One day in 2011, Kari Ianuale was getting dressed for work and was having a difficult time buttoning up her size 24 pants. When this had happened in the past, she’d simply buy a larger size of clothes, hoping this would mask her weight gain.
But not this time. This time was different, and Kari had a bit of a meltdown right there in front of the mirror. She knew trying to mask her weight gain in bigger clothes was not the answer. At that moment, she decided she needed to change her life—this too-small pair of size 24 pants was her “light bulb” moment.
When Kari began her transformation journey, she weighed 301 pounds. She now weighs about half that. Amazing, right?! Since Kari has achieved such an awesome at-home transformation, I wanted to pick her brain and have her share her secrets for success. And while much of what she learned during her journey is pretty common as far as transformations go (eating the right foods, moving your body, and so forth), Kari has some great insights that I hope will give you at-home transformers some ideas to help you achieve your goals.
So…ladies and gents, I give you the incredible Kari!
Heidi: Hi Kari! It’s so fun to chat with you! While transforming can be hard at times, what was the easiest change for you when you began your journey?
Kari: The easiest, believe it or not, was implementing exercise. Once I started, I actually enjoyed it. It made me feel better after a stressful day at work, and sweating actually was cleansing for me—and boy, do I sweat. Lol. My first workouts were painful in the moment and through the next day or so. Breathing was an issue with cardio due to my size, and I am also an ex-smoker, so I am sure this played its part as well. I would always keep telling myself, “Don’t be a quitter!” If I would quit this, then it would be easier in the future to quit other things.
H: Love that! What’s your workout routine like now?
K: I like to challenge myself all the time and working out around a lot of other people keeps me competitive. When I first started at the gym I was intimidated, to say the least, but I knew I had to do this for me. I also knew that I wanted to run. I was never a runner growing up and never understood why people would run, especially when no one was chasing them! Lol. I started out walking on the treadmill and switched it up by increasing the incline and slowly worked my way up to running for short periods of time (very short periods of time). I have currently done a couple of ½ marathons and my best time is 2:14. My best time on a 5k is 24:43. I am also contemplating on steering my fitness goals towards more weight training. I love the way my arms and muscles look, and I’m having a blast molding my body!
H: Awesome! So, I’m curious: Way back at the beginning of your journey, what did you tell yourself when you wanted to quit, or when you really didn’t want to do what you knew you needed to do?
K: There were days when I thought that this was too tough, and these were the days I argued with myself to get my butt in gear and that I had come way too far to give up now. No matter how crappy I felt prior to walking into that gym, I knew I would feel like a million bucks after I was done. The fear of going backwards is always what gets me through. When you have been on both ends of the spectrum, trust me, this side is so much better!
H: What about staying on track with your eating plan? That’s a tough one for anyone who’s trying to transform.
K: Coming from a person who loves food—and food was always my go-to for everything—it’s a struggle on a daily basis, especially since I have a sweet tooth. My husband and I will spoil ourselves every so many weeks and go out for ice cream, which is definitely a weak spot for me. Other than that I try to stay on track. I used to be one of those yo-yo dieters. I was always looking for that quick fix. I was lazy and never wanted to sweat. This time was different. I never intended to end up where I am today, but something just clicked in my head, and it has been full steam ahead ever since.
H: I totally believe you! Besides that size 24 pair of pants, how did you figure out the “why” behind your weight issues?
K: I have always been one who really cared what other people were thinking about me. When people used to tell me that I needed to lose weight or I was overweight, I would turn that into anger towards them and then turn towards food for comfort. Some people just don’t understand, they think, “What is the big deal? Just stop eating or start exercising.” If it was that easy, smokers should be able to just stop smoking or alcoholics should be able to just stop drinking. Food is an addiction. Once I realized that my opinion was the one that mattered, and that I needed to learn to love myself again, things became easier. I still struggle every day with my past, and it will always be there. It is a part of who I am. I have just learned to push past it and move forward.
