Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Cyndi Ward is 53 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall, and currently weighs 169 pounds. In 2017, after her multiple sclerosis symptoms became debilitating, she turned to fitness in order to live a better life. This is her weight-loss story.
The turning point
I grew up as a big girl, which helped give me a thick skin. By age 15, I was already nearing 200 pounds. Despite being bigger, I always loved sports and working out. I would not let my size define me or get in my way. I was truly a happy kid who loved and accepted who I was. It really wasn’t until my 30s that I realized my weight was becoming a real issue.
I’ve lost and gained weight many times in my life, but it was my multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis and progression that motivated me to fight and make a change. Life as I knew it changed when I was 23 years old. One morning, I had an epileptic episode. After an MRI and several tests, I learned I had the MS gene. The doctors told me that MS wouldn’t start to affect me until my late 30s and at 35, the symptoms set in, and the pain became unbearable. After my third MS relapse, my body was shutting down. I was forced to use a walker 100 percent of the time, needed medical lifts, chairs, and rails, and could barely take care of myself unassisted. After more tests, I learned the MS moved to my spine, and the doctors told me it was time to prepare for life in a wheelchair, permanently. This was earth-shattering news as I had always placed extreme value on my independence and mobility. I grew more and more depressed, endlessly cried, and started to prepare and accept that life as I knew it was over. But then came my epiphany. I thought, “This isn’t the Cyndi I want to be. Since when do I let a doctor tell me what will happen to me?” So, I called my MS doctor and demanded physiotherapy. I improved and got functional, and progressed enough to the point where I grabbed my walker and walked through the doors of Anytime Fitness. I had no idea my life was about to change forever.
I was determined to exercise, even if it meant doing it with a walker. My first step was committing to a gym and committing to regular exercise. I remember how accommodating the Anytime Fitness staff was when I arrived. I had called ahead and warned the gym manager that I had some limitations. She walked me through the gym and made sure I was able to access all the equipment I needed.
After only three weeks of working out, I made it onto the board as one of the most active female members that month. Accountability was key. I was hitting the gym daily and setting small goals for myself. Then, I decided to take the next step and invest in a personal trainer. Nate was smart, caring, and supportive, but tough. I started working out one day a week with him and four days a week on my own.
Lack of energy, fatigue, and pain made the journey a challenge, but I began to also focus on my eating habits to help support my overall health and wellness. I no longer say I’m on a diet; instead, I say I eat healthy now. I eat six small meals a day and was introduced to the dietary supplement SuperMix. This helped the fatigue fade, and I started to get some energy back. After I dropped my first 60 pounds, I went from 42 pills a day down to about four. This is when my trainer suggested leaving my walker at home, so I did, and the progress took off!
Having the support system from my fellow gym members and the encouragement and motivation from my trainer inspired me to believe in myself and keep fighting. My trainer, Nate, really helped me change my mental state. I began eliminating words like “can’t,” “but,” and “if” and believed in my ability to fight back.
Today, I’m a new person with a new body and a new outlook on life. I’ve lost 130 pounds and physically am stronger than ever. Emotionally it can be overwhelming, but I am so happy to have gained most of my independence back.
I went from struggling to do 2,000 steps in a day to averaging over 15,000. I am free of not only a life in a wheelchair, but also from relying on walkers and canes. My MS doctor conducted a walk test and determined my balance improved by over 60 percent. My handicapped parking sign is permanently in the glove box. I’ve gained my immune system back and can travel and see the world — just this year, I walked over 100,000 steps in Australia and 35,000 in Shanghai. I am alive and reenergized! I’ve been given a second chance at life!
Life after weight loss is awesome but can be scary at the same time. It’s something completely new, but it brings with it so much joy. I truly feel like I have a new lease on life. I find myself going out more, engaging in more physical activity, and even laughing more. I’m always challenging myself and love when I finally accomplish my goals; it is such a powerful feeling that I continuously crave.
My eating habits have drastically improved. I eat small meals six times a day and make health-conscious decisions. Also, being hydrated is incredibly important, so I carry a water bottle with me at all times to encourage the healthy habit.
My exercise routine has remained active six days a week. For my MS, I am constantly struggling to keep muscle on my body, so working out nearly every day is crucial to my success. It also helps my mental state — that sense of accomplishment brings me happiness when I leave the gym at the end of a good workout.
There are many things that inspire me, including my grandbabies. One of the most rewarding moments of this transformation was when I went to visit my grandbabies and left my walker behind. My little grandson looked up at me and said, “Nana, where’s Gertie?” (the name of my walker). I told him Gertie was in the car because I didn’t need her anymore. He looked at me and said, “Since she’s in the car, want to come upstairs and see my room?” My eyes welled up and I started to cry. I had never been able to do this before, and now I was healthy enough that I could be there for my grandbabies, and they were noticing. They inspire me every day. Now I get to play with them, not watch them play.
I am very hard on myself, and I can get down on myself when I can’t accomplish a task. I’ve learned to talk myself through the challenges, remind myself how far I have come and what else I want to accomplish. For example, next up I want to participate in more 5K walks/runs and I want to become an advocate for MS. This helps me truly believe in myself and when I look in the mirror, I say, “Cyndi, you are strong and you are beautiful.”
Don’t give up. Keep trying. Change your mentality. Find someone to support you on this journey. My gym community inspires me, encourages me, and motivates me to keep fighting!
Need more inspiration? Read about our other weight-loss winners!
Have a weight-loss win to share? We want to hear it! Tell us at YStyleBeauty@yahoo.com.
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