Dawn Bryant – Operations/Marketing Director
When I was 11, I earned a 2nd place ribbon in the big fifth grade track meet for my speedy contribution to my team’s relay.
I never forgot about that ribbon because, until recently, it was the only reminder that maybe I had a little bit of athleticism hidden somewhere in my being.
Truthfully, I was never good at sports, or anything that required physical exertion or coordination. I certainly never thought it was possible for me to be lean, let alone fit. I thought I was meant to be “curvy” (the word I used for my chubby-ness) and destined to be a bigger girl. BUT, I was determined to make up for that shortcoming (in my mind) by being an amazing cook and loving people as much as I possibly could. And, if I was going to do anything to better my health, I was going to do it alone…I was far too stubborn to think that I needed help from anyone.
Fast forward to 2012. My weight had ballooned to 280 pounds. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t drop any weight, at least not for any significant amount of time. The excess weight began to wear on my 5 foot, 6.5 inch frame. My knees always hurt. My ankles were always injured. And my blood pressure was high. Even worse, it was a constant emotional struggle that I tried to hide from everyone. It affected me…all…the…time. It was a constant brain drain. It’s hard to feel confident about what your strengths are when you feel crappy about your body and health.
Enter Jason Burgoon. The details of my weight loss journey can be found in my success story linked here. But the short story is that he helped me find my confidence and my true self during a journey that helped me shed half of my body weight. The encouraging environment and belief in what I was capable of (which was far more than I thought I was capable of) made a huge difference for me.
I remember the moment he called me athletic. And now I’m glad I hung on to that red ribbon. It was true. There had been something inside of me dying to get out. He found it. And he uncovered it. Now, it’s not just Jason…it’s an entire community of people who deeply care who have helped me discover and build strength, mentally and physically…they push my limits, and then make me push harder…they encourage me and inspire me to keep following this crazy perfect path…and, mostly, it’s the uncountable people who walk through the doors of this magical place and bring positivity to all who surround them. I can honestly say my closest friends are those with whom I workout with…these are the people with whom I live my life. And I’m thankful.
Fast forward again, this time to 2015: living my dream of helping others find hope while feeling strong in every way until, boom, severe back injury. Two spinal surgeries in two days and a boatload of complications, including blood clots and numbness in my parts of feet and legs. Walking 50 steps with a walker was a chore. I had to, physically, rebuild everything I’d worked for. The only way that can’t be defeating is resting on the knowledge that strength is so much more than physical. After four months being sidelined, I could finally start to train again. And it felt great until August of 2016. Again. We learned I had an oddly shaped vertebrae in my back that had put undue pressure onto a disc my whole life; any activity was wearing on it. So, thank goodness my body was healthy when everything went haywire. One more spinal surgery — this time a fusion. This time the recovery was better than anyone could’ve expected. I learned patience. And I learned to trust the process. Twelve weeks post-surgery I was physically capable of doing things that some people never do in their lives. Six months post-surgery I am on my way back to feeling like myself physically because I’ve been able to lean on emotional strength and an environment of positivity.
Momentum is key for me. It doesn’t matter how big or small the movement, it matters that I move forward. And, for me, forward movement is a choice. And true strength and a sense of purpose helped that happen.
I still love to cook, but I love cooking healthy. I still love making people happy and giving them hope, but realize my personal story of pursuing health and strength is what makes the biggest difference in the lives of others. And a way that I can do that every, single day is by helping more people experience what I experienced…by standing beside my good friends, building a business that is changing peoples’ lives.
The decision to help build this business in 2013 was the most exhilarating, challenging, and rewarding thing I ever could have dreamed of doing. Everything I ever accomplished and learned in 17 years as a marketing, branding, and communications strategist for some of the nation’s largest and most-recognizable brands and as a small business owner working with non-profits and start-ups has crashed together with something very personal for me…something I’m wildly passionate about, something I can work beside my closest friends on…and I wouldn’t trade anything for it.
This is what it means when passion becomes a career. And now I get to spend my life helping people find hope, and discover and articulate their stories. I spend my days seeing the beauty in people and believing in them. As long as I’m sipping coffee, working out, eating sushi, or making memories with my closest friends, I’ve got enough energy to keep making a positive difference in the lives of as many people as possible.