Sheena York had long wanted to lose weight, but it wasn't until she started shopping for wedding gowns that she reached a breaking point with her obesity.
"I was really disgusted with myself and knew I had to make a change," she said.
That was in 2008. Since then she has cut her weight in half, dropping from 300 pounds to 143 pounds, and on Tuesday night she will show the world.
The 29-year-old will appear on the live season finale of NBC's "The Biggest Loser," a reality show in which overweight contestants compete to lose the most weight. York has not been a contestant, but the show has agreed to feature her because it has been such an inspiration to her. She said she has been a "huge fan" of the show, wrapping up its 15th season, and in 2009 she attended a two-week Biggest Loser camp at a Utah resort that partners with the show.
She and her husband, Jon, fly to Los Angeles on Monday, Feb. 3. She said she has no idea what she will do on the show. She only knows when she is being picked up from her hotel, and that she should wear something dressy, with no brand logos visible.
The show airs from 9 to 11 p.m.. An NBC spokeswoman told The Elkhart Truth that York will be in the audience during the live show, and will be interviewed by one of the show's trainers. York said she was asked which trainer she wanted to interview her, and she has selected her favorite, Jillian.
"I was nervous at first," York said of being on the show. "Now I'm just excited. I just feel incredibly blessed for them to be recognizing my success and I just want to inspire other people."
York, of White Pigeon, Mich., is chief financial officer at Elkhart-based HDI Commerce, which sells a wide range of nutritional supplements and health products online. She said she had been a normal weight when she graduated from White Pigeon High School in 2003, where she played volleyball and soccer. After high school, she slowly started putting on the weight. She was working a full-time job, a second part-time job and going to school full-time — first at Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville, then graduating from Spring Arbor University, so she wound up eating out every meal, usually fast-food.
"There was nothing I didn't like," she recalled. "I had a very bad food addiction. It's taken me five years to really overcome that, make a lifestyle change and stop the yo-yoing on the scale."
While fast food was convenient in her hectic schedule after high school, York said she also has come to realize that she was using food as a refuge from confronting some emotional family issues that she declined to elaborate on.
She said she doesn't have any silver bullet to share with those who want to lose weight. She simply started exercising often, including weight lifting, aerobic workouts and yoga, and counting calories.
"It was hard at first because I was a picky eater, because I'd eaten so much fast food," she said. "It took a lot to get my taste buds to change and actually crave more healthy options."
Losing weight proved harder than she thought it would be. She had tried eating low-calorie frozen meals, taking diet pills, doing body wraps and drinking diet shakes, all with no success.
"It's not something that can be done overnight as a quick fix. It has to be a lifestyle change."
Her husband, Jon, who also works at HDI, has been supportive.
"We're high school sweethearts," she said. "He was with me at my lowest weight and my heaviest weight."
Jon said he's proud of her.
"It's been a really good journey," he said. "It's been a really crazy ride over the past five years. I'm not overweight, but it's taught me how to eat and exercise."
York, who has become certified as a physical trainer and nutritionist, said she wants to spend the rest of her life inspiring others to lose weight. She will share her story at The People's Clinic in Elkhart at 6 p.m.Monday, Feb. 10.
"It's not just a physical change but it's emotionally and mentally challenging as well," she said. "I want to write a book about it, be a motivational speaker and make a career out of it. It's really changed my life."