Kathleen Bruno is a beautiful, upbeat southern woman who used to be morbidly obese, massively depressed, and stuck in a place where she felt like giving up. After losing more than 150 pounds and finding a new life at Live In Fitness, she’s excited to reach out to anyone who is desperate and struggling to make a change. Please read her story and don’t be afraid to reach out to her…she wants you to.
When we left off last week, my mother was head-in-hands upset about the unbecoming language I used in the first installment of my graphic “hefty to healthy” tale. I’m happy to report after umpteen friends and relations revealed that they don’t want me to shush, Mom has come out from behind her hands and expressed pride in the fact that I have the courage to empower others by speaking my truth…like a lady of course.
Now, after shedding the weight of my mother’s shame, I can shamelessly tell you how I shed my own pounds at Fat Farm Camp.
After the humiliating battery of tests, I wiped my eyes dry and prepared to meet the people I would be living with for the next several weeks. To truly understand the horror I felt, imagine you’ve just moved to a new city…or country…or planet, and it’s the first day of school. Your self-esteem and self-image are on life support, so you’re pretty sure that your fellow campers are going to hate you, and you don’t want to go to class, because you’ve already imagined that your teachers are sadistic drill sergeants. It was absolutely petrifying…until I met them.
My horror didn’t go away immediately. My fellow campers included a tenacious, tatted California girl, a tenderhearted, tough-talking Chicago boy, a spunky prankster Jersey girl, and an affable, yet audacious blonde from Alabama. All unique characters who were considerably younger than I was…and definitely thinner.
I have to say, before I go on, that my group was the exception, not the rule. Campers come from all over, and they come in all ages, sizes, genders, and backgrounds. Sorry to interrupt, but I didn’t want you to freak out and stop reading.
Except that’s what I did. I freaked out. I wanted to run away, but I could barely climb a flight of stairs, so running anywhere wasn’t an option. Instead, I sucked it up and went to my first class: SPIN with Kelsi.
I strolled into class, selected a bike, hoisted myself onto the seat, and got the shock of my life. This bike didn’t have a cushy hot pink banana seat like the one I remember from my childhood. I gazed around to see if anyone else was sharing my discomfort, but they seemed just fine. I struggled to even sit on the bike, but Kelsi didn’t scream at me or spit in my face. She was kind and compassionate. She encouraged me to do it for just five minutes and told me the only way to get better at spin was to spin.
So I spun…for five minutes, then for ten minutes, then fifteen. Of course I went online and ordered as much bottom armor as I could find. By the time I could make it through an entire class, I was sitting on two gel-covered seat cushions while wearing two pairs of gel-padded cycling pants. I might have looked like I was smuggling a ham, but I had the eye of the tiger, baby. And Kelsi kept me going with positive observations like, “Your triceps are starting to show,” or “Your butt’s getting rounder,” or “Hey, would you look at that?! Collarbones!”
Before long, I was ready for Cardio Circuit. This promised to be more challenging, and even worse, my trainer was A.J., a man. He was certainly going to be the hard-jawed, steely-eyed taskmaster who was going to shout as I struggled to push a giant tire around.
The first thing a coach instructed us to do was jump up on the treadmill and crank the speed up to 4.0. With a heroic effort, I managed to maintain a brisk 2.0. I had the oddest sensation that my buttocks were two or three steps behind the rest of me. It didn’t help that every other song on the playlist seemed to be taunting me with gluteal references: “What you gonna do with that big fat butt…wiggle, wiggle, wiggle….” I couldn’t believe that was an actual song.
The only butt songs I ever heard were “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “Shake Your Booty,” but Pitbull’s “Shake Señora” was far more fanny focused. I caught myself singing along…“My girl got a big ol’ booty, yeah. Your girl got a little old booty.” I was actually enjoying working out. Not only was an ample derrière now considered an attractive attribute, the coaches especially A.J. made working out fun. He was no drill sergeant…just a really kind man who says “golly,” slouches over like an uppercase C when we’re not trying hard enough, and blushes when has to take my chest measurements.
For the first time in my life, I exercised with sheer abandon…red-faced, sweat dripping, fat flying around unabashedly. There was no judgment. Grunting loudly and making weird facial expressions was completely acceptable. It was Utopia. I was contributing to the collective energy of a group of people on the same journey.
Yes, I’m talking about my younger campmates, the same ones who I was petrified of only weeks before. These people who I had presumed I had nothing in common with were actually becoming my family — I wanted the best for them, they for me, and we pushed each other to get it…with the guidance and encouragement of incredible people like the coaches at l.I.F.E. of course.
With my newfound freedom and the support of my new family, I lost 75 pounds in just 15 weeks. I maintained my lean muscle mass and skyrocketed from a VERY POOR cardio fitness level to an impressive FAIR. Now fair may not sound good to you, but it sounded a lot like average…and to me, average meant normal…and normal was good.
Next week, I get to face something possibly more frightening than going to Live in Fitness…leaving.