H: Kari, I couldn’t have said that better myself! So many of our peeps go through this same process, and once they realize their “why,” the sky’s the limit! Here’s another question: What one piece of advice would you give those who are 110% convinced they can’t do this at home?
K: I get that some people need more help than others to stay on task, but I do believe that deep down inside all of us have the strength to do this on our own. It is just simply easier to make excuses as to why we can’t. I used to be that person, so I know full well all the excuses. I have some issues from a couple of car accidents, so it became so easy to just use that as an excuse rather than do anything. I still have some pain from time to time, but I let nothing get in the way of me anymore! I do know if you want something badly enough, then you can do it, and the only thing stopping you is you. I am living proof that it can be done. I did it with no trainers or coaches. That being said, it is also important to reach out to people who are in the same boat as you or to true friends or family members for support.
H: You are so inspirational? What is your favorite quote or mantra that keeps YOU inspired?
K: I have two: “Discipline*Dedication*Determination!” And “Eat to live, not live to eat.” I live by both of these.
H: Love those! Now…tell me about some of the things you’ve been able to do post-transformation that you couldn’t do before?
K: The first one was when I was able to run a mile for the first time without stopping or slowing down. The second was when I ran my first 5k. When I completed my first half marathon, I broke down and cried. Another great milestone was when I tried on my very first pair of size 8 jeans and they actually fit! I cried right there in the changing room. Some others: I can actually go to amusement parks and fit into the seats, I love to dance at functions, and I feel confident at the gym and just about anywhere I go. If you would have told the old Kari that she would be curling 35-40 lbs. per arm and running ½ marathons, she would have laughed at you and said, “I think you have the wrong person!” Lol. 🙂
H: Those are amazing—I can’t imagine how you must feel! One thing you brought up during our conversation is that excess skin. I loved your thoughts about this—would you please share them with all of us?
K: It does not bother me to talk about it because it is the nature of the beast—it’s common sense that anyone who loses over ½ her body weight is going to have loose skin and stretch marks. Clothes can only hide so much. Lol. I want to be able to complete my journey, but I am not happy with the way that I look yet because of the loose skin. These, however, are my scars of what I have done to myself—a daily reminder of why I needed to make a change, and why I can’t go back. I have done some research into skin removal surgery, and health insurance does not cover this at all. It is something that may be in my future if I win the lottery. Lol. Until then, I will continue to strength train, drink my water, and do my cardio. I have heard that all of these will play a part in tightening up loose skin, to a point, anyway, but I will take what I can get.
H: Thank you for sharing that—I hear from so many people who have lost all those pounds and have this same excess skin issue. I love your attitude! One last thing—what are you doing to pay it forward, besides sharing your story with all of us? You’ve been a pretty popular lady!
K: The publicity surrounding my journey was a surprise, and still is kinda’ surreal. It started out as a simple suggestion from a friend to enter an article in our local newspaper, which was published. Next came a CNN iReport, an interview with Fox 29 Weekend in Philadelphia, and an article in Woman’s World magazine! The end of February 2015, I was their cover girl on the magazine!!! Then I met you, and even though this had nothing to do with my journey, this was an ultimate surprise for me. Since you are one of my idols (and one of the sweetest people out there), there’s nothing better for a fan than to meet someone she looks up to and have that person be so down to earth and kind.
H: Awww…Kari, you’re too sweet. It was an honor meeting you! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, and I know it will help many, many people who are on their own transformation journeys.
Well, there you go, guys! Another amazing at-home transformation. If you’d like to begin your own transformation journey but don’t quite know where to start, check out the same program we use on Extreme Weight Loss here. And no matter how you do it, I know you CAN do it!
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Are you, or someone you know, on the weight loss journey of a lifetime? I want to hear about it! Send your transformation tale to [email protected] for the opportunity to have your story shared right here on the blog.