They say everyone has a breaking point. Trapped in her own body, which tipped the scales at over 380 lbs., Topeka Public Schools Account Clerk Jana Dreher knew she had to make a change. In March of 2015, she was enjoying a girls’ weekend with her friends in Branson, Missouri when the group decided to tour one of the region’s many caves. Too heavy to descend the 125 steps into the cave, Jana had finally reached her breaking point. As her friends toured the cave without her, she thought about all the things she was missing out on. “I came back from that weekend and decided that I’d had enough. Right then, I changed my whole life.”
|Jana Dreher, before and after her dramatic weight loss|
Jana’s journey toward a healthier life began that March. Since then, she has lost over 180 lbs. and has completely transformed her life. She started by cutting out sugar, a decision she made when recent bloodwork indicated she was borderline-diabetic. “I used to eat whatever I wanted. My go-to food was candy, especially chocolate. There were times that I would just eat a big bag of Snickers bars for dinner.” But a month after the trip—and a month after cutting out sugar—her bloodwork indicated that she was in the normal range and no longer at risk of developing the disease.
The following month, Jana joined Weight Watchers. “I felt that if I had to weigh-in in front of people, it would hold me more accountable,” she said. She started going to meetings each Thursday, where she found other people who were facing the same challenges she was. “We’re kind of like a family because everyone motivates each other. When I leave, I’m pumped and ready for the next week.”
Jana used what she learned in Weight Watchers to make changes in her diet. She switched from guzzling six 16.9 oz. bottles of Diet Pepsi each day to sipping green tea. She began to make better choices at mealtime, too. For example, a typical breakfast now includes a protein shake or hard-boiled eggs; lunch contains a turkey wrap, banana and yogurt; dinner consists of grilled chicken, brown rice and steamed veggies. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t indulge occasionally, however. “Sometimes I crave burgers—I’m a cheeseburger girl,” she laughed. “I’ll say to my husband, ‘Let’s go to Five Guys,’ and we’ll split a burger and small fries. We don’t need a lot of food. When we leave (the restaurant), we’re not stuffed and feeling sick.” In fact, Jana said she doesn’t deny herself any of the treats she wants; she simply eats less of them. “I call my husband my garbage disposal because I’ll eat a little and give him the rest,” she joked.
In addition to making better nutritional choices, Jana also began to focus more attention on physical activity, and her exercise schedule would impress even the fittest of athletes! Jana takes two, 15-minute, brisk walks each day during her breaks at work. She has teamed up with a group of Burnett Center employees who meet three times a week during their lunch break to exercise with a 30-minute video. She also goes running after work twice a week with Gary Menke, the district’s General Director of Fiscal Services, as she prepares for her first 5k run. Additionally, she attends a couple of fitness classes at Heat Up Topeka and works out at her gym, Great Life, several times per week. Jana also observes “Sunday Fun Day” with her family each Sunday, where they get together to enjoy mini golf, batting cages, a walk around the lake, or any other physical activity. In total, Jana exercises as many as 20 times each week.
Jana’s children, Allison, age 20 and a library para at McCarter Elementary; Kaitlynn, age 17 and a junior at Topeka High School; and Dylan, a 15 year old THS sophomore, are very proud of their mother’s transformation. Jana, never heavy as a child or young adult, initially put on extra weight thanks to a medication she took following the birth of Allison. A year later, she went off the medication, but the weight stayed with her, and she continued to gain from there. After watching their mother battle her weight for their entire lives, they’re thrilled with her success. Jana’s husband, Chris, a Frito-Lay employee, is also proud of her hard work. “He loved me at my heaviest and he loves me now. I actually weight less now than I did when we got married, so it’s like he’s got a whole new wife,” she laughed. In fact, her transformation has been so dramatic, that people who haven’t seen her since her weight loss don’t even recognize her. “They don’t realize it’s me. It’s pure shock on their face when I tell them who I am,” Jana said, smiling.
Jana’s life has really changed in the past year. No longer limited to plus-size stores, she now loves to go shopping and can shop anywhere she wants. When she reaches her goal weight, just 35 lbs. from her current weight, Jana plans to treat herself to a new wardrobe. She is also traveling more. A trip to San Antonio with Chris is on the horizon and Jana is excited to be flying there—something she wasn’t able to do before she lost weight. That won’t be her first trip, however. This past September, Jana returned to Branson, where she successfully toured the cave-- stairs and all-- that she wasn’t able to see on her first trip. “I made it all the way down into the cave and back up those stairs,” she said proudly.
Now Jana hopes to help others. She is considering going back to school to become a nutritionist. “When you’re heavy, you don’t necessarily want to talk to someone who is really skinny because they’ve never been in your shoes. I have been in their shoes and I can help those people,” she said. In the meantime, however, Jana is happy to share her story with others and enjoys helping people begin their own journey toward a healthier life. “If I can help even one person, that would make me happy. I am more than willing to sit down and talk to anyone and motivate them.”
Jana Dreher is a true success story. She made crucial changes in her life and is healthier, happier and more confident than ever. She was able to stave off diabetes, a potentially deadly disease, by reducing her sugar intake. She was also able to incorporate physical activity into her daily routine by utilizing her work breaks to exercise. Substituting high-calorie, high-fat meals for nutritious fare helped her shed about 13 lbs. each month. As summer break nears, Topeka Public Schools hopes that our staff members are inspired to continue practicing good nutrition and exercise habits in their own lives. For more information about leading a healthier, more active life, visit the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas website at http://www.bcbsks.com/BeHealthy/HealthWellness/HealthyLifestyles/