SYCAMORE – Danielle Kiesgen and Beverly "Pinky" Gorham have lost 232 pounds between the two of them, but they share more than dramatic weight loss and working out at Sycamore Curves.
Kiesgen, 28, and Gorham, 75, are both being featured in Diane, the national magazine published by the chain of women's fitness clubs. Gorham was featured in a section called "Body Love" in September, and Kiesgen will be featured on the magazine's October cover.
"I'm so, so proud of them," said Diane Kennett, owner of the Sycamore franchise. "They inspire everyone they meet and everyone who comes in here."
Gorham remembers the date she first entered Curves – Nov. 11, 2010. Walking through the door was one of the hardest things she had done, she said, but at 72, she had high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. She had lost 32 pounds on her own by making diet changes and walking, but her progress had stalled.
"I was looking at my future," Gorham said. "I had to turn my life around. ... My little grandson – he's 5 years old now – inspired me. I lost the [first] 30 pounds when he was born."
Since joining Curves, Gorham has lost an additional 68 pounds, for a total weight loss of 100 pounds to date. She has dropped 61 3/4 inches – only 3/4-inch less than her height of 5 feet 2 1/2 inches. She said she enjoys going to see her cardiologist and general practitioner now, because the doctors are constantly surprised at the changes in her health. She has also been able to reduce the amount of medication she takes.
"I can walk three miles now. I used to look when parking the car how close I could park to avoid walking," she said. "I feel like I'm in control of my life again."
Meanwhile, Kiesgen began the Curves eating and exercise plan Jan. 2, 2012, when she began working at the club. She had struggled with her weight all of her life, but had decided three years earlier to turn her life around and set a better example for her daughter.
"I realized I needed to be a better person for myself and a better example for her," Kiesgen said. "Having been bullied and made fun of, I did not want that to happen to her."
Like Gorham, Kiesgen began making small changes on her own to lose weight. By the time her daughter turned 2, she had lost about 80 pounds, but still had not made a commitment to live a healthy lifestyle all the time. While job hunting, she came across an ad for a fitness instructor at Curves. Although she had no experience with fitness, Kiesgen thought she fit the personality type described in the ad and went in for an interview. Kennett hired her on the spot.
"I could tell she was very passionate and she genuinely cares about people and could work with people," Kennett said.
Kiesgen, now the manager of the franchise, thought if she was going to help the clients she had better "walk the walk." She began following the Curves eating and exercise program, and dropped another 57 pounds. In total, she has lost 132 pounds and almost 50 inches in the four years since her daughter was born.
"October marks one year that I've had my weight under control," she said. "Weight maintenance is so much harder than losing weight. You can quit so many things – you give up soda, you lose a little weight, you give up ice cream, you lose a little weight – but weight maintenance is more about building muscle. My perspective is totally different now."
Kiesgen is also proud to say that the lifestyle has, as she hoped, influenced her daughter, who sometimes comes to her with running shoes on and invites her to go for a run.
Since losing the weight, Kiesgen said she is still coming to emotional terms with her new body. Right or wrong, she said, people do treat her differently and respond to her differently than they did when she was heavy.
"I'm very overwhelmed [by the magazine story]," she said. "I have to do a photo shoot, and it's so weird someone wants to take my picture. I never wanted to be in pictures. I have to see myself as the person I am now."