Living

Leigh-Anne Nielsen

A healthy diet, exercise and sheer determination helped Leigh-Anne Nielsen drop 130 pounds, six dress sizes and two shoe sizes

A healthy diet, exercise and sheer determination helped Leigh-Anne Nielsen drop 130 pounds, six dress sizes and two shoe sizes. Over the past six years, the mother of two from Pembroke, Ont. lost weight the old-fashioned way: eating sensibly and getting lots of exercise.

Leigh-Anne had always struggled with her weight: at the start of high school she stood five feet seven inches tall and weighed 210 pounds. At her heaviest, she weighed 278 pounds. “I accepted my weight as something that would never change,” she says. But in November 1998, Leigh-Anne saw a photo of herself in a size-24 bridesmaid dress. “I held the picture in my hand and my heart sunk,” she says. “I went to bed overwhelmed with disappointment and disgust.” That’s when she decided her weight could change – but only if she did.

Leigh-Anne hadn’t exercised since Grade 9 gym class but she didn’t let that – or the fact that she had no workout gear – stop her. She borrowed her parents’ stationary bike, put on her PJs and started peddling in her bedroom in front of the TV. On the first day she lasted three minutes, but within a few weeks, she worked up to 14 minutes of biking almost every day. She also changed her eating habits by snacking on apples and having healthy salads and lean protein for lunch and supper. As the months went on, Leigh-Anne added dancing to her home fitness routine, then sit-ups, jumping jacks and jogging on the spot. She joined Weight Watchers and by the time she was planning her wedding in the fall of 2000, she had dropped from a size 24 to a size 16. Leigh-Anne says she’ll never forget the day she walked into a regular store after years of shopping plus-sized. The first thing she tried on was a white blouse. It didn’t look right and after a moment it dawned on her that it was too big. For the first time in her life, Leigh-Anne called out and asked for a smaller size. “As I waited for the sales clerk to return, I put my arms around myself and said, Thank you.”

Leigh-Anne’s weight crept up to 263 pounds with the birth of her son in 2001, but this time she knew she could lose the weight. Six weeks after delivery, she started back on the bike and within one year she weighed less than she did before her pregnancy.

The secret to her success? Incredible determination and discipline. Leigh-Anne knows she’ll always gain weight easily. That’s why she continues to challenge herself with workouts, which have changed with her level of fitness as well as her body. She now runs for 30 minutes four times a week and rounds out the routine lifting 10-lb weights and doing a set of 30 sit-ups. Her steady efforts paid off in December 2004 when she reached her weight goal of 153 pounds. “Looking back at that night in November 1998, I can’t believe that was me,” she says. This year, she has two big goals: to take her kids swimming in a public pool (without scrambling for a towel to cover herself the second she gets out of the water!) and to run a marathon – one step at a time.

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