A Bradford West Gwillimbury woman who lost 176 pounds shared her inspiring weight loss story on The Marilyn Denis Show this week.
In early 2017, Mina Viscardi-Johnson was 412 pounds and had been diagnosed with diabetes, high cholesterol, and Hashimoto’s disease, a thyroid-affecting autoimmune condition.
“I hit rock bottom, and I knew I needed to make changes, to become more mindful of my health, of those I loved and what mattered to me, so I began what I call my journey of mindfulness,” she told BradfordToday.
“I knew for certain that I never wanted to be on another ‘diet’ again but I wanted to find a way I could eat that made me feel good but that I could sustain as a lifestyle.”
Viscardi-Johnson did some research, started an Instagram account to learn from other people, and joined the BWG Leisure Centre.
“I still remember crying in my car every night for weeks before walking into the gym because everything hurt and I was embarrassed of how big I had become. When I first started there, I could barely walk around the indoor track once. My husband joined with me and he walked around with me and would rest with me,” she said.
About one month later, she joined a Slimpossible Challenge at the leisure centre, which she calls a “game changer.”
“I went in thinking it was a weight loss challenge but came out of it having made friends, learning gym techniques, and of course some weight loss, but more importantly, I learned how to begin to face my fears,” she said. “I learned to start to believe that I could do this, and I also learned the most valuable lesson I take with me every day… your success will come from consistency.”
Now, about 23 months later, Viscardi-Johnson said she has cut out grains and dairy, is off all her diabetes medication, has normal blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and her thyroid condition is stable.
She shared her experiences on The Marilyn Denis Show on Wednesday, alongside Jillian Michaels, a personal trainer and TV personality known for her appearances on the weight loss show The Biggest Loser.
“I hope you’re really internalizing what an incredible accomplishment that is,” Michaels told Viscardi-Johnson on The Marilyn Denis Show. “I can’t imagine there’s anything harder, and you’ve done it. What you’ve done is breathtaking and inspirational.”
Viscardi-Johnson said she is “eternally grateful” to the leisure centre staff for believing in her before she believed in herself.
“They have supported and encouraged me throughout this journey. They have made me laugh and sometimes cried with me to get me through some tough times. They have celebrated with me when I did many firsts, (such as when I) ran my first lap, as well as helped push me beyond my limits when I was challenged to do something that I thought I couldn’t,” she said.
“One thing for sure is that BWG Leisure Centre is a true community.”
Mina Viscardi-Johnson’s weight loss advice:
Find a way to make it work
Try meal prepping on Sundays for most of the week.
“Everyone gets a healthy main with a side of veggies and most times that veggie is salad in a bag, but it works. It allows everyone to have a dinner and gives me the time to get to the gym at night. Ask for help, make a plan, and just fit it in. You are worth the planning.”
Find your “Why?”
“For me, (this journey) made me not only work on food and exercise but on me — I needed to learn to love me, to remind myself who I was, what I needed, remove negativity and learn to pause.
Make it a lifestyle
“There is no quick fix. Trust me, I tried all of them. I don’t believe there is a right way or wrong way. Take the time to figure out what works for you and your body.”
Find your strength
Exercise to gain strength, but also find your inner strength.
“I had to learn that I was stronger than I thought and that my body was capable of so much more. I had to learn to face my fears and learn to believe in myself again.”
Surround yourself with people who love you
Having an amazing support team is vital, whether that is family, friends, fitness trainers, or workout buddies.
“One of the hardest things about this journey is that I had to learn to remove negativity from my life. This includes things and people. I realized that I no longer had to participate in negativity, and I no longer had to accept people treating me like I didn’t matter.”