Posts Tagged by inspiration

Transformation Tuesday: Julia Hagge

Have you ever not recognized yourself in a photo?  Sometimes the curveballs that life throws us can lead to poor choices that spiral out of control.  Often this happens without even being aware of it!  This happened to Julia and she is here to share her inspiring story of how she used her competitive side to turn that all around!


After years of infertility my husband and I were blessed to have 3 children within 3 years.  We had boy/girl twins in 2004 and a surprise son in 2006.  During pregnancy and nursing I carefully considered everything I ate and strove to provide the best nutritional beginning for my children. Shortly after the birth of my son I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. While I strove to provide the best nutrition for my children, I ate convenience food for myself in response to stress.  Over time my weight increased by fifty pounds and I sought to hide behind extra layers and baggy clothes.

A pivotal moment in my transformation came the day I said goodbye to my husband as he left for a deployment in Afghanistan.  After a tearful goodbye, I looked at the family picture just taken at the airport and gazed in shock at my image. I didn’t recognize the person consumed in multiple layers and spilling over her pants. It was at this moment I decided to take control of my choices and develop a healthier lifestyle. I wanted my husband to arrive back home to a fit and healthy wife.

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Capitalizing on my competitive nature I began with enrollment in my local YMCA’s Cinch and Inch competition. I was placed on a team with two women to compete against other teams to lose the most weight. We worked out together twice a week for eight weeks and received nutritional counseling. I was scared to run on the treadmill and stuck with the elliptical machine for cardio.  My team won the challenge and I won the top prize for most weight lost.

Once I lost thirty pounds I tentatively ventured over to the treadmill. It was not love at first sight. I found running to be hard and tedious, however, I liked the sense of accomplishment I felt after meeting goals set. My sister and I stumbled across the 2011 Wine and Dine Relay being offered by Disney and we registered as a team. Running part of a race seemed like a good segue into running at Disney.  She took the 1st leg and I agreed to run the longer 2nd part.  Once again my competitive nature kicked in and I focused on adding miles to my endurance and speed to my miles. I continued to drop pounds as I monitored what I ate and trained for the race.

It was during the Wine and Dine Relay that I became hooked on running at Disney. I will never forget the moment I ran through the Osborne lights in Hollywood Studios.  It was like running in a magical dream.  I met my goal of a ten-minute mile pace and my sister and I celebrated at the after party.

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Since my first Disney race in 2011 I ran the 2012 Princess ½ Marathon, 2012 Tower of Terror, and the 2013 Glass Slipper Challenge.  It was during training for the Glass Slipper Challenge that I discovered the power in the online Disney running community. I joined several online groups and found inspiration and motivation hearing about the journey of fellow runners. The Disney running community inspired me to set challenging goals and kept me motivated to carve out time to train. At the Glass Slipper Challenge I placed 29th in my division for the 10K and 138th in my division for the ½ marathon.

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Currently, I am training for the 2014 Wine and Dine ½ Marathon and the 2015 Goofy Challenge.  January will mark my first marathon and a huge step in my running journey.  Never would I have thought I could voluntarily run over 26 miles.  Disney races keep me motivated to make healthy lifestyle choices and maintain a consistent running schedule. Although I initially set out to lose 35 pounds, I lost a total of 50 pounds and have been able to maintain my weight since 2011. More importantly, I now see a healthier version of me when I look at my photos.

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About Julia: I am 43 and have been married fourteen years to Joe, my biggest supporter. In addition to being a mom to three amazing children, I teach at a large university and will complete my Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction in May 2015.  I am currently training for my first marathon as part of the Goofy Challenge at WDW in January of 2015.


Has running at Disney helped to transform your life?  If so, I want to hear your story!  Send me an email at to be featured on an upcoming Transformation Tuesday!

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Transformation Tuesday: Crystal Wiseheart

I think Crystal’s story will resonate with a lot of people.  Stress is a big trigger as to why people gain weight and understandable so.  It’s how those people get out of the slump that inspires us….I’ll let Crystal and her abs tell you that story 🙂



I started with Disney races a little different than some people.  I started as a volunteer.  After being average weight most of my life, in 2006 our family went through some very stressful times with my than 6 year old son.  Basically 4 months of waiting for biopsy results, surgery, etc.  I didn’t handle any of it well to say the least and I turned to food for comfort during that time.  I gained 40 lbs in 4 months!

