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Winner of Bariatric Fitness Half Marathon Contest Giveaway


Alright folks our very first WLS Fitness oriented contest has come to a close. After reading ALL of the essays submitted and after watching the one video submission we received, the judges have reached a verdict! and it is time to announce our contest winner. But before I do, I want to send a huge thank you to our Sponsors Kay’s Naturals, Celebrate Vitamins and Pace Setter Athletics for making this all possible. I have dreamed of a Bariatric Fitness contest of this caliber for a while and our these are the people who made it happen. Please show them some love!

Now, allow me to introduce you to Dawn Brell, our Official “How do YOU Celebrate Success.” Contest winner. Dawn is 37, from South Sioux City NE and when asked how she Celebrated Success in non-food oriented way this is what she had to say…


I celebrate success in a lot of constant small ways. I’ve done things I would’ve never done otherwise, I’ve gone places I would’ve never gone before, and I’m wanting to do something I never thought remotely possibly.

The things I’ve accomplished since my surgery have been nothing short of amazing. First let me say I’m not a very impulsive person. Big decisions for me require a lot of thought that usually result in my doing nothing. My best friend and I have talked for 4 years about attending a professional sporting event together. It would make him happy to hear I wanted to but due to my size and constant pain we never did. This year when it was announced that the NHL would have a season even with the lock out, I went on the first day of sales and bought us tickets to see the Colorado Avalanche (my team) play the Minnesota Wild (his team). I didn’t really consult him. I just did it. I waited 14 years to fit into my jersey and by God we were going. I was able walk to and from the game. I can’t explain the feeling I had when we got there. I was so happy for both of us as he is a WSL patient also. I was so proud of myself for being there I never worried if I could fit in the seat or if I would be in pain. I walked in head held high and had one of the best times of my life. That’s how I celebrate success.  My second celebration came after saying and neglecting to even try for 3 years to get my motorcycle permit I did it. I decided the new me could and would do this. Yes on my first attempt I didn’t pass but the fact that I even tried was more than the past and I would try again. Which I did and aced the second time.


I’ve had many other smaller successes. I’ve had two photo shoots to document my weight loss. Pictures of me were rare. I never wanted to be photographed because I didn’t like what I saw. Now I’m more than willing even if I’m not sure I look the best. It’s important to recognize the new me and my journey. I’ve learned to be comfortable in my own skin. Starting with buying and wearing clothes I was unsure of. Shorts and tank tops being a major challenge for me. I would photograph myself in the dressing room and send pics to all my friends asking for help. It would take hours to buy anything or maybe leave with nothing. Now I can pick it out, try it on and decide to buy in a few minutes. I now buy shorts that are shorts and not knee-length ones that hide everything and are too hot to wear. No shirts or long sleeves covering my saggy arms. I’ve learned that its ok. It’s a sign of what I’ve accomplished. I’m no longer scared or ashamed of the new me. I embrace her and try hard to show her to others. My telling my story (the good & the bad) to others has led to a friend getting WLS in a few weeks.

I celebrate success by honoring the gift of WLS and a shot at a good life to thank the person responsible for my being here now. When I say my surgery was a gift it honestly was. The company I worked for closed and I had to take cobra to get my surgery. Cobra set up my payment schedule but didn’t have all the information correct. My former employer also had issues with earnings reported to our state. I lost my income and my cobra was due to lapse because I’d been under paying. My best friend stepped in and began paying my insurance to be sure I got my surgery, to be sure I had a chance to live. My doctors said I would be lucky to see 40, I’m turning 38 this year. I’ve had to plan my own funeral. That’s how serious it was. I try to honor him by following the rules, by pushing myself to try new things, to step outside my comfort zone and not be afraid of everything all the time. Due to abuse in the past on all levels I hid away and let life pass me by. I hid so much that I had tickets to see my favorite band Halestorm 7 times last year. I only attended 2 because I was afraid to go alone. I don’t do that much anymore. I want to experience everything I can now.

Lastly I celebrate by showing the haters I can do this. People doubted I could lose weight to qualify for surgery. Although it was hard and I suffered chronic pain I did it. People doubted I would go through with surgery but I did it. Scared to death and hysterically crying in the operating room before hand but I did it. When I had complications and people thought I would give up, I stuck with it. I fought on even when I was so sick they wanted to feed through a tube. People doubted I would change and be a success but here I am 138 pounds lighter. Most of the people who would be proud of my journey have passed away but I know they would be proud of me. One of my best friends who passed away took her final trip to Disney. I promised her someday I would see it to. This is my chance to possibly fulfill that promise and again celebrate success and show the people who are now doubting I can run a half marathon that I can do it. I celebrate success by believing nothing is impossible for me to accomplish now as I’ve already pulled off feats greater than anyone ever thought I could.

Now that our winner is picked we will follow her journey through a 20-week training program that is scheduled to being in the end of August. I personally invite you to follow Dawn’s journey and watch as she works her way towards that happier, healthier life that my father wished for me as we take on a goal to cross our first half marathon finish line together at Disneyland in January of 2014.


Dawn is a little nervous. Who wouldn’t be after taking on a big goal like this? I was nervous too! In fact, I had to run a personal half marathon on my own first to prove to myself that I could do it before I was even willing to consider taking someone else on the journey with me.

