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March 2018 Member of the Month – Vilja S.

By Member of the Month

It brings us such JOY to announce our Member of the Month for March is Vilja! Vilja’s journey and experience is an inspiration. Enjoy!


I laughed when I was approached to share my story with the LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic membership as I’m nowhere near my goal weight, and have yet to fully conquer my voracious appetite for processed carbohydrates. The siren song of freshly-baked rye bread (never mind gummy bears and Haagen Dazs) is still difficult to resist. Despite that, I am making progress on my weight loss journey, and I credit the amazing team at LIVE WELL for helping me to actually enjoy daily physical exercise again.

I’m a “big-boned gal” whose weight hovered around 200 lbs for most of my teens and twenties. I was technically obese but I was active and had a zest for life. Looking back at old photos I’m amazed at how self-confident and happy I look (wearing a bathing suit In public! Weighing 230 lbs!). I loved all types of physical activity especially hiking and swimming, which I actually did competitively as a member of the White Rock Swim Club. I especially loved to challenge myself physically, and celebrated my 25th birthday by walking the Camino de Santiago through France and Spain.

It wasn’t easy being the fat kid in school (or swim club), but I somehow managed to avoid becoming a complete misanthrope. I took my health for granted and joked about the genetic curse of my hardy Northern European ancestors, who were all massively robust peasants and fisher folk. You can’t fight genetics, right? So there was no point in stressing about my weight.

Life was good, and I was lying on the beach in Cuba when my hands started shaking uncontrollably. I blamed the incredibly strong rum cocktails, and proceeded to ignore the worsening situation for several weeks, now blaming jet lag. Unfortunately, I found myself hospitalized in Thyrotoxicrisis and on the verge of a coma due to an untreated and undiagnosed thyroid condition. It turns out that I had Graves’ disease and the only solution was to destroy my thyroid with radioactive iodine.

My memories of that time are just a nightmarish spiral of illness, fatigue, depression and massive weight gain. My confidence and self-esteem were shattered and I was wary of exercising in public after being mocked at the local recreation centre. My doctor encouraged me to get back into swimming but I couldn’t even bring myself to go shopping for a swimsuit, never mind actually wear one in public. The self-assured young woman I used to be had completely disappeared.

I’ve tried countless diets with varying degrees of success, and my weight fluctuated wildly. I weighed almost 350 pounds when I finally took my doctor’s advice, (still ignoring her opinion on swimming), and walked through the doors at LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic White Rock in October 2016. It’s been difficult at times, (there have been more than a few tears shed on the treadmill), and my weight loss has been irritatingly slow, due in part to lymphoedema and partly to the aforementioned voracious appetite for processed carbohydrates.

So far I’ve lost 60 lbs since joining LIVE WELL and am deliriously happy to be under 300 lbs for the first time in almost 17 years! More importantly, I’ve started to regain my confidence and feel like I’ve finally got my life back on track! My mother joined LIVE WELL shortly after I did and we both find it’s much more enjoyable going to the gym together, and cheering each other on.

I used to have very specific numbers in mind when I thought about my long-term weight loss goals but I honestly just want to be healthy and active. My 50th birthday is a few years away, and I’d like to celebrate it by returning to France and Spain for another epic hike through the Pyrenees Mountains. I’ve done it before, weighing well over 230 lbs and it would be kind of amazing to see what the experience would be like at a healthier weight. In the meantime I might do something really crazy like go out and purchase a new swimsuit, and actually use it!

I am indebted to the amazing team at LIVE WELL as well as to Dr. Ali Zentner for their encouragement, and for rekindling a sense of hope and optimism that’s been missing from my life for the last decade.


Thank you to Vilja for sharing your experiences, we are so excited to be on this journey with you. The whole LIVE WELL gang is looking forward to continue to CELEBRATE your WINS with you. Vilja shows us how exercise and healthy habits CAN help you LIVE WELL!

Member of the Month