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Downsizing: Slow > DNF > DNS

How does a person end up being over 300 pounds?

  • Lack of motivation?
  • An addiction to junk food?
  • Health issues?
  • Life circumstances?
  • A combination of all of these?
  • … Most likely.

    Over the coming months, you’ll be getting a glimpse into my life with regard to getting healthy or as I like to think of it:


    Why share my story?

    Perhaps you need a little motivation to get yourself moving. Maybe, by knowing the struggles I go through just to walk a mile, it will motivate you to walk or run a mile or two. If you’re already healthy, chances are you have a family member, a friend, or a co-worker who struggles with weight issues. By following my story, it may help you understand that person’s situation better and enable you to be more supportive.

    Developing The Mind Set

    While in my 30’s, I lost my parents and my sister. Later, I lost a brother. A decade ago, I went through chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. You would think that these events would have been a big enough jolt for me to start taking care of myself!

    They weren’t.

    Though I am lucky enough to count myself among those who have survived cancer, I struggle with some side effects from the chemotherapy. One of these is partial numbness in the bottom of my feet. When I walk on a hard surface, or go up and down stairs, it sometimes feels like I’m walking on sand. Making matters worse, I fell and smacked my left knee on ice a few years ago. My leg now retains a lot of fluid and this makes me extremely cautious – almost fearful – about walking any great distance.

    Shortly after being declared cancer free, I went to a wellness center for three weeks and learned a lot of things. At the time, I scoffed at some of the things that were taught but I’m finally coming to terms with what I learned. It’s just taken several years for it to all make sense to me. During that same time I chose to leave a stressful school administration position to work part-time at my church. I’ve known for some time that I need to reduce the stress in my life, but for the past few years I think I’ve put life, and certainly my health, on hold.

    It has taken me a long, long time to finally be at a point where I feel confident and eager about getting healthy. For the past couple of years I’ve been working with a health coach by phone. I jokingly refer to him as “Father Joe”. After all, I feel like I’m always confessing my eating sins and failing to perform my penance of exercise. Of course there are times when I look forward to Joe’s calls, but I often wish he would just dial the wrong number.

    With Joe’s help, however, I’ve been able to stop drinking cola, have made attempts at cooking healthy meals, and have made an effort to exercise. When I’ve struggled with bad weeks, Joe has challenged me to think of reasons why I go off course. What an eye opener that has been! I’ve begun to take note of what triggers the activity of wolfing down a box of chocolate peanut butter cookies or skipping workouts for a whole month.

    In an effort to motivate me, my doctor asked me to think about the things that I’m missing because of my weight. With tears in his eyes, Dr. Felsen once told me that there’s so much to explore and enjoy, but that I’ve got to commit to making healthy changes to get there.

    He’s right, of course but that’s easier said than done.

    For years, I’ve tried to convince myself that I don’t have the time or money to travel or to do other things that I’ve always dreamed of doing, but in reality it’s my weight that prevents me from doing those things. I want to travel to Australia. I want to fly in a hot air balloon. I’m tired of my weight preventing me from following my dreams – and I finally believe that I’ve developed a mind set to make healthy, long lasting changes!

    An Opportunity To Be Coached

    A lot of exercise equipment is built to hold 250 pounds or less, so anyone weighing more than that doesn’t have the option to use exercise equipment, unless that person has thousands to pay for equipment that will sustain their weight. I purchased an endless pool because I knew my joints wouldn’t hurt in the pool, but as an overweight person and exercise newbie, it’s difficult to know how hard to push myself with regard to exercise. After all, I get breathless just bending over to tie my sneakers – and that’s while I’m sitting on the couch! I knew I needed a coach, but I wasn’t looking for the Biggest Losers gurus – only someone who could help me get moving and hold me accountable.

    Thankfully, I’ve been given an opportunity to work with Coach Brian. From our initial communications, Brian could see that I was ready to make healthy changes and agreed to coach me even though I’m not really a runner – yet.

    Preparing For Commitment

    Brian wastes no time! I was thinking he’d probably wait and have me start walking right after the holidays. Ohhhhh no! He was ready to torture me work with me – in mid-November! I stocked up on healthy food, reduced my freelance writing commitments, and made a commitment to myself to keep my health as a priority.

