Fitness & Weight Loss
Inspirational Real Life Transformation Stories from Atlantans

Inspirational Real Life Transformation Stories from Atlantans

Amazing stories of weight loss, career changes, overcoming obstacles and more

Sometimes it takes something as big as a health scare or as small as seeing a photo of yourself to give you a catalyst for change. Motivation is something that comes from inside and if you follow it, it can lead to health and happiness. These inspiring individuals stayed the course, faced their challenges and came out stronger. If they can do, so can you!








lisa-koehlerLisa Koehler: Dealing with Loss

I remember seeing a picture my mom had taken of my brother and me on Christmas Eve. When I saw the photo I couldn't even recognize myself. At 50 pounds overweight, I was miserable and sick. I was also in an unhealthy marriage and depressed, so I decided enough was enough. I had dieted and worked out in the past and nothing changed. It wasn't until I put the two together that the weight started to fall off. I started at home with the workout program Power 90 and then worked my way through Turbo Jam, P90X and Insanity. The feeling of accomplishment was amazing.

After my divorce, I knew this was my chance to create the life I dreamed of and deserved. Unexpectedly, my ex-husband filed for bankruptcy, so all the bills that were "ours" became "mine." Living in a house with a mortgage based on an income for two, I was left with no choice but to file for bankruptcy myself.

I started a home-based business as a rep for P90X. I hoped to make $100 a month; however, little did I know that it would lead me to a six figure income. Today I am confident and paying it forward by helping others realize there is hope for everyone.

"I learned that if I ate right and exercised, then the weight came off and stayed off. You have to do both, not one or the other."





bill-murphyBill Murphy: Beating the Odds

Over 17 years ago I was faced with one of the biggest challenges of my life: thyroid disease. I went to my doctor with what I thought was the flu and ended up being informed that I had Graves disease, an enlarged heart, and was in the throes of full congestive heart failure. I was rushed to the hospital and admitted to the cardiac ICU unit. I was told that I may not make it.

Fortunately, six weeks later I was on my way to recovery. I stayed positive and faced my illness head on. In May 2009, after regaining my health and making positive lifestyle changes, including changing my eating habits and adopting a daily workout regimen, I competed in a bodybuilding show for the first time in celebration of turning 40.

I trained for nine months, and also worked with Mark MacDonald, the author of "Body Confidence."

He was a great nutritional coach and a positive motivator. All the hard work paid off and I won first place in my division. As I begin each day I thank God for the second chance I was given. Today, I continue to keep health at the top of my list and rarely miss a workout. These workouts have helped me achieve my goals and have given me an appreciation for each and every day.

"I believe reliable, dependable, consistent habits breed success in the gym, at work and in life."




Chaunda Walls: Inspiring Others

By 2007, my life had become a blur of depression and obesity. I weighed 227 pounds at 5' 1" tall and was told by my doctor that my blood pressure was elevated. I decided then and there to lose the weight.

I was sick and tired of being unhealthy, so I embarked on a life-changing journey that has opened so many doors for me today.

I began by reading Bob Greene's book, "The Best Life Diet." It gave me the knowledge and jumpstart I needed to change my diet and incorporate exercise slowly. I also checked out books from the library on weight training and healthy nutrition.

At my heaviest weight, my self-esteem was at an all-time low. It was difficult to go out in public and work out with every part of my body hurting and aching as I attempted to exercise. But I did it anyway and I lost 115 pounds with healthy eating and vigorous exercise. I became a personal trainer in 2009 and started my own company, The Bella Fitness Group, to help others get healthy and change their own lives as I did.

"I began educating myself on how to eat well and the way God intended for us to eat. I learned what to eat, how to eat and when to eat. I changed everything."





pat-lamarPat Lamar: Feeling Years Younger

I had been fit at various times in my life, but something always seemed to happen to throw me off course. At 62, I was more than 60 pounds overweight. On an impulse during a charity event, I bid on a fitness assessment donated by Catalyst Fitness, and this decision has changed my life.

