Spring Grove resident Angie Halverson developed her own weight loss strategy and brought her weight down from almost 300 pounds to 168 pounds.

On April 1, 2015, Halverson went to her doctor for a routine physical examination. Her weight at that time was nearly 300 pounds, but more concerning was her high blood pressure.

Halverson said it crept up over the years, but that day the numbers were “in the 180s over the 140s.”

“My doctor said point blank – you need to do something about your weight or you aren’t going to see your daughter get married someday,” Halverson recalled.

Her doctor didn’t let her leave until her blood pressure decreased, for fear she would have a heart attack on the way home.

“I knew I was morbidly obese,” Halverson said. “I knew my blood pressure was a problem. I wasn’t in denial about my weight, but I was in denial about where it was leading.”

In addition to weight and blood pressure, Halverson also experienced sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, asthma, back pain, knee pain and pain all over. Her rheumatoid arthritis was also out of control and to help it, she took a lot of pain medications, muscle relaxers and sleep medications.

“I couldn’t sleep at night. I was on meds for it all,” Halverson said. “I was tired all the time. I was in bed early and slept late a lot. I may have been able to put on a happy face, but I was not a happy person.”



The journey begins

Halverson’s doctor laid out all her options, which ranged from “plain old healthy eating and exercise” to gastric bypass surgery. Not wanting to be taking more medications and go through surgery, Halverson chose the healthy eating and exercise path.

“I was determined to do this as naturally as possible and I wanted to focus on getting more healthy overall, not just losing weight,” Halverson said. “I believe in clean eating for the health of our bodies, overall.”

Having tried fad diets before, Halverson said she had to change her lifestyle completely. She said she no longer believes in diets — period. Halverson also wanted to model healthy behavior and habits for her 10-year-old daughter, Ellie.

Halverson went to a dietician who did a metabolic screening. The screening tells a person how many calories he or she needs to eat to maintain a current weight and also gives other good information about metabolism.

“I highly recommend [it],” Halverson said. “It then only made sense that I needed to eat less calories than that to lose.”

The dietician gave her meal plans, but not as Halverson had expected. There were suggestions for the different types of food her body needs, such as proteins, carbs, veggies and more. With those suggestions in hand, Halverson developed her own menus from there.

“She encouraged me to keep things very simple and not worry about fancy recipes,” Halverson said. “Chicken breast, brown rice, a side of green beans, an apple for dessert. Milk. Simple and clean and not complicated.”

She also had to cut out salt and caffeine, which meant giving up the six Diet Pepsis she drank every day.

Halverson still follows that advice today.

Her motivation is her kids

Since beginning her clean and healthy eating, Halverson says she has become a “very adventurous eater and loves trying new things. Her favorite meals are currently veggie burgers, veggie meatballs, zoodles (zucchini noodles) and shrimp stir-fry.

Her motivation to keep going was initially her doctor. Having regular appointments every couple of weeks to check her blood pressure numbers became checkpoints.

“The whole thing was a bit like a snowball going down a hill,” Halverson said. “It built momentum on its own. I could do more, so I wanted to do more.”

Little by little, she began to feel better, physically and mentally. There were times when she felt like giving up, such as comparing the time and energy of cooking a healthy veggie stir-fry to the time and energy of throwing a frozen pizza in the oven.

She also had other people to feed in her house and sometimes they didn’t always like what she made. Fast-paced lives that many people lead do not easily allow for healthy food preparation and exercise, she added.

“It can be complicated, but planning ahead takes a lot of that stress away,” Halverson said. “I don’t let excuses get in my way – I figure it out and that takes determination and a heck of a lot of patience at times.”

Her second source of motivation was her kids, Evan, 18, and Ellie, 10.

“I remember the day when Ellie gave me a hug and she whispered, ‘Mom, my hands touch in the back,’” Halverson recalled. “That memory still brings me to tears.”

“Fat Girl Gettin’ Fit”

With a love of writing and a way to “honestly” track her progress, Halverson created a Facebook page to chronicle her journey. She was also tired of “hiding” her weight issues and with a can-do attitude, she said she was “going to throw it all out there for the world to see and whatever happened, so be it.”

