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Salute to Success ~ January 2010

Wherever we go…whatever we do…we’re gonna go through it together…. Through thick and through thin…all out or all in...And whether it's win, place or show…With you for me and me for you…we'll muddle through whatever we do...Together, wherever we go…

      You know I always tell you how important it is to have a support system!   Well, if you’ve seen my new infomercial, or my new Sweatin’ to the Oldies 5 DVD, then you know I have a mother daughter team in this DVD… a mother and daughter who have been a terrific support system to each other as they tackled their weight loss TOGETHER!   So today I want to tell you about Suzanne, and her daughter Jenn.

      First, let me tell you about the Mom of this team, my friend Suzanne (twiboese)!

      Suzanne grew up believing she was “big and ugly” because she was considered large in her family… her three sisters range in height from 5 feet zero to 5 feet 2 inches and weigh barely over 100 pounds, whereas Suzanne was 5 feet 7 inches and weighed 130 pounds in the 7th grade. She also wore braces, glasses and unfashionable clothes, so her self-esteem took a beating at a time when girls struggle with identity in the best of circumstances. It was in the 7th grade that Suzanne went on her first “diet” in an attempt to lose 10 pounds; she cut her calories down to less than 800 a day and managed to lose 5 pounds in one week… and fainted in church that Sunday! That same year, Suzanne underwent surgery and had most of her thyroid removed to treat her hyperthyroidism.

      During high school, she kept her weight under control by walking 2 miles to and from school every day and playing the flute in the marching band for four years. However, in the 12th grade she met a boy who drove, so she stopped walking to and from school and by high school graduation, Suzanne had gained 32 pounds. Thus began Suzanne’s ongoing struggle with weight…

      Suzanne married her boyfriend shortly after graduation and soon had her first son, Paul. When Paul was born, Suzanne weighed 183 pounds. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depends on your point of view), Paul’s dad decided he was not ready “to be a husband or a father” and left Suzanne to raise a 10-week old infant alone. She got a job as a mental health nurse in a Psychiatric Hospital, where one year later she met Philip Boese, a medical student on break from school. (Jenn likes to tell people that her parents met in a mental hospital… but that’s another story!)

      When Suzanne married Philip, she weighed 172 pounds… but by the time Jenn was born the following year, she had gained weight and was up to 214 pounds… and it would not come off! Suzanne struggled with losing the weight she had gained, with her goal being 150 pounds. Unfortunately, her endocrine system was working against her and it was discovered that she was now suffering from hypothyroidism. With adjustments to her medication, Suzanne did not lose much weight, but she did get pregnant again. During her third pregnancy, she was found to have gestational diabetes and when David was born, Suzanne weighed 242 pounds…only 9 of which was baby!

      Shortly after David’s birth in 1990, Philip moved the family to the Imperial Valley, out in California’s Anza-Borrego Desert, where it was not unusual for the temperature to reach 115 degrees. Suzanne was not happy with the move, and turned to food for comfort… comforting herself up to more than 275 pounds… at which point she simply refused to be weighed any longer. However, she knew that she HAD to do something to get the weight off, as she was now showing signs and symptoms of diabetes type II.

      So, in 1992, Suzanne turned to my workouts and began doing my Sweatin’ to the Oldies videos… she determined that she would exercise three times a week and would quickly lose all the weight she had gained over the years; her plan was to reach her 150 pound goal weight in about a year. It was during this time that Suzanne began dreaming of one day meeting me and being in a video with me. Unfortunately, she did not stick to her plan; the three days a week became one or two days a week, and finally dwindled to two or three days a month.

      In 1997, Suzanne renewed her determination to lose weight and get healthy… her blood sugar levels were rising and an ophthalmologist informed her that her eyes were suffering, telling her, “you will eventually go blind.” Besides, her size 26 jeans were now too tight…all this caused her to re-evaluate her eating and exercise habits; she discovered that she was an emotional eater and ate to feed all her emotions, from happiness and contentment to sadness and frustration. She once again turned to my workouts and began doing Sweat and Shout and Dance Your Pants Off on a regular basis, again dreaming of being in one of my videos some day. She also signed up for my 50th birthday Cruise to Lose, the first cruise she ever took in her life.

      Several months before the cruise, Suzanne took a trip to Slimmons with her sister, where she met me for the first time… and got a hug. Later that year, when she stepped off the cruise ship, Suzanne weighed 218 pounds. However, she did not make her health a priority and did not stick to the program the way she should have, so for the next five years she continued to struggle with her weight and her health. Her blood sugar levels regularly measured close to 300, and she was beginning to lose the feeling in her hands and feet. Moreover, her eyesight was worsening significantly and she feared that she would soon be unable to see anything.

