Years of putting her health on the back burner led Joni Henderson of Westerville, Ohio to weigh nearly 300 pounds. Despite being a skinny child and even bearing the nickname “Bony Joni” in college, a lifelong struggle with eating coupled with the hectic schedule of raising four kids ultimately left her overweight and not in control of her health.
“I ate whatever I wanted, and raising a family left me little time to be active,” she said. “I continued to put on weight as I buried myself in volunteering for my kids’ schools and activities. We were so busy. I would drop one child off, drive thru a fast food drive thru for food and on we went. I never took time for myself.”
Two things caused Joni to change: Going up from a 22 to a 24 dress size, and having to buy a 3XL instead of a 2XL. “I was 47, three years from 50, and I decided I didn’t want to be obese at 50 for fear of health problems,” she said. “I was the one who sat on the couch watching Biggest Loser with nachos or a bowl of ice cream in my lap.”
Joni’s three-year weight loss journey began in 2023 when she joined a gym after her two youngest daughters gave her a gentle prompting earlier that year. She started going with a friend 2-3 times a week, walking on the treadmill, doing machine weights and taking fitness classes. She also started eating smaller portions, even though she was very resistant to “dieting.”
The food portion of her weight loss came in October 2023 after joining her daughter at a nutrition class that included a weight loss challenge. Skeptical, Joni joined the challenge in addition to a commercial weight loss program she had previously signed up for in December 2023. “When I started [it] and learned how much I was still eating I was shocked,” she said. “Once I got my eating in control, the weight really started coming off and it really motivated me. When I don’t track, I don’t lose!”
Joni stuck with the program until she met her goal of 168 pounds in early 2023. From there she relied on the app Lose It to track calories. Not long after meeting her goal weight, Joni became a certified Piloxing instructor. She now teaches two days a week at the same gym she trains at, where she also shares her story to help inspire other women to believe in themselves.
To really encourage the women around her, she created a before and after poster of herself which now hangs on the wall at her gym. “Women come to my class after seeing my poster and say I am their motivator!” she said. “It really makes me proud.”
For those who may be struggling to lose weight or get healthier, Joni says you have to want it for yourself before it will happen. “You have to believe you can do it and you will. You are never too old to start. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and if you hit a road block, look for a detour, but don’t quit. It’s a long process, but so worth it in the end.”