As music pulses on the workout floor, a sweat-drenched Hattie Cronk and trainer Lindsay Ogden high-five at the end of their workout. Cronk participates in an Olympic-style strength training class multiple times a week at Life Time Eden Prairie Athletic, plays pickleball, chases after two young daughters, works full-time, and still has the energy to spare.
“I feel better at 39 than I have in my entire life,” she expressed.
Overweight much of her life, Cronk has not always enjoyed her current zest for life or level of fitness. Her family history of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart disease and obesity fueled her fears for her future health. ”My dad’s been diabetic for about 20 years. My grandpa died from unmanaged diabetes,” she said. Though not clinically prediabetic or insulin resistant, Cronk saw what the future could hold for her and decided to take action to lose weight and reduce her own risk of future chronic health conditions.
On Jan. 3, 2023, Cronk embarked on a journey to lose over 60 pounds. The combination of heavy weightlifting, better nutrition and community worked together to help Cronk finally reach her goals, along with the use of a GLP-1 agonist drug.
Before her new journey, Cronk had been on a roller coaster of weight loss attempts focusing on intense cardio exercise and a variety of diets, some of them extreme. ”You name it, I’ve tried it,” she said. “I’d be very strict. In the gym I focused a lot on cardio. I would say I was a very active person, but very discouraged by never getting the results that I wanted.”
After having her second daughter and gaining more weight, Cronk returned to her efforts with a vengeance. “From August of 2022 to January 1 of 2023, I was on a strict diet, like 1,500 calories. I was watching everything. I wasn’t drinking. I was in the gym every single day. And I still did not budge on the scale,” she recalled.
Weightlifting and a change in approach
During this time, Cronk discovered a high intensity fitness class at Life Time clubs that focuses on heavy strength training paired with cardio conditioning. The Alpha class changed her approach. Lindsay Ogden, who coaches the class at the Life Time Eden Prairie Athletic location on Prairie Center Drive, said progressively using heavier weight is key to building muscle. ”You need to have access to heavier weights to stimulate the muscle in different ways to have it rebuild and grow,” said Ogden.
Though definitely challenging, the class also emphasizes fun, camaraderie and encouragement. Cronk values the friendships she’s made in class as much as her newly defined muscles. “I think that is a big component, too,” she said, “to have people that keep you accountable and keep you coming.”
The small class size allows Ogden to provide more individual coaching for safety as well as building community. “I always say my job as a coach is the three S’s. Keep them safe, smiling, and sweating,” said Ogden.
After extensive research and careful consideration, Cronk decided to try GLP-1 drugs to aid her weight loss. The drugs, initially FDA approved in 2005 for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, have recently grown in popularity and made headlines as a treatment for obesity. They work by mimicking the hormone GLP-1 in the body, regulating insulin, slowing digestion, and increasing satiety.
Cronk, aware of the risks, potential side effects and criticism sometimes surrounding a GLP-1 agonist as a weight loss drug, is careful to emphasize that she has used it as a complement to her other significant lifestyle changes.“I did a ton of research. I built a community on different social medias of people who are on GLP-1’s because I was very cautious,” said Cronk, who was also working with an obesity doctor, exercising, and working on her mindset.
Though Cronk is adamant that the medication is not a “quick fix,” she does feel that it helped her almost immediately start seeing enough results to spur her on in her other efforts. “I took it and immediately the food noise just stopped in the first few weeks,” she said. “There’s cookies and chips around, but I’m not even thinking about them.You start to crave healthier options. It just stopped that control of food over me that I’ve never had in my entire life ever.”
GLP-1 as one tool
Ogden’s nutritional guidance helped Cronk manage the effects of the medication, which suppresses the appetite and can cause patients to undereat and miss out on important nutrients. Focusing on protein, fiber and micronutrients helped Cronk maintain energy and muscle. “Lean muscle is something as we age we definitely want to keep and we want to build and maintain because that sets you up for the long haul,” said Ogden. “I can’t stress enough the strength training and then the support of that with protein to keep the lean mass that you do have.”
As a result, Cronk now has a new relationship with food. “I don’t look at food anymore as the enemy or having control of me,” she said. “ I look at food as a way to fuel myself and continue to help me get to my goals.”
Cronk is sometimes hesitant to tell others about her use of the drug because of conclusions jumped to about her success. “There’s that stigma around ‘Oh, you’re taking the easy way out,’ or ‘You’re cheating,’” she said. Most people don’t see the other significant lifestyle changes she’s made or, Cronk added, laughing, “getting my butt kicked by Lindsay every day.”
Cronk understands why the drug “gets a bad rap” if people use it just as a way to lose weight fast. But Cronk sees the drug as just one tool in a large toolbox for weight loss. “It’s one piece out of all the other things you need,” she said. “The GLP-1, I would say is 25% of the entire journey. The other 75% was getting in here, lifting heavy things, making friends, people who support me on this journey and developing a really awesome relationship with (Ogden).”
Motivated for future health
In fact, Cronk’s motivation goes well beyond wearing a smaller clothing size. “My goal in life is not to be skinny,” she said. “ My long-term goal is to not get diabetes and not go through the things that my family has gone through. I don’t want to die because diabetes has taken over my life. I don’t want to have to have a foot amputated. I don’t want to lose my sight. I don’t want to get cancer. That’s all right there if I didn’t make a change; that would be the trajectory for me”
Though we don’t yet know the long-term effects of GLP-1 drugs, “We do know the long term effects of obesity,” said Ogden. “I know that (Cronk) is getting closer to a person that is going to probably live a happier, healthier life than if she wouldn’t have done some of those things in the first place.”
Though Cronk is thrilled to be able to play tirelessly with her kids and fit into an airplane seat with ease, the changes in her go beyond the physical. The biggest thing, she said, “is that my inside is now reflected on the outside. I’ve always been a really charismatic, outgoing, fun person. It’s just reflected on both sides of me now. I don’t hide in the back of the room anymore. I think my life is so much better because I have energy. I have love for myself, which literally comes out to everyone else round me.”
When Cronk thinks of her own family’s future health, she is now full of hope and strives to set a positive example for them. “I’m changing the perspective for my daughters that I didn’t get to have. I’m changing the dynamic,” she said. “I feel for once in control of my life and like I have the tools to live happy.”
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