When her colleagues started a walking challenge, Roxanne Mullenberg decided to participate. At the time, it seemed like the medication for her under-active thyroid was finally working correctly and she wanted to cultivate healthy behaviors to try to lose some weight. When she started the step challenge in February 2020, she weighed 358 pounds.
“I tried different things as far as trying to better my own habits,” Mullenberg, 42, an assistant vice president and project manager at a bank in Fargo, North Dakota, told TODAY. “I was like, ‘This will be great for me. I’ll start doing this. It’ll give me a different motivation, a different challenge and accountability.’”
Throughout her life Mullenberg has always been heavier and as she aged and became less active she gained more weight. Then her doctor diagnosed her with an under-active thyroid, which can make it harder for people to lose weight without treatment. While the doctor gave her medication to regulate it, it took time to figure out the proper dosage.
“When my thyroid decided it didn’t want to work correctly, that’s probably when I started gaining more,” she said. “But not realizing the reason why I was gaining either.”
A month into her step challenge, COVID-19 caused the country to shut down and her life changed dramatically. Suddenly, Mullenberg was working from home and helping her son, Ryan, 11, with home school. Exercise then gave her a chance to reflect and she found herself walking even further.
“The walks became such a good mental break and stress release,” she said. “It became both a physical and mental benefit when I would do the walks, which was great. Then I’d bring my child out and obviously we’d both have these fun adventures roaming around parks.”
Mullenberg was walking three miles but soon increased it to four. As she began feeling better with the increased activity, she noticed she wasn’t losing weight and decided to examine her eating habits. She signed up for Profile by Sanford, an eating program that starts with replacement shakes for some meals and focuses on adding in lean protein, vegetables, then fruit and some starches.
“I was skeptical about joining because I knew that there were shakes involved,” she said. “I had done shakes before … years ago to try to lose weight and never felt satisfied, never felt like I was full, and I actually gained weight.”
But a few of her colleagues tried the program and shed weight.
“The ultimate goal is to get you back to eating all grocery foods, just changing your habits over time,” Mullenberg explained. “I was like, 'OK this doesn’t seem so bad. I can try it and see how it goes.'”
The first week, she lost 11 pounds.
“I could definitely tell a difference and definitely knew it was working, which was pretty exciting,” she said.
At first she had shakes for breakfast and lunch with protein bars for snacks and a dinner with lean protein and vegetables. Now, she only has a shake for breakfast, two protein bars for snacks and lunch and dinner include lean protein and vegetables.
“I’m adding fruits now that I can have at breakfast time and in the evening I added starches at lunch and dinner as well,” she said.
Mullenberg normally walks 40 minutes during lunch and then takes a stroll in the evening with Ryan, whom she adopted after her sister passed away seven years ago. Since last year, she has lost 149.5 pounds
“I feel more like myself. I have more energy and I’m getting confidence in myself again and overall feel like me,” she said.
Throughout her experience, Mullenberg learned more about herself.
“I probably always cheated myself out of sticking things out before, not everything, but some things,” she said. “Once I put my mind to something, I definitely can do it.”
She shares some tips for others hoping to adopt healthier habits.
Many people look at exercise and healthy eating as a chore. But it's really a way to show yourself some love.
“I’m one of those people who didn’t really take a lot of time for myself. I was always doing things for others,” she said. “One of the biggest things for me, too, is just stopping and saying, ‘I’m important, too, and I need to do something for myself.'”
Changing eating and exercise habits can feel overwhelming and that can discourage some. When it came to adding vegetables to her diet, for example, Mullenberg would try thinking of different ways to prepare something like radishes that tasted good and pushed her creativity.
“It’s just changing your mindset and being OK and being open to trying new things,” she said. “You just want to be creative.”
When Mullenberg started her weight loss, she didn’t even have a goal weight in mind.
“I said, ‘My goal is to drop a couple of sizes and just feel better about myself,’” she said. “That was 100% my goal and it still remains to this day. It was never going to be about the number on the scale. I just wanted to feel better about myself and drop those pant sizes.”
And, she decided to listen to her body during her weight loss.
“For me, it’s just figuring out where my body wants to go,” she said. “If my body would plateau where I’m at right now, I would be perfectly happy with it, too.”