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Salute to Success ~ February 2010


         I’ve always loved to laugh. And you know I’ve been your “Court Jester of Health” for many years now. I love helping other’s laugh with me. And I really believe laughter helps people. It helps people get themselves in a better frame of mind so they can focus on the positive in their live and reach their goals. Laughter really is the best medicine! And that’s always been a big part of my “secret.”
         So this month, I want to share the story of my friend Leya who has recently discovered that secret for herself!
          Leya has been overweight for as long as she can remember. Her brother teased her relentlessly, but being overweight in her family didn’t mean much to her at such a young age. That was until she got on the scale at a hands-on children’s museum on vacation with her family. She was 6 or 7 years old and she thought she weighed 90 pounds. When she stepped on the scale, in front of her brother, she weighed in at 127.9 pounds. Leya says, “That was the first time I really realized that I was fat.”
         From that point on, the teasing never stopped. Leya’s brother would call her names, laughing incessantly at the number read out on the scale, while her parents told him to stop but never really knew how to handle the torment having dealt with it themselves- her father especially.
        While she was overweight, and growing more and more aware of it as time passed Leya never let it stop her. She was athletic, playing Softball & Basketball and thrived on the competition. She was not only competitive, but she was good… and she loved it.
       Going into middle school Leya was overweight and growing more self-conscious being that boys were coming into focus. But she never let her insecurities get in the way of making friends. In fact, making people laugh and being the best person she could be her my way of taking focus off of her weight. Laughter was the key.
       Unfortunately, when it comes to family it is harder to laugh things off. Leya’s only grandfather told her she would be “as big as a house one day” and no one ever stood up for me told her on numerous occasions. Leya says “It hurt more than I could ever describe, because here was my grandfather, my family who was supposed to love me unconditionally telling me I was not good enough (OF course I now know he loved me and was worried about me, he just didn’t know how to deal with weight issues). And no one ever told him to stop.”
      “I continued gaining weight at a steady pace. Never letting people know how unhappy I was but always writing it in my journal or crying in my room. Continuing to play sports and strive to be the best at them.”
      “When I got to high school I weighed over 200lbs. My mother, being overweight herself, decided to enroll us both in weight watchers. I began going and immediately started losing weight. However, being 15 years old, with older women in the group I was never really comfortable. Not to mention the teasing in HS grew worse. So I would pretend… by laughing it off or beating them at whatever sport we played in PE.”
      “Needless to say, the weight watchers attempts came and went. It worked… but I used my foods to comfort me. I would sit at home and eat an entire tub of ice cream, before my parents got home.”
      “Then I found the theatre. I had always been an active participant on stage, but my sophomore year I was cast in my first series of plays. I not only found my knitch, but also found that my peers accepted me. There was no taunting with this group, just acceptance and fun and play- what childhood should be about.”
      “So I started performing in between sports. I was so active, and happy. By my junior year I had friends all over the campus and my closest friends to rely on. I was happy. And started to get healthy. My best friend, Marisa, became quite the gym bunny and I joined in with her. I weighed in at 245lbs and by the end of the summer I was down 227. I was thrilled, and felt great. Not to mention I started playing water polo and joined the swim team. I was still overweight, but I was healthy… and as happy as a teenage girl could be.”
      “I left high school feeling successful. I was on top of the theatre department, played all the sports I wanted to, had my five best friends in the world, and was friendly with just about everyone on campus. I was set.”
      “I moved to San Diego with my best friend for school and the weight immediately started coming back on. I didn’t have my gym bunny friend anymore. There was no one to push me. And, like a lot of kids who move away from home I became depressed. I missed my family and my comfort… so I ate. I ate and ate and ate… and the weight just kept on packing on.”
       “Throughout the years I would gain weight, then lose some, but never in large amounts. I would get discouraged, or hurt, and I would eat. My depression worsened and I started seeing a therapist. I told her everything. Almost everything was about my weight. I felt judged and different than my beautiful friends. I felt hurt and not good enough. I was less important than everyone else… at least I thought I was.”
