The years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic were challenging for Cyndi Hansen, who watched her mother die of Alzheimer's disease in 2016, followed by losing her father in 2019.
When the coronavirus hit the U.S. in March 2020, Hansen's travel agency based in Medina, Ohio saw great losses, canceling nearly 350 trips — millions of dollars in travel sales — in the first few weeks of the pandemic.
"I had put so much energy into caring for my dad and into work," Hansen told TODAY. "It was like, 'What am I going to do now?' My kids had become adults and I think things just started spiraling. I started feeling a little more depressed."
Hansen says in the first few months of working and quarantining at home, she began drinking more wine than normal in the evenings. Never much of a napper, she now found herself headed to bed each afternoon to sleep.
"I couldn't fit into anything," Hansen recalled. "I realized I had a problem when I started changing in the closet. I wouldn't even let my husband see me with no clothes on which is silly after you've been married for 30 years."
"I just didn't like looking at myself in the mirror," she continued, "I was miserable and depressed and I needed help."
It was her daughter's wedding, scheduled for August 2020, that gave Hansen a spark of motivation.
The 56-year-old started working with a nutritional counselor and began researching superfood supplements in hopes of giving her body more energy.
She landed on a clean eating strategy.
"If man made it, leave it. If God made it, eat it. That was my simple concept," she said. "I ate fruit, vegetables and proteins like seafood, grass-fed beef and free-range chicken. And, I avoided the inside aisles of the grocery store. I shopped on the outside of the grocery store where there's whole unprocessed food."
Hansen lost 25 pounds in time for the wedding. Then, she set her sights higher, hoping to lose 15 more pounds and get back to the size she was before having her three children.
Hansen knew motivation can be fleeting, and wanted to find a way to make sure she stuck to her goals, even on the days she wasn't up to the task.
"I was motivated to do this for my daughter's wedding and the pictures," said Hansen, "but I think people get motivation and mindset confused: Motivation can die out if you don't have the right mindset, and mindset is the key to consistency."
Hansen, who had been working out regularly and taking classes on her Peloton bike, began listening to the words of her favorite Peloton instructors during rides.
"Cody Rigsby with his, 'Fix your wig and get your life together,' Tunde Oyeneyin with her, 'Your body showed up today, invite your mind to the party,' every single ride was just a reminder to also take care of your mind."
Another of Hansen's favorite Peloton-isms?
"Self-care is not selfish," something she hears often during rides with instructor Jess King.
"It's so true," said Hansen. "People think if they take time for themselves and get on that bike or prepare their meals so they eat healthy, they're being selfish. They're not."
Hansen, who is using the slow time in the travel industry to become a certified nutrition coach, said her mindset was also changed by eliminating toxic people from her life. Instead, she chooses to spend time with positive people: Friends she calls "upstairs friends" who keep things uplifting, laugh along with her and support her, rather than "basement friends" who take a more negative approach to life.
She also started a Facebook group, Farewell Fat and Fatigue, where she shares motivational stories, nutrition tips and more with like-minded individuals who are focused on making positive changes in their health.
The mom of three kids ages 26, 24 and 19 years old said she's found her body responds well to her clean diet, and plans to keep working to inspire others and keep her outlook positive.
"My son tells me I'm a badass," she said. "My relationship with my husband is better because I feel better. I have the energy to go do things. At age 56, I've never felt better and life is good."