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Local Alum: From 307 Pounds to Personal Trainer

Reprinted from a press release July 23, 2007

Kelly Coffey ’02, owner of Strong Coffey Personal Training in Northampton, hasn't always been athletic. In fact, Coffey was morbidly obese for most of her life. Raised on a steady diet of nutrient-deficient foods and no physical activity, the native New Yorker topped out at 307 pounds in 2003. "It wasn't just my body that was unhealthy," said Coffey. "The weight was putting an unhealthy spin on every aspect of my life."

After long consideration, Coffey decided to have weight loss surgery in March 2003. She lost all of her excess weight quickly, but felt anything but healthy. "I was weak; I felt like I was just extra skin and bones. Then I started to gain the weight back!"

Most people that undergo weight loss surgery, as well as the vast majority of dieters, find themselves regaining weight shortly after they stop losing it. Because they haven't increased their activity level or changed their relationship with food, surgery and diet efforts can become compromised before long. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), it is estimated that as few as 20 percent of patients will keep the weight off long term after having certain weight loss procedures. The numbers are even more discouraging for those who go on traditional "diets." Coffey realized that she needed to take action if she wanted to be truly healthy and keep the weight off.

"There was a time when nothing short of a fire would get me up off the couch," joked Coffey. "I was depressed and self-conscious even after I lost the weight, and all I wanted to do was eat to numb the feelings."

Motivated by part inspiration and part desperation, Coffey began to prioritize her health and wellbeing. At first, it was difficult. "I didn't have anyone to model myself after. There was no one who knew what I was going through that I could go to for guidance." With the odds stacked against her, Coffey forged ahead. Day one, she walked a quarter mile. Day two, she read up on how to prepare fish at home. One day at a time she relearned how and what to eat and experimented with different forms of exercise.

Today, Coffey is healthy, happy and active. The exercise experiments inspired her to study anatomy, physiology and nutrition, eventually leading to coursework and certification as a personal trainer. Thanks to a cardio and weight-training regimen of her own design, she has a body she loves, remains at a healthy weight and has replaced inner boredom and turmoil with enthusiasm and gratitude. Armed with knowledge and the unique qualification of personal experience, her next move was obvious: to help others trying to make the same change in their own lives.

One such client, Liz Washer of Northampton, sought Coffey’s guidance after struggling for three years to maintain a non-surgical 80-pound weight loss, with more still to lose. “I’d had some success, but I was yo-yoing and had no idea where to begin with a much-needed exercise program,” said Washer. “I wanted to work with someone who knew how difficult exercise can be for a larger person, both physically and mentally. Meeting Kelly, who had already walked in my shoes, was a happy accident.”

Washer began weekly sessions with Coffey in the early spring, incorporating strength training and cardiovascular exercise along with ongoing nutritional advice and support, and has already noticed significant results. “Not only have I lost weight, but I’m feeling stronger, more confident and more capable. I used to avoid the weight room at the gym at all costs -- now I’m a regular!”

Coffey acknowledges that the road to good health and a healthy weight can be incredibly challenging. "I only wish there had been someone helping me along who knew where I was coming from," said Coffey. "But at least now I can help make the journey easier for others.”

Coffey is available to train Smith OneCard holders at the Olin Fitness Center. She also trains locally at Universal Health and Fitness in Northampton and is available to travel throughout Western Massachusetts for clients who are committed to prioritizing themselves and their health.


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