SPRING HILL — Kelli Mapes has lost nearly 200 pounds on her incredible weight-loss journey — and she still plans to lose another 30.
The fourth-grade teacher, who lives with her husband, Dana, in Spring Hill, credits Weight Watchers for teaching her how to lose weight. But she says it was a promise to her mother that provided the impetus.
"My journey is a dedication to my mother," she said in a recent interview with Personal Best.
Before her death, your mother, Lee Ann Krob, asked you to lose weight so you wouldn't die prematurely, as she did. Tell us about that.
In 2008, my mother was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. But she was not an alcoholic; in fact, she rarely drank at all.
She had a condition called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, in which fat in the liver causes inflammation and damage. It's often seen in people who are obese and diabetic, like my mother.
When she first went into the hospital they thought she was having a stroke. She had trouble walking and her speech was slurred, almost like a drunk. Because her liver was unable to expel toxins from her body, she was having these symptoms.
She died six months later at age 59, but before she passed, she knew I was successfully losing weight.
What was it like to weigh 380 pounds?
I had severe sleep apnea and had to sleep with a CPAP machine (which blows air into the lungs). I was borderline hypertensive and prediabetic.
I didn't go to movies or ride a roller coaster, for fear I couldn't fit into the seat.
I was tired all the time. My legs and back ached.
The worst part was that I felt like food was controlling my life. I was addicted to sweets like Milky Ways, chocolate chip cookies and ice cream. I felt so guilty, I became a closet eater.
I tried a lot of different diets, but nothing really worked for me. I didn't like to be deprived of the foods I enjoyed, and didn't want to spend the rest of my life eating salads.
Then I joined Weight Watchers in September 2008.
Why did Weight Watchers work for you?
It's a lifestyle change that teaches you how to eat regular food for the rest of your life without depriving yourself.
Every food has a point value. When I joined, they gave me a point calculator to figure out values according to the nutrition labels on foods.
If I'm at a restaurant, I can use my BlackBerry to access their website, search menu items and calculate points. I never eat anything without knowing its point value and writing it down.
I think of the daily points as a bank account where I can save up and then use the leftover points to satisfy cravings. That way, I can still enjoy M&M's; I just don't eat the whole bag.
We weigh in each week and go to a meeting where we share tips, ideas and little nonscale victories, like "I went down a pant size."
It's not always easy. There are times when I just want to down that piece of chocolate cake in the middle of the afternoon. But I ask myself if I want it because I'm hungry or bored. If I'm bored, I need to go find something else to do.
How is life better?
My blood pressure is excellent and I no longer have sleep apnea or prediabetes.
I love to shop for clothes and try on the latest fashions. I can see my collarbones and neck. I can cross my legs.
Food doesn't control me anymore.
What will you do when you reach your goal weight of 160 pounds? Go to Disney World and ride the rides?
I want to have plastic surgery. I figure I am carrying about 15 to 20 pounds of excess skin on my body from losing all that weight. I have an apron of skin hanging from my belly. Skin droops from my arms and thighs.
I'm hoping a plastic surgeon will donate his or her skills to trim it off.
Any final words of wisdom?
I want people to know losing weight is not impossible. If I can do it, anyone can. All it takes is dedication — and maybe some advice from mom.