Being a huge Disney fan I had heard about the Inaugural Disneyland Half Marathon and I decided it would be fun to volunteer.  I was so inspired by the people out there of all shapes and sizes doing that race that I decided in 2007 I was going to do the 5K and work my way up to the Half.  Unfortunately I didn’t make the changes I needed to and by summer 07 I reached my highest weight of 210 lbs.  I was miserable and now I had to do a 5K totally untrained.  After completing the Disneyland 5K that year I vowed to work on my health so I could come back and do the Half.  I actually lost about 30 lbs and kept it off from late 2008 – 2010.  During that time I walked many Half marathons and also did my first Marathon (WDW 2009) and first Goofy Challenge (2010).


In Spring 2010 during a routine physical my doctor told me that my blood pressure was a concern.  It had been borderline for some time and she wanted me to take medication.  All I could think about was my boys.  My sons are both severely autistic and will need care well into their adult lives.  I did not want to do anything that could prevent me from being there to care for them for as long as possible.  So I knew I needed to make changes and get the other 50 lbs off.  I’d like to say I had that “a-ha” moment and did the work but it didn’t go that smoothly for me.  For the remainder of 2010 I struggled with yo-yoing back and forth and could never keep my weight down.


In early 2011 I finally got real about my relationship with food.  I could no longer use it to comfort me.  I needed to address the real issue that I worked out solely so I could eat!  So I totally changed my eating at that point.  Got rid of the junk in my house and loaded up on the healthy foods that I enjoyed eating.  After about a month of that, I was ready to find an exercise plan that would really make a difference for me.  As much as I enjoyed walking, it just wasn’t cutting it physically anymore.  So one early morning I saw an infomercial for a workout called Turbo Fire.  I was hooked!  I had to have this!  So I got Turbo Fire and sprung for the deluxe set (which was a 20 week program!) and dug in!  From April 2011 to Nov 2011 I did that program and lost 50 lbs!


With the weight gone and my fitness and health back on track, I started running more during the runDisney races.  Every race my time would improve just a little more.  I went from walking marathons to running marathons.  Definitely a proud moment for this one time couch potato!


I made it my mission to try to inspire others to take charge of their health.  Since the at home workouts helped me so much, I decided to become an Independent Team Beachbody Coach so I could help others reach their fitness goals as well.  In January 2014 I took it one step further and became a NASM Certified Personal Trainer so I could help even more.


Never in my life would I have thought that volunteering at the Disneyland Half could turn into a whole new life for me and my family.  I am blessed beyond measure and only hope to pay it forward.

About Crystal:  I’m a 40 year old married mother of 2 teen boys.  I work from home helping people with their health and fitness as an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and NASM Certified Personal Trainer.  My online site is  I’m currently training for several runDisney races including my second Dopey Challenge followed by the new Star Wars Rebel Challenge.


Has running at Disney helped to transform your life?  If so, I want to hear your story!  Send me an email at to be featured on an upcoming Transformation Tuesday!

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Transformation Tuesday: Michele Elbertson

Do you ever see one of those before and after photos of someone’s transformation and your jaw drops to the floor?  This is what happened when I first saw Michele’s photo.  I honestly couldn’t believe it was the same person!  She has such a positive attitude and just keeps on trying new things along her journey to get healthy.  Enjoy her wonderful story…  



At the young age of 23 in October 2009; I weighed a whopping 427 pounds and wore a size 32 clothing. Growing up, I had always been heavy; it was who I was, I knew no different. I weighed approximately 180 pounds in the 5th grade; a TYPICAL 5th grader weighs around 100 pounds. I was wearing women’s clothing; which prevented me from wearing what was “in”; further isolating me from peers. I was extremely inactive and would do anything to get out of school gym activities; especially the timed 1-mile run. I remember having anxiety attacks the night before the run; crying to my mother as I lay in bed and begged her not to send me to school. As the years progressed, I began getting doctors notes due to exercise-induced asthma that I had developed. I PHYSICALLY could not do the activities I was expected to do at my age. My parents tried to help me; but the more they pushed for me to eat healthy and exercise, the more I pushed back. There was nothing anyone could do.

