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When Losing Weight Feels Insurmountable

Four people found health and emotional reasons to try again.

John Barragan: Improving Sleep and Attitude Through Weight Loss

The fragility of life can often result in moments of clarity.

San Diego resident John Barragan felt his world tightening around him. Like so many others, he had been active in his youth but became more sedentary with age. The couch became his respite and food his destructive comfort.

Once an athlete, Barragan weighed nearly 300 pounds, and his health was suffering. First he developed sleep apnea and needed a device to safely rest. Then he required hospitalization for a heart arrhythmia. His family history started to really worry him. His father passed away after a heart attack in 2006, and diabetes was also common in his family.

"As a young man I was into running and boxing. I was in good shape. Then you start going on your own and living life and paying bills. Some people react well; but I let myself go."

"I was heading down a bumpy road. I didn't want to accept that."

Depressed and feeling self conscious, he was looking for an answer, something he could connect with, that could improve his health, self-image, and vitality.

The key came from his cousin, who had taken a kettlebell class and recommended that Barragan give it a shot. Kettlebells are weights best described as bowling balls with handles, made famous decades ago by classic "strongmen." A renewed popularity has taken hold, and kettlebell classes -- which offer strength training and cardiovascular benefit -- have become popular across the country.

It was with trepidation that Barragan entered the Iron Core training facility. He initially stepped on the treadmill but was exhausted after 10 minutes. Undaunted, he hired a trainer and began working out with the weights twice a week. He dropped a few pounds. He was getting stronger.

"At 300 pounds, it's hard to move your body around," he says.

Two years after picking up his first kettlebell, he's shed a whopping 100 pounds. At 200 pounds, he's fit and trim, yet still wants to lose another 50 pounds to feel he's achieved maximum results.

Excess weight, he says, is more than a health risk. It can crush everything you thought you held dear.

"It eventually closes your world," Barragan says. "You don't want to go out. You want to sit on the couch with the remote, watch TV, and eat. Your world gets very small."

Since he began this transformative journey, his world has grown tremendously.

In addition to kettlebell workouts, he's biking, hiking, spending time on the beach, and socializing with friends. It's been many months since he's had an arrhythmia flare-up. The settings have been drastically lowered on his sleep apnea device, which he hopes to abandon by year's end. He’s so passionate about his new lifestyle that he convinced his wife, Leticia, 39, to give kettlebells a try. So far, she's lost 40 pounds.

"Now I see her feeling better about herself," he says. "You can see the change."

Barragan's road to discovery is similar to many others who have shared his struggle: acknowledging the situation, finding tools toward a solution, and discovering passion and happiness throughout the journey.

"When you know that there's a problem, you have to find something that's gets you where you need to go," he says. "Then you start seeing what you're missing. I want to say I enjoyed living."


Lisa Brosch: Losing Weight for Those You Love

People can often lose part of themselves while taking care of someone else's needs.

Lisa Brosch, 43, who lives in Carol Stream, Ill., never had a weight problem as a child. But when she married and began having children, the pounds began creeping on.

When her daughter, Kelly, was born with a heart defect in 1992, Kelly’s care and needs took priority. Kelly required surgery at only three weeks old. At age 10, she received a heart transplant.

Brosch spent countless hours in physicians' offices and hospitals. The family had to juggle the often-chaotic routine of daily life with a challenge that would test anyone's ability to eat healthfully and fit in exercise.

"Kelly’s care was every day, all day," Brosch says. "It changed the lives of all four of us."

For Brosch, the sacrifice was her own health and well being. Countless fast food meals and less-than-ideal eating helped her weight reach 286 pounds. The challenge of family, work, and caring for her daughter were simply far larger priorities than ideal nutrition.

Three years ago, Brosch began to analyze the ways her own health was slipping and how that would ultimately impact her ability to take care of her daughter. She believed change wasn't just an option, it was integral for her entire family.

"That's when I began thinking about my own health and how Kelly was going to need us to be there and support her down the road," Brosch says. "I questioned whether I was healthy enough to be there for her."

She took a simple, yet imperative, step; she joined the local park district health club in February 2005 with no specific goal or grand plan. The treadmill seemed practical, so she began to walk.

"I really liked it," she says.

After examining her nutritional habits, she added more fruits, vegetables, and salads. She started eating breakfast instead of getting so hungry that she devoured large meals later in the day.

"Psychologically, you have to get to a point where you decide this is how you're going to eat for the rest of your life," Brosch says. "The second you start relaxing your focus, your weight will go back up. I realized how bad eating was making me feel, and I realized how not relying on food in the same way wasn't so hard."

The pounds started disappearing. And Brosch persevered despite setbacks that could have easily caused her to slide: Kelly required another surgery and developed diabetes from medication designed to prevent transplant rejection.

Fourteen months later,her weight loss of 100 pounds has transformed her outlook, attitude, and happiness.

"It's like having this new toy," Brosch says. "You can put on clothes, and you can look good in the clothes. And the feedback you get is a great thing too."

And Kelly is following mom's lead.

Both mother and daughter traveled to the U.S. Transplant Games in 2006 and 2008. Kelly participated in table tennis, badminton, and bowling. Mom, meanwhile, took part in the walkathon.

The experience with Kelly and her own transformation has enriched Brosch's life more than she ever imagined.

"We make an effort to find the good in this," she says of the struggles. "The people we've met, the experiences we've had."

Thanks to the support of her "biggest cheerleaders" -- son Tom, 19, and husband, Larry -- she's now prepared with the tools, confidence, and happiness to embrace life while being healthy and fit to provide the support her daughter needs.

It's a makeover she couldn't embrace more.

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