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In January 2021, Kari Hughes Newman, now 46, made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, but she didn’t just want to drop the excess pounds, she wanted to get healthy. “I wasn’t feeling well, my knees were hurting, and I was just always tired,” she said. Plus, her family has a history of diabetes and heart disease, so she knew she had to take better care of herself.
She had always struggled with her weight, but in six years of building a business with her husband she gained about 80 pounds, bringing her up to 248. “It was the stress of the business and a lack of time, with me not realizing I needed to manage my time better,” she said. “I was exhausted every day. I would come home from work, cook, take a nap, get up two hours later, stay up late and do it all over again. It was a vicious cycle that I couldn’t get out of. My sleep schedule was messed up. Everything was just a disaster in my life.”
She was also frustrated because she enjoys hiking, and she was afraid if she fell on a steep trail, she wouldn’t be able to get up. “I weighed 100 pounds more than my husband, so he wouldn’t have been able to help me out,” she said.
A tipping point for her was when she took an anniversary trip with her husband and she couldn’t climb to the top of a scenic view — they had to take the ski lift. “I knew with my heavy weight and activity level that I just didn’t have the ability to climb the incline. I was too out of shape, and I was embarrassed to admit that I just couldn’t physically do it,” she said.
“When New Year’s came I decided, ‘OK, I’m going to get in shape. I’m going to fix myself.” And she did it. Newman lost 60 pounds in six months, dropping about two pounds a week. “Sixty pounds came off pretty quickly because I was so overweight for my height at 5 foot 2 inches,” she said. She dropped 40 more, but those pounds took more time — almost a year. Here’s how she did it.
Newman didn’t attempt a total lifestyle overhaul. She took one step at a time.
Newman had improved her diet, but she knew it wasn’t as healthy as it could be. “I couldn’t lose any more weight and I knew something had to change. That’s when I saw Stephanie [Mansour] on the TODAY show,” she said.
She realized that adding in some strength training would boost her health and fitness. She joined the Start TODAY Facebook group and added core, arm and lower-body strength training to her workout routine.
“When I joined that group, it was nice seeing other people progressing and sharing their stories. That motivated me,” she said. “I thought, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’”
She now wakes up at 5:30 a.m. and gets her workout done first thing. And on Sundays she shops for groceries and meal preps for the week. “That sets me up for success,” she said.
She also takes photos of herself every month to see her progress. “I know what I look like and that is more important than what the scale tells you,” she said.
Newman said transitioning her diet was a challenge — she comes from Appalachian culture, so she grew up eating a lot of fried foods and small portions of vegetables.
“I never realized how unhealthy my cooking was because it wasn’t processed food. I always loved to cook, and it was good homemade cooking, but it was things like gravy, biscuits and cornbread,” she said. “I still eat those foods in moderation, but on a regular basis I’m pretty good with my diet.”
The weight loss and health changes she’s seen in the past year have made a big difference. She can hike a lot more, for starters. “We do the same trails now that we did last year and our time is so much better. I’m not tired. I can do it all. We’re in West Virginia — we have nothing but mountains — and I feel good after hiking, not exhausted or embarrassed that I had to stop so many times,” she said.
Her hot flashes, which were waking her up three or four times a night, are almost gone. Along with the weight loss, she’s seen her resting heart rate decrease and her Fitbit cardio fitness level improve. “It states that I’m in good to very good shape versus poor when I first started,” she said.
And her stress level has gone down a lot. “I’m not as tired so I get more done — it all goes hand in hand. Even work is less stressful. Everything is moving in the direction I’d like to see it go.”
Stephanie Thurrott is a writer who covers mental health, personal growth, wellness, family, food and personal finance, and dabbles in just about any other topic that grabs her attention. When she’s not writing, look for her out walking her dog or riding her bike in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.
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