Little Miss Sunshine

If you should ever be blessed with the opportunity to meet Wendi Leigh Schneider, you will readily agree that she is delightful. She is the ultimate morning person, and when she walks in the front doors of Life Time North Dallas, the energy in the gym immediately shifts to a higher level. Wendi will routinely chat briefly with the front desk staff and the operations team en route to the women’s dressing room, lifting everyone she touches with her infectious smile and charming personality.

Wendi checking in with Staci Davis,
one of our morning rock stars.

I first noticed her back at the beginning of this year as we trained at the same time in the early mornings. While I typically don’t start working with clients until 8 AM, I intentionally connect and support our members, even during my workouts. In my mind, I have a responsibility to support all of our members, so I introduced myself to her when the opportunity seemed right.

Our initial conversation was short; however, it led to numerous chats over the next few weeks. I often questioned members about their goals, and Wendi shared that she was seeking to lose weight. As the head nutrition coach on our team, I offered her a complimentary consultation. She readily agreed, and we committed to a time the following week.

While I have written several blogs as tributes to my clients who have achieved phenomenal success, I never interviewed any of those clients before telling their stories. In an odd twist of events, the following impromptu question and answer session occurred early on December 11, 2022, shortly after completing my workout. I hope you enjoy Wendi’s honesty in sharing about her fitness journey.

Kelly: When we first met back in April of 2022, you were working to lose weight. Please share the events that led you to that point in your life.

Wendi: “All my life, I have struggled with my weight, and I’ve always been heavy. I was never pleased with the way I looked. This impacted me in many ways, including being bullied by other people or being left out of different social activities. Further, because of the shame I felt for my body and for not looking like other people, I purposely avoided a lot of social events. This left me feeling very alone.”

“One of the biggest things that led me to work so hard in the gym after graduating from college in 2019 was learning the reality surrounding certain false beliefs I had regarding losing weight and getting in better shape. I used to think cardio was king and that I had to starve myself to make any real progress.  In time, I started to educate myself on weight training and proper nutrition and set the goal to do something every day to move forward in my fitness journey.”

Before we starting working together.

“Fast forward three years, and I had established the habit of consistently getting in the gym and eating better; however, I was still struggling with doubts about my nutrition. Further, in terms of exercise, I was overdoing it and not allowing my body the needed time to recover. So, when you came up to me that first Saturday morning, it was the right time because I needed help and was tired of pursuing my fitness goals all on my own.”

Kelly: What are some of the biggest things you’ve learned since we started working together?

Wendi: “When we started, you were only helping me with my nutrition, as I was still following a program from an online trainer. Since then, I’ve had such a huge mental and physical shift because of you, and I have a much better relationship with food and myself.  Further, I now have a much more positive overall perspective as you’ve given me the needed tools to help me reach my goals.”

“Please let me emphasize that I have a better relationship with food which I could never say in the past. I better understand proper proportions and feel good after eating. Further, I don’t have the same sort of dependency on food that I did before. While I never had an eating disorder, from what you’ve taught me, I struggled with occasions of disordered eating, which created incredible stress and strain in my life.”

“I now see food as fuel and have a newfound love and appreciation for food without the previous feelings of attachment. I can now eat and truly enjoy myself without fear, guilt, shame, or remorse, thanks to how you’ve taught me to look at food. It’s been a process that has taken time, and I’m a different person today than I was eight months ago.”

Kelly: Please share how you’ve done with the concept I taught you early in our relationship about controlling the controllables and giving the rest to God.

Wendi: “I love that you bring that up because it takes me back to our first meeting, which was life-changing. What I mean is that I still think back to that day, and now when I find myself in a stressful situation, I take a step back, focus on what I can control, and try my best to let the rest go. You’ve taught me to be more solution-oriented rather than stuck on the problem.”

Kelly: Talk to me about making progress in your fitness journey without being bound by the idea that you must always be perfect with your training, nutrition, and recovery.

