Mar 14 2016
By Sandi Pearce

Rochelle Asmussen led a normal life until celiac disease turned her world upside down. With healing came weight gain and a frustration that she was stuck in a rut. She discovered the way to a better, fitter, happier life through a personal trainer and daily rituals.

I was diagnosed with celiac disease about 17 years ago. I was so sick and so uncomfortable, but it was a blessing to find out it was just a food allergy and not something worse. For a long time, we were thinking that I was really sick. The doctors didn't know what was going on. They had no clue. These days, celiac is so mainstream. The food was awful back then for anyone with a gluten allergy. Now, it's great. I don't even think about it anymore. 

I've always been fit, but since getting celiac and becoming very thin from being so sick, my metabolism just completely changed and I gained all the weight after my body healed from the damage. It isn't fair. I finally got my body fixed and felt better and then the weight came on and my metabolism got all messed up. So, ever since then, I've been struggling with my weight and trying to get it down. Then, I turned 50 and my hormones went crazy with menopause, stress, job, children, a teenager and a college kid, bills, and anxiety. I knew I needed a change. 

At a scrapbooking convention, my friend, Shelly, was casually saying that she had just gotten her training certificate in personal. She was wondering how to find a job, whether she should go with a gym, etc. I told her she should think about training people in their homes. I can speak from experience, I don't like going to gyms because I'm embarrassed. I'm heavier than anyone else there and I wonder if people are judging me, so I told her I would love it if someone came to my home. We began working out together a month later. I told Shelly I didn't know if I could do it, or if I'd be good at it, but I wanted to do it. It's a very vulnerable feeling. You're getting down to your nakedness, almost, and then you're exercising and grunting and groaning in front of someone else. 

I had to start with measurements and weight, and that was the hardest part. That's where I had to face everything, and now someone else knows too. It's now out there. We started really slow, and I loved her style; she was very easy on me. I couldn't do much to begin with. 

Shelly took notes and pictures to when we started and as we go along. She ups the ante as I get stronger and has created exercises that are harder and harder. When we first started, I could barely get up off the floor. It was really hard. I had to use a chair or other things to help me up. Now, fast-forward a year later and I can jump right up, and I don't even need to use my hands. I can do full burpees. I used to just move slowly from one foot to the next, and now I can jump through them properly. My squats are also amazing. Shelly put me against the wall and just had me hold the sit position. I said, “This is all you got? I can do this another two minutes!” I was doing shoulder raises at the same time and I could do that all day, too. My biceps are stronger, as well. I feel completely different. My balance is even better than before. She's always got me on a balance ball or something. My core is stronger. Everything feels different. I feel so good. Weight-bearing exercise at my age is so important.

I also have a competitive husband, and we now have FitBits—and so does Shelly. We're all friends on the FitBit program, so we challenge each other constantly. We can see each other's seven-day cumulative steps, and we are always competing against each other. When I see that one of them has more steps, I think, “Oh, my gosh, I only have 8,000 steps. I've got to go for another walk!” Even though I've already done my hour workout and already been all over the house and up and down the stairs, I then go for that extra walk. I've got to! I'll take the dog one more time. The dog helps; she will go for a walk whenever I want and however many times I want. 

This has completely changed my thinking. I'm always thinking about what active thing I can do next and I don't mind running up and down stairs anymore. I need my steps and I need to beat my husband! It's been so good for both of us. He got his FitBit a year before I got mine. He bought mine for me for Christmas last year. When I got mine, his life also changed for the better. Because he's super competitive, he's been getting about 20,000 steps a day. We call him the nightwalker. He goes downstairs and walks on the treadmill at midnight. 

Before, I didn't like exercise; I did it because I had to. Now, I really look forward to it, and I love that Shelly is coming over. I get up early every morning, and I think, "Yay! I'm going to work out today!" She’s making me a better person all around. I'm taking my vitamins now because she has suggested it. My husband can tell me all day long that I really should take my vitamins, but if Shelly tells me, I'll do it. 

My goal for my weight loss right now is two pounds a week. By spring break, I want to feel better when my family goes to Mexico. That's my new goal. I have to cut out all the wine and bad stuff. So far, I've been building a lot of muscle, so my weight hasn't changed as much as I would like, but things are fitting better and I feel better. I just have to stop drinking my calories in wine. 

I've never had a goal before. I always know what the end result is, but I haven't made the little goals. Two pounds a week doesn't sound like much, but it adds up quickly. Two pounds is pretty easy. 

Thankfully, I have a kid to get off to school, so I have great morning rituals. I'm not supposed to work out on an empty stomach or with too much food, so I have a little bit and then warm up with 2,000 steps on the elliptical even before Shelly gets there. I also do "I am" affirmations all the time, too, and I start my day by meditating for 20 minutes. 

I work out every day now, and I feel so good. I used to be sluggish and tired. Now, I have much more energy and I look forward to working out. My skin looks better. I've been drinking more water, sleeping better. I still have anxiety at night, but it's getting better. Working out helps the anxiety a lot. Even just fresh air helps.

We’re realtors, so we have a lot of stress and anxiety. Getting out there and getting that breath of fresh air because you're trying to get your steps is so uplifting. I can leave in a huff and angry, and by the time I'm halfway around the first block, I'm thinking, “This is great! Why was mad? I don't even remember.” I can't even yell at my husband if he makes me mad because I've forgotten why I was mad. 

I used to listen to positive books when driving to see my mom as she was dying, before I started working out with Shelly. That was the beginning of this new transformation. I am committed to this—it’s been a year and I'm still committed to it. This has shifted my thinking into healthier choices. Exercise and taking care of myself will be something I do for the rest of my life now. I love it.