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Success Stories

Are you looking for motivation to live a healthier lifestyle? Some of your co-workers who have successfully increased their physical activity, decided to make healthier food choices and quit using tobacco shared their stories to inspire you and offer advice. Watch and read their stories below.

If you'd like to inspire others with your story, fill out the appropriate success story submission form below:


Charlie - Human Services
After finding out she was in kidney failure from diabetes, Charlie made a lifestyle change. 

Morgan - Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities
Morgan was an obese teen with high cholesterol and prediabetes. Now she's healthier than ever!

Morris - Agriculture
When he was diagnosed with diabetes and watched both of his parents suffer from it, Morris control of his health.

Heidi - Agriculture
After years of not feeling well, Heidi was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. Learn how she took control.

Jeremy - Human Services
Learn how a Working for a Healthier Tennessee challenge motivated Jeremy to live a healthy lifestyle.

Debra - Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities
Debra took charge of her health by taking advantage of Working for a Healthier Tennessee's challenges and events with her co-workers.

Anonymous - Human Services

I started my weight loss journey in 2012, shortly after I had my first child and had gained 60 pounds. I started to notice I would become out of breath very quickly, and I would always feel uncomfortable in my clothes. I had my second child in 2015 and I still struggled with keeping my weight under control. Starting here at DDS really has helped me maintain my weight. Being a part of the biggest loser challenges give me some accountability and help me stay focused on where I want to be with my health.

I drink five to seven bottles of water daily to keep my system flowing. I try my best to keep my eating habits on track. Taking advantage of the workouts offered here... give me that extra movement I need throughout the day instead of sitting all day. I also work out at home, taking my kids to the park and finding many ways to increase my heart rate.

Anonymous - Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities

Tell us about the healthy changes you've made.
I joined WW (formerly Weight Watchers) in 2012. I began following the plan, and continue to follow it to this day. I have lost over 100 pounds and kept it off.

What inspired you?
I decided I was tired of being overweight and unhealthy.

How did you get started?
I had been talking with a friend about joining WW but got tired of waiting for us to do it together, so I walked into a meeting and joined. It was helpful that the meeting was right up the street from my house.

What were your fitness goals?
I joined a gym and just focused on cardio at first. When I joined WW, they hosted a 5K. It took me almost an hour to complete it, but with the help of my WW leader, I was able to complete it. I wanted to increase my activity levels and be able to complete my next 5K in a faster time, which I did. Now, I incorporate weights and strength training into my routine as well. I try and get to the gym four to five days a week.

What were your healthy eating goals?
My healthy eating goals were to follow the WW plan, and work on incorporating more fruits and vegetables into my diet. Now I am working on changing the kinds of foods I eat because I get into a routine and get bored with eating the same foods.

How do you stay motivated?
I keep my old driver's license in my wallet and an old picture in my bedroom. I have come so far and don't want to go back to the person that I was because that person was unhealthy and unhappy. I also have a wonderful WW family that doesn't let me get down on myself when I don't see the results I want, and they motivate and inspire me to keep going.

What has been your toughest obstacle?
My love for food, and being an emotional eater. Through WW I have learned that we are all going to slip up sometimes and it's ok. If I have a slip-up, I just get right back on track. I no longer use the excuse that since I didn't follow my plan for one meal, I should just throw in the towel. The next meal, I am right back to eating healthy.

How do you reward yourself when you meet a goal?
I usually buy a new piece of clothing.

How do you plan to reach your ultimate goal?
It's been a struggle to get to a goal due to health-related issues, but I am still working towards my goal. I continue to follow my plan and change things up occasionally so I don't get bored. My doctor has recently changed my weight goal, and I am close to meeting it.

What's your favorite part of Working for a Healthier TN?
Being motivated by others that participate.

What's your advice for others?
Believe in yourself. A positive outlook will help you to achieve whatever your goals are. Also, have a good support system. I don't think I would have made it this far without my support system - that includes family, friends, co-workers and my WW family.

What have you learned about yourself during this journey?
I am worth the effort, and I am stronger than I think.

Robyn - Human Services

What inspired your health journey?
Last spring, I decided I wanted to lose some weight for a big family vacation in the fall. My office put me in charge of creating a Wellness Bingo game for one of the DHS wellness challenges, and I've been working on my fitness goals ever since.

How much weight have you lost?
At my heaviest, I was 212 pounds. Now, I am down to 186.

What would you say is the most important factor in your success?
I feel like changing my eating habits has helped tremendously. I've always tried to stay active, but was just not losing weight with exercise alone.

