When Stephanie Shay turned 55, she had a big birthday party to celebrate. Later, when she looked at the photos from the evening, she was devastated.
“I thought I was beautiful,” she said. “Then I looked at pictures and realized I looked just awful.”
She stepped on the scale and was shocked to realize that she’d crept up to 207 pounds without noticing. A few things had contributed to Stephanie’s weight gain over the years. In 1980, she gave birth to her first daughter, Melissa, who was born with Down Syndrome. Care was difficult and the situation was upsetting for Stephanie, who became depressed as she struggled to raise her baby. Stephanie’s second daughter, Sarah, was born three years later. In the ensuing years, when Stephanie’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, Stephanie quit working in real estate to care for her ailing mom. She spent so much time caring for others, she hadn’t taken much time to care for herself.
Stephanie had been a size 8 for most of her younger years. She never worked out a day in her life, ate a lot of fast food, and didn’t pay much attention to her weight. She knew her knees and hips ached, but didn’t think that it had anything to do with the weight inching up on her. Otherwise her health was solid—she’d never had any problems.
That year she turned 55, she went to see Fred. Her brother Jeffrey works for Fred. Inspired by Fred’s workout, and at his urging, she decided to start doing strength training to get 50 pounds off. Fred was clear: Don’t lose more than one pound a week. He also said that once she did, she’d be amazed by how great she felt. He told her to think of her journey as a lifestyle change, not a diet.
She got a trainer and started going to the gym five times a week doing cardio to warm up and then strength training. Three years later, Stephanie is 40 pounds lighter, a size 10, and a regular at the gym.
Suddenly, vegetables became a part of Stephanie’s diet in a way they had never been before. She stopped eating the fast food and pasta, which she used to love, and other than some chicken, she no longer ate red meat because it didn’t make her feel great.
“Once in a while, I see a slice of cake and think, ‘I want to have that,’” she said. And she does. “But then, I get right back on it. I’d like to lose some more weight, but most importantly, I’ve learned to maintain.”
But something else profound and important happened in addition to her body changing. Stephanie’s confidence level soared. She went back to school, re-tested and regained the real estate license she let lapse so long ago. Over the years, she’d thought about returning to real estate, but wasn’t sure anyone would want to buy a house from her. She didn’t think she had the ability to sell anymore.
“It was a self-esteem thing,” she said. “Once I felt physically stronger, I decided: I can do this now.” And she did. She has sold about one house a month since getting her license back and has new clients coming in often. She attributes the success to the boost she got from working out. “I have a ton of energy. I have my coffee in the morning and I’m off and running all day.”
Stephanie is grateful to Fred for pulling her aside that day and encouraging her to work out. She also wishes her mother had been able to take care of herself the same way that Stephanie had finally learned to do. “I think my mother would have lived longer,” she said.