Kent State Biggest Loser: Despite slow start, Payne plans for success

Kelley Stoklosa

As Laura Payne blows out the candles, dread wells up in her throat as she wonders what she will do with three birthday cakes. Three cakes could make the encouraging words from the ladies in Prentice Cafe stop. Three cakes could undo weeks of 6 a.m. spin classes. Three cakes could pack the four pounds back on that she had worked so hard to lose.

Laura was not always overweight. Growing up she spent little time thinking about food or how she looked. She was a cheerleader in high school. Her mother, Shirley Payne, cooked healthy meals, usually from the Weight Watcher’s cookbook.

“Laura and her fours sisters ate what I put on the table and that was it,” Shirley said. Once on her own in college, Laura’s healthy eating habits deteriorated, and cheerleading was replaced by long hours of sitting in the library. Shirley’s well-balanced meals were being substituted with mozzarella sticks and chicken wings. Add to that late-night visits to Rosie’s and before long Laura was about 40 pounds heavier than she had been most of her teenage life.

Laura entered her senior year of college at 190 pounds and 5-foot, 8-inches.

“I have been struggling with my weight and the image of myself for a couple of years now, and I have finally come to the breaking point,” Laura wrote in an e-mail.

Six weeks before blowing the candles on her birthday cake, Laura was checking her Facebook profile when she came across her friend Pamela’s status. The status read: “does anyone want to be Kent State’s biggest loser??? The Daily Kent Stater’s feature team would follow your journey and help you along the way with nutrition and exercise!!”

A.L.L. wanted to document a student’s weight loss journey, much like NBC’s popular reality show. Laura was intrigued, but worried whether she could keep up with a healthy eating and exercise plan during her final semester of college. Encouraged by her mother and sisters, she later replied, ”Um I do…”

Before Payne knew it, she was meeting with a nutritionist, signing up for fitness classes and being photographed for the first installment of Kent State’s biggest loser.

As Payne expected, the people around her saw the paper and felt inclined to share their advice. The women who work in Prentice Cafe, where Laura shops for Lean Cuisines and Smart Start cereal, tell her she looks good and to keep going. Her closest friends say they see a difference in her shape. Laura resists the urge to snack on fries at the Winking Lizard, where she works most nights after class. She dutifully drags herself out of bed a few times a week to make it to 6:15 a.m. spin classes. The pounds slipped away one by one for five weeks, just as her nutritionist Jodie Luidhardt said they would.

Everything was falling neatly into place until week six of the biggest loser series. Midterms occupied Laura’s time. Visits to the gym five times a week fell to three, maybe four, times. Then there were weeks Laura only found the time to go once.

Her friends seemed to forget she was Kent State’s biggest loser and wished her a happy birthday with food. At her birthday dinner, Laura begged her party not to tell the waiter it was her birthday. The restaurant they were dining at is known for sending the birthday person home with a whole cake, and there was already a cake from another group of friends sitting in her dorm. At her weigh-in that week, the scale remained firmly at 187 pounds. If Laura were really a contestant on the Biggest Loser, she might have been sent home.

Laura confided in her mother after the restaurant incident. Shirley reminded her daughter she needed to make herself a priority — and maybe take advantage of a doggie bag. Life will not slow down while you are trying to lose weight.

“Laura likes to put pressure on herself — too much pressure,” Shirley said.

Shirley constantly reminds Laura that it’s not all about body image. “She has brains, a heart and a lot of talent,” Shirley remarks.

Laura was able to have her cake and eat one piece, too. She tossed the leftover cake from her friends in the garbage. Shirley made Laura a Weight Watchers cake that was “delicious” and even approved by her nutritionalist.

Spring break came just in time for Laura. She spent the week at a friend’s apartment. She didn’t work out that much, but “stayed active and walked a lot.” Without her well-planned meals from Dining Services, her weight after break was 188 pounds. Instead of allowing one pound to devastate her, Laura came back with a refreshed attitude.

Laura now feels ready to complete her long-term goal of 60 pounds.

A loss of 60 pounds will put Laura into a healthy Body Mass Index. Nutritionists use BMI to determine how much fat a person is storing by measuring height and weight. A common criticism of BMI is that it does not take into account muscle mass. People who have a lot of muscle mass are sometimes wrongly put into the overweight or obese category. Laura thinks her ultimate goal will always stay with her, but wonders if 125 pounds is realistic for her frame. If Laura devotes more time to exercise after graduation like she plans, she will undoubtedly gain muscle.

The Daily Kent Stater’s biggest loser will run it’s final update the week before finals. According to the standards she set for herself to lose 30 pounds — Laura failed. But by her standards, she has won.

“I’ve learned so much about nutrition,” Laura said. “Everything you do changes when you try to lose weight.”

Contact features correspondent Kelley Stoklosa at [email protected].