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Iron Will Kari Friesen

Iron Will Award Candidate:

Kari Friesen

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Kari Friesen:

After having my third child in October, 2015, I realized that I needed to make some changes in my life in an effort to manage my autoimmune disease of Hashimotos. Hashimotos is an autoimmune disease whereby your immune system attacks your thyroid gland. Symptoms include fatigue, pale/puffy face, digestive issues, hair loss, significant weight gain, weak/sore muscles, joint pain and stiffness, memory lapses and depression. Since having my baby, my body had gone into a major flare up where I lost approximately 50% of my hair, I was tired and weak every day and my antibody numbers were so high I was at major risk for significant weight gain. Typical weight gain with numbers as high as mine is about 100 pounds in 3 months.

I quickly recognized that I would need to work at becoming healthier and physically fit. I needed to learn to eat clean, lose weight and increase my energy in order to be able to be there for my three daughters. I decided to recruit the help of a trainer, somebody who knew what they were doing in the fitness world and that’s when my life changed. I enlisted the help of Jenaya Hofer, someone I knew from my hometown and someone I knew I could count on to get the job done. Despite a busy schedule including a full-time career, being the parent of 3 young girls who are involved in extra-curricular activities, I started working out regularly (usually 6 days a week) and making healthy food choices

My trainer, Jenaya, introduced me to the world of lifting of weights. I had only ever used cardio to lose weight and hated every minute of it. Fighting an autoimmune disease where weight gain is one of the most common symptoms, I knew I would be fighting a losing battle if cardio was all I was willing to do. I was absolutely terrified to start lifting weights and honestly thought I would hate it. I went to my local gym and literally bought only a 1 month membership thinking I would quit well before that first month was up. BOY WAS I WRONG!!! I absolutely fell in love with lifting weights and the results were far better than any “cardio only” program could have offered me. I quickly realized that I wanted to take this further and decided that I would try to compete in my very first bodybuilding show. I knew that in order to be able to train at that level, my body would have to start complying and my autoimmune disease would have to go into remission. Unfortunately for me, this did not happen.

Despite following a very detailed meal plan and workout plan, I could not get my body on board with these changes. I struggled with proper digestion and was literally unable to fully absorb the nutrients from the foods I was eating. I decided to not give up, but rather push that much harder. I knew I had to keep going, not only for my own health, but also for my three little girls. I wanted to show them that we don’t just give up when things get tough (and sometimes they get really tough). Being a positive role model for them was definitely a huge part of why I chose to continue to pursue this dream.

After several relapses and flare ups along the way, I have achieved my goal of competing in my first ever bodybuilding competition. And while my hashimotos has not gone into remission, I feel much better than before. I have lots of energy to keep up with my children, I don’t have weak/sore muscles, or suffer from joint pain and stiffness, and am not depressed. Instead, I have lost weight, learned to fuel my body properly and have fallen in love with an amazing sport!


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