But we have over six months and as I have promised Dawn, if she provides the determination, I will provide the motivation. After-all, that’s my job.

So now the really big question …

Dawn Bell you just won the How do YOU Celebrate Success contest! What are you going to do now?”

– Sorry folks, I just couldn’t help myself.



The “How Do YOU Celebrate Success” contest is sponsored by:

Kay's LogoKay’s Naturals
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Celebrate Vitamins
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PSA logo red from vector file
Pace Setter Athletic
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Please support our sponsors!

Training To Become a Personal Trainer

Once in a while you meet someone and you just click. You goals are so similar and you are so passionate about the same things that when you are together it’s like you feed on each other’s positive energy. I call this “Motivation Transference.”

Bobby Whisnand Leading the Walk from Obesity at the OAC Inaugural Convention Dallas Texas October 2012

If you are someone who reads my blog and finds themselves motivated by what I share and write, you’ve probably experienced this same sort of thing.

I am the type of person that thrives on order and structure. I’m the type of person that has to look to someone as the paradigm.

In the beginning of this journey that I am on towards becoming a personal trainer, it was my own personal trainer that motivated me. We used to talk about how we’d work together some day, how we’d do big things together, help more people lose weight, what a powerhouse team we would be together. For almost a year, those dreams helped me stay focused on own weight loss journey and helped ensure my own personal accountability – something that is a monumental part of my weight loss journey.

I have a theory about my need for positive role models, good examples, mentors and heroes; I believe it stems from a childhood without a lot of friends and where my main form of socialization was among adults. You compile that on the fact that most of those adults ended up hurting me at some point or another and voila you have the reason that my heroes are people like Chris Powell and Ellen DeGeneres. I’ve been looking up to public figures and role models to learn who I want to be most my life when the examples I had in my life were more what I didn’t want to be.

Since last August when I believed that my last reconstructive plastic surgery would be in November I have been working on the goal of opening my own business as a personal trainer in July of this year. And since October I’d been working on finding a Personal Trainer that would let me sort of apprentice with them. Go to sessions and watch them in action. I was looking for someone to help teach me how to be a good trainer.

I talked to a few Trainers that I’d met thus far. My own Trainer, and another one from the local area that had some experience and was starting to get involved in the WLS Community. Unfortunately neither of them were able  or willing to help me.

Then a thought occurred to me. Bobby Whisnand. I had the pleasure of meeting Bobby at the OAC Convention back in November. In fact, it was his, Merril Littleberry and Julia Karstad’s high praise of the Cooper Institute that lead me to select it as my school for my CPT studies over the ACE, ISSA and NASM.

I had connected so well with Bobby at the event. His views on exercise, on making sure that people are taught how to exercise without hurting themselves, and his understanding that you have to understand the mobility limitations of people who are morbidly obese when working with them were things that Bobby and I could have talked about for hours. When I told Bobby that my goal was to teach people to not need me rather than to expect them to come work out with me 2-3 times a week forever and he agreed, I was elated. As Bobby shared exercises with me that he knew I would find exciting and told me all about his upcoming video I knew this man was someone who was going to be an important person in my life.

Bobby’s upcoming video is something that I am extremely excited about. It promises to be the first of its kind with special attention to bariatric fitness. Bobby is a front-runner in the definition of Bariatric Fitness and Nutrition and the efforts and steps that he is taking to start to mold the shape of Bariatric Fitness is something that I want more than anything to be a part of. Bobby has done some amazing things already in the Fitness industry when it comes to Diabetic Fitness and Nutrition and I can’t wait to see what he does with Bariatric Fitness and what this new video with a focus on movement for all levels of participation in the weight loss world comes out like.

As if that all isn’t enough, Bobby has also stepped up to the plate to help me out where nobody could locally. When I asked Bobby if there was anyway that while I was in Dallas working on my studies I could spend some time with him in a sort of apprenticeship fashion, not only was “Absolutely, yes.” the first words out of his mouth, but he also let me know that not only would he let me observe him in action, but put me through his own fitness program and teach me some things that I might not pick up in the classes at CI. As if that isn’t amazing enough, Bobby is also a Cooper Institute Alumnus, which makes me really confident in knowing that he’ll help me make sure I am well prepared.

I can’t wait to get my hands on Bobby’s new exercise video and he’s told me that I’ll definitely get a sneak peek and get to share my opinion of it with you guys, so we have that to look forward too. I’m so excited to have an entire month in Dallas to do nothing but focus on my CPT education and learning from a Mentor as amazing and fun to work with as Bobby Whisnand and I can’t wait to share that whole experience with you.

Until then, why not click on over to Bobby’s website  Victory of Life and check him out and of course be sure to visit him on Facebook, give him a little WLS high-five and hit the like button and tell him Pandora sent you!  I bet by the time you do that, you’ll be as motivated to go get your fit on as I am this morning.It just so happens that I am in Dallas until the 16th of April now, since I had to fly out here to help my friend deal with the unexpected and sudden passing of her Mother and I got in touch with Bobby today and will be meeting with him sometime next week. I cant wait to share more information with you then. But for now, I need to get some sleep, I have an After the Cut Support Group Meeting to attend in the morning and need to get a little bit of beauty sleep.


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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

This is #MyBariLife

BariLife has decided to send me back to Paris to represent the WLS Community as I attempt to find my love of running again.
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