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Health Hero Ginny Johnson Winters Shares How Hiking Saved Her Life

As a Montana native who grew up with horses, 57-year-old Ginny Johnson Winters thrives in the great outdoors. When she isn’t working for the TSA or doing home transcription, one can find her cleaning horse stables, doing landscaping work, or hiking the steepest trails she can find with her dogs. Ginny says there’s nothing more satisfying than putting in a hard day’s work—mentally and physically.

But 2 years ago, Ginny’s love of the great outdoors became her saving grace. At the time, she was divorcing her husband of nearly 40 years as well as battling painful fibromyalgia. In order to manage the pain, she was taking Vicodin—but also drinking vodka and eating too much sugar. She had stopped exercising and gained 35 pounds.

One day she was sitting on the couch and noticed how tight her pants were and how tired she felt. She recalled how her mother had heart disease and needed full-time oxygen—which she still relies on to this day. Ginny decided in that moment to take action to reclaim her life—and her sense of purpose. She started with a pre-planned shake-based diet. While she didn’t stick with the diet once the initial trial was over, it did help her kick her sugar and alcohol habit. Then a friend suggested Ginny remove gluten from her diet. Miraculously, Ginny’s pain stopped and she no longer needed prescription painkillers.

Ginny also rekindled her love of exercise and credits hiking with saving her life when her divorce became difficult. Ginny shares that being in nature is her church, and she was so devoted during those hard years that she went hiking in the middle of December—even getting lost a few times as she was learning the trails. But Ginny loved it, as it made her stronger every time she found her way back home through the dark, cold, and snow.

Recently Ginny had to take a 6 month break from hiking, as she temporarily relocated for work. However, just a few weeks ago she moved back to Helena—and her old hiking trails. Her goal now is to reclaim the level of cardio fitness she had 6 months ago. She’s also taking on a bodyweight training regimen that includes squats, lunges, and bridges to improve her lower body strength. She’s also recently fallen in love with fly-fishing and enjoys the peace and tranquility that fishing provides.

As for her diet, it’s clear that sugar and alcohol are no longer temptations for Ginny, given that she lost all the additional weight she put on during the divorce. Eggs & avocado for breakfast, dairy-free yogurt with shredded coconut, flaxseed, chia seed, hemp seed, and blueberries for lunch, and a salad with “the works” (lots of veggies and olive oil) at night make up a typical day of meals. Her diet emphasizes whole foods that are low-sugar, low-grain, and gluten-free—though she’ll still have a square of dark chocolate or a piece of pizza every now and then.

In addition to outdoor exercise, Ginny enjoys taking Health IQ’s daily quizzes, which keep her motivated to stay healthy. “I learn a lot from the quizzes. I love looking at the comments and suggestions people make after taking the quiz. I trained as a personal trainer many years ago and the quizzes help keep my memory refreshed. It’s a great challenge to see how many questions you can get! They are fun and informative.”

Thanks for sharing your Health Hero journey with us, Ginny, and for giving us your tips on how you keep your body, as you say, “like a temple.” We at Health IQ agree that health conscious living can be a literal lifesaver.

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