What is your current fitness goal?
I'd love to lose another 20 pounds, but for now I'm happy just trying to live a healthier lifestyle.

What are you doing to achieve your goal?
Mostly portion control, and when I snack, I try to eat healthier foods instead of junk.

Describe the healthy eating plan you're following.
I've always loved food. I love to cook. I love to bake. And I love to eat! Mostly, I am just trying to make better choices with my food. Eat smaller portions, or don't go back for seconds even if the food is delicious and keep my snacking to a minimum. If I do snack, I try to eat nuts, fruits or veggies.

Dr. Ryan Dulling and Michelle

Michelle - Military

In April 2018, I decided that I wanted to lose weight, eat healthy and exercise. I knew it would boost my morale and improve my outlook on life. I started to exercise, saw a nutritionist and began to slowly lose weight. I started to walk short distances, and increased it to make sure I made 10,000 steps a day. My nutritionist guided me with healthy eating and showed me how to macro count so my body would metabolize in a healthy and achieving way. 

In August 2018, I started to have physical pain in my back. My doctor sent me to physical therapy. Because of disaster response in the past, and many injuries that went without being attended to, as of April 2019, I'm still in physical rehab. My doctor of physical therapy and I are slowly working towards increasing beneficial exercise so I can achieve my goals and increase my physical well-being. 

I have now lost 40 pounds, and I will continue this journey for the rest of my life. I'm 47 years old. I have been told time and time again that women in their 40s have difficulty losing weight. This is true without exercise and help from a nutritionist, but I will say, and even promise, it is completely possible.

Pictured here is Dr. Ryan Dulling (my physical therapist) and myself. He is the mastermind behind helping me get through my physical difficulties and helping me heal. This is a team effort with my regular physician, Dr. Dulling, my nutritionist and mental health support.

Physical Activity

George - Transportation
After breaking several bones, George ran The Dopey Challenge at Disney World, nearly 50 miles in four days!

Buddy - Finance & Administration
After participating in a steps challenge, the Asst. Commissioner of F&A experienced unexpected results.

Cherrell - Human Services
Cherrell no longer views exercise as a chore. She explains how to change your mindset.

Cathy - Labor & Workforce Development
This single mother survived an aneurysm. Her dedication inspired her son to join her in exercise.

Jason - Revenue
Jason recently lost 50 pounds by making small, gradual changes. Need motivation? He has advice.

Daphne - Human Services
On her 50th birthday, Daphne ran, walked and biked 50 miles! Learn how to go from walking to racing.

Steve - Correction
Steve completed his first Spartan Run at age 63. He has encouragement for others who want to be more active.

Pete - Agriculture

What is your success?
I lost 30 pounds.

What motivated you to make a change?
My stomach was in the way when I put on my shoes.

What positive impacts have you experienced?
I can put on my shoes without my stomach getting in the way. I also noticed I could better tolerate the summer heat.

What do you do when faced with temptation?
I just remind myself of how much better I feel and eat a very small portion.

What's your advice for someone who is trying to make a similar change?
Just try walking and reducing the amount of food you eat for a week or two and you will see results. If you like to eat, try consistent weight training with light weights and walking. Changes come only if you do something.

Healthy Eating

Elizabeth - Health
Since her mother died at an early age, Elizabeth and her family decided to make a lifestyle change.

Kathy - Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services
Kathy has lost weight and maintained a healthy lifestyle for many years. Find out how she stays motivated.

Dana - Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities
This single mother credits Working for a Healthier Tennessee with jump starting her healthy lifestyle.

Cris - Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services
Cris lost 100 pounds and has maintained that loss for many years.

Tammy - Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities

Tell us about the healthy changes you've made.

In March 2018 I began a low-carb diet as part of a weight loss challenge. It was a struggle to give up sugar, but within a couple of days, the craving ended and I do not want to go back to feeling sluggish and tired like I did previously.

What inspired you to make those changes?
Due to restless legs and a heel spur I wanted to make more healthy choices to lose weight with the hope that with less weight to carry my legs would feel better at night.

How did you get started?
Initially I read some success stories on Facebook and YouTube and wanted to give it a try and the first signs that it was working was almost immediate so that encouraged me to continue on this journey.

What were your fitness or healthy eating goals?
My goal was to lose 100 pounds. Currently I have lost 52 puonds since March 2018 and I have lost 3 pant sizes. My fitness goals include wanted to do a litte better each time I get on the exercise equipment at the gym and to continue going to the gym - not just have a membership there!