I arrived for the fitness assessment with much trepidation. I was initially struck by the fact that it didn't look like a traditional gym. It was pretty intimidating. However, it was clear from the first time we met that my trainer Bill cared for my health and well-being. I have worked out with Bill three times a week for the past 16 months and achieved tremendous results.

My proudest moments have been the encouraging and flattering comments I've received from others who've observed my fitness journey. I love feeling years younger than my age and the freedom of being able to do anything I choose.

"The keys to my success, I believe, have been desire and consistency."






Stacey Eames: Breaking Childhood Habits

My family owned a popular southern restaurant, so fried foods and the traditional southern favorites were a staple in my diet growing up. Unfortunately, I picked up the bad habit of yo-yo dieting to try and counter the effects of all the high fat foods I was eating.

My life has done a complete 180 since those days. In addition to giving up alcohol, I integrated exercise into my daily life, which proved to be an important part of my recovery and allowed me to lose weight and focus on my spirituality and mental health.

I exercise everyday and try to have a diet based on moderation. My biggest addition, which has been a tipping point, has been eating Highland Bakery's nutrition bars and incorporating Chuice, which is a raw food drink in a bottle. Today, I have tons of energy and stamina, which I need to run a successful business.

"I keep motivated because I let myself splurge and enjoy a slice of chocolate pie, always in moderation."




Jeremy "Mac" Davis: Taking an Active Role

I'm currently 38 years old, but it was around the age of 25 that I started gaining weight and not taking care of my body. I overate, smoked and never thought of the after-effects of my actions. At the age of 30, I was put on blood pressure and cholesterol medication, but I just continued my regular routine. At 32, I got a wake-up call when I was told I might have a blockage in my right aorta. I got a cardiac catheterization, and thank God it showed I had a good heart without any blockages.

Then in 2011, my twin brother had a heart attack that required him to get a stint. This was a big wake-up call for me. I had to do something to change my life or I would end up like him. I decided to meet with Dr. Lynn Flowers and his nurse, Misty Croft. They took the time to ask me about my family history and helped me develop a comprehensive health plan.

I started feeling better, losing weight and changing my eating habits. I went from 230 pounds down to 202. I feel like Dr. Flowers and Misty have added years to my life.

Set your own goals. Do something you can maintain for a lifetime not just a short time."







Valarie Ann Regas: Becoming a Healthier Mom

I began a life transformation in 2010 after the birth of my son. As I fell in love with him, I came to realize that I could no longer live an unhealthy, unfulfilled life and be the caliber of mother I desired to be. I was 265 pounds at that time. Today I am 110 pounds lighter, and am no longer plagued by the myriad of health problems correlated to that weight. I am thankful to Northside Hospital and for the gastric bypass procedure that changed my life forever. I am healthy, and loving the energy and enthusiasm I feel every day.

"One thing I feel is most important in overcoming the obstacle of losing weight is to love oneself."






Melinda Cavallaro: Getting Back on Track

After a physical assessment, Melinda was astonished to discover her higher-than-normal levels of body fat for her 5' 2" figure, despite her frequent weekly workouts. Determined to get back on a healthier track, she decided to make a lifestyle change.

She began BLAST900 classes in June 2010 and a BLASTNutrition program in November 2011. She met her goal in June 2012 when she lost a total of 29 pounds. She now works out smarter not harder – and incorporates running, Pure Barre and yoga into her routine.

Today, she is a fitness instructor and lives in Smyrna, where she and her husband are proud parents of two dogs (Max and Tucker) and two cats (Ivy and Shaumi).

"If you want to lose weight, you have to want to change your habits. You have to be dedicated and stick it out with the good and bad. Do it for your health and well-being; you only have this one life."






Jennifer Wade: Changing My Goals

All through my 20s and early 30s, I was a runner. However, running met my needs when I was younger, but I had to change my ways as I got older. At 34 years old, I set out on a mission. My mission was to gain muscle and to change my body composition. I researched and found a trainer at House of Payne Personal Fitness who began training me and helped me gain insight on how to make better nutrition choices for my needs. I turned 38 this year. I am continually overwhelmed at what the human body can do through good nutrition and weight training.

