Holly Hertel decided April 2012 would be the month to make the biggest, most life-changing decision ever. She decided she was going to lose 200 pounds and flip her life upside down.
“I had talked about joining a gym and getting in shape for a long time, and one day my friend said, ‘Okay, we’re going to go, right now,’ and that was it,” Hertel said. “He pushed me to take the first step.”
Hertel, 22, who is originally from Dodge City, has struggled with being overweight her whole life. But at age 14, when her father unexpectedly died of a heart attack, she became depressed and her weight got out of control. Over the next three and a half years she gained 150 pounds while losing motivation to do things she once loved because of embarrassment, discomfort and inability. She stopped water skiing and going to movie theaters; the last time she was at an amusement park was when she was 18.
And her lifestyle wasn’t helping. She partied frequently and many of her meals revolved around takeout food. Even when she cooked, her meals included the wrong types of nutrients.
Kyle Schmid, the friend who pushed Hertel to take the first steps, began working as a personal trainer at Max Fitness in June. Schmid took advantage of Hertel’s passion and drive to get in shape to practice his training techniques.
Hertel had previously thrown around the idea of signing up for a gym but didn’t want to pay for something she didn’t think she’d use. However, working with Schmid ensured she would stick with the program, especially after they became roommates in August.
Hertel started her journey weighing 372 pounds. Initially her workouts were only four times a week and involved a lot of cardio, mostly on the treadmill and stair-stepper, and lifting weights between 10 to 15 pounds.
“We started really small but gradually moved to harder things, harder workouts and heavier weights,” Hertel said. “I can lift 10 times more than I could when I started.”
She can now consistently work out two hours six to seven times a week without feeling the need to stop. She also uses weights 40- to 50-pound weights.
“The more I did, I really started liking it and got really into working out,” Hertel said. “I already can’t see a life without working out or eating healthy ever again.”
In October Max Fitness and Wildcat Nutrition recruited Hertel for their new program, Transform You. The program pairs clients with trainers and nutritionists to ensure they achieve their individual fitness and weight loss goals.
“When we were finishing the Transform You program we were thinking of who to ask, and we thought Holly would be perfect for the program,” said Wildcat Nutrition owner Stephanie St. Peter.
Hertel lost 62 pounds on her own, joining the Transform You program at 310 pounds. Before starting the program she underwent a physical to verify her vitals were where they needed to be so she could safely begin.
“At first Holly was petrified but excited to join the program; at her weight and age it is an important time to make lifestyle changes,” Max Fitness general manager Casey Matthiesen said. “It will change her completely.”
Hertel is taking what would be her senior year off from Kansas State University to devote as much time and energy as she can to her transformation and a full-time job at Best Buy.
Since October, Hertel has lost an additional 32 pounds, weighing in at 278 on Jan. 25. She has been consistently loosing 3 to 5 pounds each week.
“The only week that I gained any weight was during Christmas when I went home… I gained 1 pound,” Hertel said. “I was very sad when I didn’t lose any weight that week; I’m not a person who fails, and I felt like I’d failed.”
She wasted no time getting back into her gym and diet routines after returning to Manhattan following the holidays.
“I love that exercising and Transform You are not options and that they keep me going,” Hertel said.
Since April, Hertel’s body has changed a lot. During Christmas, she said she was able to buy clothes six sizes smaller than she’s been used to wearing. She also donated three boxes of clothes that no longer fit to Goodwill.
Hertel, who had always considered herself hidden, is still getting used to the idea of being in the spotlight.
“I’m seeing myself differently,” Hertel said. “I can see the biggest changes in my face and legs… some days I don’t even recognize myself in the mirror.”
The effects of her weight loss have been emotional as well as physical.
“When Holly first started coming in to Max Fitness her whole spirit changed — everything from her confidence to the way she carried herself,” Matthiesen said. “She has a new energy and is always smiling and laughing.”
Hertel receives daily support from family and friends and has been surprised by the number of people who come up to her in the community or who message her on Facebook and Twitter with words of encouragement.
“My mom was nervous that I would have a lot of pressure, but everyone has been open to listening to me and the support has been incredible,” Hertel said.
To track Hertel’s progress visit the Max Fitness Facebook or Twitter page.