    Brian’s email regarding my first walk told me that I needed to walk a mile. It didn’t matter how long it took, or how many breaks I took, but I needed to accomplish a mile. The night before, as I was mapping out the mile on the web I was fighting back tears. I honestly wasn’t sure if I could walk an entire mile. On top of that, I wasn’t even sure where I buried my sneakers. So for my first walk, I walked in my Burkies with socks!

Later that day I went to Hamilton’s, the local shoe store, and was fitted with a great pair of New Balance sneakers. I had a nice chat with the owner, Rich Shear, and I asked him if he thought I was crazy to take up walking right before winter.

“I enjoy seeing people get started with walking or running in the fall”, Rich said, “The weather is cool and there’s a bit of quietness before the hectic holidays kick in.  The cooler weather helps you work out with more gusto.”

Slow > DNF > DNS

Obviously, I did survive that first mile. I stopped six times and it took about a half hour, but I made it! I remember breathing so heavily at one point that I kept checking behind me to see if someone was there. I wasn’t used to hearing my own breathing. I also remember that as people drove by, I hoped that they thought I was just finishing up a three mile walk. In reality I was just huffing and puffing all the way through that mile.

Feeling a little discouraged and embarrassed by the wake-up call of how out of shape I am, I was thankful for Brian’s response. He sent me an email with a saying he saw on the back of a shirt during a marathon:

“Slow > DNF > DNS”

He explained that in racing terms, “DNF” stands for “Did Not Finish” and “DNS” stands for “Did Not Start”. Finishing slow is better than not finishing. You’ve accomplished something. Failing to finish is better than not starting at all because at least you’ve learned something from the experience. You’ll be better prepared next time.  If you never start, however, you’ve gained nothing.

Now as I walk, and begin to feel frustrated that I’m not walking very fast, I’m able to remind myself that slow is okay! I have STARTED to make an effort to get healthy, and I have consistently FINISHED my mile walks.

Naming Trees and Counting Pennies

I don’t own an iPod and I know that I need to distract my thoughts while walking; otherwise, I seem to focus on my heavy breathing. So, I’ve taken up name calling! As I walk by the trees, I greet and name each tree, using the alphabet…

“Good morning, Adam!”

“Hi, Ben!”

“Nice day, Chad”.

Sure it may seem a little crazy, but it has really helped me and the trees haven’t complained yet!

When the weather is bad, I walk indoors, by doing a figure eight in the church’s sanctuary. It takes 20 laps to walk a mile. I crank up the music, put 20 pennies in my left pocket, and start walking. At the end of each lap, I remove a penny from my pocket and put it into the right pocket. It might appear odd to some people, but it works for me.

Progress Thus Far

I am pleasantly surprised by the progress I’ve made in the first three weeks. I’ve gone from three 1-mile walks a week, to two 1-mile walks, a 1/2 mile walk and a 1 1/2 mile walk. My times are getting better too! My fastest mile is 23 minutes with no stops. My resting pulse rate has gone from the high 70’s to the low 70’s. My systolic blood pressure (the top number) has decreased ten points! I’ve lost 12 pounds.

I realize that I have a long way to go, and right now I feel like the proverbial tortoise -“Slow and steady wins the race”. I am starting out slow, but each time I accomplish a mile, I have won that particular race! I’m looking forward to the day when I can walk a mile under 20 minutes and I’m especially looking forward to walking three miles, no matter how long it takes me!  I hope you’ll join me on my journey. I’m 100% committed, but I can use all the encouragement you can give!

Written by

Photos by Rebecca Amidon-Austin

Barb Bergerson lives in Western New York. She has a passion for helping people and getting to know their life stories. She teaches part-time in a jail, is a church administrative assistant, and enjoys freelance writing. Barb loves spending time with her nieces, playing games and relaxing by her pond. She’s excited about focusing on her health and getting back into the game of life. Get updates on Barb's progress on Facebook.

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62 Responses to "Downsizing: Slow > DNF > DNS"

  1. Amanda says:

    I am super proud of you!

  2. Barb says:

    Thanks Amanda!

  3. Jamie says:

    Great job Barb! I am very proud of you. Every single mile you complete is one mile closer to living a long, healthy life. Kuddos!!

