The student becomes the teacher
Kari Leonard lost 100 pounds and found her purpose along the way.
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.”
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!”