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Name: Theresa Ahearn
Before Weight: 267 pounds
How I Gained It: My struggle with weight began after I had my three daughters. I had one after the other. My daughters are now 26, 25 and 24. Let's just say in between each child I had neither the time nor the energy to lose the baby weight. As the years went by, I found myself trying to be Super Mom. My daughters actually nicknamed me "Mom Dad" because I often had to play both roles. Both my husband and I worked; I have a full-time job as an instructional assistant in an elementary school, and my husband was a commercial fisherman as we attempted to launch our own business selling to wholesalers. Really, I worked three jobs; I was a mother, a provider and I managed every aspect of both our personal finances and struggling business. I found that when I didn't have control over our family income or lack thereof, the thing I could control was eating and so I ate, ate some more and ate some more.
I would eat mindlessly. I would pick at a lot of random foods through the day and then find myself cooking a lot of pasta, chicken Parm, pizza, pork chops and red meats. I ate a lot of white breads, potato chips, hot dogs, cheeseburgers -- processed, carb-loaded foods.
The stress of raising three kids on a tight budget, working full-time and trying to help the business stay afloat weighed even heavier than the body fat I was lugging around. And, to add fuel to the flame, every time I tried to lose weight everyone, including my husband, suddenly became an expert on body transformation, which was not helpful at all.
I tried to help myself by doing Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, diet pills, fad diets, Atkins, South Beach, you name it. If it had the word "diet" at the end, it's almost guaranteed that I tried it.
My youngest daughter, who ironically was the least athletic in the family, was home from college for the summer. She had bought a gym membership for herself. While at college in New York City she had taken a completely new outlook on personal health and fitness. She had always been the chubbier one in the family, but now she strutted around the gym with a tight, flat waist. She had transformed after moving to the big city; she had lost weight, gained confidence and grown up.
One day, she asked me to come to the gym with her. After trying to find any and every excuse, I decided to go. At the gym we heard some loud music coming from a small stretching room. My daughter saw me looking at the class.
"Zumba," she said.
"Gesundheit!" I answered.
"No, I haven't sneezed, it's Zumba. They are doing Zumba," she said.
Watching my eyebrows twist around in confusion, she told me that she had heard of Zumba a few times. She explained that it was a dance fitness class created by a dancer in Colombia that had made its way over to the U.S. and took off as a great way to lose weight and stay in shape.
"If you want, I'll try it with you," she shrugged.
Breaking Point: The next night we paid the $7 fee to get into the Zumba class. The instructor was a short, fit, woman named Claudia Flores who has as much energy as a firecracker.
I can't explain fully what happened that day. Something changed inside of me thanks to a mix of the music, Claudia's spirit, the sweat, the fun. I went back to that class every day that week, even without my daughter.
How I Lost It: A few days later, she left to go back to New York earlier than expected and gifted me with the rest of what was left of her gym membership. I made a promise that day that I would continue, and almost three years later I am still there.
Claudia opened her own fitness studio because our class grew. I have also taken on other challenges including running a 5K, weight training and kickboxing classes.
I met lifelong friends at Zumba. One of my best friends is a certified personal trainer and offers her training sessions to me for free. She pushes me to do my best and reminds me to have faith in myself and keep moving even on days when I feel like I can't keep up or I don't have the energy.
Now, instead of people coming up to me and offering weight loss advice, they ask me, "What is your secret?" The answer is there really is no secret. It's all about choices. You can choose to stay unhealthy and unhappy, or choose to make a difference.
How do I stay on track and continue to lose? It's the old-fashioned "eat well and keep moving" approach. I eat whole grains, nuts, fresh fish, egg whites, green salads, organic fruit and vegetables juices, Greek yogurt and virtually no red meat. I enjoy a glass of red wine daily. You have to picture yourself in the body you want, the body that you deserve. It's a lifestyle change. I am going to be 50 in October, but I feel not a day over 21.
After Weight: 160 pounds
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