Heidi Johnson has been dealing with weight issues since she was six years old.
“I was always the big kid in elementary school and the undesirable one in junior high and high school,” Heidi recalls.
After graduating from high school, Heidi competed on her college swim team, training—in the pool and on dry land—six days a week. Still, Heidi continued to gain weight.
“No one would have guessed, simply by looking at me, that I was a competitive athlete,” Heidi says.
Shortly after college, Heidi landed a job as a junior high school teacher.
“Once I began teaching, I started struggling with depression and anxiety,” Heidi says. “I attribute this to genetics as well as life situations. I moved into my own apartment and began to indulge [in unhealthy foods and eating habits]. I canceled plans and didn’t answer my phone, ignoring all of the people who cared about me because I truly believed I didn’t matter. I believed that my family would be better off if I pulled away.”
Despite countless diet plans, Heidi’s weight continued to soar, peaking at 381 pounds, and resulting in multiple health problems.
“I couldn’t sleep lying down because there was so much weight that I felt as though it was crushing my lungs,” she says. “I had to prop myself up to an almost sitting position every night. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I could barely take a shower. I couldn’t stand for more than a minute without being in pain. I dreaded fire drills and tornado drills at school because I couldn’t walk very far without pain shooting up my back and feeling like I was going to have a heart attack.”
The Turning Point
In July of 2015, Heidi underwent a new type of surgery called a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, during which a surgeon removed 85% of her stomach. Five months later, and 50 pounds lighter, Heidi walked a “Turkey Day 5K” in 56 minutes. Shortly before Christmas, she joined Anytime Fitness in Plymouth, MN and began working out regularly with personal trainer Clarinda Haglin (pictured above with Heidi on St. Patrick’s Day 2016).
“I knew that, since it had been years since I had done any sort of training, I needed support,” Heidi says. “I needed something challenging, yet something I could accomplish and feel good about.”
For a little over a year now, Heidi has worked out six times a month with Clarinda and exercised on her own, or with others in group training sessions, several times a week. She’s lost more than 150 pounds and hopes to eventually lose another 90 pounds.
“The staff members at Anytime Fitness are amazing,” Heidi says. “Every time I walk into the gym, I am greeted by anyone who sees me and they are always so positive. The owners get to know the members and Clarinda is one of my favorite people in the world. I never feel uncomfortable about how I look working out when she is with me. Clarinda also cares about me as a person; she always listens if I need to vent, cry or share a happy moment.”
Hope for the Future
To anyone else seeking to improve their health and fitness, Heidi offers this advice: “Never give up on yourself. So often, we place a higher priority on other things, like work or family, ahead of taking care of ourselves. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned through this journey is that, by taking care of myself, I am a better teacher, daughter, and friend. There is still work to do, but it’s a positive journey I look forward to continuing.”
Please join us as we continue to follow Heidi on her fitness journey this year via the Anytime Fitness blog. In future posts Heidi will share her new healthy eating secrets, talk about what it’s like to exercise with a personal trainer or others in group sessions, attempt to accomplish her first pull-up, and much more.