Follow Your Heart /Accomplish Your Goals


Happy Monday!
I have a REAL treat for you today! My friend Kristen is gues blogging for us today and I'm really excited to share this with you.
She has decided to share her story with us today. One that I love to read and hear about and I think you will too.
Have you ever thought hard about something you wanted to do? But maybe the fear of failing kept you from diving in?
Getting healthier is DEFINITELY on my to do list.
She has inspired me more than she will ever know with her story, success and positive feedback.
Make sure you read all the way thru and then go tell Kristen how much you loved reading her post today!
Thanks Kristen!

Making My Dreams (Finally) Come True
By Kristen Kessinger

Or, as I sometimes like to refer to this story, How a Bridesmaid Dress Changed My Life.

My name is Kristen Kessinger and I went to high school with Rachel. We were friendly at school, but didn’t know each other very well. I am so glad that we’ve reconnected online and so honored that she invited me to share my story with you! So here goes .

I have been overweight all my life. In December 2010, I weighed 270 pounds and I had all but given up. I’d tried diet after diet, exercise video after exercise video, and I could never seem to stick with it. If I missed a workout or ate some pizza, I’d get so disheartened and my inner voice would tell me that I’d never accomplish anything. I’d watch each Biggest Loser episode—occasionally while eating a bowl of ice cream—and pray I’d reach my goals someday too. In fact, I even tried out for the show. But nothing ever seemed to work.

And then I read the newspaper that would change my life.

Each year for the last three, the newspaper I subscribe to has run a weight loss contest in conjunction with a personal training company. For the first two years, I read each article avidly, wistfully wishing that I was brave enough to apply and lucky enough to get accepted so I, too, could change my life. This past December, I saw an ad seeking contestants for the 2011 contest and I wrote an application essay that very morning, before I even left for work.

Some fears plagued me: if I miraculously get chosen, will my coworkers judge my weight? Will my family? What if I fail? But I’ve let worrying control my life for far too long now, and I stifled that voice for one of the first times in my life. In early January, I hadn’t yet heard anything, but I HAD received my bridesmaid dress for my future sister-in-law’s wedding. And it was nearly four inches too small across the back. In a panic, I sent a second application letter about the dress dilemma and added blog links to the top reasons I want to lose weight and a vision board outlining my dreams for the future.

In the meantime, I decided not to place my hope in a contest that accepted only five people out of hundreds and I decided to start living by the philosophy of my blog: Starting This Minute. I couldn’t risk waiting around for the contest folks to decide and potentially gaining even more weight. I joined Weight Watchers and quickly dropped seven pounds.

And then I got the e-mail: I was one of 15 finalists and I was invited to go to the newspaper offices and interview with the editors and trainers involved in the contest. I was overjoyed and terrified. I hadn’t been on an interview since my last internship started in 2004. I was hired full time by that company and I’ve been at the same job ever since.

To make a long story (somewhat) short(er), I nailed the interview (maybe they felt bad for me when I burst into tears when asked to describe why this meant so much to me?) and I got accepted. I remember smiling so big I thought my face would split. I felt like I had won the lottery and I was so proud of myself for taking a leap and putting myself out there—and achieving my ultimate goal.

But that was just the beginning.

The contest was no magic bullet to weight loss. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. As part of the contest, we were given a personal trainer who trained us one-on-one three days per week, and we had access to the gym’s boot camp classes as well. My husband was laid off in January, and I felt like God had granted an incredible gift in my life that I never could have afforded otherwise. Those free resources made a huge difference, but the big challenges were the strict diet and the workouts on our own.

For 12 weeks, this is what I ate (with slight variation):
Breakfast: Two eggs with diced tomatoes and onions
Snack: Protein shake and banana
Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with organic Newman’s Own olive oil and vinegar dressing; grapes
Snack: Raw almonds and an apple
Dinner: Tilapia and green beans or grilled chicken with asparagus or turkey tacos with low-sodium seasoning and lettuce in place of tortillas

For a girl used to eating pizza and pasta a few times a week, this was quite a life change. The clean eating, combined with daily (and sometimes twice daily) workouts led to an incredible transformation. In 12 weeks, I lost 47 pounds. Added to the 7 I lost in December and the nine I’d lost in previous months, I had lost 67 pounds, going from 283 to 216 .

I can’t even begin to describe how different I feel. My triglycerides went from a crazy-unhealthy level to an excellent one. My blood pressure dropped 20 points. I lost six inches across the chest—and my bridesmaid dress fit PERFECTLY .

The best part is I felt like I lost even more than pounds—I lost the constant sense of shame that I’d never even known was there until it was gone. For the first time, I felt comfortable dressing up and going out with friends. I wore a sleeveless dress to a wedding and forgot to keep my wrap firmly around my arms at all times. I even went out for a bachelorette party on a boat and wore my bathing suit with some confidence. But  my proudest accomplishment, bar none, was running a 5K straight through. Before February, I’d never even run a mile and I was absolutely petrified of running .

So, why am I sharing this story here? More than anything, I want to connect with the person who feels like she’s about to give up. I want to give her a hug and tell her I’ve been there. And I want to tell her that there is hope. You don’t have to wonder IF something will ever happen; you just have to MAKE it happen. It took me so long to believe in myself enough to learn that lesson.

I may have had a contest with free personal training to get me started, but that was just the beginning. I have a lot more to go on my own, and I know I can do it. And I know that YOU can achieve the dream you’ve been wanting for so long too—whether it’s weight loss, a new career, a savings goal so you can go on an incredible vacation, or anything else.

Since I’ve written a novel instead of a blog post, I will leave you with one final quote:

“A year from now, you will wish you had started today.”  ~Karen Lamb

So follow your dreams—starting this minute.

PS: I am happy to answer any questions, provide some of my workouts or more detailed food guidelines, or be a support system as you achieve your dreams! You can contact me by leaving a comment here or through my blog at  

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