Editor’s Note: This is the last story in a series about setting fitness and diet goals for the new year and how to be successful. This article will highlight a personal story of success by a Jonesville resident.
Since being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 30 and slowly gaining weight, Sherry Norman thought she couldn’t do what it would take to lead a healthier life. But now, after a year of hard work and determination, she is 40 pounds lighter and has lost 34 inches. And she’s not finished.
“The main thing was I wanted to feel better, because I was tired all the time,” said Norman of what pushed her to change her lifestyle. “I have rheumatoid, so I had been going to the pool because I thought in my mind that’s all I could do.”
The Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce, of which Norman was an ambassador, featured the Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital Aquatic and Wellness Center for a tour and visit about a year ago and announced it would be open to the public. “I went and toured it, and got hooked,” she said.
“Once I started going and working out, I started gradually changing how I was eating,” said Norman, who is a fan of making changes in little steps so they are more apt to remain. “And I still don’t say ‘I can’t eat that,’ I say ‘I don’t eat that.’”
One of Norman’s tips is to learn moderation when eating. “If I have a craving I’ll eat it, but smaller amounts,” she said. “I don’t buy big packs of something, because if I don’t have it in the house, then I won’t eat it.”
For the first three months, Norman worked out on the machines in the wellness center, then she scheduled a training session with Josh Vogler, exercise physiologist and manager of the center. Following the training, she used a combination of free weights and machines, and then a few months later she began attending group cardio classes.
“My advise would be to people who are intimidated by the gym, if they’ll go and do a class and be in that group setting, they’ll push themselves more than if they were by themselves,” said Norman. “It’s more fun. But everybody’s different, some people like doing the machines or weights with a friend, and I’d rather put my headphones in and workout alone.”
She said she isn’t sure she’d been as successful if she had tried going full force in exercise and diet at the same time. “I think people need to take baby steps. If you want a lifestyle change, I think they need to do it gradually and make changes as they go.
“I signed up for boot camp in September, and I absolutely loved it,” said Norman, but she said she never could have done that at the beginning.
“When I started it was all I could do to stay at a decent speed on the elliptical, and this year I brought in the new year doing the 5.5K Running of the Lights at Tanglewood that started at midnight,” she said. “I finished in 42 minutes, and I ran about 2.3 miles until I had to walk fast up a hill.”
With an original goal of losing 50 pounds, Norman said her vision has changed some. “After I got into it, the pounds shouldn’t be your goal,” she said she realized. “The way your clothes fit and the inches should be more what you look at, because bodies vary so much.”
Vogler had suggested making short-term goals and that’s what Norman has done. “I set little goals. I just went out and bought a tight workout shirt, and my goal is to fit into it by the end of this boot camp,” she said of the workout session which begins this week at the wellness center.
“I just tell everybody I love the way working out makes me feel. My cholesterol and all of that is good now, and it is a bonus how I look.”
As far as her RA, she said her doctor told her she is in complete remission with no signs of the crippling ailment.
“Don’t be afraid of it,” she said of working out and trying a new lifestyle. “Just try it and do what you can. I got overweight because I didn’t think I could do it.”
As far as her diet changes, Norman said she started keeping healthy snacks with her, like fruits and vegetables, so when she is out and about she won’t get too hungry and then overeat.
“I used to eat bread and potatoes every day, and now I might have it once a week and I have a cheat meal once a week,” she said. “If you have to go to fast food, just don’t eat the bread or bun. I don’t go to fast food restaurants anymore.
“You just have to learn to eat in moderation and prepare your food in advance.”
She gave credit to the trainers at the wellness center for helping her on her journey to a healthier life. “It is a different atmosphere at the wellness center. It is more comfortable,” said Norman.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.