Today is the day! Are you ready for the big news? We have an official winner of the Second “How Do you Celebrate Success” Contest.

Before I tell you who she is, let me share her story with you…

I found out I was different in kindergarten when a boy asked if I was pregnant. That was the first time I was made aware of my weight at school, but not the last. In 7th grade I was excited to wear my new yellow ESPRIT sweater to school, where I was devastated to be called “a yellow balloon.” In 10th grade I skipped school when we had to run the mile in gym, because I didn’t want my peers watching while it took me another 10 minutes to finish what they had long since completed.

HDYCS2aMy hatred of running began in 8th grade gym. As “the fat kid,” laps were torture. I’d make it one lap before walking. One day the teacher announced, “if Amy runs all of her laps without walking, nobody has to run any more.” So there I was, in a gym of classmates who had finished, screaming at me to RUN. Not screaming supportively, but threatening. Dizzy and fighting to hold in my breakfast, I finished. For a moment, I felt victorious. I’d been hugely embarrassed, but I had saved us from ever running laps again! Then the teacher said, “I expect you to run them all tomorrow, now that we know you can.” Someone reminded him of the deal: my success meant no more laps! With a sneer, he said, “I meant no more laps today. You’ll run again tomorrow.” Everyone else groaned then moved on. I went to the restroom where I vomited and cried, humiliated. I carry the pain with me still, over two decades later.

So to me, running was a punishment. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could run for fun. For me, “success” wasn’t exertion, it was avoiding exertion! My celebrations were never healthy. They were cheesecake or a pizza. I’d been taught at a young age that success meant treats! Plays, musicals and concerts ended at Friendly’s with a sundae. My favorite part of elementary school was reading books to earn free pizzas. Success = a full belly!

In April 2012, I applied to The Biggest Loser. I stared at my application photos in disbelief. At 5’4” and 243 pounds, I was morbidly obese. I was terrified I’d be chosen. What would happen when Jillian screamed at me to RUN and I couldn’t? As I stared at my cheeks that swallowed my eyes, I realized I shouldn’t need to go on TV with my fat rolls hanging out to get healthy. I cancelled my audition and made a plan. On April 22nd, I began my weight-loss journey, on my own.

First, I celebrated success with marbles. I decided my goal was to lose 100 lbs, so I bought two vases, and filled one with 100 marbles. After weigh-ins, I’d move a marble for each lost pound to the other vase. Moving marbles felt better than sundaes! Seeing the empty vase begin to fill up was incredible!

Then I celebrated success with tools to help myself. Lose three, buy a yoga mat. Lose ten, a pair of jeans. I was able to wear my first pair of skinny jeans! I celebrated that by sending my BFF a picture doing the dance of joy at Target.

After doing the “walk of shame” from a roller coaster in 2010, another goal was to fit onto coasters. When I hit a comfortable weight, I celebrated success with a trip to Cedar Point. With shaking hands, I sat down and brought the seat belt together… click. It fit!!!! We had a blast, and for each 10 pounds lost, we went back to Cedar Point, a total of three times!

HDYCS2bAfter losing 55 lbs, I wondered if I should try running. I downloaded Couch to 5k and joined a gym. I told myself it couldn’t be THAT hard, day one was only running 60 seconds at a time! Well, it WAS hard, but I survived. Soon I completed week three. I celebrated that success by registering for a race I’d read about, The Hot Chocolate 5k. I was nervous but excited! I had two months to train.

As I got stronger and leaner, I decided to try a 5k just to see how I did. It ended up being 85 degrees that October day, and I had to walk some, but I finished under 45 minutes, the minimum pace I’d need for the Hot Chocolate. I celebrated THAT success by signing up for a third 5k!

By the end of 2013, I’d lost 85 pounds and did nine 5k’s. I was no longer morbidly obese, but I WAS a runner. A slow runner, but getting better all the time! I celebrated my success by making a video with photos from my 5k’s for Facebook. Prior to that, I hadn’t publicized my diet or weight loss, afraid of public failure. But for the first time in my life, I felt like I was truly a success.

Right now, a half marathon seems nearly as unimaginable as a 5k once did. It was on a trip to Disney when I first became aware of RunDisney. That was before I began C25K, so it was more of a curiosity than a goal. But as I ran races this year, it turned into a dream. If there’s one spot in the universe for a dream to come true, it’s Disney. I want to show everyone that they too CAN do this, no matter how impossible it seems. I want to prove to that 8th grade version of myself that I’m taking care of her now, and that I’ll never let her be humiliated by her weight again. From now on, the only way for me to celebrate success is by setting another goal, reaching it, then reaching farther. The Disney Wine and Dine weekend falls on my 37th birthday, November 7th. What better way to celebrate my re-birth as a healthier, happier, stronger woman than to cross the finish line of my first half-marathon? That is how I’ll celebrate success!

CONGRATULATIONS to our Second How do YOU Celebrate Contest Winner :

Amy Jo Smith

She will be celebrating her 37th birthday with me at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida!


Amy was selected as the topic pick of all of the entries by an outstanding 4 out of 5 judges and we’re very happy to celebrate her weight loss success by giving her this opportunity!

After her entry was submitted and Amy received the email confirming her entry Amy wrote me a short email. What she said, while i had no baring on her entry whatsoever, is the sort of thing that inspires me to do not only do things like the How do YOU Celebrate Contests, but to help others on their weight loss journey whether through motivational speaking, wellness coaching or weight loss coaching.

Again, thank you for this contest. Even if I don’t win, it has really inspired me this week to read the posts on your page, watch your video, look at your pictures, learn more about your victories and what drives you. It has helped me motivate myself to get to the gym when I wanted to lay on the couch. To push harder to run another minute or another two minutes. On Monday I ran 5 minutes on the treadmill before I walked. After entering the contest on Tuesday, I went and ran for 12 minutes. I felt so inspired, so much more strong and capable.

You are a truly special human being, and I hope to one day run by your side.

Have a great weekend!


Thank you Amy. For such a sweet note, and congratulations on being the winner of the Second “How do YOU Celebrate Success” Contest.

I cant wait to run with you, beside you, celebrate your weight loss, your 37th birthday and your first half marathon with you! You can now consider me your official motivator, coach, cheerleader and of course, friend.

And of course, a special thank to our sponsors. None of this would be possible without you. Ameriwell Bariatrics, Wellesse, Celebrate Vitamins, Kay’s Naturals and BariMelts thank you all for making dreams come true…

Amy Jo Smith I have a question for you. You just won the “How do YOU Celebrate Success Contest” What are you going to do now?


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.

Check out the Second “How do YOU Celebrate Success” Contest

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