Finalists / Niki D.

Niki D.

Vestavia Hills, AL

Niki D Front

Before I joined Life Time, I honestly thought I might never walk again.

In the fall of 2016, my health bottomed out. I had gained nearly 50 pounds in less than a year, my sugar addiction ruled my day, and I couldn’t walk across the room without stumbling. I knew I was unhealthy, but I also knew that something wasn’t right with my body. My hands and feet kept going inexplicably numb.

I soon found out that I had Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare and potentially fatal medical condition that causes the body’s immune system to attack the nerves. There’s a treatment available, but my insurance company refused to pay for it until I could no longer walk. Unlike many GBS patients, my condition worsened slowly, and it took more than a month before paralysis took over. I spent more than a week in ICU, not knowing for sure if I would ever reclaim all sensation and mobility.

I walked out of that hospital (albeit very slowly and wobbly, with the assistance of family and nurses) and vowed to change my life.

For the next two years, I tried and failed to change my diet and exercise routines. I couldn’t get motivated. I couldn’t find the strength or the energy or the drive that I needed to succeed. I’d never in my life struggled to achieve a goal, and suddenly, I couldn’t seem to change the one thing I’d promised myself that I would change. My mental health began to suffer along with the physical.

I woke up one day in the summer of 2018 and felt so horrible I could barely focus at work. It had only been a few days since I had received a steroid injection in my knee, which had developed bone spurs from my weight gain. I reached rock bottom with my diet that day – I ate half a giant box of Rice Krispies Treats and gorged myself on sopapillas drowning in honey and powdered sugar. I sat on the couch, full of self-loathing, and decided that I had had ENOUGH.

The next day, I joined Life Time Fitness. I live less than half a mile from the Vestavia Hills (Alabama) location, so I have no excuse not to take advantage of all its resources. My onboarding session with my personal trainer, Jaiquan, left me feeling hopeful. He convinced me to join the upcoming 60Day and told me that my goals weren’t as far away as I thought. I signed up for a Resting Metabolic Assessment (RMA) when the 60Day started.

On the day of RMA, I decided to take advantage of the day of fasting and throw out all the processed junk in my house. I trashed an entire IKEA bag’s worth of stuff – “low calorie” snacks, leftover Easter candy, treats filled with artificial sweeteners and chemicals and other additives that weren’t doing my body any favors. I started shopping exclusively along the perimeter of the grocery store, stocking up on fresh vegetables, fruit, and lean protein. I started cooking every meal. I soon discovered that I LOVED eating healthy! As the sugar cravings slowly subsided, I realized how much flavor I missed in real food. The guidance I received from my RMA and from Jaiquan, my trainer, helped me plan meals in a way that eased my anxiety around food. I attended the first 60 Day workshop on nutrition and took pages of notes, and immediately went to the grocery store to implement what I’d learned. I started bookmarking 60 Day recipes that looked interesting, and decided to try some foods that I’d never tried before thanks to the amazing resources I discovered through the challenge.

As the challenge progressed, I also discovered a hidden love for strength training. I’d avoided free weights before out of fear, but I started doing weekly personal training sessions on Tuesdays with Jaiquan and my friend Emily. Each week, I learned something new from Jaiquan, and realized that I’m stronger than I thought. Emily and I began repeating our weekly workout with Jaiquan on Thursdays, and soon I found myself seeking out group fitness classes at Life Time as well. I’ve fallen in love with EDG Cycle and Cycle Sculpt, and I’ve found Aqua Zumba to be an awesome class for active recovery on days when I’m too sore for anything else! I had never been a member of any gym, mainly because I thought I hated exercise and I was afraid of looking foolish, but now I can’t stop going.

I look forward to walking in the door at Life Time, where most of the personal trainers recognize me and smile when I bound up the steps to the workout floor. The instructors have taken the time to get to know my name and my needs, and I’m no longer afraid to go to the strength training floor alone. Jaiquan and the team at Life Time have given me confidence that I couldn’t develop on my own.

The 60Day may be over, but I still have goals to achieve. I’m keeping up the personal training sessions, and I’m DEFINITELY going to continue eating real, whole food. I feel like a new person now, and I’ll never allow myself to be ruled by sugar cravings and fatigue again.