Emporian Denise Wolford is a true success story — and her success will soon be shared with the nation.
Wolford, who is the office manager for the Lyon County Department on Aging/RSVP, lost 217 pounds on Weight Watchers and will be featured on the company’s website later this spring and will appear on NBC’s Today Show on Monday.
Wolford’s weight loss journey began on June 26, 2011, when she joined Weight Watchers. She attended her first meeting at Faith Lutheran Church. She said she’s been battling weight issues since she was 16 years old. She is now 55.
“After battling weight issues since I was 16 years old, I was expecting my first grandchild,” Wolford said. “My daughter and son-in-law, Katie and Jeremy Rhodes, had suffered a miscarriage with their first pregnancy and were devastated with this loss. As a mother you don’t want your children to be hurt and being very strong in my faith, I prayed to God to bless our children with a healthy baby, and I would do everything I could to get healthy to be here and watch my grandchild grow.”
Wolford’s goal was to be able to run and play with her grandchild.
“My prayers were answered and we were blessed with a healthy grandson, Talan Christopher Rhodes on Jan. 31, 2011,” she said. “It took me almost six months to finally make my promise to myself and God a reality.”
Wolford said she knew she needed to be accountable to someone on her weight loss journey, so she decided to go to Weight Watchers meetings. Her first weigh-in was 346.8 pounds.
“I had no idea I weighed that much,” she said. “I didn’t own a scale. I knew I was large but I never saw myself as that hated word ‘morbidly obese.’”
Her first week on the plan, she lost 13 pounds. That initial weight loss was enough to keep her going. Her aunt, Shirley Jones, had already lost almost 100 pounds and encouraged her to keep going, she said.
After she had lost 75 pounds, she began going to the Lee Beran Recreation Center and visited with Wellness Supervisor Barb Rourk.
“I wasn’t able to exercise at the beginning of my journey,” she said. “I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and my knees hurt so bad I wasn’t able to walk any distance.”
Wolford said Rourk suggested she use the NuStep, various weight machines and the walking track.
“That first week, I was able to do two laps around the walking track,” she said. “I now walk seven to eight miles a day and have participated in three different 5K walks/runs.”
It took Wolford 22 months to reach her lifetime goal weight, she said. She reached her goal in April 2013 and has maintained her weight. She now weighs 129 pounds — she went from a size 5X to a size 8. She also was able to go off all her medications she was on before she lost the weight.
“I am now maintaining my weight and have lost a total of 217 pounds,” she said.
One of the questions Wolford gets often is, “do you feel better?” Her answer is always yes, but she says she’s also thankful for the little things that many other people tend to take for granted.
“I can now sit in a chair with arms, without having to wedge myself into it,” she said. “I can now fasten a seat belt, I can climb stairs instead of hoping for an elevator, I can park in the furthest parking stall without using a handicap sticker. I can go in any store and purchase clothing, previously I had to use mail-order to get a size that fit.”
In addition to Talan, Wolford has another grandson, Hunter Stanton Rhodes.
“I am celebrating playing with them and my heart swells when they ask me to get down on the floor and play ‘Grammy,’” she said.
Wolford said she could not have completed her journey without the support of her family and her husband, Clyde. Her husband has never seen her this size, she said, as she weighed 220 pounds when they got married 34 years ago.
“His constant support and acceptance of my size for so many years inspired me each and every day,” she said. “Our son, Luke Wolford, would call me every Monday after I weighed in at Weight Watchers and encourage me. I could always count on him if I needed some encouragement. ... My daughter works out with me every day on our lunch hour.”
Wolford’s daughter participated in all the 5Ks that Wolford has completed. Her son-in-law participated in two with them. In addition, a dear friend, Kitty Roberts started the journey with her and was always there to encourage her, Wolford said.
“The biggest reason I started this journey was my healthy grandsons who give me all the encouragement I need to stay healthy — a hug,” she said. “(And) the staff and members of Weight Watchers who helped me stay focused with encouragement, recipes and hints and God who gave me the strength within myself to continue.”
One of the many things that Wolford learned on her journey was the difference in the way she was treated before versus after her weight loss.
“People tend to treat obese people differently,” she said. “They aren’t as forthcoming with conversations. I’ve had people that have sat a chair apart from me, mainly because I expanded into the other one. I notice that more and more I get a whole lot more hugs than I did when I was heavy. And that’s sad to me to think that we stereotype people like that.”
New York City
Sunday, Wolford will fly to New York City for the second time following her weight loss journey. She will appear on NBC’s Today Show. She will be on air between 9 and 10 a.m. Central Standard Time with Joy Bauer and Kathy Lee Gifford. Joy Bauer is the founder of the Joy Fit Club. According to joybauer.com, Bauer is the nutrition expert for NBC’s Today show and shares important health information, answers viewers’ questions, and welcomes successful dieters into the Joy Fit Club.
Wolford’s first trip to New York City was Nov. 7–9 when Weight Watchers flew her in to do a photo and video shoot. She was contacted by Mary Hurn, associate editor of Weight Watchers in July. She was told the company was going to be casting a photo shoot, and it wanted more information about Wolford’s weight-loss journey. She submitted the story of her journey along with “before and after” photos and weight-loss records. She wasn’t contacted until the first part of October by Hurn, who then asked her to be a part of the photo shoot. She said she had no idea that she would be traveling to New York and was very excited about it.
At the photo shoot, she and her husband stayed at a hotel in Times Square and were able to sight-see.
Weight Watchers flew 15 people for the photo shoot — 10 women and five men. She had hair and make-up done on set and the crew shot a 30-minute video.
“They provided my clothing and actually let me bring home the ‘Kate Spade’ dress that I wore for the photo shoot,” she said. “The staff of Weight Watchers were all so accommodating and very excited that I was a ‘Success Story.’”
The photo campaign will be released with one Success Story a week starting the last week of February to March on weightwatchers.com.
Wolford said Weight Watchers was her key to success.
“Weight Watchers was my lifesaver,” Wolford said. “Not everyone may need such a detailed plan, whatever an individual’s choice may be I can’t stress enough how good it feels to be healthy. Whether you have 20 pounds to lose or 200 pounds to lose, it all takes strength and willpower. But anyone can do this. Take your encouragement from your family, your friends, your faith or just yourself. It is not an easy journey, but one you will be forever grateful that you did.”
Wolford also submitted her story to CNN’s iReport. It can be found at: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1067721