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Dawn Bryant

OPERATIONS

When I was 11, I earned a 2nd place ribbon in the big fifth track meet for my speedy contribution to my team’s relay. I never forgot about that ribbon because it was the only reminder that maybe I had a little bit of athleticism hidden somewhere in my being.

I’d never been coordinated. I’d never been lean. I’d never been coordinated. I’d never been strong. I was never good at sports, or anything that required physical exertion. I thought it was just who I was meant: someone who was incapable of moving her body for much more than a walk.I certainly never thought I could ever be fit. I thought I was meant to be “curvy” (the word I used for my chubby-ness) and destined to be a “bigger” girl. BUT, I was determined to make up for that shortcoming (in my mind) by being an amazing cook and loving people as much as I possibly could. And, if I was going to do anything to better my health, I was going to do it alone…I was far too stubborn to think that I needed help from anyone…because I was smart and independent (or, actually ashamed and insecure, but was unwilling to admit it).

Fast forward to 2011. I hated pictures of myself. I was depressed because I couldn’t physically do all of the things I wanted and needed to do. My weight had ballooned to 286 (but that was on the one day that I stepped on the scale after not eating a full 24 hours in advance in hopes it wouldn’t be too painful to see…but I’m the only one who has ever done that, right?! — guessing NOT!). After that moment I attempted to revisit my old Weight Watchers books (didn’t work), then I tried eating vegan (didn’t work), then I enrolled in a medically-supervised-only-eat-weird-foods sort of place which was entirely unsatisfying and unsustainable. Over about 10 months, I managed to lose 20 pounds on my own, but it wasn’t pretty…and it wasn’t enough. I still weighed 266 pounds, and it was wearing on my 5 foot, 6.5 inch frame. My knees always hurt. My ankles were always injured. And my blood pressure was high. Even worse, it was a constant emotional struggle that I tried to hide from everyone. It affected me…all…the…time. It was a constant brain drain. It’s hard to feel confident about what your strengths are when you feel crappy about your body and health.

Until I met Jason Burgoon. At age 37. The details of my journey can be found in my success story linked here. But the short story is that he helped me find and DEFINE MY STRONG, find my confidence, find my true self during a journey that helped me shed almost half of my body weight, and learn I could lift twice my body weight from the ground (deadlift) and nearly bench press my body weight. I learned I loved to move and sweat, and that I thoroughly loved keeping my body strong and pushing my body than I thought possible! The encouraging environment and belief in what I was capable of (which was far more than I thought I was capable of) made a huge difference for me.

And it wasn’t just about weight loss or gaining strength. My health journey helped me through three spinal surgeries (one situation leaving me with life-threatening complications and significant neuropathy in my feet and legs), and even through the loss of my father. Health and fitness, I learned, was FAR MORE than just physical. It made every ounce of me a better and stronger person — which was good for me and everyone surrounding me).

I remember the day Jason called me athletic. And now I’m glad I hung on to that red ribbon from the fifth grade track meet. It was true. There had been something inside of me dying to get out. He found it. And he uncovered it. Now, it’s not just Jason…it’s Aldon who has helped me discover and build strength, mentally and physically…and, mostly, it’s the uncountable people who walk through the doors of this magical place and bring positivity to all who surround them. I can honestly say my closest friends are those whom I workout with…these are the people with whom I live my life, and those I live my life FOR. And I’m thankful. I even workout beside my husband (and biggest fan and empower-er) of almost two decades, I never dreamed that could be one of our favorite pastimes.

I still love to cook, but I love cooking healthy. I still love eating out, but I do it in moderation. I still love wine and great cocktails, but they’re not as good if you have them all the time, so I save them for special moments. I still love making people happy and giving them hope, but realize my personal story of pursuing health is what makes the biggest difference in the lives of others. And a way that I can do that every, single day is by helping more people experience what I experienced…by standing beside my good friends, building a business that is changing peoples’ lives, or sharing my story on a stage in front of hundreds of people, inspiring them to take control of their own health, too. My story has been featured in People Magazine, in Women’s World Magazine, on Good Morning America, CBS New York, WCCO-TV (CBS Minneapolis), KSTP-TV (ABC Minneapolis), and several others.

For me, owning my health isn’t about having a perfect body, it’s about empowering my body to live my life to the fullest — doing the things I love. It’s all about balance. Some seasons are awesome, some are not, but I never again want an unhealthy body to keep me from doing all I know I am capable of.

Everything I’ve ever done and learned in 21 years as a marketing and communications strategist for some of the nations largest and most-recognizable brands and as a small business owner working with non-profits and start-ups has crashed together with something very personal for me, something I’m wildly passionate about, something I can work beside my closest friends on…and I wouldn’t trade anything for it. This is what it means when passion becomes a career. And now I get to spend my life helping people find hope and discover and articulate their stories. I spend my days seeing the beauty in people and believing in them. As long as I’m sipping coffee, working out, eating sushi, or making memories with my closest friends, I’ve got enough energy to keep making a positive difference in the lives of as many people as possible.