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Three years ago, Peggy Jindra’s goal was to be able to walk the 200 feet to her mailbox.
“I remember thinking, ‘If I could just make it to the mailbox and back, I’d be so happy,’” said the 54-year-old Peggy, who lives in Rogers, Minnesota. “I never dreamed of moving further than the mailbox.”
At 5-foot-9 and 305 pounds, Peggy was overweight and unfit. Her weight had been increasing since 2011 when she slipped on some ice and fell, injuring her sciatic nerve and herniating a disc in her back. As a result, she lost control of the muscles in her left leg, leaving her to walk with crutches or a cane.
“I was in so much pain all the time. I didn’t have control over my leg and basically had to learn to walk again,” Peggy said.
After the fall, her entire life started to unravel. Because she wasn’t mobile, Peggy started working from home. She was put on medication for high blood pressure and slept with a CPAP machine because of her sleep apnea. All of this, as well as the weight gain, made Peggy feel more and more hopeless.
“I was very unhappy, very heavy. I was in so much pain and I just wanted to die,” she said.
Then on August 8, 2016, everything changed.
The Beginning of Change
Peggy bent over to put a Lidocaine patch on her leg when her back spasmed. “I was down on the floor. I was in so much pain, and I was so frustrated and defeated,” Peggy remembered.
That moment on the floor became life changing.
“I knew if a back spasm took me to the point that I wanted to die, then I needed to get my s— together. I decided that I’m going to take my life back. …So right then, on 8/8/16, I decided I was going to fight for my life, body, mind, and spirit.”
Peggy started by adopting a paleo-style diet. This meant eating mostly meats, vegetables, nuts, and healthy fats, and avoiding sugar, grains, pasta, rice, and processed foods. Once her eating was under control, Peggy added exercise to the equation. Her first goal was to reach the mailbox. Once she was able to walk to the mailbox and back, she started increasing her distance.
“Then I went to the corner and back, and then around the block. It was really hard to do and my leg would freeze up, but I stayed determined,” she said. Walking became part of her daily routine, as long as the streets weren’t icy. Before she knew it, Peggy could walk one kilometer, then two, then three.
Though walking became her norm, she was too scared to try anything else. Peggy hated stairs and avoided them when possible, and the thought of trying something like a Zumba class scared her half to death.
Peggy was stuck. She was entirely alone on her journey, lacking any kind of support. And her weight loss had hit a plateau.
“I was stuck at that 200-pound mark for a long time,” Peggy said. It was time for a new challenge.
Enter the Whole Life Challenge
In September 2018, Peggy signed up for the Whole Life Challenge. For two years, she had been pursuing her journey all by herself. She immediately embraced the idea of having a support network by her side, which the Challenge provided.
Peggy decided to put herself out there to the group and announce her fitness goal publicly: to sign up for and complete a 5km race.
“It was something I never dreamed that I’d be able to do,” she said. Nonetheless, Peggy signed up for a 5km race, expecting to do it alone. To her surprise, other people from the Challenge announced they would join her.
“I couldn’t believe it. Here were these people who I had never met, who didn’t even know me, saying, ‘Hey, I’ll do that with you,’” Peggy remembered.
On October 5, 2018, Peggy and four others met in person for the first time and walked the 5km.
“We had so much fun together. They really helped me fulfill this dream of mine,” she said.
Since then, Peggy has even started running. She completed another 5km race on Thanksgiving and ran half of it.
“[M]y time was fourteen-and-a-half minutes per mile, but hell, I used to take half an hour to walk a mile, so it was a personal best for me,” she said.
Another personal best Peggy hit during the Challenge was finally breaking the 200-pound milestone on the scale, which had been her goal for two years. Peggy is now down 110 pounds from her heaviest weight of 305. Not only that, but she lost six inches off her hips during the Challenge.
“But, you know, I have to mention it’s not just about the weight. I lost 100 pounds in the first year and nothing in the second year until I did the Challenge. If I was focused only on the scale I would have quit,” she said.
Instead, she made a choice back in 2016 to enjoy the journey no matter what, and to embrace eating healthier foods. Now, her palate has changed to the point that she enjoys what she eats today more than the old processed foods days.
“I love to cook and I make up recipes all the time. And I have been discovering new healthy foods that have been there all along, I just didn’t use them before. I just started eating jicama. And rutabaga. They’re so delicious,” Peggy said. “I’ll bake jicama with some Cajun seasoning and it’s almost like French fries.”
She added: “I will make salmon patties and freeze them and pull them out for breakfast and have them with spinach. Or I’ll make chorizo meatballs with a bowl of vegetables with ghee,” she said of her typical breakfast.
Peggy’s focus on health beyond the scale has paid off. Not only is her weight down, but she no longer needs blood pressure medication and her sleep apnea episodes have all but disappeared. Sleeping tethered to a CPAP machine is a thing of her past.
The Real Change Was a Mindset Shift
None of the things Peggy has been able to accomplish would have happened without a mindset shift. The Challenge helped her with this a lot, she explained. A big part of this involved finding the confidence to step outside her comfort zone.
“During the Whole Life Challenge, I started challenging myself to do different workouts. I added stairs to my routine. I’ll walk ten flights of stairs now. I am getting stronger, but I still can’t really do a good burpee,” she laughed.
Peggy added: “I even joined a Zumba class. I never would have done that before. But now, I think if there’s something I don’t like doing, like stairs, I’m going to conquer it so it becomes a non-issue.”
One particularly rewarding mindset-changing moment for her came when the Challenge suggested the Well-Being Practice of following a week of journal prompts.
“I tell you, that week was life changing for me,” she said. “It forced me to clean out a lot of garbage out of my heart that I didn’t realize I was hanging onto. I forgave people I was angry with. I let go of pain of things I can’t do and embrace the things I can. I just found a little more joy in life, and just let go of all the bitterness.”
With the bitterness gone, Peggy is looking forward to the future. And the Challenge will be a big part of it, she said. The support network the Challenge provides — the friends Peggy has made to laugh with, exercise with, and share recipes with — has convinced her she’s done doing it alone.
In fact, Peggy has signed up for every single Challenge in 2019 already and is even going to lead a team in the next Challenge.
“And I have signed up for four races, too,” she added.
Peggy’s next goal is to run a whole race. Considering she recently walked five miles with her dog without a problem, it seems she’s well on her way.