Renee Lirette simply thought she was making a lifestyle change. She never expected to become an inspiration.
But that’s exactly what the Boutte woman has become after dropping 159 pounds and being highlighted as one of three finalists nationwide in the Anytime Fitness Success Story contest.
Though she didn’t ultimately win the contest, her story was highlighted for people around the country to take note of. Locally, many people rallied around her in an effort to spur her to victory, her story widely shared on social media and garnering votes.
“It was kind of just a shock,” Lirette said of being informed she’d been named a finalist. “I was thinking so many people were submitting their stories so I just didn’t think I could be chosen. When they called, I was like, ‘What? How?’ It felt really good, not only to be picked but to hear everyone wishing me luck. That’s something that just keeps you going.”
Lirette, 34, lost the weight over a 15-month period, kick-starting her efforts by joining the United Way of St. Charles’ Get Fit United program, a 12-week health program that included a 12-week gym membership and personalized boot camp trainings provided by Anytime Fitness in Luling and Destrehan.
She said she didn’t know what to expect when she signed up for the program. Months after starting, she was looking at a picture of herself finishing the United Way of St. Charles Bridge Run and didn’t recognize the person she was looking at.
“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 … it threw me off completely.”
While she learned valuable lessons about exercising and eating healthy through the program, she ultimately made the progress she has by committing to her efforts as a lifestyle change and not just a diet or goal to lose weight.
She’s in the gym seven days a week now, getting there early and energizing herself for the day. And while she said that these days it’s more about maintenance than shedding pounds, that part of the process requires perhaps even more willpower.
“It’s a mental game that doesn’t stop,” she said. “You can let yourself fall back so quick. You hear people say, ‘hey, you’ve worked so hard, you can treat yourself. Have that candy bar.’ It can get in your head that I worked out today so I can eat it. I just know now that if I do eat it, tomorrow I can’t have it.”
Her workouts of choice come on the elliptical machine and the stationary bike as she focuses on cardio.
“I really love the elliptical,” she said. “It works out everything. I hated it at first, but it’s one of those things. At first I was like ‘Uh, I can’t do this’ after maybe two and a half minutes. But I eventually worked my way up and it clicked.”
She also is a fan of group workouts and classes, which she attends regularly.
Her gym efforts are so consistent that when she missed a Friday recently — she felt a pulled muscle and decided to give her body some rest — her fellow workout regulars were surprised.
““Where were you Friday?’” Lirette recalled the question with a laugh. “’We were worried!’ But I’m good.”
The best thing about it all is the way it makes her feel.
“My body wakes up and I’m like ‘Let’s go!’” she said. “I have so much energy now. I don’t drink energy drinks or anything … I get up at 3:15 every morning, go to the gym and go to work. Before, I’d be so tired and miserable.”
And she’s been able to inspire, something that makes her proud.
“It’s great because I don’t think anything of it, but people ask me, ‘wow, how do you do it, what do you do, how do you work out?’ One person in particular at the gym spoke with me a few times, and now when he comes in, he keeps me updated,” Lirette said. “‘Good morning! I’m still on track, lost 30 pounds.’ He’s making progress and if I helped him get started, it feels really good to help.”