Wellness Spot Award 2019

Wellness journeys 2019

Each quarter, Grinnell Mutual recognizes one individual for their outstanding commitment to leading a healthy lifestyle. Read their stories.

Kami HolmesMichelle CooperDarren WheelerLori Wearmouth

Kami's Story

Wellness Spot Award winner Kami Holmes, senior counsel, shares how she lost 60 pounds in seven months.

Kami Holmes

My struggle with weight issues, like so many others, began in my youth. I developed anorexia as a teen and was hospitalized twice for this condition. When I started my recovery, I weighed close to 100 pounds

In college, I gained much more than the freshman 15.  I gradually put back on the weight I had lost when I was anorexic. By the end of college, I weighed about 220 pounds and was fairly unhappy. 

Over the next few years, I continued with spurts of losing and gaining weight. I also received a life-changing medical diagnosis. I felt lost for a while, but the one thing I still had control over was my weight. I lost close to 50 pounds by eating frozen meals, without exercising — I didn’t feel I needed to work out to be healthy.

Sure enough, the weight crept back on. I was back up to 180 pounds when I got pregnant with my first child. I ended up gaining 64 pounds during my pregnancy, yet my daughter only weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces. After she was born, I lost some of the baby weight, but I couldn’t get below 200 pounds.

Four years later, I became pregnant with my second child. I had yo-yo dieted in the years in between and would lose 20 pounds, and then gain it back plus more. I was up to 218 pounds when I became pregnant. This time I gained 26 pounds during my pregnancy, and lost all the new baby weight, plus some. But then I started gaining it back again.

By May of 2018, over two years later, I knew something had to change. I felt it. I was drinking between 130-175 ounces of diet soda a day and was always tired. I did not have energy when I got home from work to play with my girls. My husband was the one who would take them outside to play, swim, or sled while I watched from the sidelines. This was not the life I wanted, and it was time to change. 

I hired a personal trainer and started being more aware of what I was putting into my body. My goal was to lose 60 pounds, which would put me at a normal BMI. I’m proud to say I accomplished that goal in just seven months. By month nine I had lost 65 pounds, 45.75 inches, and gained two cute exercise partners — my girls — in the process.

A healthy body and mind need healthy foods and exercise, so that’s what I focused on. I ate less processed food and more natural food. I didn’t “diet,” because dieting only works for the time you are dieting. If you truly want to change, you must change the way you act and be committed to a lifestyle change.  And if you want to maintain it, you must live it every day, not just some of the time. 

If it wasn’t for Grinnell Mutual’s wellness program, I would have never been able to accomplish what I have. I will be forever grateful. We are all busy, and it helps so much when you have access to healthy foods (most for free!) and a gym during work hours. I am proud to work for a company that truly values their employees’ well-being.


Michelle's Story

Wellness Spot Award winner Michelle Cooper, farm casualty underwriter, and the turning points of her wellness journey that helped save her life.

Face photo of Michelle Cooper

I have been heavy for 99 percent of my life. I had gone on diets, exercised, and tried many things to lose weight and be healthy.

And I have always been an active and outdoorsy person, but because of my weight, it was becoming a struggle to get down on the floor to play with my kids, fit into amusement park seats, and get into a boat or innertube . As an advanced EMT, I struggled to jump in and out of the ambulance and to help the people that looked to me for assistance. I had reached 309 pounds.

On Dec. 12, 2016, I started working at Grinnell Mutual. My life changed forever in so many ways. I began so many amazing relationships and started to realize that I didn’t need to continue to live the way I had for so many years.

Just a few months after I started here, my mom got sick and was hospitalized with atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. The nurses and doctors would talk about how my parents needed to lose weight and start exercising. I knew their advice applied to me too…or I’d end up in that same hospital bed in a few years.

I made an appointment with Stef Noun, a physician’s assistant at Grinnell Mutual’s on-site health clinic. What a blessing it was (and is!) to have a partnership with Surgical Associates of Grinnell for our clinic.

Stef was the first one to tell me I was morbidly obese — but she was also the first one to tell me that there was hope for me.

She also suggested I look at getting a gastric sleeve procedure. Naturally I was skeptical and thought “pffftt, I can do this on my own. I don’t need a surgery to help.” Well, if that was the case, why hadn’t I done it over the last 25 years? After several conversations with Stef, my husband, and a few close friends, I decided to go ahead and get the sleeve procedure done.

January 3, 2018, was the first day of the rest and best of my life. After essentially having to relearn how to drink and eat, I was well on my way to losing the weight. I started to walk outside and in the halls and eventually joined an exercise class offered daily at Grinnell Mutual’s fitness center

Nearly a year later I am still going almost every day.

Now, down 122 pounds, I am stronger, both physically and mentally, than I ever thought possible. I am also a much better role model for my three kids and that means the world to me. They see me being more active and making healthier choices, which will hopefully help end the obesity cycle in my family.

