Before my back surgery in June 2016 for a herniated disc, I weighed in at 200 pounds. On my 5’4” frame, the extra weight was destroying my health. The year before, I had sustained not one, but two herniated discs in my lower back.

Although I did physical therapy, I had no relief from the agonizing pain and had to take painkillers to make it through the day. On top of that, one of the herniated discs was crushing a nerve and I had to have an operation. After the surgery my doctor told me, “I’ll be seeing you this time next year to remove the second herniated disc if you don’t lose weight.” I was terrified.

After 9 weeks of recovery and 12 weeks of physical therapy, I decided I had to make a change. I started out by cleaning up my diet, counting calories, and most of all, swimming. I immediately fell in love with the water. When I was swimming, my problems simply floated away with each stroke.

I saw results quickly, but was hesitant to do anything else. I added resistance to my swims with paddles and flippers, but it wasn’t enough. I was afraid that I would further injure my back or get another herniated disc  if I tried anything with too much impact. I knew that if I didn’t have guidance I would never venture to other parts of the gym.

I started personal training sessions. My personal trainer has been absolutely invaluable to my health and fitness journey. Not only did he show me the ropes around the entire gym, he personalized all my workouts to help me strengthen all the muscles that will help prevent further injury to my back.

With his help I’ve gained the confidence to explore the gym and utilize all features of it! It no longer frightens me. It has become a playground to traverse and challenge myself.

Related: try out a personal training session at FFC, on us! Click here.

With my new confidence I started to take up hobbies I never thought I would. I now rollerblade, kayak, and do standup paddle boarding. The other week I rollerbladed 14 miles just because I could!

I also started to see the onsite registered dietitian to “up my game.” Though I’ve lost 60 pounds in the last year, I no longer fret over the number on the scale as much. With my dietitian’s help, I now focus on my body fat percentage and measurements instead.

The weight loss hasn’t been the biggest reward, though. I now have a completely new perspective on life. The world is an unpredictable place that can throw anyone a curve ball at any time. Despite this, I have complete control over my diet, exercise and the choices I make.

Related: how FFC helped me make a doctor-recommended lifestyle change.

No matter what happens I have the final say about what I eat and how I exercise. I take fierce pride in my accomplishments. Weight loss has been a wonderful result of my journey but the best award has been that the cultivated discipline and skill power have changed all aspects of my life for the better.

FFC is not just a place I go to work out. It’s a sanctuary where I get to practice all the new things I’ve learned. The people at FFC are like family. If I don’t come in, I am missed. Staff ask me with genuine concern if I’m ok. It’s a great feeling to not only see familiar faces every day, but to be one too.

Post written by FFC Lincoln Park member Kristy D.

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