For years, Heidi Meyer made accommodations for her husband to run at home, and noshed on baked goods and fast food with her co-workers as a 911 dispatcher. But when two of her co-workers had heart attacks, she committed to getting in shape, wary of "dispatcher disease." She lost more than 75 pounds after joining Weight Watchers in January and committing to regular exercise.
FARM GIRL BEGINNINGS: "I was the fat kid who was always picked last. In high school, I started getting into sports, but I wasn't good. I was a farm girl, so I was athletic, but I didn't like working out. I started having knee problems in high school, and eventually I had a knee replacement."
FIRST ATTEMPT: "I always had weight issues, but once this job started, the pounds just came on. And then once the kids came, I knew I had to do something. I was more than 300 pounds. I had gastric bypass surgery 10 years ago. It really works for some people, but a lot of my weight came back on from all those bad habits."
HEALTHY HABITS: "When I started working out in January I could do 1 to 2 minutes on the elliptical. Now I do 45 minutes, sometimes an hour. I go to Snap Fitness [because of my crazy schedule], so I can just jump on the treadmill or the elliptical. I just started lifting weights, too. Even at work, I'll just go outside and walk for 10 minutes."
INSPIRATION FROM STRANGERS ... : "I'm getting into single-digit sizes; sales ladies are telling me my jeans are too big. A lady from church came up to me at J.C. Penney and said I look great. I feel great and energetic."
... AND CO-WORKERS: "Now there are five of us at work getting fit. The joke was always that you could find something to eat at Dispatch at any hour. We're in downtown Anoka, and there are all these restaurants with delivery, and people bring in baked goods. And it's a high-stress environment, so it's easy to just grab something quick -- you don't get long breaks, so you have to get up and grab something -- or plan.
"I bring in Greek yogurt with flaxseed and leftovers for lunch. If I want to bring a treat, I make a recipe and don't tell anybody it's from Weight Watchers. I eat out occasionally, but I'll grab a couple of fries instead of eating the whole order. We found a Chinese place that delivers, and they'll put the sauce on the side.
"There's more of us jumping on board, and it makes much better employees. We can even react better -- if I'm talking someone through a crisis I have to be able to handle that stress.
"Look at how much time you spend at work. I don't want to get to the point where they're ordering an ambulance for me."
LAST HURDLE: "I'm in the best shape of my life. My kids say, 'Oh, Mom, you're too skinny.' But the doctor says I'm doing great and could lose 10 to 20 more pounds. And I feel healthy; I don't feel like I'm the one who can't keep up anymore."