- Associated Press - Sunday, October 30, 2016

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Melissa Powers is a wife, mother and recognized leader in Clarksville real estate, but five years ago she could barely stand in front of a room full of people

Powers runs Powerhouse Group at Reliant Realty, E.R.A., sits on the board of directors of Clarksville Association of Realtors, where she spends time on many committees, and gives of herself to local charities like Urban Ministries Safe-house for abused women, F.U.E.L. and Manna Cafe.

For Powers, such an active lifestyle would not have been possible just five years ago.

“I never thought I would have this kind of energy and be able to do so much,” Powers said. “I have lost 193 pounds, since reaching a peak weight of more than 340 pounds.”

Her weight gain was to a point that after hitting 340, she told her doctor she no longer wanted him to tell her her the number.

“I wasn’t given good advice about food and exercise. Any chance I got, I ate, especially after being told no, you can’t eat this, or that. I’ve always been a big emotional eater, up until a couple of years ago.”

Powers says that at a certain point she stopped caring and became numb.

“For so long, I had made excuses for the clothes that I bought, like, this brand runs smaller. Deep down, you’re just embarrassed. It’s all so numbing.”

Powers is 32 now, but says she spent most of her life eating badly and not being active. She dealt with postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter Kaylee, now 6. Kaylee was a big factor in Powers‘ motivation to change.

“I had three moments,” she said. “I’m not a big fan of flying, so we got on a plane about 5 years ago and I had a hard time fitting into the seat, that was the first moment. Then we went to Disney when Kaylee was 1-1/2, and I could barely ride the rides. The bar would come down on my legs, and it was too tight. I felt like I was going to squash my daughter, and that was terrifying.

Powers says a moment at Kids ‘n Play inspired her determination to change.

She heard Kaylee crying from the play gym area, unable to get down. She went into the gym to help Kaylee out and got stuck “between two padded poles that most people can fit through.”

That changed it all.

“Not being able to get to her, not being able to help her, getting stuck, I was so embarrassed. Another kid got her out of the tower for me, but that was it. I didn’t realize how big I was until that moment.”

Powers was struck by the poignancy of failing Kaylee in her time of need, but realized that on a daily basis, she wasn’t even able to play with her.

“I thought, I want to watch my daughter grow up,” she said. “I want to be able to play with her, and do my job, and set a healthy example for her. At first I didn’t tell anybody what happened. I couldn’t forget the feeling as those other parents looked at me. I just went home and cried.”

Powers says she was taking Kaylee to the park and other places, but couldn’t walk or play with her without getting out of breath. Her work was being affected as well, even showing a house was difficult.

“I was ready to make a change,” Powers said. “I joined Curves, and I’m still an active member of the Clarksville Athletic Club, but Title Boxing Club was a game changer for me. I thought there was no way I could box a bag, I could barely get on a treadmill.”

Powers says, she didn’t know what a workout was until she went to Title Boxing Club. She liked the routine, the support she got, and how quickly she could hit all the body points and get in and out.

“Those first two weeks were hard,” Powers said. “But, I started noticing I was able to hit the bag longer, and then I was able to do jumping jacks, burpees, and squats. After about a month, I could plank. Then I was seeing the changes in the way my clothes fit. I was feeling stronger and more confident.

“When it’s just you and the heavy bag, you don’t have to worry about anyone else. You find yourself saying, ‘I can do this.’”

Powers says she could not have done this without the support of her husband David, and Kaylee. Her daughter pushes her to do more. She rides her bicycle while her mom walks, sometimes she goes to the gym with her.

“Kaylee gets so excited,” Powers said. “She says, ‘go mommy go.’ On days I’m tired and sore, she inspires me. I just think of her, and we just go. She’s 6 now, and loves to competition dance, and she makes good food choices. That makes me proud.”

Powers says she is much more confident in her business now.

“I wanted to get involved before, now I am,” she said. “I was always trying to hide. I wore bigger clothing, I didn’t dress as nice. I’m more confident in all areas of my life now. I can speak in front of people, whereas before I was just thinking they were judging me.

“I still feel as if I’m 340 pounds. I have to remind myself I’m not. That’s an everyday battle. My husband has to remind me that I don’t have to shop in the plus size section anymore. But, all those years of doubt and fear, of not putting myself out there, it’s hard to break those habits.”

Powers says, comments from her youth, such as, “you would be so much prettier if you lost that weight,” are always in the back of her mind. She doesn’t have scales in the house, she still doesn’t have a full length mirror, but is thinking of getting one.

“I’m pretty hard on myself now,” Powers said. “I know now that food is an addiction. I still wake up thinking about food, and go to bed thinking about it. You have to overpower your mind. You have to say no, you’re not hungry, you’re just bored.

Powers feels that she has learned a lot and made some friends along the way.

“I had a setback and gained some weight when my biological mom passed away,” Powers said. “But, the folks at Title Boxing Club stayed on me. They got me back on track. “

Powers offers advice for others who may be struggling with weight issues.

“I would say, trust the process, and have fun with it,” she said. “If you ever plan to be successful at anything, it has to be fun, otherwise it becomes work, which becomes a chore, and then you’ll quit before you ever get a routine going.

“Take baby steps or you’ll get burned out and quit

Powers says, make those small changes gradually, and find a mentor. Make sure the people around you are on board, and commit to the change.

“Five years ago I was sitting in front of the TV, surrounded by snacks. Now, I have a gallon jug of water.

“Before, there was always an excuse why I couldn’t get to the gym. But, now, there is no excuse. It’s all about priorities. If it’s important to you, you can make time for it. On the happiness scale of 1 - 10, five years ago, I was at 2, now I’m at 20. I’m ecstatic.”

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Information from: The Leaf-Chronicle, https://www.theleafchronicle.com

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