The weight steadily climbed throughout middle school and high school. I entered college bordering on 300 pounds. I was determined to “start fresh” in college. This was my first time away from home and I wanted to make the best out of it. I was away from the bullies of middle school/high school and wanted to make a new impression. Even though I had a new positive attitude, my weight was sky rocketing and I was being teased and made fun of for my looks. During this time, I was eating fast food at every meal, and junk food in between.   I also realized that I had no feeling of being “full”. I remember sitting down and being able to eat a ½ pizza, an order of wings, breadsticks, and a 2 liter bottle of soda….by myself. My weight went from 300 pounds upon entering college all the way up to 427 upon graduation.

After college, I moved back home to save some money. I was content with myself and hadn’t realized how far I let myself go. I got my first job immediately upon moving home; I was teaching in a 4th grade classroom. Up until this point, I had become “used to” being teased by my peers, however, when I stood in front of a class of students who were teasing me, I had to draw the line! I overheard my student’s talking about their “fat teacher”; and realized that teacher was ME! Something had to be done! That was my Ah-ha moment!


In 2009, I began researching weight loss surgeries. I had decided upon the Lap Band; it was less invasive and it could be removed if needed in the future. The fact that it could be removed was important for me; I needed to have a “fall back” option at this point in my thought process. I still wasn’t 100% certain that this would work. I was told that lap band typically doesn’t drop as much weight as a more intensive/invasive surgery, TYPICALLY a 50-75 pound weight loss, but it was the surgery I had decided upon.

Here’s a little background info on the lap band. It’s a band that is wrapped around the upper portion of the stomach. It has an attached tube that is connected to an internal port. The band is “filled” through the port with saline to make the band tighter. The tighter the band is, the less food is able to pass through, resulting in increased weight loss. Sometimes if the band is too tight and I eat too much; it results in vomiting. This is very unpleasant and unpredictable. Vomiting is also very dangerous for a lap band patient; it could result in a slip, which leads to another surgery.

Fortunately as the months/years went by with getting to know my band, I was able to determine what my band was able to tolerate and what would make me vomit. Breads, anything “doughy”, certain stringy vegetables, pastas….these things are not tolerated well with the band and result in vomiting episodes. These vomiting episodes can last for 3-4 HOURS and are extremely unpleasant. There are foods, however, that easily slides down and can be easy to cheat with! I have to be VERY careful when eating these foods since they go down so easily. For me, these foods are chocolate, ice cream, and cookies. All of these foods are high in fat and calories, but for some reason, slide down easily! This is where self-control is crucial for me! The lap band is different for each person; each person has their own “stuck” foods and “slider” foods. No two lap band patients are the same.

The surgery was NOT an easy fix. I went into surgery the same weight as I was when I came out. The surgery went beautifully. My doctor was pleased with the results. Little did I know that my life from there on out would change for good!

Recovery from surgery was text-book. I followed the post-lap band surgery diet strictly. I spent a week on liquids; 2oz of clear liquids (watered down apple juice/grape juice, and chicken broth) every 3 hours. I then switched to mushy foods; potatoes, baby food, applesauce, etc. After that stage, I switched to more solid foods and re-introduced myself to “regular people” food; tuna fish, chicken salad minus mayo, etc. Mentally, this diet was extremely difficult. Physically I wasn’t hungry, and some days it was a force to eat the “meals” every 3 hours! I remember two days post-surgery lying in my bed smelling the pot roast, veggies, and potatoes my mom was cooking in the kitchen. This is a meal I never really liked, but at this point, I WANTED IT! I sat in my bed crying over not being able to eat it; and I began to regret the surgery!

I was able to push through this difficult stage and moved forward! The first few months, the weight began to “drop” off. I had lost about 30 pounds in the first three months before I hit my first plateau. At this point, I had just been eating healthy, but I knew in order to pass over the plateau, I needed to add exercise into my routine. Exercise had always been difficult for me; but I was now 30 pounds lighter, so it was time! I started walking and doing light cardio on the elliptical at the gym, enough to kick start weight loss again.


