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Published December 05, 2013, 05:54 PM

Holt: West Fargo mom TOPS in state

WEST FARGO – Before she lost nearly 100 pounds, Kelli Larson was a wallflower. This fall, the 35-year-old West Fargo woman did something she never thought she’d do: She sang karaoke at her cousin’s birthday party at Divas & Rockstars.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

WEST FARGO – Before she lost nearly 100 pounds, Kelli Larson was a wallflower.

This fall, the 35-year-old West Fargo woman did something she never thought she’d do: She sang karaoke at her cousin’s birthday party at Divas & Rockstars.

“My whole personality changed, for the better,” she says.

Not only did she become more confident and outgoing, she became more active with her daughters, now ages 11 and 7.

When they go camping, for instance, the Larsons hike and bike instead of just sitting around the campfire.

“When you feel better about yourself, you feel more motivated to do things with your children and family,” she says.

Kelli’s weight-loss journey started in September 2006 when she was preparing for lap-band surgery. But a Crohn’s diagnosis forced her to take another route.

“It was very disheartening. I knew I needed to do something, and I thought the lap band was what was going to get me there,” she says.

First she turned to Weight Watchers, which she first joined as a teenager growing up in Fargo. Then she tried counseling at the Sanford Eating Disorders & Weight Management Center.

“I don’t recall not being on a diet since I was 14,” she says.

Everything she tried taught her pieces of the puzzle, but it wasn’t until she joined TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) that she was able to complete it.

Kelli describes the nonprofit weight-loss support group as a combination of Overeaters Anonymous and Weight Watchers.

Instead of getting overwhelmed by her 100-pound goal, Kelli broke it up into smaller goals, rewarding herself along the way.

Slowly, she learned to feel full with lean protein, whole grains, low-fat dairy and fruits and vegetables.

She still has urges to overeat occasionally, but they’ve gotten much easier to control.

“Once you’ve taken those toxins out of your lifestyle, you find yourself not craving or going to those foods,” she says.

When she does feel a craving coming on, Kelli distracts herself with a 10-minute exercise or a household chore.

“After the 10 minutes is over, generally you don’t want what you were craving anymore,” she says.

And if she does decide she wants some Cheetos after all, she’ll have the Baked variety.

She also added exercise to her daily routine, gradually increasing the intensity from Wii games to the Insanity program.

“It was an awesome feeling to be able to do something that intense,” she says with a smile.

Now she does a combination of cardio and strength training 30 to 45 minutes a day, four days a week.

During TOPS’ State Recognition Days in May, Kelli was crowned the 2012 State Queen for having lost the most weight since joining the group.

When she heard the DJ announce her in the West Fest Parade this summer, she finally realized what she’s accomplished.

“It took me about a year to recognize myself as a thin person,” she says.

As the chapter leader of TOPS ND 0262, Kelli plans challenges, leads meetings and makes sure they provide a positive environment for members.

In her experience, she’s noticed that those who are trying to lose weight for someone else aren’t as successful.

And although her own success has had a positive effect on others, she says it had to be her choice to do it in the first place.

“I couldn’t lose it for anyone but myself,” she says.

Do you have a weight-loss story to tell? Email me at mholt@forumcomm.com.

Forum reporter Meredith Holt lost over 100 pounds between 2010 and 2012. She will share stories of her weight-loss journey in her column, which runs the first and third Friday of each month in SheSays. Readers can reach her at (701) 241-5590.

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