Beyond the Card: My Weight-Loss Journey

Dawn Parker

| 4 min read

As a human resources office assistant at Chippewa War Memorial Hospital in Sault Ste. Marie, I’m used to helping others. But the story I have to share is how I helped myself. For years I struggled with my weight and finding the motivation I needed to get healthy. I suffered from debilitating headaches that left me in pain and unable to live my life. Everything changed when my son convinced me to go on a weight loss journey with him. I said yes and I’ve never looked back.
It all began in November of last year. That’s when my son, also an employee at Chippewa War Memorial Hospital, suggested the idea of getting healthier and losing weight together. Nothing ever really motivated me by myself, but knowing my son needed my help in his weight loss journey was enough for me to get started. We decided to take advantage of the Know Your Numbers program, one aspect of the hospital’s larger Live Well workplace wellness initiative. Know your Numbers is a six-week program that encouraged us to find out where we stood with our health, and provided tips to make small, positive changes. We were weighed, had our blood pressure taken and even got lab work done to measure our lipid panels (levels of cholesterol and triglycerides). We also met with a wellness coordinator to discuss lifestyle risks and health history. I had a huge goal—I wanted to lose 100 pounds. For eight weeks, I tracked everything I ate, worked out five to six times per week, and cut out my daily, flavored iced coffees. From there, my weight loss journey skyrocketed, and with the support of the amazing program and my coworkers, I hit my goal of losing 100 pounds a month earlier than I had planned. It felt like pounds were dropping off, my clothes actually fit, and eight weeks turned into 10 more months of this journey to continue losing weight. While my initial goal was to weigh less, I’ve noticed other changes that I didn’t expect, such as the chronic migraines I’ve had since I was a child slowly stopped being an issue. I was able to wean myself off my migraine medication and am now migraine-free! I can do things I was never able to do before, make plans and be active. For example, my husband manages a hardware store and I participated in a challenge to track my steps, activities and nutrition during a tradeshow where a lot of walking was involved. When I attended this year, you would not believe how much more enjoyable it was; my foot pain was gone, and walking around the tradeshow was easy. That’s just one example of how life has gotten easier. Another is that I went kayaking for the first time ever, which is so exciting that I’m able to do that now. It’s absolutely incredible living this life – my life. The Live Well program, the support of my coworkers and son, and the help of my wellness coordinator helped me overcome obstacles and finally step into my best life. Since November of last year, I’ve dropped 125 pounds and I continue to exercise five to six days every week. The mission statement of the whole program is, “inspiring employees to take pride in their own health,” and it has done that and a whole lot more. I’m not the only one who’s been helped by the Live Well program at Chippewa War Memorial Hospital. It started in 2011 with a survey asking employees what they’d like to see in the program. It’s now a multi-dimensional program with events, challenges, educational events and lots of resources—all run by wellness coordinator Hillary Galarowic. About 75 percent of the hospital’s employees participate in some way. We all motivate each other as we continue on our own weight loss journeys, because that’s what this is, a journey. Chippewa War Memorial Hospital’s workplace wellness program is supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The hospital also uses Blue Cross’ WebMD platform to help facilitate its wellness program, Live Well, which provides employees with fitness trackers, helpful resources and tools. This post is part of a storytelling series we call, “Beyond the Card.” These stories will feature Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members, employees, and communities who are making meaningful differences throughout our state. We invite you to follow Beyond the Card stories here at and through the hashtag, #BeyondtheCard on our social channels. If you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to contact us at Photo credit: Dani Lurie

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