Crystal Sowers struggled with weight most of her life. By the time she was 40, she was morbidly obese. Determined to shed pounds and a negative self-image, she formed a weight loss support group at her church. In the process of motivating others, she lost half her body weight.
This is her success story.
Tell us about your struggles with weight.
I was somewhat overweight as a child, and by the time my 16th birthday rolled around, I had packed on 40 extra pounds. I slimmed down for my wedding, but eventually became morbidly obese.
What was life like then?
I was miserable. My back ached from the 297 pounds I carried on my 5-foot, 9-inch frame. Climbing the stairs left me exhausted, my knees hurt and my ankles were sore and swollen. I was always hot and sweaty — even in winter. It was humiliating to be in public, so I went out as little as possible. I felt embarrassed for my husband and children.
What was the final straw?
When I was unable to fit on a theme park ride, even with the seat belt extender.
How did you become the healthy, confident person you are today?
In April 2007, I decided to start a weight loss support group in my church. I put a notice in the church bulletin, and BLT (Becoming Light Together) was born. I wanted the group to be fun and inspirational, so I incorporated skits, contests, special speakers, calorie counting demonstrations, prizes and devotionals. Every week we weigh in with a "biggest loser" prize. Together our group (12 to 15 people) has lost more than 500 pounds; several have reached and are maintaining their goal weight, myself included.
What's the concept?
It's simple: counting calories and accountability.
In my group we take a goal weight and add a zero. So if a person's goal is 160 pounds, they'll eat 1,600 calories a day. But it's done in small steps so people won't starve or fail. Someone weighing 230 pounds might start at 2,000 calories a day and gradually decrease.
What about eating healthy and exercising?
We encourage everyone to eat healthier foods, but also smaller portions. Everyone exercises on their own doing what they like to do. I swim, use exercise tapes, do yard work and chase after four kids ages 15 to 2.
What's the biggest benefit of your weight loss?
People no longer stare at me in public. I don't feel like an embarrassment to my children, so I've improved their lives as well.
You know you've lost a lot of weight when . . .
I fit into an old outfit I hadn't seen in quite a few years.