      In 2003, the family moved away from the desert and back to Los Angeles. Suzanne was in the Master’s of Nursing program and finished her degree in Nursing and Healthcare Education with a 3.9 grade point average, but she was back up to 250 pounds at graduation. Frustrated and discouraged, she decided to stop worrying about her weight, but to eat healthy and continue to exercise using her Sweatin’ videos. In 2006, Suzanne was hospitalized with chest pain and was admitted to the Telemetry unit, where the bed automatically weighed her! She weighed 232 pounds and the nurse wrote that weight on the white board for everyone to see. It was at that point that Suzanne finally decided that this was going to stop… she would finally get healthy and do it for life…She began following a good eating plan and based it on my FoodMover, making adjustments for her diabetes, and continued to use the Sweatin’ videos two or three times a week.

      In 2008, Suzanne signed up for her second Cruise to Lose, which was my 60th birthday cruise… and stepped off the ship weighing 198 pounds. During that cruise, Suzanne realized that she had passed her poor eating habits on to her three children, exposing each of them to a future of poor health and obesity, and resolved to be a better role model for them. In July of 2008, Suzanne asked her daughter Jenn to take her to Slimmons for my 60th birthday party, which she did.

      Suzanne began attending on an occasional basis, whenever anyone would drive her.  In May of 2009, Jenn decided to join her for good and they have been regular Saturday attendees ever since. In July of 2009, they both auditioned for and were selected to participate in my newest DVD, Sweatin’ to the Oldies Five… Suzanne’s dream come true… and it was doubly special for her…having shared it with her daughter!

      Suzanne has now lost 90 pounds, and plans to lose at least 20 more, but the best news is that she is now much healthier and has stuck to her resolve to exercise daily and follow a healthy eating plan. People in her family live a long time, and Suzanne wants to be certain that throughout her long life she will be as healthy as possible.

     Now, let me tell you about Jenn, the daughter of this team!

      Jenn loves to dance. From the time she was a little girl in ballet, she never felt more alive than when she was moving in time to the music. Since she spent much of her childhood dancing and being active, her weight was not a problem. She remembers dancing along with her mom to my “Sweatin to the Oldies.”   But she never realized that her mom was heavy and was doing it as exercise; she just loved dancing with her mom and me!

      However, once puberty hit, Jenn began developing more than the other girls her age and no longer had the body of a petite ballerina. She remembers dancing the solo in a recital when she was eleven years old, and one little girl whispered, “Does she stuff her bra?” As Jenn began growing out of her ballerina body, she began to lose confidence in herself and turned toward eating as comfort. This would be the first of many times in her life that Jenn lost her self-esteem and turned toward food to fulfill her, a pattern that eventually led to an out-of-control spiral of weight gain.

      In high school, Jenn found cheerleading and began to slim down. As a freshman, she tried out for Varsity cheerleading just for fun, and, to everyone’s shock, she made the team! (Most of the seniors were jealous!) Jenn practiced cheerleading and dancing most days of the week, and she went jogging with her boyfriend several times a week to try to keep her voluptuous and muscular figure in check; if she fell out of her exercise routine for more than a couple of weeks, she would begin to gain weight. At this time, however, she felt very comfortable and confident about herself because she had a steady boyfriend, was captain of the cheer squad, and earned good grades in school.

      When senior year came around, Jenn’s boyfriend went off to college and broke up with Jenn to date another girl. This rejection sent Jenn into a terrible depression from which she was not fully able to recover for many years, as she and her boyfriend suffered through a tumultuous on-again, off-again relationship. Jenn quit the cheerleading squad and spent most of her time at home with her family, studying, watching movies, and eating. She again turned to food, as she had seen her mom do throughout her life.

      For the next several years, as Jenn went through college, she turned to crash diets, from extremely low-fat diets to no-carb, high fat “Atkins” diets, to lose the weight she kept gaining every time she suffered a loss or rejection. From 180 down to 165, back up to 220 then down to 180, back up again to 225, and so the cycle of weight gain began, each time she lost quickly and each time she gained back even more. Moreover, with each weight gain, she sunk lower and lower into depression.

     She began seeing a counselor who encouraged Jenn to get healthy and put a positive image of herself out into the world. She began losing weight again, and in her junior year of college, she met Andrew in one her classes; they fell in love and were married within six months.

      Still, Jenn began gaining weight after the wedding, as she fell out of her exercise routine and into a “fast food” habit with Andrew; since they were both college students dealing with hectic school and work schedules and trying to make it on their own as newlyweds, they overate from restaurants regularly because it was quick, cheap, filling, and, above all, comforting. Andrew loved Jenn for who she was, which was the most positive change in her life thus far, but, unfortunately, he also helped enable her food addictions because he ate with her to show her that he loved her.

