My Y Story

Will Meier

DO NOT QUIT FIGHTING THE BAD HABITS

Will Meier has participated in triathlons and ran marathons across the country for over 20 years. But at the end of 2013, he found himself weighing 288 pounds and at a point his life where he knew he needed a make a change. That new chapter began at a familiar place, the Y.

Now committed to a healthy lifestyle, Will reflects and shares his struggles that have ultimately lead to many great (but still ongoing) successes:

I want to start by saying thank you for your support.

I have been a member of the NWSYMCA since the day it opened. I was actually there at the grand opening [January 1, 2008] and even part of an informal planning committee regarding the free weight area for the new Y. Before that, I was a member for about 25 continuous years at the old Y. I was also a member as a youth.

My favorite thing about the Y is that it is a non-profit committed to the community’s wellbeing. I have coached several Y youth sports teams as my children were growing up and saw first-hand how these programs impact our youth and community in a positive way. Next, I appreciate the employees and board members at the Y. I am very appreciative of the direction they’ve taken the organization. The Y is a positive place to walk into and is now better than it has ever been. The youth programs have expanded from when my children were involved and now I get to watch my grandchildren participate. Truly blessed.

Most of the staff are quick to greet me with a ‘Hi’ or ‘Good morning’ while checking in and inquiring about my health and weight loss. That means a lot to me and I assume it means a lot to others that are struggling with their health. I feel that the staff care about my wellbeing.

I have been married for almost 30 years to my beautiful wife, Tonya Meier. We have four children and seven grandchildren. I have been a probation officer for 20 years and in shape for most of those years. On one hand I think having a history of being in shape almost  made it harder to get back in shape due to my ego; I thought that I knew what I needed to do and didn’t need anyone’s help. I also think I had a huge amount of shame for letting myself get to this point. It was very difficult walking back into the Y on January 1, 2014 after gaining so much weight and becoming so unhealthy.

will

Courtesy of Sioux City Blue Zone Project

I also thought I had a pretty good understanding of how bad things were, when in reality, I had no idea. I had several health issues: elevated liver enzymes, knee problems, regular back pain and stomach issues that caused severe pain at times. I didn’t realize at the time but can look back to see that I was always tired and very lethargic. My eating was so out of control (I really had no idea how many calories I was consuming a day and no idea where the food that I was consuming was coming from) that when I first started to exercise and diet, I lost very little weight. I was very discouraged at first.

It seemed that the weight made my job more difficult, my relationships more difficult and just made day-to-day activities harder. I didn’t realize how difficult things were until I started to lose weight. At 288 pounds, getting into some cars was hard. Just getting dressed in the morning was not a pleasant experience. I knew that God did not put me on Earth in order for me to eat myself into a miserable life, or death.

Despite eating better and exercising, I realized that I had a lot to learn. My biggest barriers were bad habits. Unwillingness to ask for help. The scale. Demanding that I lose weight quickly. Leaving out spirituality.

Since these realizations, most months I have added one positive habit and changed one negative habit.

Slowly I started consistently losing weight and getting in shape. I lose about two pounds a week. By getting to the Y every morning – no matter what – the intensity in my workouts has stepped up and I am enjoying my workouts today. I realized that it had been some time since I enjoyed working out. I recently completed the Spring Thaw 10 mile race and am back on the triathlon loop.

Currently, I’ve lost over 80 pounds since starting on January 1, 2014. I am leading the lunch time men’s locker room ‘Fat Man Contest’ and looks like I could win it this year. (Several of us have competed in this informal contest for years at the Y.) While I have never been as heavy as I was when I started the contest, I have never had the success that I have this past year.

I think it’s really important to point out that the scale has been just one measurement for me. I only weigh myself once a week. At times the scale has been discouraging and I had to focus on my overall physical health and NOT quitting.

There have been so many successes along the way. I cannot believe all the compliments and encouragement that I have received. If it was not for the support from my wife and family I know that this would not be happening. My wife has also lost weight and is also changing her life as well. We have done this together. We cook and eat differently and make getting to the Y a priority.

It is a main priority. The Y has played a huge role in changing my life. To be honest, I cannot imagine this life changing experience taking place without the Y. I have to be around healthy people living healthy lifestyles. If I’m hanging out at the Y every day, I will eventually get in better shape.

My relationships are better. I’m happier. I have definitely gained a new level of spirituality and been able to help others. Today, I enjoy the way I fit into things like seats and clothes. I enjoy getting dressed. In the beginning, it was hard even knowing what to wear to work-out in because my stomach would stick out. Makes me laugh thinking about it, but it wasn’t funny back then. To anyone starting out: get clothes that fit you. Sounds superficial but it’s real. The self-conscience feeling of first entering a facility only last a few weeks.

Today, my knees no longer hurt. My liver enzymes are normal. No more stomach pain. I could go on and on. I truly bet I could list 50 aspects of getting healthy that I am grateful for!

What advice would I give others? You’re worth it. Do whatever it takes. I had many bad habits that I was unwilling to give up. I finally became miserable enough that I came to a point where I said “I will do whatever it takes”.

But do it slow. For the most part, I gave up one bad habit and added one good habit per month. Changing habits is slow but it is what I needed to do. Some of my bad habits almost made me feel out of control. Most importantly, I started asking for help. I also read everything I can and have educated myself on exercise and dieting.

I had to understand what I was eating and I have eliminated many processed foods. After trying so many diets over the years, I strongly believe that a diet should not cost additional money and should not be complicated. Today, I try to pray for the people who provided the food that I’m eating and if it’s too complicated in figuring out who I should be praying for, then I should probably not be eating the food. Also I had to learn to be mindful of my food and slow down to enjoy it. I eat to fuel my body not because a bad habit has taught my mind to think it’s hungry. When I’m exercising and eating well, my body wants healthy food.

It is very hard to condense such a life-changing experience into words. At times when I’m exercising it is not uncommon for me to shed a few tears and think about this gift I have been given and how fortunate I am.

To the Y and Y staff, thank you so very much. You are changing lives and making a difference. You have made a huge difference in my life.

To the person just starting out I say – don’t quit, don’t give up, give yourself a break, don’t be so hard on yourself… you CAN DO THIS and IT IS WORTH IT.

Sincerely,

Will Meier