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The Weight Is Over

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  • Written By: Dwain Hebda
The Weight Is Over

Shannah O’Dell’s Journey From Nurse Director to Weight-Loss Inspiration

As Director of 3 West Medical/Pediatrics, Shannah O'Dell, MSN, RN, CPN, sees many patients and staff throughout the course of a typical day. But over the past two-plus years, there has been steadily less of O’Dell for others to see, thanks to her commitment to a weight loss regimen that has gradually but substantially slimmed her profile. 

“You can officially put in print that I have lost 100 pounds,” she said with pride ringing in her voice. “I have been asked the question, ‘How did you do it?’ a lot. I think the biggest lesson that I have learned that I would want people to know is, you can’t cheat. There’s no pill that’s going to do it for you, no shot, not even surgery. Nothing is going to do the work for you. If you want lasting health and weight loss, you have to put in the work.”

O’Dell, 37, claims she has always struggled with her weight, but rarely was the challenge as difficult as coming out of the pandemic. 

“In February of 2021, I was coming off a year of living in craziness here at the hospital, being the director of an inpatient unit that was dealing with COVID-19,” she said. “A lot of stress, working a lot of hours and I put on quite a bit of extra weight. I was in my mid-30s, and I realized that I was not going to get away with being that overweight in my 30s like I did when I was in my 20s.”

The other motivation to get healthy was her family. A mother of two, she wanted her children to not only have a healthy mom, but to have their own healthy habits as well.

“I’ve got these two little kids at home, and I really wanted to be healthy for them,” she said. “I wanted to be a better example for them because their behavior mimics my behavior. They’re eating what I’m eating. They’re sitting on the couch when I’m sitting on the couch.”

O’Dell admitted to having tried every fad diet in the book leading up to her latest attempt at slimming down, but something about her resolve in early 2021 suggested that this time would be different. 

“I think the biggest thing in all of this is your weight loss is not in your body, it’s in your mind,” she said. “You have to master your mindset. We always think you just have to be motivated. I think your determination has to be bigger than your motivation.”

O’Dell joined a local workout class for women and started the long journey toward her goal of dropping pounds and adopting a healthy, active lifestyle. Predictably, the first few months were taxing, but drawing on her considerable mental strength, she pushed through the aches and pains, determined to succeed. 

“From the beginning, I really, really, wanted to do this on my own,” she said. “I wanted to be able to say, ‘I didn’t take pills. I didn’t take shots. I didn’t have surgery. I got my diet right, and I changed my life on my own.’  

“I didn’t know if I would always be able to stick to that commitment, but I have so far. And that’s been important to me throughout the whole thing.”

One important element of sticking with her game plan to lose 100 pounds was to not target the whole thing at once.

“I made month-by-month goals,” she said. “So my goal would be I want to lose 10 pounds this month or I want to try to get 5 pounds off this month. I think on Day One if my goal had been 100 pounds, it would have overwhelmed me and I would have said, ‘Forget it. I’m never going to get there.’ Setting small goals I felt like I could meet over the course of 2 ½ years kept me feeling like I was continuing to be successful.”

Early on, O’Dell also developed a unique strategy of leveraging what she didn’t like about her new regimen as motivation. She didn’t love exercising, for instance, and knowing how much more of it she’d have to do if she fell off the diet wagon helped her pass up temptation. 

“I first attacked what was hardest for me, and that was exercise,” she said. “I weighed a lot, and exercise was very, very difficult for me. I thought if I’m going to do this, I’m going to attack the thing that I dread and hate the most, and that was exercise.

“When you work really, really hard doing a session of cardio, you’ll think twice about what you eat. I worked my butt off sweating, so I’m not going to eat that piece of pizza because it’s not worth it. You cannot outwork a bad diet.”

Like a lot of things in life, success in weight loss often boils down to just showing up. Despite her loathing of working out, O’Dell continued to report to class, and before she knew it she started to see results. Not only that, she also began to evolve on the subject of exercise, exploring new activities to keep things fresh. 

“I’ve actually had a pretty interesting exercise journey,” she said. “I started out with these classes that were high-intensity interval training and then I kind of got bored with that, so I switched to powerlifting, of all things. I absolutely fell in love with it, and I did powerlifting for about a year. 

“Then I kind of again got bored with that, so I did some cardio classes again, and now I’m currently in a body-building program. Been doing that for about three months.”

Additional motivation came from her clothes getting looser and people commenting on her progress, but the march to 100 pounds lost wasn’t without its hiccups. After dropping weight steadily for months, she hit a wall in November 2022.

“I had lost 96 pounds and could not get past that point. And I have struggled for months gaining weight back and losing it and gaining and losing,” she said, adding that while she finally did push past it to reach the 100-pounds-lost mark, she’s well aware there’s no such thing as autopilot when it comes to health and fitness.

“I have from the very beginning made the decision that my journey’s never going to be over,” she said. “One hundred pounds lost is just where I’m at right now. I’ll eventually get to a healthy weight and I’ll stop losing weight, but I have to continue the grind of exercise and eating right or my obese body is going to come back, and I know that.

“A big motivator for me starting a few months ago was my 14-year-old who started working out with me and has lost about 30 pounds. Now that he is into it and very committed, I’ve got to stay in it for him too.”

O’Dell said the process continues to teach her things about herself in ways that go far beyond a number on a scale. 

“A big part of where I feel my success has come from is feeling like I have control of what I do with my body. I’m not a victim of what my body does,” she said. “I definitely see things from a different perspective than when I was a big ol’ girl who thought ‘I can never do this or that’ because of what I weighed. I now see things from the lens of what’s possible.

“There are still days that I’m not motivated. There are days I don’t want to work out. There are days when I want to eat the pizza and the cake and all the things, but my determination is to win. You have to win the battle in your mind before you can win the battle in your body.” 

This feature appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of Pulse Magazine. To view the entire issue, visit