About a year into my weight loss journey, I had lost almost 100 pounds. I had already passed the “typical” lap band weight loss; but I was determined to keep going.

Someone asked me how I was going to celebrate losing 100 pounds. It obviously couldn’t be an edible celebration anymore- so I had to think outside of the box. I decided my goal was to do a 5k run in Walt Disney World. This meant I had to actually run and train! Something I had NEVER done or even imagined ever doing! I signed myself up for the Walt Disney World Princess 5k in February 2011.

I started my training that summer. I never followed a specific training plan; I just ran. I started off slowly. I mostly ran from one mailbox to another until I could keep going further. I was still 300ish pounds at this point, so running was tricky but I was ready and excited for this race!

Princess weekend came and I was ready for it; or so I thought! It was the LONGEST 3.1 miles of my life. I refused to stop for any character pictures. My finish time was somewhere around 48 minutes. (My current 5k time now is 28 minutes). When I finished, I was as red as a tomato and I hurt. I gladly accepted my plastic medallion that I proudly wore around my neck for the next week, however; I swore I would NEVER run again!

The next morning, I woke up in my hotel room to a lot of noise. I walked outside my room and saw thousands of runners racing by me in the half marathon. My immediate thought was “those people are crazy”. I had run 3.1 miles the day prior, and here they are running 13.1! The more I watched the runners; I noticed how much fun they were having. I must have stood for over an hour watching and cheering as the race continued before grabbing my plastic medallion and heading to the parks for the day. It was in the parks where I saw the half marathon medal; all of the sudden my plastic medallion was not good enough anymore and I wanted that ½ marathon medal! It was at that point where I decided to run a half marathon!

I knew I had to continue my weight loss journey and my training in order to achieve my new goal of running 13.1 miles. I stayed strong and I ran my first half marathon the following November. I did very well; and was quickly hooked to running!

I very quickly caught the running bug! In 2.5 years, I completed 38 half marathons, 6 full marathons, and one 50-mile ultra-marathon. The weight loss continued throughout this journey as well. There were many parts of my journey where I would plateau and need to switch up my workout/eating routines in order to get my body moving and losing weight again!


I just celebrated my four year lap band anniversary this April 15, 2014. I went from 427 pounds down to 174 pounds. A size 32 to a size 6.   I am extremely proud of my progress, but I’m not done yet! Weight loss has slowed down immensely; and I am trying to base my progress on how my clothes fit. I am currently doing some heavy weight lifting, and I know I am gaining a lot of muscle. I just recently had a body fat percentage test done; and I currently have 14.4% body fat; which falls in the “excellent” category. As per the BMI charts, I am still considered “overweight”, but that does not take into account muscle and lifestyle! So there we have it, the lap band was supposed to ONLY have me lose 50-75 pounds….I beat the odds by losing 255 pounds, and still losing!

I am a totally different person than I was four years ago. I now workout 7 days a week; and LOVE it! A few years back, you wouldn’t find me in a gym. A few MONTHS back, you wouldn’t have found me in a group exercise class; and I am now a certified Bokwa group fitness instructor! I actually look forward to my workouts. Those days of me trying to get out of a mile run are over. I now barely sweat in the first mile or two of a run! My eating is still difficult with the lap band on certain days; but I never complain. Is it a pain?  Yes, but it was the band that gave me the tools I needed to be successful!   I count my calories daily and workout; it’s not a “diet”, it’s a lifestyle!


Has running at Disney helped to transform your life?  If so, I want to hear your story!  Send me an email at to be featured on an upcoming Transformation Tuesday!

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Transformation Tuesday: Six Weeks of Awesome!

Transformation Tuesday

It’s been six weeks since I started Transformation Tuesday and I feel so honored to have been able to share these inspirational stories.  I wanted to take a moment to look back at these stories and share them all in one spot in case you missed any.  We can all use a heartwarming story to get us through the day and I don’t know any better ones than these 🙂

The series started off with Liz and her story of losing over 100 pounds with the goal of running the Walt Disney World Marathon in mind…she did it!


Next up was Sandy.  She started, like many of us do, with the Couch-to-5K program and has now completed Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge!

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Cindy joined us for week three to share that not only she has been shrinking in size because of runDisney, but she is shrinking her race time too!