How do you stay motivated?
It is very motivational for coweorkers that see me daily to notice a change. Like meeting me in the hallway and saying, "Tammy, you are melting!" Also, I am noticing a change in my clothes and in the mirror. I also have more energy and just feel like I am in a healthier place in my life.

What's your favorite part of Working for a Healthier Tennessee?

What's your advice for others?
To take being healthier day-by-day, one littel goal at a time.

What have you learned about yourself during this journey?
I have learned to like myself and to discover that I can be determined to reach a goal. I have learned I can be strong enough to not give in to temptation.

Millie - Agriculture

What is your success?

I am a 5'2", 68-year-old female Criminal Investigator for the Department of Agriculture. In January 2018 I weighed 168 pounds. I was really miserable with the extra weight so with the advice of my physician I set a goal of 20 pound weight loss by June 1. We felt like a change in diet and calorie counting would be the best way to achieve this goal. I also walk a lot. I started a 1200 calorie diet and cut out surgar, white bread, pasta and also watched portion control.

What motivated you to make the changes?
My motivation was the way I was feeling and how uncomfortable I was feeling. Also, my daughter came up to me one day and I mentioned that I was going to lose 20 pounds. She commented she liked me puffy. Well, I don't like me puffy. I wanted to be less puffy and feel better about myself.

What positive impacts have you experienced?
Friends coming up to me commenting how good I look and wanting to know how I obtained this weight loss. Since I have to wear a uniform every day, it's great to feel good in that uniform.

What do you do when faced with temptation?
My worst temptation is ice cream so I get up a lot of courage and I have found that I feel so proud of myself when I just say no.

What's your advice for someone who is trying to make a similar change?
First set a goal. Get help from your friends, family and for sure your doctor. Don't expect it to happen overnight, and never give up.


Janice - Human Services

During the last few months I have had at least two bad colds. This left me with a lot of sinus issues. I began to eat more fruit in hopes that it would help build up my immune system and alleviate some of the sinus issues. I have been killing boxes of tissues. One of the fruits I eat is a lot of pineapple. I recently noticed that my sinuses were clearing up, which helped me breathe easier and not feel so congested.

Last year I found a Juices & Smoothies Encyclopedia, which includes a section on the Nutritional Benefits of the different fruits and vegetables. The book was put away with some other books when I first moved here, and has not been used in awhile. I pulled it out to look up the benefits of the fruit I have been eating and found that pineapple can be used as a treatment for sinusitis! 

I decided to test it out and stopped eating pineapple for a week. Sure enough, the drainage started again. I went straight to the store and bought some pineapple and included it, once again, into my fruit consumption, and my sinus problems have ceased! This may not work for everyone, but it certainly did for me. 

Anonymous - Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities

I have decided to give up all soft drinks. I have been drinking only water, and have been successful doing this so far. My family has been supportive. Some of them have even been only drinking water, too, so I am not tempted to stray. I think this decision is going to make a huge difference in my overall wellness.

Vanessa - Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities

Tell us about the healthy changes you've made.
Healthy food choices and exercise when I can

What inspired you to make those changes?
Life!!! I want to be able to move freely as I age.

How did you get started?
I eliminated refined sugar, and changed to whole grain breads and spaghetti. 

What were your fitness and healthy eating goals?
My fitness goals were to feel strong and energized. My healthy eating goals were to decrease my fat intake, lose weight and feel great.

How do you stay motivated?
I push myself because I know it is what's best for me. I understand that poor eating habits and being inactive are bad choices for health.

What has been your toughest obstacle?
Scheduling time to exercise as I have to take care of my elderly mother.

How do you plan to reach your ultimate goal?
Stay committed. Even if I get tired or sidetracked, I will always return to the healthier mindset. I am aiming for the best body, mind and spirit.

What's your favorite part of Working for a Healthier TN?
The different challenges and good information

What have you learned about yourself during this journey?
I've learned that I can do what is necessary for my health through planning and committment. I have learned that sometimes I am lazy, but the second wind always comes because of my desire for good health.

Carol - Agriculture

Tell us about the healthy changes you've made.
Instead of eating healthy, balanced meals, I had gotten in the habit of eating high-fat foods, snacks, sweets and fast food. On August 27th, I stopped eating sweets, carbohydrates, and quit drinking diet colas. As much as I enjoy eating beef, pork and chicken, I learned that I was not eating enough protein. Now, I watch how many carbs and sweets that I eat, but I do not plan to drink diet sodas again.