“I was done being embarrassed and I was also done being so hard on myself,” Halverson said. “I needed a cheering section and that is exactly what I got.”

Since the creation of her page, Halverson has met people from all over the world “who are incredibly supportive and ask all kinds of questions.” Her disclaimer is she will not give advice, as she isn’t in a position to do that because she isn’t a dietician or doctor.

But she will tell people what worked or didn’t work for her.

“I share it all – the good, the bad and everything in between,” she said.

Support network

Halverson said her main supporters were her doctor, husband and kids. She and her doctor joke about the fact that they aren’t totally sure what the doctor said or did that day almost two years ago now to finally make it click for Halverson.

“I tease her that she used some kind of magic or ‘ju-ju’ on me,” Halverson joked. “I call her my ju-ju doc now.”

Angie’s husband, Jeremy, has always stood by her side, she said. He also walks with her and joined the Spring Grove Fitness Center.

“He listens patiently when things are not going well and I am freaking out,” Halverson said.

Her daughter has been “incredible support.” When she first started her exercising routine, Halverson could hardly make it around the block without having to sit on the curb for a rest.

“She would cheer me on and tell me, ‘Just a few more steps, Mom. You can do this,’” Halverson recalled.

Other friends and family have also been supportive of her journey. Her online Fat Girl crew allows her to have an even broader range of support.

“I can always count on them to keep me going,” Halverson said.

Halverson also started a support group in Spring Grove called, “Healthy Journey,” which meets Tuesdays evenings at the Trinity Center.

“Getting together with this group regularly has been incredible,” she said. “We laugh a lot. We cry a little. We share recipes and new food ideas. We share struggles and triumphs. Talking with others who are going through the same struggles is really motivating.”

Happy with weight

In addition to her goal of eating healthier and cleaner, Halverson’s weight goal was 169 pounds, which would put her into the “overweight range” and out of the “obese range,” her doctor said.

She was also advised that weight might be hard to maintain, but whenever she hit that number, Halverson should be proud of herself, her doctor added.

In mid-November 2016, Halverson stepped onto her bathroom scale and it read “168 pounds.” Was she happy with that weight?

“Yeah, I pretty much am,” Halverson said. “It is a challenge to maintain. I am now sliding around between 172 to 174 and I am ok with that.”

Her story doesn’t end here. Halverson said she’d like to get stronger, work on her endurance and continue to keep doing what she’s doing: “eating great, healthy clean food and exercising regularly.”

As part of her exercise routine, she includes cardio and weight training. She also plans to get plenty of sleep and deal with emotions appropriately.

“I have always focused on getting healthier and not my weight or a number,” Halverson said. “If you would ask ‘Am I happy with my health?’ I would say, ‘You bet your scale I am!’”

Her blood pressure measurements have been normal over the past year and the next time she sees her doctor, she hopes to be off her blood pressure medications.

Her medications for depression, anxiety, asthma, sleep apnea and the machine are gone from her medicine cupboard. She still has medications for rheumatoid arthritis because that’s not weight related, but it’s a lot easier to control now, she said.

Tips

Halverson’s tips for others wanting to start a weight loss journey are to talk to their doctor about it and make sure their doctor is supportive. If not, find a doctor that will be supportive.

Come up with a plan that will work for the individual person.

“Be kind, but honest with yourself and don’t let excuses get in your way,” Halverson said. “Focus on your health and not the number on the scale.”

For those nervous of new foods, Halverson said, “Think about what your body needs, not just what will taste good in the moment.”

“If the only thing you think about when choosing a meal is how it tastes, then I want you to think about this: Does your heart care how it tastes? Do your kidneys and liver and other organs care how it tastes? Does your blood sugar and brain function care about taste? What those things care about is how hard they have to work to clean up your body after you swallow garbage,” Halverson said. “Figure out a way to make it work. There is always a way.”

Halverson’s page can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fatgirlgettinfit.