kristel-wheeler-teamI’m Kristel Wheeler and I am 39 years old. I grew up in a small town in Nebraska. Small town, meaning 563 people to be exact. Corn fed, yes! Meat and Potatoes, yet! On my Father’s side of the family, all the men were football players. Let’s just say, I get my build from my dad. I’ve always been considered the “big” girl of the bunch…sometimes I’ve been told I was “thick” or “big boned.” It never really bothered me and I was mostly happy with the way I looked. I was also a very active kid. I was involved in Volleyball, Basketball, Track and Softball in high school and Rugby, Volleyball and Softball in college. Being active and competitive probably helped me with my confidence and it also drove me to be better in most areas of my life. My parents worked nights so my sister and I usually had to fend for ourselves. BLT’s, Ramen Noodles and Tuna Noodle Casseroles were pretty common meals growing up. We never really thought about healthy eating at that time and neither did my family. Sure there was fruit around and the usual staples, it was never really talked about too much. I was so active, that I didn’t have to worry about it…until I got older!

By the time I got to college, my diet didn’t change much, but my activity level did. Eating cafeteria food and eating late night fried foods led to the “Freshmen 15”, which by the time I was a Junior in college that 15 turned into 25. I didn’t even notice it until I saw my fat swollen face in some pictures. That was when I realized how much my diet affected my body, my self-esteem and my motivation. I needed to eat better and stay active. I eventually graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education and a Coaching Endorsement in 2001 from the University of South Dakota, it only took 6 years to do it! I landed my first teaching job in 2002 in Arizona. Since then I received 2 Master’s Degrees in Special Education and Educational Leadership. I found myself loving teaching and being a leader in the classroom. Then Surprise!!! My husband, Lee and I found out we were pregnant with our first child. We decided that I would finish out my 11th year as a teacher in 2013, stay working nights at my part time job, Trader Joes, and stay home with our son, Westen during the day. It was during my pregnancy that I got extremely active in exercise….most people stop, not me. I went hard…4-5 days a week and most classes I attended were HIIT classes. I fell in love. I continued going to the gym when Westen turned 2 months old and we went 5 days a week. He got to socialize and I got to exercise. After a while I started thinking of ways the classes could be better or what I would do differently. I thought, “I could teach, I could do this!”

Which lead me to MHAWA. Marlene and I have worked together for many years at Trader Joes. I would always come to her for advice about eating habits and exercise advice. She was usually the person who orchestrated all the weight loss/fat loss challenges at work. I would always jump into these contests with both feet, with every intention of winning. It wasn’t about the money I would win, it was about having the support of others doing it with me. The comradery that went along with the contests. The competition didn’t hurt either, I was a competition junkie!!! My competitive drive during these competitions was flat out crazy. I would track every ounce of food I ate (thank you to my husband for handling all the cooking and measuring). Most days he would ask, “Are you dieting?” Just so he know whether he could use olive oil or olive oil spray, (very considerate of him). I would work out twice a day, 5 days a week. And I loved it. I loved taking my measurements and my before and after photos. That was my drive! Seeing and feeling the difference in my body and knowing I had full control over it.

Besides teaching, I have never been more passionate about any job or hobby. What I love most about exercise, fitness and healthy eating is talking to others about it. I enjoyed giving advice and offering support to those who wanted it or even asked for it. Because of my enthusiasm and love for health and fitness, Marlene saw in me what I’ve always seen in myself, my love of teaching and coaching. I’ve been with MHAWA for several months and I believe in their mission. MHAWA provides a service that helps others achieve healthy living…mind and body. The word passion describes the meaning behind MHAWA. I want to be a part of an organization that exudes passion. I want to belong to a company that inspires, inspires me as a Wellness Coach and inspires others to live healthy active lives.