  4. Patti says:

    Waa-hoo! You go, girl! I’m SO happy for you and incredibly proud of you. It’s a huge challenge. I share some of your struggles. It will be a pleasure to follow your progress and cheer you on, even from far away. It’s okay that it’s taken a long time to finally get serious about improving our health. Things happen in the right time. Trust the process!

  5. Francoise Merry says:

    Barb, you are doing so well. Thank you for sharing your life story, being so honest with your struggles. You are such an encouragement for us to live a life that doesn’t pretend but is like an open book. I am 100% with you, behind you and I love you

    • Barb says:

      Thank you Fran. As I’ve said on Facebook, people with a drug or gambling addiction can hide it for a period of time. Someone with a food addiction can’t hide it…so I’m okay about being “an open book” about it. Thanks for the support!

  6. Shelley says:

    You cannot believe how much of an encouragement YOU have been to ME!
    Keep up the great work!

  7. Beckie says:

    u inspire me….

  8. Jessica says:

    Keep up the good work!!

  9. Marilyn says:

    I think of you every morning on my own walks. It’s so inspiring that you’re doing this Barb.

    • Barb says:

      Thank you Marilyn. When you post certain pics from your walks…especially during the Fall, it makes me want to go out there and enjoy nature as well. I’m inspired that you walk regardless of the weather. Maybe next winter I’ll be more daring about walking in the snow.

  10. Jeremy says:

    Awesome article Barb! I’m proud of your perseverance and the progress you have made. Keep up the good work.

  11. lindsay says:

    you are amazing! enjoyed your “getting to know you” story and hearing about the start of your journey. nifty trick with those pennies – good idea!

    keep up the great work!

  12. Shawnee says:

    enjoyed your story and following you on the blog. Keep on keeping on!

  13. Jean says:

    Hello Barb…you don’t know me, but I live in Wellsville and we have SO much in common! Each time I get inspired, I get to the point of deciding to exercise but that never translates into getting out of my recliner and getting started. I know what a big step that is and you are awesome for taking it! I’ll be thinking of and praying for you!
    You go girl!

    • Brian Darrow says:

      Sounds like you could use a coach too, Jean. Barb could use a walking buddy come springtime :).

      • Barb says:

        Hi Jean. Recently on the “Downsizing” facebook page I posted, “If you want to change, you have to make the CHOICE.” It’s taken me years to get to the point of MAKING the choice. The desire was probably always there. When you’re ready to make the choice, contact me. I’d be happy to go for a walk with you!

  14. Jennifer Green says:

    Such an amazing woman you are Barb! I am following you on the blog as well, and know that I love you and Im rooting for you!!!!!!

  15. Marsha says:

    Focus on your strength [God]. Not your weakness [Satan].

  16. Regina says:

    Barb, the fact that you can state all this stuff publicly is very admirable and shows your strength. You are a brave woman and I am so proud of you!! We all need to take lessons from you. I think you’ll have lots of offers of walking buddies when you are ready!! Keep up the good work!! You have lots of people who love and support you!!! Including me!!

    • Barb says:

      Thanks Regina. My hope with these articles is to inspire others and to help those who don’t “get” why obesity happens to maybe have a better understanding. Whether it’s weight, laziness, drinking, etc. each one of us a struggle that we need to overcome. Thanks for the support.

  17. Regina says:

    You should be so proud of yourself Barb!! You are brave and strong and an inspiration to a lot of people! Keep up the good work!! A lot of people love you and support you – including me!!!

  18. Sandy Rowley says:

    Hi Barb,Just wanted to encourage you in your walking program.You have gotten past the the hardest part,which is starting.Please know I am praying.I

    • Barb says:

      Thanks Sandy. You’re right….starting is a hard part. It’s taken me years to finally make the choice of starting.

  19. CB says:

    One step at a time! Keep being encouraged by the little progresses you make. Good for you!!

  20. Erin Gorham says:

    Awesome Barb! What an inspiration!

    • Barb says:

      Erin, I think back to the morning that I saw you do your fire hydrant to fire hydrant walk/run thing. I love that idea! Maybe in a few months I’ll be able to walk/trot from fire hydrant to fire hydrant!

  21. Indri says:

    You go girl! keep up the good work.. let me know if you need a walking pal – I will walk with you once in a while and let’s trade healthy recipes.. I am all for that. God Bless!

