What would it take to get you to don a tutu and run a 5K?
For Nichole Jones, it was a celebration. Celebrating the loss of nearly half her body weight. Celebrating the reversal of the dangerous path she was on toward diabetes.
Born and raised in Springfield, Illinois, Nichole struggled with her weight since she was in elementary school. She spent her summers with her grandparents, and like any doting grandparents, they made sure she ate. Her grandma’s cooking was on a par with Paula Deen’s high-calorie recipes, and her grandpa could always be counted on to pick up her favorite fast-food meals.
As she grew into adulthood, Nichole’s eating habits stayed the same. She couldn’t shake her habit of mindless eating, consuming food not because she was hungry but because she was bored.
She tried every diet regimen—Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers—but nothing was successful. At a little over 5-foot-6, she eventually reached 260 pounds by July 2014.
As she neared 40 years old, she became increasingly concerned about her health because many of her family members became diabetic in their 40s, including her mother, father and her grandmother on her dad’s side, who is on dialysis.
A checkup in July 2014 revealed that her LDL cholesterol level, the bad one, was creeping upward. By November, she was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. “I knew I had to do something,” Nichole said.
So she talked to her primary-care doctor about a referral to the Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center’s surgical weight-loss program. In April 2015, after losing about 30 pounds before surgery, she had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, a minimally invasive procedure that removes a significant portion of the stomach. Her cholesterol level dropped, and her pre-diabetes was gone.
Eight months later in December, she weighed 150 pounds. The following month, she lost an additional 10 pounds to reach her goal of 140 pounds.
As she lost weight, Nichole began to walk for exercise, but walking became boring so she gradually started running. She discovered she enjoyed it, and that’s what led her to the tutu.
Nichole is a self-professed Disney fanatic, visiting the theme parks regularly. She knew that they sponsored a variety of running events, including the Disney Princess 5K. She and a friend began to train in September 2015 so they’d be ready for the 5K at Disney World in Florida in February 2016. She ran the entire course wearing a sunny yellow tutu.
“I wish so much my grandma (on her mother’s side) could have been there to see it,” Nichole said. “She was one of my biggest fans and was so proud I was taking the initiative to improve my health.”
Now, she has her sights set on other runs, including an Avengers-themed run in November at Disneyland. She’s planning to dress as Captain America for the 10K and Black Widow for the half-marathon.
“The Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center saved my life,” Nichole said. “I really feel like I’ve been able to stop the progression as long as I keep up my healthy lifestyle.”