Abby Lutz hasn't always been a fitness junkie. In fact, as a chubby kid growing up in Newton, North Carolina, she “literally couldn't even walk a full mile.” But, ten years after tipping the scales at 193 kilograms, the mother-of-two is garnering plenty of attention on social media for dropping an astounding 109 kilograms through running.
Although the 34-year-old struggled with her weight for decades, it wasn't until she became pregnant with her daughter Clara, now 11, that she became morbidly obese.
“I was really sick and my daughter was sick,” said Lutz. “I gained 82 to 91 kilograms and she was born a month early. I weighed 172 kilograms when I had her. Then I was depressed and felt terrible so I kept gaining until I was about 193.”
Despite her best efforts to lose weight through diet and exercise, Lutz eventually decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery in 2007. “I was working 12-hour shifts at the hospital,” said the registered nurse. “They had me on long-acting insulin and two or three oral medications for diabetes plus medicine for high blood pressure.”
Looking back, Lutz recalls the exact moment when she realised she needed to make a lifestyle change not just for herself but for her newborn daughter. “As a nurse, I would see all of these diabetics come in and they'd get their toes and feet amputated,” she recalled. “I had this fear of getting my toes amputated. I was like, ‘Gosh, I am going to lose my feet by the time I'm 35!’”
So Lutz signed up to join a women's running group at church after plateauing with her weight loss six months post-surgery. Not only did she still have all 10 toes intact, but she was lucky enough that she could use them.
“I joined a group called Run for God,” said Lutz. “It was a good way to start because I'd never been much of an athlete. We would run for one-minute intervals then walk for two minutes. It was nice to have that camaraderie even though I would be like, ‘Oh my gosh, when are these minutes going to be over?’”
Eventually, Lutz completed her first 5K with the group which inspired her to keep putting one foot in front of the other. “I’ve been running for almost five years now,” she said. “I did the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and a half-marathon called Charity Chase Half Marathon. Then I did the Spartan Race which was 8.5 kilometres with 22 obstacles. That was ridiculously hard!”
These days, Lutz mostly runs for fun and peace of mind not competition. It isn’t always easy but she tries to run everyday even if it means waking up before work at 3:30 in the morning. “It is hands down the best therapy you can do,” said Lutz. “It clears your mind and lets you centre your thoughts. I’m always taking care of other people so it is nice to just take care of me for a change.”
She also wants to be a role model for her two young daughters, Clara, 11, and Samantha, 5. “I don't want to give them a complex or anything but I try to set a good example for them,” said Lutz. “Losing weight from gastric bypass was one thing, but losing the last 36 kilograms through running wasn't just about looking good. It was more about respecting my body and realising what it can do.”
Lutz hopes that others will follow in her footsteps after hearing her story, regardless of whether it’s just running around the block or crossing a finish line. “When I started, my goal was to stay alive,” says Lutz. “It wasn’t to look the way I do now. But, as I reached each mini-goal, I would try something else. Running has helped me branch out at work and in my personal life. It has made me realise my self-worth. Taking care of myself physically helps me take care of myself mentally. It’s a major lifestyle change but it’s totally worth it.”
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