       “When I moved to LA- to make the leap into the film/TV industry- I started gaining weight even faster. Now I was in a new place, filled with beautiful people, and without my best friend. I was scared. And working in the restaurant industry I would eat the unhealthiest foods and didn’t care. It was comfort. It got to the point where I needed to go to the doctor but refused to go because I didn’t want to step on the scale.”
       “So finally, in 2007 I heard a commercial for a medical weight loss program on the radio. I was throwing away another giant bag of tortilla chips when I looked in my trash and saw the donut boxes, chips, salsa, cookies, and ice cream containers that were spilling back out at me. I decided then and there that was enough and I made the call.”
        “I went to the weight loss clinic that day, scared beyond belief, and weighed in at 287lbs.   I immediately got off the scale and said “Never Again”. I spent an arm and a leg for the clinic and started with my regular weigh ins and shots. It worked. I was counting my carbs and cut out the sugar completely and started losing the weight. I got down to 249LBS when I started getting off track. I wasn’t exercising enough and letting the food I so enjoyed come back into my life. As soon as I began eating some carbs I put weight back on. Then because I put weight back on I would get depressed and my obsession with sweets and sugar got the best of me. The weight came on so fast I didn’t even know how to deal with it. I would go back and fourth to the clinic, start again and stop. But relying on protein days and constant carb counting became daunting and I couldn’t do it anymore.”
        “It got to a point where I grew OK with how heavy I was. I was still acting, and getting great responses from industry people. However, I didn’t want to be laughed AT- I want people to laugh with me.”
        “Skip ahead to July 2009. I finally decided I had had enough after a trip with my girlfriends to the east coast. I could barely walk to keep up with them and my ankles would become swollen like my mothers would when I would walk too much… not to mention I had been diagnosed with arthritis in my lower back!”
       “Reluctantly, I went into the clinic and weighed in at 297.9lbs… I felt sick. I promised I would never get to that number again and I went way above it. Not only that, but when they printed out my weight history I, at some point, weighed in at 307lbs… and I cannot remember. I blocked it out of my mind completely. It was a huge shock… and painful one at that.”
       “The next weekend I decided to go to a Richard Simmons class with my roommate. I had heard about it through a friend and thought it would be a blast. We were both nervous and excited. I hadn’t worked out for so long- and being as competitive and athletic as I was I was scared to feel out of shape in front of people again. When I walked through those doors my friend Tobie greeted me with a hug.  It was amazing… someone was hugging me at the gym… Introducing herself! I felt at home right away.”
        “That same day Richard was having auditions for the next Sweatin’ DVD and told me I had to audition. I didn’t want to… I was winded from the class and didn’t think I had a chance. I went into the audition and didn’t do so great so I was surprised beyond belief when I got the call telling me I was going to be a member of the “Sweatin’ to the Oldies 5” cast!”
        “It was the experience of a lifetime. I was sweating and I was having FUN!   That was the secret for me… I had always worried so much about everyone else- made sure everyone else was laughing and I wasn’t taking care of myself. I had enough! I started to stand up for myself and do the things that made me happy and brought me laughter. Working out needed to be fun again!! Just like it was when I played sports. If you’re not having fun, what’s the point?! I finished the DVD having lost 35 lbs and I felt great!”
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        “Once it was done, I was scared to get off track… but instead of beating myself up for having an off day I would simply say, “I’m human!” and get back on the wagon and take out my frustration on the pavement, hiking or running with my dog.”
        Since October Leya has lost an additional 30lbs! She currently weighs 239 lbs and says she cannot wait to get to the next 10 lbs!  That’s a total of 65 pounds Leya has lost since last summer!
        Leya’s goal is 175. So she still has a way to go. But she says she will get there. Leya knows now that she’s worth it!
         Leya says,”I owe so much of my success to Richard, he has given me a place to feel comfortable and have fun while working out! Laughter really is the key to happiness… and going to class that day was such a blessing and I know I am going to be a part of the Sweatin’ Family for life!!”
        Congratulations Leya, on finding fun and laughter in your exercise! I’m so glad you found us at Slimmons that day. And I’m so excited for everyone to see you in Sweatin’ 5!!! I know you’ll keep laughing…and sweatin’ and before you know it, you’ll be at your goal!   Thank you for sharing your story with all of my readers!