Chandra Gaudet came to a decision a little more than two years ago to put herself on track for a healthier, better life. It wasn’t an easy one to make, however, for more reasons than one.
The Destrehan woman suffers from Sjorgen’s, an autoimmune disease that has contributed to high blood pressure, bouts of vertigo and weight gain – before taking on what became a full lifestyle change, she weighed 276 pounds. For many people, working out and eating healthy take commitment, but for Gaudet, the physical and mental toll Sjorgen’s took on her made it even more difficult to find motivation.
“(Sjorgen’s) affected all parts of my body,” said Gaudet, who compared the disease to lupus. “As far as walking, holding things in my hands, my motor skills … climbing the stairs was an issue. It affected me mentally, like I was in a fog, and my memory. It made functioning at work difficult. You’re sleepy all the time and not motivated to get up.”
One day, though, Gaudet said “enough.” She would not allow this barrier to control her life and vowed to herself that she’d find her best self despite it all.
“I made up my mind that this wasn’t going to be me anymore,” she said. “I started walking and I’d push through the pain. I’d go out on the levee and tell myself I could do this … 10 to 15 minutes every day, then it started to be more.”
As she made this her routine, she came across an advertisement for United Way’s “Get Fit United” program, a 12-week health program provided free of charge to individuals fitting certain eligibility parameters. Gaudet applied and she was chosen for the program, which included nutritional guidance and a gym membership that came with training.
“I had cold feet at first, thinking it might be too much,” she said. “But when I started training with them, they really believed in me. I was making excuses in my mind. They believed in me more than I did at the beginning.”
It took her fitness journey to the next level. Twice a week, she’d attend “boot camp” at Anytime Fitness along with her gym classmates, while Wednesday’s she’d attend a nutrition class.
“It helped teach me different ways of how to eat and what to eat … how many calories to take, those things,” Gaudet said. “I didn’t eat broccoli or cauliflower, nothing healthy at all, and I hated drinking water.
“Now, all I do is drink water. I haven’t had a soda in three years, and all I do is eat healthy,” she said.
In all, she’s dropped approximately 80 pounds over the past two years. The effects have been life-changing.
“I feel more confident now, like anything I want to do, I can accomplish,” Gaudet said. “It motivated me to try different things as far as sports. I didn’t want to get dressed up and go anywhere … I’d be invited somewhere and didn’t feel comfortable because I didn’t like the way I looked. I walked everywhere with my head down.
“Now, when I walk into a room, I’m proud. I’m more open and can talk more freely. It boosted my confidence level 100 percent.”
On top of that, several of the symptoms of Sjorgen’s have faded. Gaudet is no longer on blood pressure medication or steroids – which she had to take to combat the illness previously – and she said her doctor has been shocked by the progress she’s made.
“He can’t believe it, with the pain I was in before, that I’ve come so far,” Gaudet said. “Everything is so different now. I didn’t understand what anyone meant by ‘lifestyle change’ before, but that’s exactly what this is. Now, if I don’t go to the gym every day, I feel like I’m missing out.”