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If Sherry Can Do It - You Can, Too

Sherry, November 2011"I'm too young to feel like this," 46-year-old Sherry Henseler decided in November 2011, when she took her first steps toward leading a healthy lifestyle.

 

At the time, she was so fatigued that she would fall asleep in the car during the morning commute to work with her husband and needed to take a nap after work before she could make dinner.

 

Sherry and her husband were about to become "empty-nesters" after raising three kids, and she decided that she wanted to be physically able to get out and enjoy life. Today, she's almost 100 pounds lighter and filled with new found energy that fuels an active lifestyle – including completing a half marathon in May 2013.

 

Though she had tried, several times before to exercise and lose weight, Sherry found that her motivation faded after just a couple of months.

 

This time, her approach and – most importantly – her attitude was different. These are some of the strategies Sherry used:

  • Tackle one thing at a time.
    "I'm an all-or-nothing kind of girl", says Sherry who initially thought she would launch an exercise plan by walking 30 minutes a day - every day. A conversation with her primary care physician convinced her that it would be healthier for her physically and mentally if she started out walking just five minutes a day every other day. "When I just focused on that first goal and worked up to doing 30 minutes a day, exercise became my habit. Only then could I start focusing on my eating."

  • Build a system of support.
    "I used a lot of people to help keep me motivated. I gave my husband permission to drag me to the gym even when I didn't want to." Sherry recommends finding an "accountability buddy," and when her husband's work schedule became such that he couldn't go to the gym with her, she stepped out of her comfort zone to join a running club where she's made other friends who have similar goals and help her stay accountable.

  • Re-adjust and set new goals as needed.
    Sherry's learned to recognize that what might have worked for her at one time, might not be working any more. For example, she decided to switch to a health club that offered more personal attention and accountability. Though her new club is more expensive, she identified that it was a place where she felt more supported and would be better able to continue her healthy lifestyle. She also keeps herself looking forward by continuing to set mini goals along the way - training for the next  5K event or a "mud run" keeps things fun and fresh. 

    Sherry and UW Health psychologist Dr. Shilagh Mirgain, 2013
  • Listen to your body.
    As far as eating, Sherry's No. 1 principle when it comes to food is to eat when hungry. Though she doesn't keep a detailed food log, she does take time at the end of the month to look back and asses her eating patterns – what worked and what she needs to adjust. Sherry's chosen a primarily plant-based diet, because that's what feels right for her.

  • Change your inner dialogue.
    While being focused on her health, Sherry found that being kinder to herself has made it much easier to make healthy choices. "It's an internal struggle every day with food. Before when I ate something bad, I would criticize and punish myself which led to feeling worse and eating even more! But when I started talking to myself differently, things changed. Talking to others and hearing them share the same struggles, I realized that I don't have to be a perfectionist." Sherry's approach today is to look at each meal as an opportunity. She does her best to make choices that support her health, but she also knows that one slip up isn't the end of the world (and isn't a reason to just fall off the wagon), and that she'll get a "do-over" at the next meal.

  • Give it a try – you might just find out you like how it feels.
    Sherry says that she doesn't always feel like exercising, but once she gets going, she just feels better. In terms of healthy eating, a recent "junk food hangover" was a real eye opener for her and her husband, who found it astonishing to think about how they used to eat.

 

Though hearing her husband say "I don't want you to die" was a real turning point for her, Sherry says, "I had to make the change myself." Though she hasn't hit her desired goal weight quite yet, it's knowing that she's making progress that's keeping her going. Sherry has come a long way, and you can too!