Laurie Reihing once tipped the scales at 227 pounds. • But as the self-confessed sugar addict learned to control her cravings and make exercise a part of her life, she shed a whopping 80 pounds. • And she gained the admiration of her 22-year-old daughter, Stephany, who recently began her own weight-loss journey. • These days, the mother-and-daughter duo are hitting the trails running, strengthening not only their bodies, but their relationship as well.
"We've always been close, more like sisters than mother and daughter," said Laurie, a quality control specialist in the insurance industry. "But now that we both want to take care of ourselves, we have even more in common."
These days the two swap more than stories; they even swap clothes.
But it wasn't always that way.
Stephany, a senior in the University of South Florida's journalism program, admits there were times when she may have felt a bit embarrassed about her once fluffy-figured mother.
"I've had my moments when I was with my mom and saw my friends coming in the mall and wanted to go the other way," she said. "Now I get people asking, 'Is that your mom or your sister?' I look at photo albums and can't even believe that was her."
Until about three years ago, Laurie was waging a losing battle against a lifelong addiction to sweets. Cookies, cakes and brownies were among her favorite foods. She was worried about becoming diabetic; her doctor warned her about rising cholesterol levels.
"I declined the medication and told the doctor I could lose the weight on my own," she said. "He said all I had to do was eat right and exercise, but I needed more than that."
She joined Weight Watchers where she learned how to pick nutrient-rich foods that would satisfy her hunger and tame her craving for sweets.
She also liked the group meetings, where she'd pick up tips for weight loss. And the program's accountability factor made her think twice about polishing off a bag of M&M's in one sitting.
"Knowing I had to weigh in once a week really helped," she said.
When she hit her goal weight of 147 pounds more than a year ago, Laurie became a lifetime member of Weight Watchers with free support for the rest of her life as long as she stays within a couple of pounds of her goal weight.
But healthy eating habits are only part of Laurie's success story.
The divorced mother of two had always dreamed about being a runner, and even competing in a marathon one day.
As the pounds started melting away, she picked up some running shoes and began to jog — in short spurts.
"I could only run for a minute," she said. "But I kept at it, trying to go a little farther each time."
Now she adores the activity.
"I love the endorphins and knowing anything is possible," she said. "When I run, I think about my life and what I want to do with it."
Recently she competed in the Iron Girl 15K in Clearwater, running the 9.3 miles in under two hours.
"I loved getting up early in the morning and racing with the other women. And with Stephany running this year, well, that was really special."
Laurie has also participated in other road races, running a half-marathon (13.1 miles) in December.
Besides feeling better and having more energy, she enjoys shopping and buying whatever style she wants for her slim, 5-foot-5 frame.
"I look younger at 44 than I did at 34," she said.
Stephany says her mother has inspired her to join Weight Watchers and run in races. She recently competed in the Iron Girl 5K and has lost about 10 pounds since February.
Now at 140 pounds, Stephany, who is 5 feet 2, wants to lose 25 pounds more.
With her mom's help, it shouldn't be too difficult.
"My mom wasn't a person you'd expect to stick to a program," she said. "But she did it and I'm proud of her. She's stepped out of her comfort zone and lost 80 pounds. I think that's amazing."
Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at email@example.com.