"Having a team or person to bring you closer to your goals is very important. They can share your success or help motivate you."




The Road to Recovery

jack-fussellJack Fussell
On Jan. 12, Jack Fussell, 62, will begin his run across America to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer's disease. Twice in his life he was told he did not have long to live, but Fussell beat the odds and has trained for the last 10 years for this celebratory run.

At the age of three, Fussell survived being hit by a car. Then about 12 years ago, he was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer and told he only had one year to live if he continued his unhealthy habits. After losing a tremendous amount of blood from his ulcer and overcoming a grade 2 heart murmur, Fussell decided to make a lifestyle change. For the last decade, he has trained at Amicalola Falls State Park and lost more than 100 pounds.

Today he is healthier than ever and says he has a strong desire to live every second of every day and be an example to his children and grandchildren. Fussell plans to begin his run in Savannah, GA, and cross the finish line in Monterey, CA. He is taking this long journey as a celebration of his healthy lifestyle changes and as a tribute to his father, whom he lost to Alzheimer's disease in 2000.





scott-whitneyScott Whitney
On 2012's Super Bowl Sunday, I embarked upon a two-mile bike ride. During the ride, my bike hit a curb; I suffered a brain hemorrhage and clavicle break. Fortunately, some good samaritans took me to the ER.

Within an hour and a half, I was on the operating table and had a piece of my skull removed to prevent further swelling. After the surgery, I fought pneumonia and the doctors decided that the best course of action was to place me in an induced coma for a few days to allow my body a chance to heal. At that time, they were concerned that there would be permanent brain damage. I finally remember waking up the third week in the hospital with my family, girlfriend and close friends around me. Within a few days, they started me on occupational therapy, and speech and physical therapy. During the next few weeks I made tremendous progress.

After multiple surgeries and countless hours of therapy, this Humpty Dumpty was finally put together again by the end of March.

I have completed Ironman triathlons since 2007. I still intended on participating in the next Ironman in November 2012. I began training again, under doctors' care, and slowly regained my strength and stamina – but not without a few bumps along the way. Through the heat and various struggles, I made it to the finish line and heard the event organizers call out my name as a 2012 Ironman.


nancy-shimChanging Careers

Nancy Shim
As a music major, Nancy began her first career as a traveling musician playing piano and flute with different bands across the country. But she tired of the grueling touring schedule and wanted to pursue a different career that would allow her to use her hands creatively and stay close to home. She turned to esthetics and received her training at The Elaine Sterling Institute in Sandy Springs. Today she works as a medical esthetician at Blue Med Spa, living proof of her philosophy to "put your best face forward."






amy-stankusAmy Stankus
After almost 20 years of working with design professionals, I left that field to make beautiful chocolate bon bons - my passion. I had a need to "make things" rather than sit at a keyboard all day. Opening my first retail business, Chocolate South, has been challenging but rewarding. My advice to anyone starting a new business later in life is to discover what you love and make the commitment. Wonderful things happen once you commit.








virginia-ginger-rockVirginia "Ginger" Rock
In March, 2001, at 400 pounds and 40 years old, I had a gastric bypass. I thought that was my success story. Then in October 2009, I was laid off. It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me. At 49 years old, I went back to college to become a registered nurse. Though my journey is not complete yet, I graduate May of 2013. I hope to work on the bariatric medical surgical floor when I graduate. I am proof you are never too old to pursue your dreams.








rubina-malikRubina Malik
I toiled in the corporate world for over seven years, but my sense of purpose was curbed by the eagerness to progress up the corporate ladder. When volunteering, I realized I was unfulfilled and yearned to be a catalyst for others and the community. After resigning, I transitioned into the non-profit sector, discovering that my passion and purpose was education. Today I live my purpose daily by teaching, where I am cultivating future leaders. I have become an active philanthropist, community member and activist for education and women empowerment.