Wellness Warrior: How One Woman Found Joy in a New Lifestyle

Sherrian Greenwood’s moment of truth came in 2011. That’s when she found herself bumping up against the 300-pound weight limit on her doctor’s examination table. “She told me I would have to go the hospital because her table couldn’t accommodate me,” Greenwood recalls. The reality soon dawned on Greenwood. “I started to think, ‘How many 300-pound 70-year-olds do I know, and what is their quality of life?’”

How did I get here?

Greenwood considers herself to be an emotional eater. For years, food helped her celebrate the good times and console herself during the bad, she says. “When I was happy, I ate. When I was sad, I ate,” she remembers. Although she had been a healthy weight through high school, she began to add pounds as the years sped by. “It started with ‘the freshman 15’ in college and grew from there,” the 47-year-old Detroit resident explains.

Not only was she eating too much, she says, but she seldom exercised. She had been active in her younger years, but gradually lost both the interest and the ability. She’d try, get discouraged and quit.

 

Turning the tables

Around the same time as that fateful doctor’s appointment, Greenwood’s pastor began recruiting church members to join him in a half-marathon later that year, she says. She decided it was time to make a change. In preparation for the event, she made a commitment to get moving, starting with a Zumba class. “I used to love to dance but had given that up as I gained weight,” she remembers. Joining the class boosted her faith in herself, and kindled hope that she could get back to her healthy and active former self.

One Zumba class three days a week soon became four, then five. She later added kickboxing, boot camp and other classes she once thought too strenuous. Soon she began to see major change in mental and physical stamina, she says.

Identifying an exercise that worked for her was key, she says. “We only change our bodies two ways – what we put in our mouth and how we move,” she says. “If you find an exercise you enjoy, you’re much more likely to actually do it.” She also changed how she eats, and why. “I love food, so one of the keys for me was to find ways to deal with stress that didn’t include eating.” She fuels the day with a healthy breakfast, and tries to balance her diet with equal amounts of protein, vegetables and fruit. “It’s really hard, because I love sweet things,” she admits. She indulges occasionally, but she doesn’t slip often. “I have cheated enough to know that it doesn’t take me where I want to go,” she explains.

 

A happy ending

Eventually, Greenwood changed much more than just her body. By 2013, she had dropped 120 pounds, slimming down from a size 22/24 to a 10/12. That same year, she left her job in human resources in search of work that more closely aligned with her new life goals and a get-healthy philosophy.

She found it when she was asked to substitute for a Zumba instructor who was injured. Soon she was teaching more and more classes and quickly realized she had found her calling. “I wanted to do something that I was passionate about and help others,” she explains. She now teaches a variety of classes throughout metro Detroit. As a personal trainer at Wayne State University, she shares her enthusiasm and weight-loss success with others grappling with the same challenges. While soft-spoken, she peppers her classes with encouraging shouts of “You’ve got this!” and “You’re almost there!”

Most of Greenwood’s students are women, she notes, and many relate to her struggles – and the issues she still battles. “I’ll always be an emotional eater,” she says. “It’s a daily struggle to not eat for the wrong reasons. And in my mind, sometimes, I’m still big. But it’s real. I did this, even if I’m still a work in progress.”

And while she has lost the weight, she has gained so much more, she says. “Getting in shape gave me the confidence to step further out of my comfort zone in other areas of my life,” she explains. That has meant trying new classes, changing her career and finding a support group to lean on when the going gets tough.

She counts herself among support groups for others, and says that if she can do it, others can too. “People love that I can relate to their struggles,” she says. As an exercise instructor and fitness coach, she loves being a part of a student’s transformation. For Greenwood, the benefits of her life changes have multiplied far beyond herself. “It’s a joy to see someone achieve something they didn’t think they could do. It’s an amazing honor to be a part of that – and it keeps me motivated, too.”

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Categories: Get Moving, Get Healthy

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