By Peggy Matthews Rose

Casey Shannon thought the worst was behind her after a car accident nearly took her life 30 years ago. From a wheelchair, she fought back against odds everyone told her she couldn’t beat—yet she did. She went on to become a personal trainer and nutrition counselor which has fit her well for more than 20 years.

And then the bottom fell out again. “When I went through my horrible divorce five years ago, I lost my home and pretty much gave up on just about everything that had meaning in my life, including being a trainer,” Casey admits. “I went through major depression and neglected my health. Of course my body got out of shape and I gained weight from lack of exercise and emotional eating habits.”

Casey may have been down for the count, but fortunately she recognized it before it was too late to alter course.

“When the church decided to jumpstart The Daniel Plan, this was the motivation I needed to propel me forward and get excited about my life and about the fitness industry again.

“I made a decision in December 2010 that come January 2, 2011, I would begin to put my body back in top condition. So I started using some of the guidelines and information from The Daniel Plan and read some of Dr. Hyman’s book The UltraSimple Diet. Dr. Oz is very inspirational regarding keeping the body healthy every day.”

After a lifetime of beating the odds, Casey then met another challenge she couldn’t resist. In February, a friend in the fitness business suggested she prepare for a bodybuilding competition.

“This was just the motivation to challenge myself to really get in shape and see if I could actually compete with other women my age,” she said.

Pressing toward this goal, Casey knew she would require an accountability partner and start a daily food and exercise journal. Her exercise and diet had to be altered, to say the least.

“For the first two months, I incorporated working out with weights four times a week and cardio three times a week,” she said. “My foods were different in the beginning because I had to gain weight. I had to eat and take in more calories, so that when I worked out with resistance weights my body fat would exchange for muscle. First you build the body for strength and then you change your caloric intake to reduce body fat and add more cardio to exhilarate and increase the fat burning process. It’s tricky and the hardest part for me was to consume 2200 calories a day. Now, that is not hard to do if you eat ‘junk food’ – but to eat that many calories in ‘good clean foods’—that is difficult to do.”

Casey’s reward for all that discipline came in April, when she won two bodybuilding trophies. “I competed against 35 – 45 year olds. I was the oldest lady in the competition—a lifetime achievement for me!” She placed third and fifth in two competitions, and says, “I know I can do better!” So she’s already set the bar to compete again in January 2012, and her goal is to take First Place.

Of course, Casey’s real coach, since the age of 12, has been God.

“My mom was very strong in her walk with the Lord,” Casey remembers. “She always encouraged all of us children to hold on to God and our faith no matter what challenges we faced in life – but still, there were many times when I became an adult that my spirit would be weak. Sometimes it was difficult to believe God would pull me through my challenges in life. “

Casey’s favorite Bible verse is:

“For I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

In living every day as an overcomer, The Daniel Plan has helped Casey “implement discipline. It reminds me of how God expects me to be accountable for my choices in how I manage my life, and life’s choices with food as well as my spiritual walk. I believe being consistent and accountable is key in reaching whatever goals we set in everything we do in life.”

As for The Daniel Plan, Casey knows from personal experience that no matter how well we begin, we are all prone to giving up or drifting off course. For that reason, she has “already started marketing myself again as a fitness trainer and food coach. I am working with friends to help them reach their weight goal through using The Daniel Plan as well as the knowledge I have gained through my former years in the fitness industry. I am excited about my life again. God has given me the ‘gift of health’ to share with others.”

Long term, Casey says her desire is to be a “woman of influence to other women, to inspire them to love themselves enough to give themselves the gift of health everyday, and to pass that on to friends, family and children. I plan to become an inspirational speaker at women’s seminars and retreats. God has given me back the passion for fitness and I want to use my gift of knowledge and experience to inspire others to live a healthy life by making better choices, for better health, to live better lives!”