    • Barb says:

      Indri, you’ll appreciate my next article. I don’t do a lot of cooking! So, I welcome healthy recipes from you! lol I am trying to fix healthy meals and haven’t burned the kitchen down yet.

  22. Dave D. says:

    Great article Barb, we look forward to seeing your progress and the wonderful smile on your face as you enjoy your walks. God Bless.

  23. Suzy says:

    Every journey starts with one step. You are well on your way. Go girl!!! You have so much support cheering you on. You CAN — and will — do it!

  24. LouAnn Rowley says:

    WOW! I am very proud of your accomplishments.Thankyou for your honesty & allowing some of us to share in your journey. Love & Prayers

  25. Kathy Winans says:


    I am very proud of you!!!!!! It’s a daily struggle but SO worth it-just feeling better & better every day. One of these days we can take that balloon ride together and not wish we could go.

  26. Jasmine says:


    Thank you for sharing your story!! I can’t wait to see you walking the streets of Wellsville this spring/summer. The rest of your story is going to be even more awesome than the beginning!!

    • Barb says:

      Thanks Jasmine. Who knew a year ago that I would be looking forward to walking outside!!!!!! I am soooooooo ready for winter to end so I can enjoy the outdoors.

  27. Alicia says:

    I’m so proud of you! You have been a great help with Ashleigh. keep up the great work! See you soon!

  28. Mary Lewis says:

    Barb, I loved reading your story and am so proud of you. You look radiant when I see you in church each Sunday. All that walking and eating healthy looks great on you! Let me know if you want a walking partner every once in a while. Keep it up!! You are loved.

  29. Dan says:

    Hi Barb,
    Good luck and keep going!
    Friend from Saratoga,

  30. Amanda says:

    Thanks for reposting this. Funny how when reading something once and then again later in time different parts stand out more ;-)

  31. Mike says:

    GREAT JOB …. I too am a bigger person high weight that I know of 328.6 I started walk running 2 years ago fool heartedly tried to do a full marathon feb of 2011 it was a DNF i manged too walk run half marathon took me 4 hours an I hurt really bad… hurt my foot an was side lined almost 6 months in 2012 I started training again an on thanksgiving day I was able to complete a half marathon in 3.5 hours !!! Then I lost focus over the holidays an lost some momentem .. then a friend challenged me to do 13 half marathons in 2013 thats one a month an in month of december will try a full marathon … it may seem overly ambitious but im going for it… when I started could only run for 10 sec at a time with 5 minute walk breaks my times were about 20 minute miles I am now averaging 16 min miles an I have finished 5 half marathons I am still around 3.5 hours but I feel im getting stronger I have lost 50 lbs today im not sure how in the heck i am going to do a marathon in dec… but then again 5 months ago if I said I would have walk ran 5 half marathon in four months i would of been like no way …. so keep on doing what you are doing you are not alone an there is no limit to what we acheive when we put one step in front of the other !!!

  32. Michelle says:

    You have no idea how refreshing it is to see so many people being supportive of your efforts! Jeff Galloway said “A lifestyle change begins with a vision and a single step.”

    I too started run/walking last year. I was determined to run 2 half marathons in 2013. That was an EPIC DNS FAIL! A few months into training, I developed Plantar Faciitis in both feet. Needless to say, that pretty much was the end of my journey.

    Over a year later, I decided to try again. This time my goal was to finish a 5K. I started my training and two weeks later, I was “competing” in my first 5K. Sitting in my car, I was embarrassed to get out. Me, 100 lbs over weight, against 250 runners…REAL runners. I finally convinced myself to get out of the car and I started the race. I got lapped at a 1/4 mile. I hated them, but I kept on running. Then they started running in the opposite direction; I hated them even more. But then something I wasn’t expecting happened. They started congratulating me and encouraging me and oddly enough, they weren’t pointing and laughing at me.

    I completed that race in 50m:11s. I was THRILLED! A few weeks later, I finished my second one in 49:27. What I’ve learned is you are you’re own worst critic. I’ve also learned YOU are the one running this race, not the runners or walkers next to. Make this race YOURS! I’m so excited to follow you on your journey, and know that you have supports cheering you on. You can do this!

  33. terramajor says:

    I think that is wonderful! Great job, and i am looking forward to following your story!!

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