Stephanie’s Stronger U Story

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Meet Stephanie! She’s a 41-year-old Knoxville, TN native, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, and mom to 3 and 4 year old boys. With Coach Dean’s help, Stephanie lost 60 pounds, 10.5 inches off her waist, and feels control over food for the first time in her adult life. Read her inspiring story below! 


What did your life look like before Stronger U?

Before Stronger U I had struggled with my weight since high school. In that 24 years I had tried every possible diet/and or pill out there- Weight Watchers, Atkins, Zone, Paleo, Whole 30, Keto, extremely low calorie, The Cabbage Soup Diet (seriously??), Fen/Phen, then when it was banned, just Phentermine…. the list is endless. 


They were always temporarily successful but as soon as I returned to “normal” eating, the weight would return. I had gained and lost the same 30-40 lbs for more than TWO DECADES. Then, I got pregnant.  I gained 40 lbs with my first child, which I didn’t completely lose before I was pregnant again with my second. 


So 2 kids, 3 jobs, and 4 houses later (all in 3 years), I was at my heaviest weight ever. I was exhausted from raising babies, moving, and working full time and I hadn’t even thought about my own needs in years. I didn’t exercise at all, I ate whatever was easily accessible and I used sugar and alcohol as my main coping mechanisms. I had completely lost myself and I was miserable. 


What does your life look like now? 

I can’t even begin to answer this without crying tears of happiness. For the first time in my adult life, I feel like I’m in control! I have the tools and knowledge I need to take care of myself and the energy and stamina to take care of my family. I eat the foods I enjoy (now in the proper portions), I’m more active with my kids and I have even found some exercise I actually enjoy! 


I no longer dread shopping for clothes or fear the stares of others while eating out. I no longer feel guilt or shame associated with the food I eat. I am no longer lost. I look forward to trying new things and I never hesitate to oblige my kids’ requests to climb, carry, chase, ride, or play. My life now looks like I always imagined it should look. Full of health, happiness, excitement, and vigor! 


Where did you hear about Stronger U? 

I first heard about Stronger U from Leeann Shelton, a friend from work. It took me 3 years and seeing several more friends/colleagues have success before I finally took the leap!


Why do you think Stronger U worked so well for you compared to other programs or diets?

I think I was more successful with Stronger U because this program is more of an education than a diet.  Stronger U taught me what balanced nutrition actually looks like, how to *accurately* assess my eating habits, how to make small changes to those habits so that the journey was easier, and how to use averages of daily weights and macro consumption to help focus on consistency rather than perfection.  


Having a tangible system of actual numbers and goals that I could measure and track eliminated the guesswork I’d experienced in fad diets. What is “less” fat or carbs??  What does eat “healthier” really mean??  I was given guardrails that helped me reform my relationship with food in a way that was healthy, sustainable, and actually enjoyable. 


Losing weight has always felt like a dreaded burden to which I would assign a definitive deadline, “when I lose 30 pounds I can go back to eating the things I like”.  But now, I enjoy how I eat AND it achieves my goals so I have no reason to stop. I can indulge occasionally and then get back on track in order to maintain my weight and THAT feels like a healthy lifestyle.


What was something you regularly ate while on Stronger U that people wouldn’t expect you to eat on a diet?

Basically everything! Hahaha! Bagels and cream cheese, fajitas, chicken burrito bowls, cheeseburgers, pizza, pasta, chocolate, and a Yasso ice cream bar almost every night! The best part of Stronger U is having the ability to choose how to spend your macros. Sometimes I wanted a larger meal so I’d chose more veggies and less rice. Sometimes I wanted ALL the pasta and no veggies. Stronger U makes either possible. 


Did Stronger U have any impact on your activity levels?

I think being a part of the Stronger U community helped motivate me to get more active. I had to get some of the weight off before I had the energy or interest in exercising, but once I did, seeing all of the members posting about what fun/active things they were doing made me realize I was really missing out on some cool stuff. 


I bought a Peloton and began working on my stamina then remembered that I used to really love strength training so I started doing those workouts on the Peloton app. I’m still learning how to make exercise a consistent part of my busy life, but I know the same lessons I learned here regarding my diet also translate into building this habit! 


How much weight did you lose with Stronger U? 

So far, I’ve lost 60 pounds!


How many inches did you lose off your waist?

10.5 inches! 


Did you have any favorite non-scale victories to share?

I have 2! My favorite was finally fitting into a pair of cut-off jean shorts that I hadn’t worn since high school!! (Yes, I’d carried them around for over 20 years hoping I’d one day fit into them again! haha).


The other NSV was realizing that I was no longer heavy enough to keep the seat safety sensor from tripping on our riding mower! I have to add a 10# weight to the seat so the mower will run! 


Has Stronger U improved your overall quality of life? 

Absolutely!! In more ways than I can describe! Of course, the weight loss means that I feel and look better physically and I have more energy to enjoy life, but the real improvement in my quality of life has been the shift in my mental health. I don’t think I was really even aware of what a toll my struggle with food was taking on me. It was consuming. It affected my home life, my social life, my confidence and self-esteem, the way I thought about the future and the way I parented my kids. 


It felt like a depressing, never-ending cycle of stress, frustration, anger, embarrassment, shame, and then more eating. Being able to break that cycle and offer myself some grace while I learned to do better has changed my life! I’m happier now, even still 20 pounds over weight, than I ever have been! 


If someone is thinking about joining Stronger U, what advice would you give them before beginning their journey?

Don’t overthink it. Just jump in and give yourself the opportunity to learn how to make your health and your life so much better! My only regret with Stronger U is that it took me 3 years to finally pull the trigger! Life is so short and you don’t get this time back!


Would you like to give a shoutout to your coach, SU staff member, or community member?

A huge thanks to Mike for taking his own leap of faith in creating this program and to my coach, Dean Guedo, for putting things in perspective so I could let go of my perfectionism and see the bigger picture!!


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