A pledge to drop some pounds is at the top of any list of popular New Year’s resolutions — they say the gyms are always busiest right as the calendar turns to begin the coming year. And while it turns into an empty pledge for many, those serious about making a change may look to Renee Lirette for inspiration.
The Boutte woman committed to changing her health for the better and over the past 15 months, she’s lost 159 pounds, a process that began in earnest for her once she joined United Way of St. Charles’ Get Fit United fitness program.
“I look in the mirror or in a picture and I can’t believe it’s me,” Lirette said. “I look at myself a year and a half ago and say, ‘Oh my gosh, what happened?’ I feel so much better now and I can do so many more things than I could do before.”
This is a place the 34-year-old didn’t truly expect to be when she started her weight loss journey. Lirette said she didn’t know what to expect when she signed up for the program.
“I thought it would be some fad diet type of thing that I’d never stick with,” she said. “And it wasn’t at all like that.”
She began to absorb and apply the information she received at the outset of the 12-week course. Results started to follow, and it made her invest herself that much more in what became her transformation.
“I started seeing the results and feeling better, seeing the number on the scale and the inches I was losing, and I saw it was really working,” Lirette said. “Everything was falling into place. The more we learned the more I was ready to go back to class and learn everything. I felt like, ‘I want to learn now, I don’t want to wait a week to read about nutrition labels.’ I just wanted more and more of it.”
Among topics covered in the class were portion control, how to make healthier choices to eat and how to stick to those choices, and the importance of a balanced meal. The latter item is something Lirette said she really underrated before taking the course.
“I’m a picky eater, so it was hard for me,” Lirette said. “I was more into sides and carbs than anything else. Telling me that I couldn’t have them and had to just stick to fruits and vegetables, it wouldn’t have stuck.
“But instead, it was, ‘OK, if you want to eat this, that’s fine, but stick to this portion size. Have some vegetables with it, get your protein with this … it makes you feel so much better. You feel fuller and you’re not as hungry afterwards.”
As it turned out, good results begat good results. As Lirette felt better and found herself with the energy to do more and more activities, those activities led to the further improvement of her fitness. Lirette said she’s been able to go roller-skating for the first time in roughly 15 years. She’s walking to and from the store. And wherever she is, she’s anxious to get up and move.
“(Her friends) want to just go sit down sometimes because they’re not as into it,” Lirette said. “I’m seeing I’ve got my 20,000 steps to get to, I need 5,000 more today.”
Her change really began to hit home after she participated in April’s United Way Bridge Run in Luling. As she viewed a picture from the event, she couldn’t find herself.
“They’d point me out and I told them, that’s not me,” Lirette said. “I don’t see me. But that’s my shirt … I’d lost about 50 to 60 pounds by that point. But it was the first time it really stood out for me. It threw me off completely.”
Get Fit United is a 12-week comprehensive health program that sees individuals participate in weekly health and nutrition classes taught at the United Way office by Ochsner Corporate Solutions personnel. In addition, participants receive a 12 -week gym membership and personalized boot camp trainings provided by Anytime Fitness of Luling and Destrehan.
Lirette joined the program after seeing an ad for it.
“I was like a lot of people and was scared of going to the gym, not knowing what to do,” Lirette said. “Well, they have a trainer. I can try it, I can just sign up and see. I was nervous about the diet change, but they said to not see it as a diet change but as a lifestyle change, because if you just see it as a diet, you won’t stick with it. If you try and deprive yourself completely of what you ate before, you’ll never stick with it. It’s about moderation.”
The group outings, like the “boot camps” she and her classmates went through during the week at Anytime Fitness, were helpful motivators, Lirette noting they would push each other to finish their exercises and inspire one another to stick with the program.
“We’d focus on something different every time out. So we’d work out our upper body on Tuesday, then Saturday we’d go run the levee,” she said. “You didn’t want to miss a day because the next time, you’d feel like you were starting over completely.”
Most of all, though, it gave Lirette insight into strength she didn’t know she had, simply by offering some direction and a little push to get started. She’s stuck with it since, a consistent presence in the gym for both fitness classes and regular exercise.
“I didn’t think I had the willpower (to change her diet),” Lirette said. “Now I’m trying to get people in classes with me, trying to get them motivated. ‘Don’t eat this, don’t eat that.’ And they can’t believe I’m the one telling them to do this. I wouldn’t eat vegetables a year ago, and now I want to cook cabbage.”