Anna’s roller coaster

December 27, 2017

During Anna Johnson’s junior year in high school, something triggered her to take control of her life. She started eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising regularly at the Sanford Health Thief River Falls Wellness Center. Before long, she lost 25 pounds.

Johnson didn’t know it, but her new routine was actually more harmful than she realized.

“I was limiting myself to how many calories I ate,” she said. “I ate a serving of vegetables here, a serving of vegetables there and fruit, but it wasn’t adding up to a whole lot. I was going backwards basically.”

One day, after focusing so much on a cardio workout, she felt unusually hungry.

“I don’t know what came over me,” she said. “I just started eating everything in the fridge that day, and then it happened the next day and the next day.”

After losing weight for five months, Johnson gained it all back in four weeks. She slipped into a deep depression.

“I would cry myself to sleep,” she said. “It sounds awful and it totally tore me apart.”

Her depression continued after high school graduation and into her first year of college. But an online chemistry class helped redirect her attention.

“I was overwhelmed with school and most of my days were spent watching videos,” she said. “I didn’t really want to get up and eat anything because I was so focused on getting those videos done because there was so much work for that class.”

The class distracted Johnson from the kitchen and she returned to the Wellness Center. Bit by bit, she changed her diet and started exercising and lifting weights again. Then, a new job as a Wellness Center membership sales assistant gave her an opportunity to learn more about different exercises, muscle groups and diet.

“Things just set into place,” Johnson said. “Now I’m so glad that I started working there because I wouldn’t have done all that research if it wasn’t for that job.”

The information fascinated her.

“I thought you would just track your calories and you could eat whatever you wanted as long as those calories add up to a certain amount,” Johnson said. “But when you’re training specifically to lose fat or gain muscle, you need to know what types of food groups you should be eating more of, versus less of.”

Today, Johnson continues to work at the Wellness Center, has since lost 70 pounds and shares her journey with other members. What’s more, she’s excited about the recent remodeling project at the Wellness Center. Now there’s a cycling room, an indoor walking track and more space in the weight room — her favorite spot.

“It will be a lot nicer having that extra space so people can spread out,” she said.

Thanks to generous support for the Unite and Fight Campaign, the renovated center provides new and improved space for members like Anna to get fit. Funds raised helped fill the facility with fitness and recreation equipment to encourage people of all ages to develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

“We had a good sized facility before, but our numbers keep growing so we definitely need the extra space,” Johnson said. “It’s awesome!”

To learn more about the Thief River Falls Wellness Center and how you can make a gift to the Youth Health and Wellness Fund, please call (218) 683-4105.