Wendi: “At the beginning of my efforts to get into better shape and lose weight, I did think perfection in every respect was the only way to make progress. Thanks to what you’ve taught me, I realize that you don’t have to be perfect to win. I remember you shared about a football team behind their opponent the entire game, yet they finally pulled out the victory. This simple example helped me shift my perspective to striving for consistent performance more than always having to be perfect.”

“You taught me that there’s room to enjoy myself with food and that having an occasional treat is good and essential in maintaining optimal emotional health. Whether it’s a piece of dark chocolate or simply having lunch with friends, I’ve learned to let go and not feel restricted to following my nutrition plan to the letter 100% every day. You’ve helped me let go of the guilt and shameful feelings I used to inflict upon myself, and it’s such a more joyful and peaceful way to live.”

Kelly: How do you feel after losing over thirty pounds since we started together back in April?

Wendi: “I love this question because since I was very young, I thought if I looked a certain way, it would make all the difference in the world in terms of how I would feel about myself and the friends I would have. I felt life would be perfect if I only looked a certain way. It’s like those people who feel that everything will be great when they find the right person, get that new promotion, or whatever external accomplishment they are striving for and equate those things as the key to happiness.”

“I’ve learned that no accomplishment or destination will ever bring you happiness if you’re not already happy with yourself. I’ve learned that losing thirty pounds doesn’t make me feel like I thought it would.  Now I know for certain that you have to be happy with who you are and that no money, fame, or accomplishments will ever bring fulfillment beyond how you feel about yourself in your heart of hearts.”

“The mental shift I’ve gone through with you since last April has been the best part of this process and is the key to my success in changing my body. The consistent hard work I’ve put in has paid off big-time; however, it all starts in your mind.”

Kelly: Where do you see yourself in the future based on what you’ve accomplished so far?

Wendi: “I feel like my future is brighter than ever. There was a time in my life right after college when I was unsure about where I wanted to go. I’ve always had a plan for how my life would turn out; it was not working according to that plan after college. A big part of my struggle was due to my health and the emotional baggage surrounding my body. Fortunately, I took control and made significant strides before meeting you, which took me to a different level.”

Kelly: Is there anything more you want to share?

Wendi: “In the past, I’ve worked with several dieticians and trainers and collectively had awful experiences that emotionally took a toll on me. So, when you walked up that Saturday morning and offered a complimentary session to meet and discuss my nutrition, training, and goals, I said yes, and I’m so glad I did. I had become a little jaded regarding seeking further professional help; however, I knew I needed the support, and I’m so thankful for giving you a chance.”

Wendi mentioned that at the beginning of our working relationship, she only did nutrition coaching with me.  This changed after a few months due to an injury she sustained in her right elbow.  After looking over her routine, I noticed a lack of balance in the program design and excessive volume for her level of performance.  She was struggling to recover fully, and the inflammation and pain in her elbow demanded a change in her program. 

As a solution, I offered to build her a new program using our virtual training platform, and she readily agreed.  My strategy was to eliminate as much stress as possible on her elbow, including direct arm work.  She was worried about not working her arms, and I assured her that her arms would be fine and that it would be worth it to heal her elbow.  For the positive, her elbow pain was gone in a few short weeks, and she was thrilled.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect because Wendi had committed to Life Time’s Fall 60-Day Challenge, and we needed her full strength to survive the challenging training program she was about to undertake.  The 60-Day Challenge is a transformation contest Life Time runs several times yearly.  It’s not necessarily a weight loss contest; however, most participants tend to be in the weight loss category.  It’s a fantastic event, and the results people achieve are extraordinary.

For the contest’s first month, her program was based on a push, pull, and leg split done in tri-sets.  She would perform back-to-back compound exercises followed by 30-60 seconds of metabolic conditioning like a sled push, rowing ergo, or med ball slams.  The program was among the most difficult I’ve ever created, and Wendi crushed it.

Ball slams with vengeance!

My fifth anniversary is coming up this spring, and when considering all the clients I’ve trained, Wendi has been the most consistent with her nutrition and training.  She never fell off track with her food; her only deviation from her plan was the occasional meal out with friends.  Even then, she consistently made intelligent and healthy choices, and her hard work paid off. 