Ilene only started running 17 months ago at the age of 54 during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend with the Family Fun Run 5K.  She has since gone on to complete Ragnar Cape Cod AND the Boston Marathon…amazing!


Like many mom’s, Katie turned to runDisney to lose the weight she gained after having twin boys.  Not only did it get her active, but she became healthy in all areas of her life!

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And rounding out the 6 weeks is Richard.  runDisney helped him to lose 141 pounds and gain some much needed mental clarity!


Aren’t all of these people amazing?!  I hope to continue this series going, but I can’t do it without you! If running at Disney has helped to transform your life or someone you know, I want to hear your story!  Send me an email at to be featured on an upcoming Transformation Tuesday!

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Transformation Tuesday: Ilene Fabisch

For the 4th installment of Transformation Tuesday, I’m glad to welcome Ilene!  After running her first 5K a little over a year ago at the age of 54, she has gone on to run some seriously impressive races this past year.  You will be amazed by her story!

Oh and last but not least, tomorrow is Ilene’s birthday, so join me in wishing her a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!


I’ve struggled with weight loss my whole life. I’ve also never been fond of exercise which makes it even more difficult to lose and maintain. Truth be told I’ve lost large amounts (100+) of weight a couple times during my life but slowly the pounds crept back on, likely because I hadn’t worked exercise into a regular part of my lifestyle. I’ve finally committed to not only healthy eating but to including activity as part of my daily life, the two go hand in hand!


In February 2012 I had already lost some weight using a modified Weight Watchers plan and the My Fitness Pal app.  My daughter mentioned how it would be fun for me, my husband, herself and her boyfriend to try the runDisney Family 5k at WDW in January 2013. We signed up and went to the runDisney page where we found a training schedule/techniques by Jeff Galloway. We began to train on a treadmill using a run/walk method. This method is amazing! It allows people who never thought it possible to run and complete race distances and without injuries!  We all trained for and completed that first 5k! That trip to Disney was followed by a cruise where I also completed the 5k at Castaway Cay! I was hooked!

I continued to lose weight and train. Myself and my DD and DIL signed up and participated in the run Disney sponsored Glass Slipper Challenge this past February.  An amazing set of circumstances placed a Boston Marathon bib in my hands in February. Thank goodness I had already been training for the Glass Slipper so I was able to step up the training to be prepared ( minimally) for Boston. It was an amazing experience and harder than I ever dreamed. Incredibly empowering to know I could dig that deep, overcome the pain and complete the challenge. It was as they say “life changing” and the hardest thing I’ve ever done…but I DID IT!

Since I seem to like challenges I couldn’t resist the next one I found in my path: The Ragnar Relay -Cape Cod 200 mile race! This involves a team of 12 that lives together in two vans for two daysI We had a life lesson  in communication, cooperation, support, compromise, acceptance and flexibility all resulting in an amazing experience! I could not have had better team mates for 192 miles of laughter, sleeplessness and accomplishment! We completed our race in 32 amazing hours! My three legs including a 3am one through swamp land, totaled 13 miles and included an awesome sense of accomplishment.

My  family and I are taking advantage of the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon this November to take the grandkids to their first trip to Disneyland! Then I  plan to complete the WDW Marathon this coming January with a friend I met through the Disney FB pages while training for the Glass Slipper. We will support and encourage each other to reach this sometimes overwhelming goal!


Running has helped me maintain my 125lb weight loss and the runDisney events have served as a wonderful way for family members and friends to bond and stay healthy, even while on vacation! There is a cute saying “we run Disney so we can eat Disney” for an admitted foodie it is a way to enjoy Disney’s amazing food choices on vacation and stay healthy and at goal weight!


Ilene Fabisch ran her first 5K ever at 54 years old! She is happily married to a wonderful and supportive husband, has two grown children, two grandchildren, and shares their home with two loving schnoodles. Her two grandkids help motivate her to set a healthy lifestyle example. She loves knitting, cooking healthy, and learning about running physiology. She is also an admitted FB addict!


Has running at Disney helped to transform your life?  If so, I want to hear your story!  Send me an email at to be featured on an upcoming Transformation Tuesday!

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