Sara Schroeck is a Farrell’s member at Farrell’s Andover in Andover, Minnesota. Sara’s life story is truly one of transformation and we are proud to highlight her inspirational journey with you. But don’t take it from us – check out Sara’s story below, because, in her own words, she’s just getting started!
Hitting Rock Bottom
Ten years ago, I would have described myself as having achieved my ultimate physical goals: I was running half marathons, duathlons, strength training with a personal trainer, and I felt strong and proud of myself. I thought, “This is it; I am never going to be fat again!” But deep down, there was always something “not quite right.” And just like many times before, I fell off the wagon, gained back the weight – and then some. I asked myself, “Why does this keep happening to me?
Fast forward five years, to the summer of 2015, I hit rock bottom. It wasn't an exact moment or event; it was the gradual, final acceptance that I needed help. I was suffering from eating disorders – food compulsion, overeating, binging, and body image distortion – that were affecting my life and my relationships. It was no longer about how I looked physically. It was about facing the problem head-on: the dysfunctional relationship I had with food, and “ED,” the nickname for my eating disorder, was controlling and destroying my life. I had to do something to save myself and my marriage and be a better mom to our son.
I completed a year-long outpatient therapy at Emily's Program, and then entered the maintenance phase of recovery and began to feel hopeful again about my life. As with most addictions, there were setbacks. I tried to learn from each one, understanding it was a part of recovery, practicing mindfulness, and being aware of “ED” to avoid it taking over the life I had worked so hard to regain. Over the next few years, I continued to focus on mindful eating. Cognitively, I was making food choices that fueled my body and were driven by me, not “ED.” With healthier food choices, I lost a few pounds. Very slowly, I began to add small physical activities back into my life. At the time, mindful eating was all I was ready to focus on.
Taking Back Control of My Life
In April of 2018, I began to feel like I was still missing out on life. Even though I continued to be successful in my eating disorders recovery, I wasn't living life to its fullest, and slowly life was passing me by. I was still considered morbidly obese. I was 42 years old, and my body felt tired and sore from carrying the weight around all these years. Our son was almost five, and I wanted more from my marriage. I suddenly began to feel like I had to do something before it was all lost. I knew I had to find a way to take control of my life again before life passed me by, as I did with my eating disorders. Being morbidly obese doesn't just mean being “fat.” As many know, it affects your spirit, your soul, your relationships, and your world. After being a nurse for 20 years, I encountered many times how precious life is. And yet, I was still taking advantage of my own life and not living it to its fullest potential. It was my time to take the next step. The life I was living was no longer acceptable to me. I wanted to make a change for me. It was time.
I heard about Farrell's a few months prior, but it wasn't until my childhood friend, Anna S., shared her amazing physical and mental successes with the Farrell’s 10-Week Challenge on Facebook. After discussing it with my husband, I decided to join Farrell’s Andover gym. Besides being motivated by Anna's successes, I’d always loved lifting weights and kickboxing was in my blood – my Grandpa was a boxer! And I needed some “extreme” so Farrell's eXtreme Bodyshaping seemed like the perfect fit!
My Farrell’s Journey Begins
I committed to the 10-Week Challenge and joined the 5 AM workout class. At the time, my biggest fear was the early-morning alarm – I had never been a morning person! But the gym owner, Cindi N., and my coaches assured me, “Just get yourself in the door, and we will help you take care of the rest!” And they did. I quickly felt their commitment and investment in me and my journey. It was very hard for me to define goals for my 10 Week Challenge. I didn't believe in myself enough to know what I could achieve. But, I knew I wanted to lose weight and feel good again. So, I committed to the Farrell’s program and Living Life at Level 10. And I discovered my Level 10 was much higher than I thought! I realized that what you give, you get back.
At first, there were some fears of “ED” creeping back in and trying to control my healthy habits, but Farrell's taught me that I’m stronger. During times when I began to doubt myself, my Farrell’s family was there to reassure me. My fears diminished, and I felt stronger – both physically and emotionally. My clothes were fitting looser, and I was becoming a happier person! A few weeks in, I became a permanent Farrell’s member. The decision was easy! I was having fun, and I was seeing my mind, body and soul transform. And others around me noticed. The discovery of my authentic self was just beginning. I finally felt my life was coming full circle. My journey had brought me to the right place, the right people, and the right plan: Farrell's. At the end of my 10-Week Challenge, I placed second runner-up! My results were beyond my expectations. I accomplished more physically and mentally than I had thought possible in those fast, fun ten weeks. So why not accept the one-year $10,000 National Challenge?! I told myself, “Bring it on!”