December 2022

Also, for the record, there is one exercise where Wendi BURIES all of my male clients.  I have a treadmill-based sled push programmed into her leg days, and she’s using a LOT more weight than any of my men.  Even after my needling over the past few weeks, no one has stepped up to match her.  It’s incredible, and I couldn’t be prouder of her efforts.

She honestly kicks my butt on this exercise,
as well as all my other clients.

For the second month of the contest, I used the same template as the first, with all new exercises and a different set and rep scheme.  Further, we cut back on her total nutritional intake just a touch.  It was only a slight change; however, I wanted to keep her slowly losing body fat each week.  In the end, she sprinted hard to the finish line.

So proud of her!

Wendi’s daily nutrition was simple and as follows:

Early morning:  shake following her training
Mid-morning:  eggs scrambled with light cheese and veggies w/ toast
Lunch:  protein, veggies, complex carbs, and healthy fats
Afternoon snack:  Greek yogurt, fruit, nuts, and a touch of chocolate chips or a protein shake
Dinner:  protein, veggies, complex carbs, and healthy fats

I gave her structure while allowing for lots of variety.  She was good to go as long as she stuck to the recommended portions.  For the record, she never deviated, which explains her tremendous success.  I often tell my clients that if your “why” is big enough, the facts don’t count.  This could have been Wendi’s mantra, as she was virtually unstoppable in her quest to reach her goals.

Our club had over one hundred participants in the 60-Day Challenge.  Wendi came in as the first runner-up, and I was thrilled about her accomplishment and recognition.  As her coach, I’m biased and think she should have been first; however, I’m much more grateful for her progress and the belief, confidence, and skills she now possesses to carry on for the rest of her life.

For December, I transitioned Wendi to a maintenance phase where she’s simply eating to cover her daily activity.  We’re not trying to lose any weight over the holidays to give her mind and body a rest.  After the first of the year, we will reengage and move on to reach her ultimate goals.

I tell Wendi that her best is yet to come.  While she has made tremendous progress, we’re not done, as she still wants to lose about 5-10 more pounds.  Based on the commitment I’ve seen this past year, I do not doubt that she will reach her goals in early 2023.

The following is a summary of her progress from last April of 2022 to the present:

Starting weight – 216 lbs
Starting bodyfat – 38% – 39%
Total weight loss – 36 lbs
Weight loss from April to the start of the 60-Day Challenge – 24 lbs
Weight loss during the contest – 12 lbs and 5% body fat
Total body fat loss – 10% down and holding at approximately 29% and 180 lbs

Closing thoughts for my readers:

I arrived at the gym on Friday, December 16th, before Wendi, and was warming up for my leg day when she approached me.  She was smiling big as ever and carrying a small bag with her gym stuff in one hand and, in the other, a 3-ring binder.  I was puzzled until she greeted me and noticed the birthday card on top of the binder she used as a writing surface.  She had “everyone” sign the card for our beloved Staci, who opens the club faithfully every morning at 5 AM, Monday through Friday.

Wendi getting one more signature for Staci’s birthday card from one of our favorites, Bill.

Friday is technically an off day for Wendi from lifting; however, as a recovery day, she will always come and do foam rolling, light stretching, and a bit of cardio.  It was the perfect day for her to have the extra time to walk the floor, asking everyone willing to sign Staci’s card.  As she walked away from me, the thought flashed in my mind that her efforts were the perfect example of why I call her “Little Miss Sunshine.”  I was so proud of her selfless act of doing something so kind for someone else.

Wendi Elf – December 21, 2022
Note: This was not staged, and I had no idea what she was up to beyond Staci’s birthday card. This is just Wendi being Wendi.

If Wendi were writing this closing paragraph, she would say to keep showing up and that you don’t have to be perfect to win.  This is a concept I’ve worked on drilling into her over the past eight months as she has experienced the roller coaster ride that is called life.  Life will always throw curve balls and occasionally a hard ball that may knock the wind out of your sails.  Regardless, you always have a choice in how you respond.  Stay solution-oriented and by all means, keep moving forward.  Small steps taken daily can lead to massive success.

Best of luck in your journey.

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