The stu­dent be­comes the teacher

Kari Leonard lost 100 pounds and found her pur­pose along the way.

Oxygen - - Transform -

Af­ter re­al­iz­ing her weight had sky­rock­eted 45 pounds in a sin­gle year, Kari Leonard joined a lo­cal weight-loss ac­count­abil­ity group in 2015. Part of the process in­cluded tak­ing “be­fore” pic­tures. “I lit­er­ally cried for three hours over those pho­tos,” she says. “So many thoughts plagued me: How did I let my­self get this far? Will

I ever be healthy or fit? I then re­al­ized it was now or never.” Leonard had been over­weight since age 12 when she de­vel­oped a fast-food habit. Her break­fasts alone con­sisted of an egg, cheese and ba­con bis­cuit, large fries, soda and a blue­berry bis­cuit with ic­ing. Lunches, din­ners and snacks in­cluded pasta and pizza, plus candy bars and chips she’d buy at gas sta­tions through­out the day.

While her friends and fam­ily only saw her smil­ing fa­cade, in­side she felt tor­mented and alone. “I was sex­u­ally ha­rassed and mo­lested by two dif­fer­ent peers at school for sev­eral months,” Leonard says. “I never told any­one or ad­dressed it, and I be­gan to eat to feel bet­ter and to pro­tect my­self from them and any fu­ture un­wanted at­ten­tion.”

Hit­ting Re­set

Leonard set some fit­ness goals and learned about clean eat­ing. Ditch­ing her beloved pro­cessed, sug­ary and fried meals wasn’t easy at first, but soon her taste buds be­gan crav­ing lean pro­tein, healthy fats, fruit and veg­gies.

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing on her love of dance, Leonard be­gan tak­ing Zumba classes four to five times a week. Her ini­tial goal was to lose 20 pounds in two months, but she man­aged to lose 22 in just six weeks. Af­ter that, she was hooked and set more goals, such as adding strength train­ing to her rou­tine to build a fast me­tab­o­lism and cre­ate long-term fit­ness suc­cess.

Leonard en­joyed lift­ing weights so much that a year and a half later, she de­cided to com­pete in the World Beauty Fit­ness & Fash­ion Trans­for­ma­tion Di­vi­sion. She stepped on­stage 100 pounds lighter — wear­ing her very first bikini ever — and won. She plans to com­pete in the WBFF Worlds Trans­for­ma­tion Di­vi­sion in 2018.

“Not only did I lose 100 pounds in 18 months, I now live a much more vi­brant life,” Leonard says. “I com­pletely trans­formed my life, and I’m de­ter­mined to use what I did to serve oth­ers.”

Pay­ing It For­ward

Leonard now works as a health coach and has made it her mis­sion to help oth­ers with their own transformations. She leads by ex­am­ple, train­ing five days a week with weights and log­ging three 30-minute ses­sions of high-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing and two 30-minute ses­sions of steady-state car­dio, such as Zumba, weekly.

“My heart burns with pas­sion to coach oth­ers out of an un­healthy lifestyle and a neg­a­tive mind­set and into a more healthy, vi­brant and free­ing life,” she says. “If I can do it, so can they!”

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