Success Stories

Patty Nyholm - Seward, Alaska

I came from a reservation so I did not have a healthy beginning at all. If anything, I was starving. They called me “garbage gut” because I ate everything. I couldn’t get enough to eat. I was always a big eater and could eat as much as my boyfriends – it seemed like I could never get full. Even still, I was very skinny.

As I was growing up and got married and I had children, I became less active and the weight started staying on. I still ate as much as I use to and my cholesterol started going up right along with my weight.

When I was 45 I found out about my high cholesterol and that I had to change my eating habits and change my routine of activities. The first thing I did was started exercising. I had always exercised, but I never stuck with it. My husband was very concerned and I had my children to think of, so exercising was something I needed to stick with this time. There is an exercise room at the clinic, so I started there. I knew if I joined a health club I wouldn’t stick with it. I started out at 5 to 10 minutes at a time. I took it really slow; the personal trainer at the clinic said to add a few minutes each week and that’s just what I did. The trainer that works there said I would be running in no time, but I don’t even like to run. It took about a year until I was able to work up to an hour every day of the week of speed-walking.

That first year I did not make any dietary changes. I was a real meat and potatoes person. Slowly, my food choices changed. When my boys started track they wanted healthier food – like fruits and vegetables. I would bring the fruits home and eventually I started to make fruit smoothies for myself in the evening to replace the unhealthy foods that I usually ate at night. I started cutting my portions in half and drinking a lot more water. I started reading a lot and educating myself about food – I use to buy convenient foods, like frozen burritos, but I learned that they were not healthy at all. We ate raw vegetables and a fruit bowl with every dinner. We would eat a little bit of the main dish, and fill up on the fruits and vegetables. It’s so simple. I wouldn’t sugar or salt to anything I made.

We went from eating butter to eating saturated fat free, trans-fat free margarine. I ate oatmeal everyday for breakfast and lunch. I started eating a lot more vegetables – I would make a vegetable tray with just a little bit of ranch dressing for dipping for me and the kids to munch on. We cut way back on red meat and started eating vegetarian meat substitutes and soy products, like Boca hamburgers. There is no soda in our house, mostly we drink water. I still carry instant oatmeal with me everywhere I go!

Then I started running outside. I would do just a lap, then after a long time I did a mile in one hour. I felt so great. If I didn’t run my body ached. I felt like I needed to run every night because it made me feel so good and energetic! So I thought “I’ll just keep on going” and eventually I got up to 2 miles. I stuck with the 2 miles a long time when my kids –who were into the cross-country running – told me they were running 3 mile trail runs. So I made that my goal – to do a 3 mile trail run. First I did 1 ½ miles in an hour and 15 minutes. So then I figured it would take me 3 hours to run 3 miles, but it didn’t, it took an hour and forty-five minutes!

I had my cholesterol checked about 6 months after starting all of this. My cholesterol hadn’t gone down and the doctor wanted me to go on cholesterol lowering medication, but I didn’t want medication. So I started taking fish oil instead. After a year, my cholesterol had gone down, but not as low as it needs to be. I get it checked again in October and I’ll go on medication if I have to, but I will still continue with the healthy eating and exercise because it’s a part of me now. My body needs it.

I haven’t really lost weight, but I can feel a difference in my body – it feels stronger & healthier. Now I am biking 1-2 hours everyday with my daughter. We are having a lot of fun. Other things, like going out berry picking are a simple way for me and my family to be active and have healthy food. Our family has fun doing it too. I am going to start running again because I miss it. I thought at 45 I was too old to change, like running was only for younger people, but its not. In Hope, AK I saw an 85 year old man run a 3 ½ mile race. You’re never too old to get fit. Once you start you want to keep going at it. I have a real feeling of accomplishment because I’ve done this and I know that I can keep doing it.

I just had my blood pressure checked recently and it was perfect – the doctor asked me if I had been exercising –she could tell! I feel like I have a lot more muscle than fat... I don’t worry about my weight at all because I feel so good. I have kept it simple and uncomplicated. I started out with one thing at a time. I can still consume a lot of food, but its a lot healthier food.

Cholesterol is a silent killer and I knew I needed to something about it. It was easy to sit on the couch and watch TV every night and eat ice cream. Changing wasn’t easy, but once I got over the hard part and worked up to 30 minutes of exercise a day, an hour felt so easy. There’s a saying “no pain, no gain” but once you’re past that pain it’s ALL gain!

Once you hit a milestone for reaching an accomplishment you feel like you can do anything. And it doesn’t have to be a big accomplishment, once you reach a little accomplishment it drives you further and you go on to the next goal. A small accomplishment is such a great success.”