This is a letter my client Charlotte has written to tell the journey she has been on these past handful of years.  There are a lot of details she has left out to save time and I keep pushing her to write a book someday because she has had quite to journey. So without further ado here is Charlotte:

The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength (Nehemiah 8:5-12)

I had to practice joy. It doesn’t come naturally. It becomes a decision you make. Joy can be contagious. When someone smiles you want to smile. I knew my exercise had to be joyful and fun. Even when I didn’t feel like smiling, I would say “What fun are we going to have today?” Be with like-minded people who want to achieve greatness. Take pride in what you can accomplish. Never try to compare yourself to others. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.

I talk to myself (I do lots of self-talk). I say, “Alright Lord, What are we going to accomplish today”? I know I can do nothing in myself. But, I know that “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

When you are doing something worthwhile, sometimes you want to quit. But, beyond how I felt or how I struggled I knew I would see victory. Every time I wanted to quit I knew I was heading in the direction of greatness. I put my faith to action and God gave me strength to endure and also helped me grow. I have learned so many lessons along my journey of health and fitness. There are always curves and detours in a journey but I knew I would finally reach my destination. Through my struggles I continued to focus on joy and having fun on my ‘playground’.

I was active as a teenager and young adult but never considered lean. I tinkered with gymnastics and loved doing backbends and flips. That was the extent of my exercise. I became a momma at the young age of 17. Got married and was blessed with 2 more daughters and a stepdaughter. Family life was in full swing and I just stopped taking care of myself and took care of everyone else. The weight and bad eating habits crept up and took control of my life. I felt so out of control on my eating. I would lose 20, then gain 30 back. This went on for years until I reached my highest weight of 269 lb.

I was pre-diabetic and didn’t know the first thing about eating correct. My meals consisted of cereal for breakfast. Hamburgers and fries along with any other fast food I could get on the go for lunch. I did try to eat a sensible dinner with the family if you call hotdogs, chips, macaroni and cheese sensible. I didn’t know how to eat a healthy meal. The word macronutrient was just a foreign word to me.

I was a terrible mess and knew I had to change my eating habits. My mother was diabetic and I saw what she went through and I decided right then and there I was not going through that. I proceeded to get approved for Lap band in December 2008. I thought this would be the cure. I quickly learned this was only  a help tool to get started to eat correctly. All I could eat was soft foods so I definitely had lots of ice cream and jello. I did manage to get off approximately 60 lb. But, I couldn’t go through the entire fill process due to difficulties. I had to go to a speech therapist to learn how to chew again. My tongue and muscles in my mouth had gotten so weak. I had to strengthen my muscles so I could learn how to eat raw vegetables.

I went through pain management getting steroid injections and was on pain medications from 2008 to 2012. During that time I had 2 shoulder surgeries which included shaving my scapula and clavicle bone. Also I had cervical surgery as well as DRX treatments for my lower back. I had so many injuries I couldn’t even carry a gallon of milk. At one point, I had just finished from one of my Dr. Appointments. He had several students following him and after he listed everything from my chart I literally felt very hopeless.  I told the Lord, I don’t want to be a teaching tool, I just want a miraculous healing. I heard in a clear voice. I want you to be a teaching tool to help others and I will guide you through your journey.

My exercise program began in 2012 with a rehab program at St. John’s Medical Center after I had finished with their physical therapy program. From there I joined Health Zone and started the Arthritis Foundation class (such fun people).  I then went to water aerobics and even got brave to start some Pilates reformer. I even invested in a trainer to help with building strength.  I met some amazing talented trainers and therapists during those years.

I was at a roadblock getting better after having breast reduction to help with my shoulder pain. There was an article about Sky Fitness in the paper with Hilary Fields discussing using the Pilates reformer after breast surgery.  I started my training with her and also started floor exercises with my first official weight trainer Philip Nation. I literally felt limited in what I could do due to the atrophy in my left arm. Unfortunately, I incurred some injuries in my hip and knee. I cried to myself. Why me?  I picked myself up, dusted myself off after deciding I was not going to quit. I got my knee brace and on I went. I didn’t get unhealthy overnight so I knew I had to put in the work and just be patient.

I had prolotherapy treatments for an entire year and then incorporated prolozone the following year. I even had Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy. This helped tremendously with my atrophy in my shoulder and it completely healed my lower back pain. This took about 2 years doing these various therapies. I was fortunate to have a Dr. that found I was gluten insensitive and this kept my body inflamed. He always told me, “Let your medicine be your food, Let your food be your medicine. I was finally able to stop taking medication for my inflammation.

I was ready to get back into my fitness training but no one wanted to train me due to my previous surgeries and injuries. (my previous trainer was no longer at Sky)  My Dr. knew I was dedicated and referred me to his trainer, Micheal Nelson at Body Masters. I learned so much about balance through vibration plate exercise. He taught me things I never imaged I could do on the bosu ball improving my strength and balance.

It was time to get back to strength training so I proceeded to join the fitness group programs at Sky Fitness. My trainer Jermey Morrison.was so instrumental in helping me achieve my first full pushup and eventually helped me accomplish doing handstands and backbends. My strength was so much better but I knew I needed to dial my nutrition in better and wanted to learn about that word ‘macronutrients’.

After discussing my training goals with James Pesch , he referred me to Steven Morales. We met June 3, 2015 and started training June 27, 2015. I remember he was hesitant at first due to I have given him my history on all my surgeries, procedures, therapies, etc. He gave me a few movement tests and off we went. I remember he went slow with me at first. But, he quickly became one of the toughest and best trainers I have. He taught me about ‘macros’ and has been my right hand coach/trainer ever since. I have now released a total of 132lb wearing size 6 with body fat 20%.

Steven is so special and caring. He wants me to succeed in all areas of my life. I participate in group/crossfit training at Sky and also kettlebell training. But, I can still message him about my daily grind of eating or what I did for exercise and he is always there to encourage or get me headed back in the right direction. Through his coaching I feel confident in who I am. I have learned so much about who I am. I have learned to love myself. Give myself a hug. I am worth it. I am a puzzle that will always have cracks but I am now a total beautiful picture. Dr. Mike said, “I was a tree stump when I started but now I am a tree with different branches budding out everywhere. Dr. Mark told me to never fear. Live the wellness life and Dr. Block told it takes a village of people to get you to your destination. I am forever grateful for my village of people that has helped me from being nothing to a full bloomed flower.

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Christ gives us the strength to not only endure the tough times but also to grow during them. We are meant to see our faith blossom right in the face of our battles. Keep up the good fight of faith.

Special Thanks: Aric Hornig, Trevor Bridges, Danny Stephens, Gwenda Hansen, Joe Roberson, Damyko Busby,   James Steed, Eric Gross, Aaron Baulch, Zac King. Jimmy Ellis, Pat Flynn, Stephanie Flynn, Youree Holloway

Dr. Michael Van Antwerp, Dr. Chad Edwards, Dr. Bernard Fuh, Dr. Mark Sherwood, Dr. Michele Neil, Mark Hobbs

With love and thanks, I want to acknowledge my husband for being there for me always.

There are so many others that has been a part of my journey that I can’t begin to express my gratitude for believing in me and encouraging me through it all.