Megan Sandilands' wake-up call during a track-and-field physical her junior year at Lyons Township High School: The doctor informed her that, due to her weight, she was in the 99th percentile for risk of developing Type II diabetes.
Sandilands didn’t want diabetes, and she didn’t want to be overweight anymore. Joining her hometown La Grange Park’s Oasis Women’s Fitness & Spa while going on Jenny Craig, she began a program that would eventually help her shed the weight of a small adult—110 lbs—and lead to a job as Oasis’ newest personal trainer.
“It definitely has come full-circle,” Sandilands marveled. “People use my workouts as motivation. … It seems unbelievable that I’m considered one of the fit friends. My life has completely changed.”
Growing up, Sandilands said, she never learned portion control or proper food selection; she now recalls her snack choices with horror. But the one-two punch of Oasis and Jenny Craig taught her a better way—and got her dropping the weight fast.
She kept it up through college at Loyola Chicago, losing the Freshman Fifteen instead of gaining it, with outdoor runs (some in the Forest Preserve near her La Grange Park home), in-gym workouts and a stable, controlled diet. She shot an unaired infomercial for Jenny Craig, and a workout DVD with Kim Lyons. And upon graduating last year, she decided she had found her calling.
“This personal training thing had always been revved up inside me since I started working out,“ Sandilands said. “The more people asked me to help them work out … it was like, hey, that’d be great to do. I think it’s really great to pay it forward.”
Obtaining her American Council of Exercise certification as a personal trainer, Sandilands is now a bona fide guru at the same gym she first entered six years ago, then nearly eight stone heavier.
One of her first projects will be the launch of “Mission SLIMpossible,” a Biggest Loser-style weight-loss competition with Sandilands leading a team against one coached by her coworker Ashley. She said the focus on team dynamics and responsibility for one’s weigh-ins are effective motivators for exercise.
There’s one part of Biggest Loser she doesn’t plan to emulate, though: “I do love Jillian Michaels, but I didn’t really practice her yelling technique!” she said with a laugh. “I think I couldn’t take myself seriously; I’d get really angry and then start laughing, or apologize immediately.”
Megan Sandilands is no longer at risk of diabetes—not by a long shot. She has more energy, and says her blood work results have never been better. Her old, supersized clothes are nothing but a reminder of times past (she and a friend can fit into one of her old dresses simultaneously). Her Facebook page is covered in motivational before-and-after pictures and quotes. And her passion for exercise has led her to a new job she loves.
“It’s really cliché, because I hear it on all the weight-loss commercials, but I always go by, ‘If I can do it, so can you,’” she said. “The motivation has to come from inside you.”
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