      Several months into their marriage, the couple found out that they were infertile. The doctors diagnosed Jenn with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a hormone disorder that both causes and is exacerbated by being overweight and often renders women infertile. The news sent Jenn into her deepest depression yet; she felt that she was inadequate as a woman because she was unable to bear children. She cut her hair off and began eating without pause. By the end of their first year of marriage, Jenn had gained almost 100 pounds, weighing her all-time high of 275 pounds.

     By this time, she had graduated with her Bachelor’s degree and had begun a Master’s program in English, and she turned to writing poetry to help heal her heart. She began working on a collection that focused on infertility and pregnancy loss, and as she wrote, she grieved her loss of identity as a potential mother. However, as she began exploring the issue of motherhood and infertility more deeply, a change began to take place in her heart. Her husband had gone through the foster care system, and he had always been open to adoption. Jenn had been emotionally closed-off to the thought of adoption because she had so deeply wanted to carry the child herself, but at her unhealthy weight, she knew that her chances of conceiving and carrying a healthy child to full term were slim. And as Jenn’s poetry began to heal her heart, she realized that she wanted to be a mommy more than anything in the world and that their child was out there waiting for them somewhere.

     So, Jenn and Andrew signed up with an adoption agency and within three weeks they were chosen by a birthmother, a sixteen-year-old girl in Michigan who was pregnant and could not take care of her child financially or emotionally. The birthmother chose Jenn and Andrew although they were both significantly obese; she saw the love they had for each other and the love they would have for her child, not their weight.

      When Jenn found out her dream of becoming a mommy was going to come true, she began eating healthy and dancing again to the DVDs she’d done with her own mommy as a child. Her mom had been getting healthy for some time, and she’d lost a significant amount of weight. Jenn knew that her own weight had deeply concerned her mom, but her depression had been too great to do anything to change. So, when Jenn began losing weight by exercising with me again, her mom was overjoyed!

      Nothing can describe the moment Jeremiah was placed in Jenn’s arms for the first time. She found a new sense of purpose as a mommy, and she knew that she had to get serious about getting healthy to be around for her son for a very long time.

     The first year and a half of Jeremiah’s life, Jenn lost forty pounds, getting down to 230 pounds. However, emotional eating was still a problem for Jenn, and she didn’t always stick to her exercise routine as well as she should have.

     Then, in May of 2009, Suzanne took Jenn to Slimmons to take a class, and dance with me… and everything changed.  I saw Jenn and told her that she was “fabulous” and that she was a great dancer. Jenn had already found the wife and mother she was, and now she says I re-affirmed her as a dancer… as a woman who loves, more than almost anything in the world, to move to the music.

     Jenn and her mom began attending my class regularly, and the weight began flying off! The more she moved, the more she felt like eating healthy. The more she moved, the better she felt—the happier she felt!

     That summer I announced that I was going to start filming a new DVD, and that I’d hold open auditions later that summer. Jenn and her mom were so excited and nervous; they’d been dancing with me all this time, and now they actually had a chance to be in my next DVD! When they found out that they’d been chosen to dance in the DVD, they ran around the house screaming! The whole family was so proud of them and all they’d achieved, and after the most wonderful (and grueling!) rehearsal schedule of the summer, Jenn weighed 183 pounds the day filming began—a total loss of 90 pounds! During filming, her clothes were literally falling off her and had to be sewn tighter to fit…

     And that was only the beginning…

      The whole family has begun getting healthy, and now Jenn’s husband Andrew has lost a significant amount of weight and is getting in the best shape of his life. They took Jeremiah to the park a few months ago, and, for the first time in many years, Jenn was able to run with her son! When she realized that she was sprinting up and down the hills with her two-year-old baby boy, she began crying… for getting healthy was the best gift she could possibly give her family.

      Jenn and her mom have continued dancing regularly to my DVDs and they come to my classes at Slimmons as often as possible. Jenn has lost another several pounds, and she is now down 101 pounds and is well on her way to her goal weight of 140 pounds. Who knows? Jenn might even be able to get pregnant someday, now that she is the healthiest she’s been since she was in high school…

      And every evening, when they put the DVD in and begin warming up and hear my voice yelling, “Hey, I wanna dance with somebody!,” Suzanne and Jenn are two mothers who are dancing for joy, for love, for health, and most of all, for their children!

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      So, Suzanne and Jenn have now lost a total of 191 pounds together!  90 for Suzanne, and 101 for Jenn!  Suzanne…Jenn… thank you both for letting me share your story…and for being a part of my new DVD!   And thank you for being such a great support system to each other.  I know your stories will inspire many others…and also help them realize how important it is to have support.

      And to those of you reading who are thinking…”Richard, I live alone and my friends and family don’t want to go take a class, and lose weight with me.”   Well, that’s what my clubhouse is for.   You’ve got a support system right here.  We’re all waiting for you…