A Health Transformation in Wheeling

Could one conversation really change a person’s life?

Well, it absolutely did for me! Little did I know that one simple phone call would result in the start of a year-long adventure that would completely transform my health, my attitude, and my outlook. I also lost more than 50 pounds, and that isn’t even the best part of my story.

When I decided to stop smoking, I made a call to a good friend, Ryan Ferns. He is a physical therapist, a healthy eater, an exercise enthusiast, and the owner of the Ryan Ferns Healthplex, a full-service Physical Therapy & Fitness Center. I shared with him my concern over the weight gain that is typically associated with smoking cessation and asked him to recommend some type of exercise program. I definitely wasn’t expecting the response that he gave me.

“To be honest with you, Sarah, the first thing you need to do is talk to our in-house nutritional counselor, Kathi Leonard,” he said. “You need to address your diet before you start exercising.”

Sarah and Mike Barickman (Before conversation with Ryan Ferns)

Since I have always hated exercise, the advice was music to my ears, and my journey began. Already feeling like I had reached an uncomfortable level with my weight and weary of dealing with chronic back pain, I was determined to take the necessary steps to start to feel better. I knew that the urge to replace cigarettes with food would be strong, and I knew that it would be a daily struggle to make smart food choices. Kathi gave me the basics to get started and stressed that simplicity is the key. It started with removing diet soda, another addiction, as well as reducing my intake of processed foods. Kathi was able to give me an entirely new perspective, and I could see that the foods I was eating were affecting so much more than just the clothing size I wore or the numbers on a scale.

Additionally, since I suffer from chronic back pain, I learned about inflammation and how food choices can play an important role in increasing or decreasing it. With Kathi’s help, I started to implement an anti-inflammatory diet. I reduced the foods that impacted it the most, like dairy and wheat, and within a few months, I was able to remove bread and pasta completely from my diet, which has been easier than I thought it would be once I realized how it makes me feel when I eat it.

Around the same time and in conjunction with my dietary changes, I was referred for Physical Therapy to address further the issue of my back pain. Noelle Adams, a physical therapist at the Healthplex who specializes in back pain, worked one-on-one with me to develop a protocol that fit my needs and helped to minimize my discomfort. A setback occurred when an MRI showed significant degeneration of several discs in my lower back and complete loss of the disc at L4/ L5. At that point, it became less about rehabilitation and more about the importance of strengthening my back and improving my posture and movement. I was discouraged, but definitely not defeated and still very determined. After experiencing what it felt like to feel truly good, there was no way I was going back. The healthy eating and change in mindset really made me feel good about myself, both inside and out. Not to mention the support and encouragement of everyone at the Healthplex.

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I faced my dislike for exercise and joined the CrossFit Elements class at the Healthplex. It’s an introductory level program that teaches the basics and fundamentals of proper strength and conditioning techniques. I quickly discovered that I did not yet have the back strength to complete the required movements for CrossFit, so I opted for private personal training with John Creveling, the Healthplex’s CrossFit coordinator. John helped me with functional movement and showed me how, when exercising correctly, I could build the strength I would need to help my entire body, not just my back. Surprisingly, I actually started to look forward to my training sessions, a goal I never really thought I would achieve.

Crossfit at the Ryan Ferns Healthplex

I recently completed my personal training, and I’m prepared for CrossFit. I’ll be joining the regular classes, which is another part of the process of being a healthier person I thought I might never be able to do. If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout this process, it’s that anything is possible when you’re determined and when you have a great team to support you. Everyone at the Healthplex is working to support the goal of wellness and whole-life healthy living. You can feel the positive vibrations when you walk in the door. Nobody is a stranger and absolutely nobody is beyond help.

There are so many ways for people to get started. Every six weeks the Healthplex offers a 30-Day Nutritional Reset Group. There’s also CrossFit, or, for those who aren’t so inclined, there are many other classes and trainers there that are all designed to offer outstanding physical benefits. Whatever you decide you want to try, you can be assured that you’ll receive encouragement, friendship and fun from working with great people who want the same things you do—to live healthier, more physically fit lives.

Lily, Sarah and Haden Barickman (Post-Transformation)

My transformation has had its challenges, but a total transformation is exactly what I’ve experienced. If you see me around town, you can’t miss that I’m beaming with excitement about the new me. My family has certainly been affected by these changes, too. Not only are we all eating healthier, but I am truly a happier person. I am a better wife and mother. I am now a good example for the people who mean the most to me. That was an unexpected and important result of clean eating and a healthy lifestyle. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, and I’m thrilled with how I’ve gotten there. I firmly believe that because of the unique approach at the Ryan Ferns Healthplex they can help anyone who wants to make positive life changes.

So yes, it really is possible that one conversation can change your life!