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Dani Weaver didn’t weigh herself for two years. She knew she was overweight, but she didn’t want to know the number on the scale.
“I had always assumed I was around 275 pounds,” said the five-foot-seven Dani.
In September of 2017, she decided to find out for sure. She stood on the scale and watched it spit out a number: 307.
“It was a slap in the face. I didn’t think I could ever weigh that much,” she said.
Seeing the number “307” became the impetus for big change in Dani’s life, change that would result in shedding 110 pounds and building an entirely new outlook on life.
Choosing the Whole Life Challenge
Before Dani signed up for the Whole Life Challenge in September 2017, she had all but given up on herself and the prospect of ever living with a healthy body weight.
“I had always been heavy and thought I’d always be heavy, and I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it. I had resigned myself to the idea that that’s who I was, and that was my identity,” said the 34-year-old Dani, who works at a financial planning firm in Indianapolis.
Her weight problems started when she was just a child, she explained. “My parents split up when I was a kid and when we were at our dad’s house, we’d fend for ourselves, and my mom’s a picky eater and didn’t make us eat vegetables, so it was a lot of meat and potatoes and high-fat, high-carb foods.”
But Dani’s friend from college, Liz Howerth, knew something Dani didn’t — she knew about the Whole Life Challenge. Liz had been telling Dani to sign up for the Challenge since nine months earlier, when they had gone to dinner with some old college friends.
Dani didn’t respond well to her friend’s suggestion. “I was like, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ I remember thinking it was crazy how she had to order off the menu. I was like, ‘How in the world do you live like that?’”
But Liz persisted.
Dani said, “She kept telling me it would be good for me and all that. In all honesty, it was a really hard thing for her to do, too, because she didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but she knew it would be good for me.”
Liz explained why she was so persistent with her friend: “I’ve known Dani for fifteen years, and I know when she puts her mind to something, she can do it. She is always helping other people, so I wanted to give her a tool to help herself.” Liz added, “I knew the Whole Life Challenge was something that could help (Dani) change how she approached more than just food or her weight.”
So, after much persisting on Liz’s part and after “307” appeared on the scale, Dani embraced the September 2017 Whole Life Challenge.
Choosing to Change
The first big change Dani made on the Challenge was to give up dairy, sugar, and bread. She admitted this was incredibly difficult, as these were foods she was accustom to eating every single day. What kept her motivated was thinking she only had to eat this way for the duration of the Challenge. She knew she could do anything for just a handful of weeks, she explained.
With this short-term mindset in place, instead of eating homemade biscuits with bacon, eggs, and cheese or a bagel from Panera Bread for breakfast, Dani ate plain oatmeal or eggs and vegetables. Meanwhile, her bread and cheese-filled lunches and dinners, which had never had a vegetable in sight, were replaced with simple meals including a protein and usually green vegetables. “And sometimes maybe a sweet potato or quinoa,” Dani added.
Results came quickly. At the end of that first Whole Life Challenge, Dani was down 37 pounds.
More importantly, she had a new realization — the Challenge was never meant to be just a few weeks out of her life. It was meant to kick-start a new way of life.
“Then it became about wanting to prove to myself that I could stick with it,” Dani said.
Nearly a year-and-a-half later, Dani has done more than just stick with it. She participated in two more Challenges in 2018 and has continued to eat healthy and exercise even between Challenges.
The result: Dani has lost 110 pounds since September 2017.
Choosing a New Mindset
The moment Dani saw the number 307 on the scale was the moment she was able to change her mindset and prioritize her health. “People ask me about it all the time how I have been able to stick with it, and honestly, I guess it was just like a switch flipped in my brain. I can’t really describe it, but all of a sudden it was like, ‘I can do this. I have to do this,’” she said.
All of a sudden, she decided to believe in herself.
Dani credits the Challenge with helping her keep this commitment. Namely, the Challenge helped her adopt a new mindset when it comes to the way she views food, exercise, and her weight.
“I like that the Whole Life Challenge is a bit of a game. I’m competitive and wanted to do well and wanted to have a perfect score,” said Dani, who succeeded in achieving a perfect score during her first Challenge.
To get this perfect score, she had to change the way she thought about exercise. “When I was a kid, I played sports and the coaches always punished us with running. Running was punishment, so in my mind I always associated running as being punishment,” Dani said. The Challenge helped her shed this old view, which made hopping on the $100 treadmill she bought off Facebook and hitting bodyweight workouts at home that much more bearable.
Another mindset shift came during one of the Challenge’s Well-Being Practices. The practice involved writing a note or calling someone in your life who impacted you in a good way. Dani said doing this helped take her mind off herself and her weight.
“Making all the changes…made me focus on myself a lot, so it was good to take the focus off me and look at others,” she said. This practice helped her gain a new appreciation for the people in her life and “how their support has helped me get to where I am now,” she added.
Benefits That Go Beyond the Weight Loss
Though Dani is still 25 pounds shy of her ultimate weight-loss goal, she is incredibly proud of how far she has come and where her life is now.
Part of this includes living with less pain. Dani had gotten used to having constant knee pain from an old injury she suffered in high school. Today, that knee pain is a thing of the past. Day to day life is easier now, too.
“Going up and down the steps at work, for example. I know it’s a silly thing, but I used to be out of breath at the top and I’m not anymore. And travel. That’s one of the biggest things I have noticed, is how I fit into a seat in the airplane,” she said. “There was this one time I had to get a seatbelt extension and it was really embarrassing and I felt ashamed, and now there’s plenty of room and I don’t spill into another seat.”
Beyond the physical changes, of course, are the emotional ones that have resulted, including becoming more confident, she explained. “I just feel healthier. I’m more motivated to do things. …I went from a place where I was worried about my health and my weight all the time, and now I’m just excited and proud of myself,” she said.
She’s not the only one who is proud. So is her friend Liz.
“I’ve been blown away at how (Dani) methodically shifted so many things in her life. …I am incredibly proud of her for putting in the hard work of facing insecurities and releasing old habits to reclaim health in her life. I knew she was capable of this, and she has inspired me to stay steady with the goals in my life,” Liz said.
Choosing to Pay It Forward
The people Dani Weaver has inspired go beyond just Liz. Today, Dani is the captain of her own Whole Life Challenge team and has recruited friends and family members to join.
“People will ask me questions all the time and tell me I inspired them to try to make a change, so that part of it is exciting and encouraging. It’s hard work, but it’s possible,” Dani said of what she tells them. “I’m not anything special. … It’s just hard work and determination. I was someone who thought I couldn’t do it at one point, but now I believe I can make life changes.”
Dani added: “I feel empowered. If I can do this, I can do anything.”