ELKHART — Determined to lead a healthier life after her father died, Anna Merklein has lost 120 pounds one step at a time in an unexpected way.
In 2010, the Elkhart mother of three took her father, who was battling cancer, to visit family in West Virginia. There, the two visited the scenic New River Gorge Bridge in the Appalachian Mountains.
“We walked down the steps at the bridge and going back up, I had to stop and rest about a dozen times, and my dad didn’t,” Merklein recalled. “He didn’t have an issue walking and climbing the mountains. I did. My dad was 67, and I was 39. Yes, I was overweight, but my dad had cancer, and I shouldn’t have had such a tough time. That was it for me. That’s when I decided I had to do something.”
After the trip, Merklein was determined to get her health back on track.
“I was 287 pounds, and I was miserable,” she said. “It was the heaviest I had ever been.”
Though his health problems were different than hers, Merklein credits her father, Ray Sims, as an inspiration for losing weight. Sims’ health quickly declined, and he died two months after returning from their trip to West Virginia.
Because of a heart condition, Merklein was not able to work out aggressively and diets were not doing the trick. Then, a friend suggested using Wii Fit, a video game that combines aerobics with games.
“I thought it couldn’t hurt to try it,” Merklein said.
Merklein began waking up at 4:30 a.m. every day to start her workout routine, which included repeatedly stepping up and down from a 3-inch platform in 10-minute intervals. Merklein built up her endurance and began exercising a few hours a day using the game.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “I didn’t want to be getting up that early. There were a lot of mornings where I thought I would just hit the snooze button and sleep a little longer.”
But Merklein, who is now 167 pounds, persevered. She exercised every day, logging more than 1,230 hours on Wii Fit. She also made a habit out of eating smaller meals, a practice that her husband and kids also adopted.
“They even started losing weight,” Merklein said about her family.
Merklein said she hopes her story of weight loss and determination inspires other people to follow in her steps.
“Now, knowing how good I feel and how much better and healthier I feel, I just hope other people can feel that way too,” she said.