Woman loses half her weight after wake-up call on truck scale

| Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, 10:03 p.m.

When the pumpkin pie is served Thursday, Laura Skinger won't pass on it.

She plans to cut her piece in half and say, “Oh, here's some for you, too.” It's a way to keep peace with family and be faithful to her weight-loss program.

Last month, Skinger was honored at the Curves International convention as one of the exercise franchise's “biggest losers” for reducing to half her original weight of nearly 500 pounds.

“Laura's determination and perseverance are phenomenal,” says Nadia Rodman, a Curves' registered dietitian. “She's been featured in Diane, the Curves magazine, and most recently in the Curves Style Show at our national convention in Vegas. Her story has inspired Curves members and owners alike.”

Four years ago, Skinger, of Freedom, was too heavy for a bathroom scale. At 5 feet, 10 inches tall, she played softball in high school, but gradually gained weight after the births of her three children, now ages 17, 16 and 14.

“I visited a truck stop to weigh myself,” she says. “That was my wake-up call. I said to my husband, ‘If I own a Curves, I know I can lose weight.' ”

He agreed to the plan.

Skinger had joined a Curves in 2006. Her weight had dropped from 380 to 300 pounds.

“People would say, ‘Oh, you look so good,' that I fell off the wagon, and I became a paying member who didn't go,” she says. “I regained all the weight back — and then some.”

When the Skingers purchased the franchise in Bellevue in February 2008, there were only 60 members.

“I was worried about building the membership, and I was exercising all the time, but I hadn't changed my habits,” says Skinger, who worked as a manager at McDonald's. “People joined, but they eventually stopped coming and then dropped out.”

Skinger's weight continued to climb, reaching nearly 500 pounds.

“You can't tie your shoe without holding your breath,” she says. “You're afraid to sit on chairs — or anything.”

Then Skinger was diagnosed with diabetes, and she considered gastric-bypass surgery. Her doctor explained the side effects — including death. She thought of her three children.

“My doctor asked me, ‘Have you really tried to lose weight the natural way?' I had to try for the sake of my children,” she says.

Soon after, she attended the 2010 Curves International convention in Atlanta. Curves founder Gary Heaven challenged owners to “walk the walk,” and follow the program of nutrition, exercise and the motivation to stick with it.

“I realized I should be my own best business card. I wasn't helping my members by not helping me. I took the challenge and ran with it,” she says.

The diet change is the most important, she says. “It really is 70 percent diet and 30 percent exercise. You need to build the muscle and starve the fat. For breakfast, for instance, I will have eggs and oatmeal that build protein.”

Leslie Bonci, director of Sports Nutrition at UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, confirms the importance of nutrition over exercise.

“For most people, it is the calorie reduction that is most important,” Bonci says. “It's vitally important to exercise, but it is not a calorie-burner. You have to walk four miles to burn 100 calories.”

Skinger's Bellevue Curves is open every day of the week. She is there six days. She does four 30-minute workouts a week and teaches four Zumba classes.

“This woman is absolutely amazing,” says Alyssa Chance, who has lost 105 pounds. “Buying this gym saved her life. She knows where your struggles are. She is also willing to get involved outside the club with new challenges that are healthy. She's now doing marathons.”

When Skinger's family gathers around the Thanksgiving table, she'll “no, thank you” to second helpings, but she will offer plenty of thanks to her family. She has an extra-large-size portion of gratitude for her husband, John, a computer IT.

“Not a lot of husbands would have bought a gym for their wives to lose weight. It could have been a total failure,” says Skinger, whose membership has quadrupled since she took over. “I'm just so thankful for a husband who believed in me.”

Jane Miller is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.

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