What inspired you to make those changes?
I was feeling draggy, tired and unmotivated. I got to a point that I needed to make a change of some sort. I had put on some pounds around my waist and middle, and was extremely uncomfortable.

What positive changes have you experienced?
Loss of 25-30 pounds, more comfortable, feel better, lots of positive comments from friends, family and co-workers, confidence boosted, spend less money eating out, new clothes

What do you do when faced with temptation?
I think about how I used to feel and I certainly do not want to go back. I will allow myself to eat things that I love (sweets, chocolates, etc.), but definitely in moderation.

What's your advice for others?
Determination - you have to have a drive within yourself to get on the right track. Something snapped within me last August and I remained committed to improving my eating habits.

Tobacco Cessation

David & Joseph - Correction
These co-workers helped each other quit tobacco with friendly competition.

Heather - Agriculture
At the urging of her children, Heather quit smoking. She has advice for others.

Tammy - Human Services
Tammy smoked for 17 years before quitting. Find out how she did it.

Barbara - Human Services
Barbara started smoking when she was 16. Find out how she finally kicked the habit.

CJ - Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities

Tell us about the healthy changes you've made.
I have been a non-smoker for approximately four years now.

What inspired you to make those changes?
I found myself being out of breath from simply climbing a flight of stairs. I was also inspired by fear upon watching a loved one go through two strokes in a three-month time period.

How did you get started?
I simply said, "No more." Then started the nicotine patch. I used the nicotine patch for much longer than was recommended, but was advised that the use of the patch was better for me than smoking. I gradually tapered (at a much slower rate than recommended on the packaging) across a year and finally just didn't need it anymore.

What were your goals?
I simply wanted to extend my life by being healthier, and to be able to live my life without being short of breath.

Have you participated in any Working for a Healthier Tennessee challenges or events?
Yes. I have participated in a variety of walks, a weight loss challenge and several healthier eating events.

How do you stay motivated?
I honestly don't give smoking a second thought most days. The recent Great American Smokeout made me feel anxious when someone asked me to participate and then I remembered, "Hey, I don't smoke anymore. I've got this." I try to walk 10,000 steps per day and I'm success at that most days. My Fitbit helps me quite a bit because it effortlessly tracks where I am at and reminds me to walk with a cue every hour.

What has been your toughest obstacle?
By far, my toughest obstacle has been weight gain. Food tastes so much better when you don't smoke!

What's your favorite part of Working for a Healthier Tennessee?
It helps to have a supporting and encouraging work environment. Having someone stop by to see if you want to have a meeting while walking is always good.

What's your advice for others?
I found that I wasn't able to permanently achieve my goal until I was determined to do it for me. I had quit smoking three other times when pregnant and ultimately went back to it each time when my babies were about six months of age. This time I quit for myself and I think that made a difference. Sometimes you have to make your own way of doing things. It may have taken me an entire year to become nicotine-free, but in the end, I can honestly say I have zero desire to go back to smoking - absolutely none whatsoever.

What have you learned about yourself?
I've learned that my motivation has to come from within. No external source of motivation can have a lasting outcome.  Quitting smoking was one of the toughest things I've ever done. Now, I really feel like I can overcome anything.

Anonymous - Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities

Tell us about the healthy changes you've made.
I quit smoking eight years ago and have never picked them up again. For the past year, I have been working on healthier eating and exercise.

What inspired you to make those changes?
My children. And I was tired of being out of breath when doing simple things.

How did you get started?
I told myself that after I graduated nursing school I would quit smoking. One day I smoked what was left in the pack and never bought another pack. I quit cold turkey.

Have you participated in any Working for a Healthier TN challenges or events?
Yes, just about every one of them for the past year or so. I like the competition.

How do you stay motivated?
By others - it helps to be on this road to being healthy with fellow co-workers and my spouse who also want to be healthier.

What has been your toughest obstacle?
With quitting smoking - making it through the first few weeks. With continuing to get healthy - consistently eating healthy. I cheat a little and get in a rut and have to dig myself back out and start eating right again.

How do you reward yourself when you meet a goal?
I buy something new to wear. It makes me feel like I've accomplished something when I get to buy something in a smaller size.

How do you plan to reach your ultimate goal?
I plan on sticking to the plan of eating right and exercising.

What's your favorite part of Working for a Healthier TN?
I have somebody doing it with me.

What's your advice for others?
Don't give up! If you fall, pick yourself back up and keep going.

What have you learned about yourself during this journey?
That I generally achieve what I set out to do, and that when I fail I am my hardest critic.