AFTER SHEDDING over half her body weight, Kelli Mapes is still on a mission ... a mission inspired by her late mother.
"I've got six more pounds to go before I reach my goal," she said in a phone conversation Tuesday evening from her Florida home. "It is a slow, difficult journey now but I am going to do it. I promised my mom and I will reach my goal weight and maintain because I have changed my outlook. I am embracing the lifestyle changes I have learned."
Kelli's mother will never see her daughter reach her goal. Lee Ann Krob died on March 11, 2009, just a few short months after Kelli began her weight loss journey. Lee Ann was the inspiration for her daughter's transformation. A Bridgeport High School graduate, Kelli now resides in Florida with her husband, Dana.
This photo shows Kelli Mapes as she looks today after shedding over 200 pounds on her way to fullfilling a promise to her late mother.
"My mom was overweight," Kelli said. "It led to numerous health issues and ultimately her death. She was too young to die and I knew if I didn't take control of my weight problems I was going to be traveling down the same road. My mother remains my inspiration as I continue this journey. I have now lost 216 pounds and am doing things I only dreamed of doing before."
Her dreams which led to this transformation weren't grandiose by any measure. Kelli just wanted to be healthy so she could enjoy the things the average person is able to do. Today, after her amazing weight loss, she is happy that she can now easily slide into seats at the movie theater and rollercoasters. Amazingly, the fourth grade teacher is now participating in 5K walks and loves to ride her bike.
"Before my weight-loss journey began, I didn't do the things I enjoy," she said. "It was impossible. I couldn't fit into a theater seat. Today I have no limits. I can cross my legs! I hadn't done that in years. I've taken control of my life. Food no longer controls me."
Kelli said prior to her mother's death a promise was made.
"I told her I would lose weight ... that I would be healthy. I started the Weight Watchers program six months before my mom passed away," Kelli recalled. "And, although losing her was very difficult, I was able to continue with the lifestyle changes Weight Watchers teaches. I had tried most of the diets out there even Weight Watchers, but I finally had reached a mindset that I needed to have to shed the pounds. Losing weight is a commitment, one I was ready to make."
She said an addiction to food is one of the hardest to overcome.
"When you are addicted to alcohol or cigarettes you can just throw them away and never touch them again," she said. "That's not so for food. We must eat. You just can't quit food!
"The change for me, I think, was having my mind ready to do what needed to be done," she said. "Once the mind is ready, it's true ... the body will follow."
Kelli said that believing in herself and realizing the dangers overeating provided was the turning point for her.
"Mom was only 59 years old when she passed. That's way too young," she said. "I've been working on this for 2 1/2 years and the changes are now just part of my everyday life. I work out. I love to walk and ride my bike and I'm even planning on doing some martial art training soon. I am going to participate in a 5K walk!"
Kelli said that although she had lost weight in prior attempts, the pounds always returned. The current program offered through Weight Watchers is working for her.
"I don't deny myself anything," she said. "If I want to have a piece of birthday cake for a special occasion with my students at school I do. I just provide for it in my meal plan for that day. It is a great program and you do not have to do without or deprive yourself."
Her husband is very supportive as is the rest of her family and friends.
"Dana, my husband, just told me today that he is my biggest fan," she said. "He said he is extremely impressed with my will power. He totally supports me and even is helpful in working with the Weight Watchers point system. We plan our meals accordingly. I use my points just like a bank account. It is just that easy."
She said her students are supportive too.
"They are very encouraging. And since I've lost this weight I?can be more active with them. I love it!"
Kelli, who is 5-foot 8-inches tall, said she didn't gain the weight overnight and never expected to loose it that quickly either.
"When I graduated from high school I weighed 175 pounds," she said. "When Dana and I got married, I weighed 240 pounds. When I started this journey I weighed almost 380 pounds. I know the road would be long as a worked to reach my goal."
Being overweight and out of shape wasn't Kelli's only concerns.
"I had sleep apnea," she recalled. "I had to sleep wit ha CPAP machine. I was borderline hypertensive and prediabetic."
In her first nine months on the program, Kelli lost 90 pounds and began to feel healthier.
"The weight really came off fast at first," she recalled. "The remaining 150 pounds have been tougher. But, I knew what I wanted to do. I learned the changes that needed to be made and I did them. It was a promise to my mom, one I wasn't willing to break. She was my inspiration. I cannot say that enough. I feel like she is still with me today, helping me in this journey."
Growing up in Bridgeport, Kelli's family was close knit. She said she never really worried about her weight, she weighed within the normal range for her height until she went to college.
"My dad is the string bean," she laughed. "My siblings do not battle weight either."
But during her college years, she began to put on the unwanted pounds.
"My mom was on a yo-yo up-and-down diet all the time," she recalled. "But she was never as heavy as I was just a few years ago."
Today, Kelli has gone from a size 30 to a svelte size 8.
"I absolutely love to shop now!" she said. "I no longer have to buy eight pair of the same style of pants in different colors because they fit. I can actually buy numerous styles right off the rack. It's so much fun to get dressed now!"
However, she says the weight loss has left her with folds of skin that will only come off through surgery.
"It's my age," she said. "This skin will never shrink on its own. My insurance doesn't cover cosmetic surgery so I am hoping I can find a plastic surgeon who will work with me and do the surgery pro bono."
Kelli said she realizes that body image is important in today's world.
"I now understand what my thin friends were talking about when they would say they feel fat," she said. "Even though I lost more than half my body weight, I still feel uncomfortable at times. Sometimes I don't like how a top fits and I have to remind myself that everything isn't always perfect."
As she nears the end of a successful journey to her goal weight, Kelli is hoping to share the inspiration provided by her mother.
"I recently read the book 'Embraced by the Light,'" she said. "The author had a near death experience. She said that taught her that each experience we have is a lesson for us to share ... to teach others. I want to use my experience to teach others. I don't want to brag. I just want to inspire!"
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