Tribal Member Loses 80 Pounds Through Exercise, Healthier Eating and an Open Mind

“If you’re not ready, don’t waste your time,” advises NHBP Tribal Member Shontell Murkerson, 42, who was more than ready in the fall of 2021 to get healthy.

“Everything hurt when I moved – I had back pain, neck pain, joint pain. I didn’t walk. I would hobble, like a 60-year-old,” Murkerson said. “I thought something was seriously wrong with me.”

Test after test came back negative in mid-2021, indicating there was no underlying condition causing problems for Murkerson.

“My MRI only showed arthritis, so I was baffled. I signed up for intensive physical therapy in the summer of 2021, and the therapists kept telling me, ‘If you lost some weight, this pressure would come off your knees. If you strengthen these leg muscles, that will help your back out.’”

As Murkerson continued with therapy that summer, she could physically move better than ever before and kept an open mind regarding what the medical experts told her.

“I made a clear decision that fall: I got to get ahold of this weight.”

It was the perfect opportunity when a friend recommended a lifestyle program for Murkerson, who was intrigued.

“It was scientifically proven, especially for people with diabetes; it wasn’t a yoyo or fad diet where I would be starving myself to lose weight,” she said.

The program included a structured food plan, a health coach and an online community of others motivated to lose weight and get healthier. Murkerson enjoyed the program’s packets of information with pre-determined snacks to fit her individual needs.

“This was information I had never learned before,” she said, “about all the effects of what you eat and how it can affect your blood pressure, what kind of carbohydrates you need to fuel your body appropriately.”

She learned about food cravings, how much water she should drink, and techniques and strategies to keep her body powered with healthier food. 

“Once you get this information, you can’t just set it on a table. You have to put it to use.”

Her first grocery trip was exhausting: “I read so many labels. It took me 45 minutes, and the bottom of my cart wasn’t even covered.”

But she powered on, with subsequent trips becoming easier and easier as healthier eating became a way of life.

With the overall goal of just “being healthier,” the effects were much broader than she would ever realize.

“As a family, we are all eating a lot healthier; there’s not as much junk food in my house.”

Other extended family members have started to “come alongside” Murkerson, showing their support by losing weight and making healthier choices.

From November 2021 to February 2022, Murkerson lost an astonishing 50 pounds during the holiday season when the typical American adult gains a pound annually.

In March, always open to learning new ways of thinking, Murkerson hired a friend as her personal trainer to help her along the next phase of her journey: Exercising. The exercise under the direction of an expert trainer quickly reaped benefits for Murkerson, who accomplished what she previously thought was impossible.

“I walked my first 5K on May 14, 2022, at the River Bank Run.”

Walking the 3.1 miles was a huge accomplishment for Murkerson. By chance, she came across two of her aunts during the run who cheered her on, “Come on, Shontell, you got this!”

And she did. Murkerson completed the iconic event in about an hour, an astonishing accomplishment as she could barely walk a year ago.

Five days a week, Murkerson will be at a local gym “where the energy is right to get me in the mood to work out,” she said.

Murkerson advises finding something that works for the individual as motivation. “Some people can work out at home, but I have found that I need to be in the gym. I just get myself there.”

Once she’s at the gym, Murkerson alternates workout routines among “uppers,” or arm and back workouts, leg workouts and cardio workouts. She attends exercise classes hosted by the gym staff and uses the services of the personal trainer employed by the gym.

Always keeping an open mind to new facts, information and routines to keep her going, Murkerson has learned to “be transparent with yourself. If something hurts, acknowledge it.”

As of July, Murkerson has lost 70 pounds, and she no longer needs to take her blood pressure medication.

Although she does not have a specific target weight in mind, Murkerson is hoping to lose a little more while maintaining the weight loss she’s already achieved.

“This is a journey, not a diet. I am built with broader shoulders and stand 6-foot-tall as a woman, so my journey looks different than someone else’s. I just keep learning more, keep moving forward.”

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