasons of Extreme Weight Loss I keep my gym here in North Carolina open late so my clients and I can spend time on cardio machines watching the show together and Chris and Heidi are always sure to take the time to give me and my clients a virtual high-five to encourage us.

I’m constantly sharing posts from Heidi that I know have messages that will help others affected by obesity when they find themselves in those dark places that I was once in. Articles about body image issues, self-acceptance, a new workout routine or a healthy recipe that sounds delicious and makes you not feel so deprived.

Being a blogger it shouldn’t  be so amazing to me that having only meet Chris and Heidi Powell once, their correspondence with me via social media outlets has enabled them to be such a huge part of my life. Everything they have done for me, the support they have given me, the constant encouragement and motivation they provide hasn’t only helped me stay on track with my health but has made me a better coach and helped me help others stay on track with theirs.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.

Big Brother, Big Dreams, Life after my 260 lb. Weight Loss

SmileThis year I’ve been working on my bucket list. Recently, that meant sending in an audition tape for the Big Brother reality show.  This was quite a surreal experience for me. Realizing that I was actually doing something that I had dreamed of doing for years and let my struggle with obesity hold me back from was yet another non scale victory moment for me.

There was a time that a list of things I wanted to do in life included names of foods I wanted to try and restaurants I wanted to eat at. It included a few other things as well; my life didn’t totally revolve around food. But I did feel like food was all I could do.

I dreamed of things like traveling to different countries, but I knew that it wouldn’t happen because I was intimidated about not being able to fit in an airline seat or not being able to physically do all the touristy stuff you do when you travel.

I thought about things like bungee jumping, skydiving, zip lining, going to amusement parks, riding roller coasters and truth be told, ever since I watched the show in 2009 when Jeff and Jordan were on it, I dreamed of auditioning for Big Brother.

My Dad–who I lost in the middle of my weight loss journey but remains with me through my passion for exercise and my determination to live the happy healthy life he wanted for me–used to watch the show too and he’d always tell me, “You’d be really good on this show kid.” My Dad was a game show guy, he always dreamed of being on Wheel of Fortune or the Big Spin, he always wanted a chance to go on TV and win big money and when the era of reality shows that gave you a chance to do that started he always encouraged me to try.

Of course I never did. Because when it came to something like physical challenges or having to do something that required any sort of strength, dexterity or endurance, at over 400 lbs. I never felt like I was even close to a feasible casting option.  Not to put myself down, but the only show I felt I might get cast on if I tried was The Biggest Loser; and truthfully my weight stopped me from applying for that one as well. In a world where I was already self-conscious about my weight, my appearance and myself, why would I put myself out there for everyone else to talk about and shame? That was what I really felt I would be doing by auditioning for ANYTHING.

All I could think about was being a kid and having our entire class going out for PE (Physical Education) Class together. It didn’t matter what we were playing: softball, basketball, volleyball, dodge-ball. When it came time to pick teams, my name was never called. I was always the last one standing there, and whoever ended up with me was forced to take me and I stood there fearful of what they would say. Let’s face it; we all knew what they were thinking “She’s no good at this game; she’s too fat to play.”

Every single time I thought about auditioning for Big Brother that fear and that memory paralyzed me. But I am NOT that scared little girl anymore. I’m not afraid to put myself out there. If there is anything I have learned since I lost the weight it’s that I can do anything that I set my mind to. I can accomplish anything that I am determined to accomplish.

In the last year I have managed to:

  1. Go to school to pursue my desire to become a Transformation Specialist and Personal Trainer.
  2. Go to school to become a Cooper Approved Wellness Coach
  3. Met my heroes Chris and Heidi Powell
  4. Ran My First Half Marathon
  5. Gifted One of my Blog Readers with a Disney Half Marathon Adventure.
  6. Ran three more Half Marathons during my training for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
  7. Completed the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
  8. Moved across the country to take a new job at a Ladies only Gym Facility as their Weight Loss and Wellness Coach
  9. Gifted Another of my Blog Readers with a Disney Half Marathon Adventure.

671e345ec71811e39d0724be059614f0_8And I still have another month left before a calendar year is up. I’ve accomplished amazing things in the last year.  All of these things have led me in the same direction; they enable me to make sure that I make my father proud of me, that I follow my dreams and keep myself motivated, that I pay it forward to others on a regular basis and that I help others in the fight against obesity.

It was with those four major motivations in mind that I decided; “You’re damn right. I’m going to audition for Big Brother 16!”

I am sure that thousands upon thousands of people enter. I’m NOT sure that in the few minutes I had on video that I convinced them that I would make a good addition to the house. But I am sure that just by applying I achieved something. I achieved the courage of knowing that this is something I can do. I achieve the accomplishment of knowing that if chosen, my weight won’t hold me back. I achieved the excitement of realizing that if I was selected, I would be able to share my story with millions and millions of people watching and that I wouldn’t be worried about what they said or about being ashamed of myself. In fact, I’d be hoping that if nothing else came out of being in that house, that I was able to touch the life of just one more person and motivate them. I’d be hoping that by hearing my story someone else realizes that if I can win the fight against obesity and go on to accomplish dreams like this, that they could too.

The house guests selected will enter the Big Brother House in just 62 days. I may or may not be one of them; I have no idea when house guests are selected, when they know if they are chosen or what not, but I know that if I was picked I wouldn’t be allowed to tell you. Which means you’ll just have to tune into the show on June 25th to find out for sure.

When they extended the original audition date from April 4th to April 25th there was a part of me that said “Well, I guess they haven’t found what they were looking for just yet,” and felt a smidgen of disappointment.

But then I realized that whether I get on or not, I accomplished great things and learned a great lesson just by auditioning for the show. And guess what? I was able to share that with you. So whether they pick me or not, I will know without a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t the last one standing there and that my weight had nothing to do with it and I will walk away from this whole thing knowing that no matter what happens, when it comes to the fight against obesity, there are a lot of people out there who have already chosen me. After all, I’m the captain of #TeamSlenderSeekers!

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.

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About (Pandora) The Author

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender
Jaime "Pandora" Williams

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The kind people at BariLife have been generous enough to send me to Paris to represent the WLS Community in the inaugural RunDisney Paris Disney Half Marathon.
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