Erika H

Finding her strength at Galter

by Erika Slife Hostetler | Aug 01, 2019


If you’ve been to a recent Group Power class, you may have noticed the quiet, inconspicuous woman to the left of the stage, just in front of the mirror. It is her favorite spot.

She is 60 years old – turns 61 on Aug. 5 – and is, almost always, lifting the heaviest weights in the class. She often lifts heavier than the instructor, as well as all of the men.

She may be quiet, and she may be inconspicuous, but her strength is not.

Her name is Yvonne Sherman, and she’s been a member of Galter LifeCenter since 2015. Since joining, she has lost roughly 35 pounds with the help of Group Fitness classes. But more importantly, she’s gained strength, calmness and happiness in life.

“I’m healthy,” she says, with a brilliant, wide smile.

Yvonne Sherman

It’s been a long journey – one that unfortunately millions of Americans will take in their lifetimes.

Yvonne spent her childhood in Jamaica and moved to Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood when she was 14 years old. Then a skinny teenager, she and her friends would try to put on weight, swallowing weight gain pills and eating junk food like potato chip, pies and Cherry Crush soda, she said.

“All I got was a bad complexion,” she said with a laugh.

But as her teenage body gave way to adulthood, and with no healthy eating habits to rely on, Yvonne found herself looking at her body in a new way – one that needed to be controlled.

It was the early 1980s, and she was living on her own for the first time. She developed the eating disorder, bulimia nervosa.

“I just thought it was a great way to control my weight,” she said.

Yvonne became one of estimated 1.5 percent of American women who will suffer from bulimia in their lifetimes, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Overall, an estimated 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from eating disorders, says the Eating Recovery Center, based in Denver, Colo.

But Yvonne says she didn’t realize she was one of them. She recalls watching a daytime talk show one day, and the topic was eating disorders. She didn’t see herself as one of the “emaciated women” being interviewed on the program.

“I felt sorry for them! They had a problem. I didn’t,” she remembers thinking.

It wasn’t until a friend’s aunt reached out to her to ask if she was well.

“She said, ‘Honey are you OK? You’re so thin,’” Yvonne recalled. “And I said, ‘No I’m not.’”

But she called it her first “wake-up call,” though she didn’t feel the need to stop just yet.

It was the early 1990s, and she was married and living in Mt. Prospect. She had just eaten an entire pie from Bakers Square, she remembered, when she realized her husband was home. He wasn’t supposed to be there, and she suddenly had nowhere to purge.

It was then, she said, that she knew she had a serious problem. She sought therapy, and emotionally collapsed, sinking into a deep depression. In a matter of months, she gained four dress sizes, she said.

Then, one day, her emotional pendulum swung suddenly in the other direction. She became manic and lost all of the weight and then some by compulsively exercising -- morning, afternoon and night, she said. She lived off patty pan squash and chicken broth.

But as long as she continued to exercise, she felt in control of her body, she said. She and her first husband divorced after 8 years, but she was able to suppress her depression and mood swings with medicine.

She met her current husband, Richard, and they married in 2006. They had a blissful first year of marriage, celebrating that summer with their honeymoon and Yvonne’s birthday. Then September came, and she forgot to take her antidepressant medication.

“Once I remembered, it was too late,” she said. “I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I just knew that I had no energy. I couldn’t make any decisions. Simple things, like, do you want cream (in your coffee)? I don’t know. Don’t ask me.”

She hit her rock bottom one day in the shower when she didn’t have the energy to wash shampoo out of her hair. She called her mother, who lives in Rogers Park.

“She asked, ‘Are you ok?’ I said, ‘No,’” Yvonne remembered. She moved in with her mother and began therapy again, with a renewed focus on stabilizing her moods. She forgot about controlling what her body looked like and instead worked on getting her brain healthy.

She moved back in with Richard, and became his partner in his business, working from home. She found herself happy.

“I was in a good emotional state,” she said proudly.

But with her kitchen right next to her office, and no education on how to eat healthily, her weight crept up again.

And that’s when she found Galter LifeCenter. Her friend had joined the gym and was raving about it.

“I went as her guest, (and) I signed up that day. I loved it so much,” she said.

Her first class was Group Power, and the passion for weight lifting was quickly ignited.

She started coming to classes regularly, made friends, and found a sense of community and belonging that so many of us find here at Galter.

“Over the years, I’ve joined numerous health clubs… And I never kept up with it. I’d probably do a month, if that. And then I wouldn’t go anymore,” she said. “And what I like about Galter, I like the staff. Everyone is so welcoming. You know, if you’re not there, people wonder where you are. You know, the caring – it’s a caring loving atmosphere. I love it there. It’s like my second home.”

Four years later, with the help of strict medication, consistent therapy, the love of her husband, friends and family, and the support of Galter LifeCenter, Yvonne says she has finally found balance.

Her favorite classes include Group Power for strength, Group Centergy for calmness and Group Groove for happiness.

She says, “I can’t imagine not being a part of Galter.”

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from an eating disorder, please seek help from a medical professional. For further information, support or resources, you can also call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

"In 3 words I would describe Galter Life Center as clean, energetic and available." - Chris