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Contest Winner Shocked by Reactions to her Weight Loss Story

Guest Blog by Amy Smith
Photo Courtesy of Solid Rock Photos

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So it’s Sunday evening, and I’m thinking back to last Sunday when my life was still normal. As I watched Ellen take selfies on the Oscars, I had no idea everything was about to change. At 11:38 am on Monday, my phone rang, and Pandora flipped my life upside down in the best possible way.

Hi! I’m Amy Smith, winner of the second “How do YOU Celebrate Success” contest. Thanks to Desperately Seeking Slender and some incredible sponsors, I’ve won the opportunity to train with Pandora for the next nine months for the RunDisney Wine and Dine half-marathon in November. When Pandora called with the news, I laughed and cried at the same time. I never in a million years thought I would win this contest. As she was telling me what I’d won, everything in my mind at that moment was trivial, in retrospect — Who would I tell first, what would my training schedule be like, what kind of tutu is appropriate for this race? But within 30 minutes, life got SUPER crazy.

Pandora announced me as the winner and tagged me in a link on Facebook. There I was, my before and after picture for all to see, with a link to my winning essay. When I wrote that essay, I opened up my heart and dumped it onto paper for a stranger. I had no problem telling someone I thought I would never meet about all of the scars on my heart. But what didn’t occur to me was that I might just win this thing, and everyone I know would read my story and see my pictures. When I read my own essay for the first time after winning, now knowing it was being read by friends, family, co-workers, ex-boyfriends, and the cook at the pizza shop…I burst into tears. There was my highest weight. There was the story of the most broken my heart has ever been. There was a picture of me at my heaviest. It was a huge shock to me. And then the emails, texts, voicemails and Facebook comments began to roll in.

 

“I get winded easily just playing with my kids, and you have inspired me to finally make the change I have wanted to make for a very long time.”

 

“I am going to start my running journey again, you’ve inspired me to get back out there!”

 

“I just threw away my sandwich and picked up a banana because of you. Thank you.”

 

“My daughter and I are starting couch to 5k next week, and we are very excited.”

 

“Your story spoke to me because I was that girl in school too. I was the nice girl, but just too fat to be anyone’s girlfriend or date. Your story gives me strength and makes me reflect on my decision day to end the hurt that I inflicted on myself and that others inflicted on me.”

 

“I saw the article about your weight loss on FB, and what an inspiration!!! I am planning my own journey back to health, and would love to hear any tips you might have. I want to lose 75 pounds or so!”

 

“I just wanted to let you know that your entry essay left me in tears, and felt extremely familiar! I’ve been in what feels like a battle for years with my health and weight, and reading your entry reminded me that it can be done! You’re such an inspiration to many.”

 

mickey_giftMessages like this were flooding in, HUNDREDS of them, and my story was getting shared over and over again, all over Facebook. And each “share” racked up even more “thanks for being an inspiration” comments. So my sadness and shock at realizing my story had gone viral on a local level were replaced by this determination to help everyone reach his or her goals. I was up past 2am Monday night trying to reply to every message or question. Shock turned into panic that I wouldn’t be able to reach out to enough people, offer them enough advice, or properly follow through on encouraging them. I had friends joining TOPS, the weight loss support group I belong to. Others went out and bought vases and marbles to start visually celebrating the pounds they are about to lose. My friend Bob got his running shoes out after years and started Couch to 5k.

By Tuesday, I was exhausted from the weight of wanting to help everyone do what I’ve done. I’d cried all day Monday from happiness, shock, fear, a bit of shame, and every other emotion imaginable. I wasn’t even thinking about my own journey ahead with Pandora, I was just trying to get everyone else started. Then I began to receive cards, gifts, and invitations to go celebrate. I kid you not, as I made some deliveries for work on Tuesday, people I’ve never even met recognized me on the street and wanted to ask questions or congratulate me. I truly felt like I’d become a local celebrity overnight. An old friend I hadn’t heard from in 7 years got in touch, relatives from out-of-state called. I did a photo shoot at Solid Rock Photos to replace my “bathroom mirror selfie” from my original essay.

By Thursday I’d really started to worry. “What if I can’t do this? What if I let everyone down?” My friend Sherry put her hand on my shoulder and said, “You’re doing this first and foremost for yourself. Don’t worry about letting anyone down. You just go out there and do your very best, and that in itself will inspire everyone else. Just work on you, the rest will follow.” That took some pressure off, and I started to refocus.

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So now it’s Sunday, almost a week of being on Team Slender Seekers under my belt, and I am getting adjusted to life as an inspiration. I am truly overwhelmed by people putting their feet to pavement to help encourage me. My friend Stacie registered for Wine and Dine, and she’s going to train along with Pandora and me, and run by my side at Disney. I have a whole group of friends ready to start C25k or C210k, and we will all run a race together when they’ve completed the programs. Here’s Pandora’s info about how you can train with us and even win a prize!

One thing I’d really like to put out there is that I have not had a bad life. I received so many messages saying “I didn’t know how much pain you were in.” Of course I had my share of pain, much of it weight-related. But I’ve had a great life. Middle School was brutal, I can’t deny that. I’m not sure how I made it out alive. But from high school on, I found my confidence and embraced the many blessings in my life. I’ve met presidents, visited other countries, acted in musicals and followed U2 around the world. Most of all I have been blessed by an amazing family and a group of friends that put my childhood heroes, The Babysitter’s Club, to shame. I just don’t want anyone mistakenly thinking I’ve been walking around in constant sorrow my whole life, because that’s truly not the case. I just was not reaching my full potential, because my health held me back. But no longer. I can only dream of what I can accomplish now.

I’ve come a long way, but I still have a long way to go, and I’ve been struggling a bit to really re-commit myself to my diet and running after the holidays. Winning the “How do YOU Celebrate Success” contest has given me new drive and determination, along with a way to focus and have discipline and accountability. I know Pandora wishes we could take every Slender Seeker along with us, but you CAN be there with us in spirit. I hope you will join us on this incredible journey to the Wine and Dine finish line.

Thank you to Pandora, Desperately Seeking Slender, and contest sponsors AmeriWell Bariatrics,  WellesseCelebrate VitaminsKay’s Naturals, and BariMelts for turning my dreams into a reality. One week from today, my training begins. Take time this week to make a plan, set some goals, and then let’s get this party started, together.

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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.

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

Team Slender Seekers Sponsors:

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AmeriWell Bariatrics
Like AmeriWell Bariatrics on Facebook ]

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WELLESSE
Like WELLESSE on Facebook ]

Celebratecmyk

Celebrate Vitamins
Like Celebrate Vitamins on Facebook ]

Kay's Logo

Kay’s Naturals
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BariMelts Logo

BariMelts
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#TeamSlenderSeekers would like to thank these early entry Sponsors

Please stay tuned for more Sponsorship announcements.

Please support our sponsors!

Celebrate Weight Loss with Fitness – Meet our Contest Winner

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!

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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!

Love,
Amy

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?

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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.

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

Team Slender Seekers Sponsors:

Bariatrics_Banner_Ad

AmeriWell Bariatrics
Like AmeriWell Bariatrics on Facebook ]

logo

WELLESSE
Like WELLESSE on Facebook ]

Celebratecmyk

Celebrate Vitamins
Like Celebrate Vitamins on Facebook ]

Kay's Logo

Kay’s Naturals
Like Kay’s Naturals on Facebook ]

BariMelts Logo

BariMelts
Like BariMelts on Facebook ]

#TeamSlenderSeekers would like to thank these early entry Sponsors

Please support our sponsors!

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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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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