When Carolyn Kaufman weighed 357 pounds, she dreaded flying. “I remember getting on a plane to go home for Thanksgiving break in college,” the 26-year-old tells Us Weekly. “I was in the aisle seat and my hips unapologetically spilled out to each side so I felt I needed to apologize to the tiny woman next to me.”
Within minutes, a flight attendant was standing beside the humiliated Lesley University student. “She didn’t say anything, didn’t make eye contact,” Kaufman tells Us of flying from her Cambridge, Massachusetts, college. “She simply slipped me a seatbelt extender and walked away. I cried in the bathroom once we got off the ground.”
Obesity wasn’t the only thing Kaufman was battling. In September 2009, at the age of 20, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The National MS Society defines the incurable condition as “an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information with the brain, and between the brain and body.” One of the symptoms is difficulty walking.
“One afternoon, I was trying to get around without my cane and collapsed. My right side had lost all of its strength,” says Kaufman of the 2014 incident. “I couldn’t get up and was too embarrassed to call for help. At well over 300 pounds, it would take multiple people to lift me out of my second story apartment and I had too much pride. Eventually I was able to drag myself to bed, but I spent the next four months on disability, unable to walk farther than the bathroom.”
That’s when the 5-foot-8, size 26 brunette made the decision to change her life. In two years, the Boston-based health coach (check out her website!) has lost 157 pounds. “I spent a lot of time researching how food affects the body,” says Kaufman, who sticks to a clean, organic diet and eats no more than 10 grams of saturated fat per day. That means her late-night fast-food binges are a thing of the past — as are meat, dairy and heated oils.
Kaufman, who hits the gym six days a week depending on her MS symptoms, recently took up running. “Feeling strong is incredibly powerful after you’ve lost all of your strength in the past,” she raves. “Being able to run after not being able to walk? There are no words to describe how grateful I feel to be able to do any of this.”
Now a size 10, “I take a picture of my seatbelt every single time I fly to remind myself of how far I’ve come,” she tells Us.
Follow her journey here.
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