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Kathleen Evers is shown during a shoot for a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota TV spot.

BIG gains through BIG loss: Worthington native sheds 198 pounds, ends up in TV commercial

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Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

MILLVILLE -- Anyone seeking inspiration for a New Year's weight-loss resolution need look no further than Kathleen Stubbe Evers. A 1975 graduate of Worthington High School who now lives in Millville, Evers achieved a 198-pound weight loss through diet and exercise and is being featured in a Blue Cross/Blue Shield television commercial.

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"Weight has always been a problem for our whole family," said Kathleen, daughter of Richard Stubbe of Worthington. "There were times when I got it down, and I was probably at my lowest when I got married, but even through high school I was overweight. Then I started having kids and didn't take it off very well, and pretty soon it all piled on."

The turning point for Kathleen was a doctor's appointment when she was 48 years old. The doctor told her the only option was gastric bypass surgery.

"The doctor I saw finally hit it head on," she related. "Friends never said much, family never said much, but the physician said if I didn't lose weight, I wouldn't see my 50th birthday. ... I don't know what upset me more, the possibility of not seeing my 50th or him telling me that I couldn't do it any other way than gastric bypass."

Kathleen resolved to prove the doctor wrong and embarked on her own weight loss program.

"I started out real slow by making some real minor changes, then I had a setback when I was diagnosed with colon cancer," she said. "After that, of course they don't want you dieting a lot, and when you're having chemo every other week, you don't have a lot of energy to exercise. ... When I was pretty much done with the chemo, I decided it was time, so I joined a different gym, Anytime Fitness in Lake City, because it was open 24 hours. Otherwise it was hard for me to get it worked in my schedule. My son was going to Anytime Fitness, and thought I'd like the owners as well as the freedom of going when I wanted to. That was July 1 of 2007, and I turned 50 on July 7."

Kathleen credits the gym's owners, Jeff and Terri Bissonnette, with helping her get past feeling overwhelmed by the machinery and her own size.

"The other gym I had gone to had a few set machines in a circuit, and this one had a lot more machines," she said. "I started with the treadmill and was dabbling here and there, but I was real fortunate that the owners will help you set up a program. Jeff went through the machines and adapted them for me. Getting on and off was hard enough, and I was ready to jump ship and out the door, but I thought, no, I'm going to give this a fair shot."

For Kathleen, the key was setting small goals and gradually increasing those goals.

"When I first got on the elliptical machine," she explained as an example, "the screen kept telling me to pedal faster, and I was pedaling as fast as I could. My first goal was to be on the machine for two minutes without it telling me to go faster. Now I can go three miles in 30 minutes on that machine."

Throughout the process, Kathleen avoided looking at the big picture -- just how much weight she needed to lose -- because she knew that would be discouraging.

"I did have one big goal when I started at Anytime Fitness," she shared, "and that was if I could lose 100 pounds in a year. That just kind of sat in the back of my head. I made it in nine months instead. All I ever told Jeff and Terri, though, was that I was going to lose 10 pounds. Then it was another 10 pounds, just 10 pounds at a time. They only come off one at a time, just how they went on. I just thought if I can lose 10, then another 10. Once those 10s started to add up, it was kind of fun to look back. Everything was slow goals."

Diet, of course, was the other important component in Kathleen's weight-loss plan, although it was complicated in the wake of her cancer treatment.

"Diet becomes a real issue after you have colon cancer," she explained. "You have so much resected that you can't digest fresh fruits and vegetables. I started with small changes: not eating between meals or after 7 at night. The gym helps set up a nutrition plan based on Bill Phillips' Eating for Life -- six small meals a day, 40 percent carbs, 30 percent fats, 30 percent protein. It's a nice balance, and I found that canned fruits and vegetables are fine, so I do all my own canning and know what's in it.

"I never called it a diet," Kathleen stressed. "It's a nutrition plan. I know I'm going to eat differently for the rest of my life."

The more weight she lost, the better Kathleen felt, and the exercising got easier. It became evident that many of her health issues stemmed from being overweight, and that was confirmed at a recent physical examination.

"I just had a physical on Friday," she reported last week. "I don't have to take anything for my lymphedema (fluid retention in the lymphatic system), my heart is back to normal size, my liver function is back to normal, my kidney functions are good. They took off the diagnosis of exercise-induced asthma. I was supposed to have knee replacements done, and now my knees don't hurt anymore. I'm off five medications; the only meds I take are for my allergies."

With 198 pounds shed, Kathleen decided to begin a maintenance plan.

"I've had people ask, 'Why stop at 198?' Two-hundred is too final, and I'm not sure I'm done. I may try another 10, but it's a good place to stop for now," she said. "I want to make sure I can maintain it. I've lost weight in the past and gained it all back, and I don't want to do that anymore. If I can maintain it here, well, we've reversed more (health problems) than we thought we ever would."

Also deserving credit in Kathleen's success this time around are her family members -- husband Jim and children Byron, Brandon, Bridget and Brianna -- who provided encouragement throughout the process.

"My family has been such good cheerleaders," she said, adding, "and Jeff and Terri have been big cheerleaders. Terri is kind of my rah-rah cheerleader, and Jeff is my hard-nosed cheerleader. They just keep pushing you along."

Reactions from other family members who hadn't seen her for a while provided a boost to her effort.

"Our second son is in the service, and I hadn't told him I'd lost weight," Kathleen related. "He had been overseas and was home on leave for a couple months than was going back over. I went to visit him during the time he was in Texas ... He didn't recognize me at all. My dad hadn't seen me for six months and came for our (twin) daughters' graduation. He walked right past me three times."

Kathleen also appreciated Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota's exercise incentive, which pays part of a member's fee to belong to an exercise facility.

"That's also a great motivator," she said. "If you don't go the required number of times in the month, then you don't get the money. Before, I probably wouldn't have spent the money to go to the gym, but now, if I lost the insurance for some reason, I've seen the importance of exercise. Now it's just something I do."

One day while she was working out at the gym, Kathleen saw a notice from Blue Cross, asking people to share their exercise success stories.

"If you shared your story, they'd give you a free hat," Kathleen recalled with a chuckle. "I thought, OK, if I could inspire one person by sharing my story, I might as well do this."

From the stories that were submitted, 20 people were picked for a phone interview and then a mock photo shoot. Finally, six people were chosen to be featured in a television commercial as part of the insurance company's do® campaign. Kathleen's commercial aired on Dec. 5, and, appropriately, she saw it on the TV at the gym.

"I jumped on the elliptical, and there it was," she said. "It was strange being on the elliptical and seeing it for the first time. I'm probably my own worst critic."

Although there are a few things Kathleen wishes she's said or done differently in the commercial, she's proud of what she's accomplished and hopes the commercial will serve as inspiration to others.

"I purely did it for the educational value and hope to inspire and motivate someone else," Kathleen said. "When I see, hear and feel how much better I am now, I hope somebody else can get to that point and do the same. ... If anybody's even thinking about losing weight, I'd tell them to have faith in themselves, find positive cheerleaders and set small goals."

On the Net:

To view Kathleen Evers' Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota TV commercial, go to do-groove.com.

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