Grinnell Mutual helped save my life with its amazing benefits: The Health Matters clinic, the fitness center, the free fruit and salads — all these things have contributed to my success and I will be forever grateful. I couldn’t ask for a better place to work than Grinnell Mutual!

Darren's Story

Wellness Spot Award winner Darren Wheeler, personal underwriter, shares how he choses to live a healthy lifestyle, day by day.

Face photo of Darren Wheeler

I’d gotten pretty good at dropping a few pounds by dieting and exercising for a few weeks, then skipping a few meals, all while accepting that the weight I lost would eventually creep back on. But at 32, and soon to be a father of two, I decided that I needed to find a way to start a healthy lifestyle.

My lifestyle transformation began in January 2018, when I participated in the Live Healthy Iowa challenge. At this point, I tipped the scales at 242.8 pounds, which was the heaviest I’ve ever been.

Loving a good competition, my team aimed to be the number one team in the state for weight loss. We knew this wasn’t going to be easy. I had to cut down on the sugar and increase my physical activity. I committed to working out during lunch four days a week, use the extra hour of fitness time to add two days a week of weight lifting. During the 10-week challenge, I lost a total of 32 pounds, and our team placed third in the state for weight loss.

I’d be lying if I said that my new lifestyle was easy. It was a work in progress and I had my share of “bad weekends.” But the structure for change was in place, and I pushed myself to keep participating in as many activities as I could. From the ping-pong tournament, to walking laps around the pond, to the free-throw competition, to my Grinnell Mutual golf league, to playing pickleball during break, I was not only feeling the change in my energy level but seeing how my life could include these changes into the future. 

In 2019, I knew it was time to step it up a notch to reach my weight loss goal. During this year’s Live Healthy Iowa Challenge, I started working out five days a week, choosing food with high nutritional value, and even standing at my desk. In all, I lost another 23 pounds, bringing me to my goal weight of 198 pounds.

I’d love to say I’ve crossed the finish line, but my healthy lifestyle is still a day-by-day choice that I must continually make. But I’m very excited about it and look forward to the new and improved life that lays ahead of me.

Lori's Story

Wellness Spot Award winner Lori Wearmouth, executive assistant, shares how she got back on her feet.

Face photo of Lori Wearmouth

For the last 25 years of my life, I’ve been a dance instructor and an avid walker. But in the winter of 2016, I started having a painful burning sensation down the back of my right heel. After dealing with it for a few months, I decided to go to the doctor. 

I had a heel spur in my right foot. The only way to fix this was through surgery, where they would need to detach my Achilles tendon, grind the spur off, and then reattach the tendon.

I had the surgery that June and wasn’t allowed to put any weight on my foot for six weeks, keeping me from my dancing and walking. Do you have any idea how hard it is to teach a pre-school dance class while sitting in a chair?

But nearly a year after surgery, I continued to be in pain. Another X-ray of my foot showed that I had two more spurs. He informed me that these spurs were from years of dance, and that if he took this spur off, they would continue to just keep coming back. He told me that I’d have to live the rest of my life like this and that I should try my best to just deal with it. 

I was not willing to give up the simple task of being able to walk without horrible pain, so I sought out a second opinion.

The new doctor agreed on another surgery, where he’d be very aggressive in grinding off the spurs, in hope that I’d be able to wear shoes and walk again. But he didn’t think I would ever be able to go up on my toes again to dance. So, in January of 2018 I went through my second surgery. 

By the time I went through the healing process after the second surgery, I had gained 60 pounds, taking a toll on my hips and knees. I had a hard time bending over to tie my shoes and couldn’t find any boots that would fit around my calves. I began extensive underwater physical therapy, where I practiced walking, bicycling, and going up on my toes. I was very diligent about doing my exercises and continued after physical therapy was over. 

The exercise helped, but with my age and slower metabolism, I was having a difficult time getting the weight off, so I opted to have weight loss surgery in January of 2019.  Between the weight loss surgery and working with a dietician and physical therapist, I was able to lose 70 pounds and I continued working on going up on my toes little by little. 

When I had a follow-up visit with my foot doctor in May and told him I was going up on my toes, he couldn’t believe it!  He asked me to prove it, so I stood up and raised up on both sets of toes in front of him. He attributed most of my success to the weight loss surgery taking the pressure off my hips, knees, and feet. Having the weight gone should help prevent the spurs from coming back, too.

I can now wear normal shoes with backs on them and instead of retiring from teaching dance, I can teach for another year. And I can now go up on my toes and dance like no one is watching!

Be well at Grinnell Mutual

Our employees are our greatest asset, so we do our best to keep them well. Learn more about the Larry Jansen Wellness Center at our home office in Grinnell, Iowa, which houses a free medical clinic and a fitness center. You can also read about the benefits that come with being on our team.

Learn about our employee benefits Learn about our Wellness Center