Bring on the National Challenge!
Over the next several months, I focused on hitting my Level 10 every workout. I kept telling myself, “You can do more.” I punched harder, lifted heavier, and did more repetitions. I participated in fun gym challenges with my fellow members. I coached new members. And I set my mind to accomplishing more. Why? Because I can. My impossibles were becoming my possibles. I had no excuses. I ran miles faster than ever before. I lifted heavier and heavier weights, more and more reps. I completed over 10,000 MEPS in a month, and I focused on proper form every workout.
I strengthened my eating disorder recovery by understanding that food is fuel for my body. I continued to practice mindful eating and embracing foods, giving my body and soul what it needed. And, I found balance by occasionally indulging. The scale and my clothes were winning too. The light within me felt strong and bright. I realized I had the potential to accomplish the National Challenge. What felt impossible at the beginning of my journey, suddenly seemed possible.
Life Throws a Curveball
Halfway through the National Challenge, life threw a bit of a curveball. I had to have a necessary procedure that required me to slow down and recover for several weeks. At first, I felt a bit of panic. But then, I reminded myself that this is life. I wasn't accepting it as a roadblock. Instead, I had to redefine how I was going to achieve my Level 10 other ways. I focused on my nutrition and low-impact activities. It taught me to think outside the box. As a result, I was resilient in my recovery and successful in staying committed to my goals!
As the end of the National Challenge approached, I established some big goals for myself. I thought about how I was going to finish as strong as possible. I asked myself, “How had I been successful in the past? The Farrell’s way!” No complicated programs, no pills or shakes, no other gym memberships, no other nutritional coach. Farrell's is simple!
From Impossible to Possible
One year ago, I wore a size 24 pants and XXL shirts. Today I shop for size 4-6 and size small! I haven't worn short-shorts since my twenties – but I am now! I’m excited to wear a bikini this summer for the first time since high school. Instead of covering up my once flabby arms, I am proud to flex and show off my muscles!
To date, I have lost a total of 60 inches, 89.5 pounds of body fat, 31.7% body fat, increased my push-ups by 51, increased my sit-ups by 43, and shaved off over seven minutes on my mile run. I went to the beach without a cover-up. I worked out on the beach in Cabo with fellow Farrell’s members. I completed a 5k Rugged Maniac Race. I even tried a dance class! And I conquered one of my greatest fears, heights, by indoor rock climbing with friends! All things, once unimaginable, now possible.
For many years, anytime I tried to lose weight, my goal was always to be 175 pounds. Why 175 pounds? I have no idea! It was even the weight on my driver's license. It was the only “goal” I ever had. During my National Challenge journey, I hit that “always” goal. Once again, I proved to myself that the impossible had become my possible.
As I reflect on old pictures of myself – beyond the heavy, tired body – I see my eyes. They appear hollow, sad, weak, and desperate. Almost unrecognizable to me now. Who was that person? Now I see a healthier, stronger, confident, beast of a person. Now, when I first look at current pictures of me, I notice my eyes – they look so clear to me and full of happiness. Now, I see my authentic self. That is my biggest, proudest accomplishment.
My husband – my biggest cheerleader, coach, cook, and supporter through this – also sees it. He tells me he sees the woman he knew and believed was there all along, hidden under all those layers. He believed in me more than anyone else and never gave up on me.
My Farrell's journey has solidified my eating disorder recovery. I can proclaim confidently, with great strength, perseverance, and integrity, I have discovered who I am meant to be! I am living life the way I should, at my Level 10. I am confident and proud of my physical abilities and still getting used to the “new me.” But more importantly, I am grounded in my authentic self. I am grateful for every day.
My journey brings me to the closure of the National Challenge, but I’m not done. My best is yet to come! And that includes my Farrell's family and others who I can inspire. I look forward to my new goals of becoming a Farrell’s instructor, coaching a 10-Week Challenge, competing in duathlons, and possibly weight lifting competitions. I will continue to live the Farrell's way and embrace the unknown. Farrell's has taught me if something scares you, it's probably something you should try! But most of all, if my story can influence, inspire, and support others on their own journeys to self-discovery, then I am truly the biggest winner. Thank you, Farrell's eXtreme Bodyshaping, for saving my life and peeling back the layers to the authentic ME!