“My name is Valleri Polk and this is MY STORY…

There has always been a part of me that hated my body, my looks, and my self-image. I have been overweight my entire adult life and have had zero success with weight loss in the past. As a repeat offender of fad and yo-yo diets, I knew deep down this was never going to be the answer. To get what I wanted, I had to be honest with myself and admit that only hard work and dedication would be the real answer to my weight problem. I also had to admit that I could not succeed at it alone. As an overweight out of shape plus size woman, facing exercise all together can be overwhelming. It can be humiliating, shameful, and embarrassing to say the least. But at this point, I had nothing else to lose.

The weight we carry is not only measured in pounds. It can be a thousand times heavier on our emotions than what our body, joints, and bones physically carry every day. It can drag us down from the inside out and to the overweight person, it’s a silent inner struggle that becomes crippling. As I turned 40 in life, I had everything. I had God in my heart, a loving husband who loved me for who I was and not how I looked, a great family and many friends. I had everything I could want from life except the love for myself. Turning 40 was not my problem; being FAT and 40 was the problem. My doctor was quite surprised at how healthy I was, except for my weight. I was not on medications for high blood pressure or high cholesterol, but I knew that if I did not change, it would only be a matter of time before I was. We all need to be at a good weight for our health, but I also wanted it for other reasons. I wanted to be able to golf with my husband, go to the beach and feel good about myself, put on a nice outfit and feel like I looked good. I wanted to be comfortable in my clothes. I wanted to be comfortable in my own skin. I wanted, no I needed, to love myself the way I loved others. I had to do something and sitting on the couch watching “The Biggest Loser” while eating hot wings and french-fries was not the answer. I realized I needed my own Bob or Jillian to teach me, to guide me, to push me, and to train me. I needed help.

My husband and I joined Anytime Fitness in April of 2009. After meeting with Tony Bonawit from USA Elite Trainers for our gym orientation, I knew HE would be the one to help me. The only thing Tony asked from me was my full commitment to his program. He assured me that if I was loyal to the program, I would be pleased with the results. Getting past my anxieties and humiliation of how I had let my body become over the years was extremely hard, but I moved forward and I began working with Tony 3 days a week while I pursued cardio 5 days a week. No more excuses. I committed fully to my plan, although I have to admit my first few weeks were horrible. I was ashamed of my inability to complete what seemed to be even the simplest of exercises. With Tony’s patience and knowledge, he quickly recognized my strengths and weaknesses. He created a strength training program, cardio program, and nutrition program to help me meet my goals and needs. He began to teach me the proper techniques to take care of myself in a healthy way. Each workout was tough and challenging, but he encouraged me and pushed me to do more every day. Now, I truly know I can do more and, I have learned to push myself. His support and genuine concern kept me coming back to the gym every day and actually looking forward to my workouts. My family has made sacrifices both financially, and by spending less time with me, but in the end it has all been worth it.

Losing weight was something I had wanted my whole life, but never really believed I could do. But, now for the first time, it was actually happening for me. That is when things really began to change and I started believing I could do this. For each small goal I reached, not only did I become healthier physically, I was becoming healthier emotionally. I was healing myself from the inside out. I was becoming worth the effort to myself, and as I passed each small goal, the big goal became achievable to me. I was actually starting to have faith in myself that I could do this, and that I would succeed at weight loss this time.

If you add up all of the years I spent beating myself up emotionally, adding pound after pound of self-doubt and lowering my self-esteem; the money, time and failures of the so-called diets……this year has been a breeze. All these experiences in my past were 100% harder than anything I have done this past year. As one of my goals, I had signed up in March 2009 (before I had joined Anytime Fitness) to run the March 2010 Shamrock Half Marathon, not knowing if I would even be able to walk it. At that time, I could not walk one mile, much less run 13.1 miles. Not only did I complete the half marathon, I was able to RUN the 13.1 miles in 2:42:06! Thank you to my dear friend, Nina, for running every step of the way with me and crossing the finish line by my side.

For the first time in my life, I have learned how to put myself first and that it’s okay. All the years I spent taking care of others, I neglected myself physically and emotionally. I find, now that I am focusing on myself, I have become healthier on the inside and out. I have so much more to offer to the ones I love and I am finally truly happy with myself. I am more confident, strong, and proud. I feel I have found the missing piece to my inner self, and it has made me whole. I have God, a great husband, friends and family, and now I have love for myself. It is the best gift I could have ever given myself. No one else could fulfill that for me, only me, and now I finally have it.

