Oprah Winfrey's 67-pound weight loss may have sparked thousands of inquiries about the Optifast weight loss program across the nation.
But it's Tracy Preslar's 106-pound loss that has prompted a recent surge in sign-ups for the Optifast program at LDS Hospital.The young Magna mother joined the program last July 7. After dropping 94 pounds in six months, she began speaking at LDS Hospital's introductory Optifast seminars and has been on radio.
"We think she represents the kind of success people can see if they are prepared and really take on the work," said Tim Butler, director of the LDS Hospital School for Weight Management.
More than that, Preslar represents every overweight person's dream: taking off a lot of weight fast.
Preslar, 30, declines to say how much she weighed before she joined Optifast, but she described her situation as "desperate."
"I couldn't bend over. I could hardly find clothes that fit me because I'm also real short. I had a hard time breathing in the evening. I started having a few chest pains now and then. It was just miserable and it was starting to scare me."
Her husband, Jeff, was unhappy, too. "He was getting really disgusted with me," Preslar said. "He was worried about my health, too. He said it wasn't fair to him and my family. He thought I would have bad health problems. He also thought the kids were going to be embarrassed by me. They were already starting to get that way when I'd go to their school and things. Thank goodness they are still really young."
Preslar's weight was affecting her marriage. "My husband told me he'd lost respect for me because he said this was something I was just letting go and fooling myself about. He said he still loved me, but he'd lost respect."
The strong words finally drove Preslar to take action.
She's one of thousands of Utahns who decide each year that this time they are really going to do it. They're going to get that weight off!
Preslar was on a modified fast for 12 weeks. She began a gradual "refeeding program" under supervision of the hospital and now consumes about 1,100 calories a day. She still plans to lose 25 pounds.
Her success thrills her. "I feel proud of myself." Her husband is delighted, she said.
But it also scares her. She's terrified of being fat again. "They encourage us to get rid of our fat clothes, but I still have a few of them. I think in the back of my mind, I'm afraid I'll wake up one day and the weight will be back on."
Although she's dieted the layers of fat from her body, now she's struggling to peel them from her mind.
"I still feel fat inside," she said. "I'm still catching up with my weight loss. My mind is just taking a little longer."
She has attended weekly classes to help her modify her eating behavior since July. Fearful of gaining the weight back, she plans to take them indefinitely.
It's that very fear and its attendant watchfulness that will probably keep Preslar slim for the rest of her life. Even for those who don't know her, she represents a hope for their own success.
When she spoke briefly at an introductory Optifast seminar in January, she was the highlight of the two-hour program. A few people went up afterward to speak to one of the doctors, social workers and dieticians who had explained the program.
But dozens went up to talk to Pres-lar. They asked to see the picture she had brought along of herself when she was obese. They passed it around among themselves, exclaiming over the difference. And they plied her with questions.
She is, after all, the embodiment of perhaps the most compelling and prevalent dream in our culture: to be thin.