My name is Roxanne Mullenberg, and I’m a 42-year-old bank project manager living in Fargo, ND.
My entire family is the definition of “big-boned”: I’m 5’8” and have struggled with my weight my entire life. Because of that, I never had good self-esteem. My mom tried to cook healthy meals, but my parents were feeding four kids plus themselves on a working-class budget, and we all know that fresh food is more expensive.
As an adult, I’ve always seen 350 pounds or so on the scale. I tried weight loss programs here and there that never worked. This was before apps, and manually counting calories was exhausting and not realistic. I tried a program where I drank shakes, but I never felt full or satisfied, and I actually gained weight. I also tried joining a gym, but I could never focus on nutrition at the same time as exercise; it was one or the other, and I never saw much change.
My sister also struggled with her weight, and in 2014, at 39, she had gastric sleeve surgery. After a few days at home, she had to be readmitted to the hospital, and she died from a blood clot from the surgery. Not only was I dealing with suddenly losing my sister, but I also became a single mom overnight: I adopted her four-year-old son, Ryan, with whom I’ve always shared a special bond. My sister always wanted us to be close, and now I wonder if she knew somehow that she wouldn’t always be around.
After what happened to my sister, I knew surgery would never be the weight loss path for me. Yet I wanted to get healthy for Ryan, to make sure I would be here, and to have more energy to be the best parent I could be. Of course, now that I am a single parent, this would be more challenging than in the past. I’m really good at caretaking and giving to others, but not very good at taking care of myself. Losing weight always came in second to showing up for Ryan or my nieces’ events—even if that meant grabbing fast food or something from the concession stands at their games.
Resolving underlying issues and starting to make changes
A few years later, I was at a family reunion when my mom’s cousin came up and asked, “Do you have a thyroid issue?” I said not one I knew of. She told me she had a thyroid issue, as did all of her sisters. (The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ that creates and produces hormones that play a major role in metabolism.) I hadn’t realized there was any family history of this. So at my next checkup, I mentioned it to the doctor. She ran blood tests and called me that day to say I had an underactive thyroid, and prescribed me medication. I started taking the prescription and made an effort to eat better but I only lost a negligible amount of weight. I wasn’t feeling good or proud of how I looked, so I decided I wanted to put in the work to lose more.
Shortly after that, about two years ago, my office set up a summer walking challenge, and I signed up. My goal: Walk 400 miles by September. Having a concrete challenge really motivated me and gave me a reason to exercise. The accountability was also super helpful. Every week, they sent out an email to everyone with each participant’s mileage recaps, and, heck yeah, I wanted to be one of the top participants! I finished in the top quarter of the group, logging 4 to 5 miles a day.
I’ve kept it up, and I’m still walking 4 miles a day. I wake up and walk in the morning, then do 40 minutes at lunchtime every day, then do another walk at night. I split up my 80 to 90 minutes of activity a day because I would never have that uninterrupted stretch. I even walked a 10k for my 42nd birthday this year.
Fargo’s weather isn’t great for walking year-round, but I didn’t let that stop me. My goal this winter was to walk at least one of my miles outside each day to get some fresh air and make it feel different from all my indoor activity (like walking around the house while on phone calls). Over the winter, that meant forcing myself outside during bitterly cold, 20-below days. I’d put on wool socks, big boots, snow pants, and go, even when there was a no-travel advisory. Whether it’s raining, snowing, sleeting, hailing, minus-20 degrees, or 95 degrees, I’m going to be out there.
Finding a nutrition plan that works for me
Even with walking consistently, the weight wasn’t coming off. I knew I also had to change my eating habits. Coworkers at the bank recommended that I try Profile by Sanford, a health and nutrition program developed by medical experts at Sanford Health, one of the world’s largest healthcare providers. When you join the program, you’re paired with a health coach (that you meet with in-person at one of their retail locations or online) to get a custom meal plan and learn sustainable lifestyle changes. There are essentially three phases for Profile: Reboot, Adapt, and Sustain. Starting with the Reboot stage, I had a protein shake in the morning; another one as a mid-morning snack; a protein shake and 2 cups of veggies and a fat (like avocado or olive oil) for lunch; then, a Profile fiber tea and Profile protein bar as an afternoon snack. For supper, I’d have a protein (like chicken or fish), 2 more cups of veggies, and a fat, followed by another shake. Though I was hesitant about any plan that incorporated shakes because of my past experiences with that being all you ate, these ones tasted great, were in addition to real food, and were perfect for my on-the-go lifestyle, so I didn’t have to stop at a drive-through.
I’m in Adapt now, the second phase, which means I can swap out more shakes and bars for fresh foods and can have starches and fruit. The goal while moving through the phases is to have fewer packaged products and more fresh foods that you make yourself. Profile offers some pre-made food items, but other than shakes, bars, and tea, I mostly grocery shop and make my own meals. I got a customized meal plan from my coach with lots of healthy ideas and even grocery lists. I like the meal plans because I don’t have to think about what to eat or try to make the right decision because it’s already laid out for me.
Now, rather than using the drive-through, I have a shake, or I always have a bag of prepped celery or cucumbers in the car to eat instead of fries. I’ve had to adapt how I think and spend some extra time preparing food. I’m doing something for myself for once, which is a mindset change. I’m investing in myself, my health, and my future.
Seeing results and setting new goals
When I started with Profile in February 2020, I was at 358 lbs. Now I’m at 209, so 149 lbs down! I’ve gone down 10 pants sizes—getting a whole new wardrobe is fun! I’ve had other major wins, too. Before, my blood pressure was concerningly high and I was close to requiring medication, and now it’s drastically dropped to a healthy range. I’m feeling more comfortable in my own skin. I have more energy, and as I’m gaining confidence, I’m more willing to try new things.
Ryan is 11 now and wants us to go on bike rides together, so working up my confidence and muscle stamina for longer rides is my next goal. I also used to think runners were crazy—why would you do that unless you were running from something?–but now I think about how much more quickly I would get my steps in and it’s appealing to me, so I might try training for a 5k run next. I have walking down, so now it’s asking my body, What else can I do? These days, I’m up for new challenges, and nothing can slow me down.
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