The Total Body Challenge
In January 2010 USA Elite Trainers and Anytime Fitness began their third year of the Total Body Challenge. After nine months of training with Tony and working hard, I knew instantly this was just what I needed. This would be the ultimate push on my journey to my weight loss goal. It was the motivation I needed to work even harder than before. It was my moment to shine, my “Super Bowl’ of workouts, my “Biggest Loser” moment, the chance to prove to myself that I could succeed and WIN no matter what the challenge or no matter how hard it got. It was my chance to compete physically with others and WIN, and I wanted to WIN. I set out with the lessons I have always told others but never applied to myself….”if you really want something in life you have to name it, claim it, and go for it”. So I signed up for the Total Body Challenge: I named it MINE, I claimed it MINE, and I decided I was going to go for it….WIN the title of the 2010 Total Body Challenge. I wanted it and worked hard for it every day. Never losing sight of what I wanted, I gave my workouts 110% putting in extra hours at the gym and taking advantage of the free classes at Anytime Fitness and USA Elite. I listened and applied all the knowledge the trainers from USA Elite had to offer. I wanted to WIN and was willing to do whatever it took. I realized others were working just as hard as I was and if I did not win, it would not be from lack of trying on my part. For the last five weeks of the challenge, I was doing cardio three times a day and pushing myself beyond limits I didn’t even know I had. Participating in the extreme workouts of the Challenge brought me results at an accelerated rate. During the 12 week Challenge, I was able to lose almost the same amount of weight that I had already lost during the first nine months of my weight loss transformation. My experience with the Total Body Challenge was one I will never forget.

Throughout the Total Body Challenge, I met and connected with other members of Anytime Fitness and USA Elite. Their camaraderie and support inspired me and motivated me to continue to work towards my goals. Their encouragement helped to make the Total Body Challenge fun and enjoyable. Working together as a team to achieve our individual goals made it an event I looked forward to each Saturday and kept me going throughout the weeks. I look forward to the long term friendships that I have formed with my new gym family.

When I began The Total Body Challenge in January 2010, I weighed in at 220.5 lbs. Participating in the 12 week challenge helped me lose the last 64.5 lbs on my life changing, weight loss journey…but that is not my whole story.

My whole story began the day I walked into Anytime Fitness, April 8, 2009, determined to change my life. I was 5’5″ tall and weighed 287 lbs………Today, May 12 2010, I am so proud to say that I weigh 156 lbs. That means in only 13 months, with exercise and proper nutrition, I was able to lose a total of 131 lbs. When I began, my body fat was at an incredible 60% and today it’s down to 20.1%. I have lost a total of 92.25 inches from my body. To put that into perspective I have lost the equivalent weight of my best gym buddy Nina Mungo. I was literally caring around an extra person for all those years. I started out wearing a clothing size of woman’s 24/26 and today I can shop in any store, not just plus size stores, because I am in a size 6/8. All of this in only 13 months! I am proof that YOU can do this too. Anyone with determination, hard work, proper training and nutritional education can win this battle. With the support from your loved ones, anyone can succeed at weight loss.

At the end of the 12 week Total Body Challenge, whether I WIN or not (notice I did not say lose)…I AM A WINNER…JUST LOOK AT ME…I made it, I did it…I have made it to a healthy weight that is appropriate for my height and body frame. I did it. Me!!!!! This was something that no one else could do for me, and I finally accomplished it. Anyone could give me the tools, encourage me, push me, support me; but ultimately, the rest was up to me and me alone….and I did it. Working with Tony Bonawit from USA Elite Trainers and with Anytime Fitness has taught me how to live a healthy well-balanced life. The lessons I have learned will never be forgotten. I will never go back to the lethargic lifestyle of just not caring about myself again.

For all that I have learned and achieved, I have to say thank you to God first and foremost. Without Him, nothing is possible. Thank you to my wonderful husband Shannon who has loved me for the past 22 years, no matter what size I was. To my BFF (best friend forever) Connie, my two sons Brian and Andrew, my friends and my family: Thank you for always supporting me, even when I was not so nice. I want to say thank you to my Anytime Fitness family, USA Elite, and to the greatest trainer ever, Tony Bonawit. Without your support, I would have never made it. You have changed my life by helping change me. I am forever grateful. I am still the same Valleri, but now I am 100% Valleri. The happy, strong, healthy, proud, and confident Valleri that had been buried deep beneath the 131 extra pounds for the past 20 plus years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

This is not the end…….. but the beginning of the rest of my life, and I am ready to live each day as the blessing God has given me. I will never take it for granted again.”