Kara Richardson Whitely loses weight, gains a life by focusing on helping others

So far on this blog, I’ve written a lot about career transformations. Given the economy and the number of people out of work, that’s obviously a theme on a lot of people’s minds but it’s far from the only way you might improve your life. Maybe you’d like to:
— improve your relationships?
— make time for a hobby or activity that matters to you — music, art, yoga, wood working, gardening?
— take better care of yourself physically or mentally?
— do something you’ve always dreamed of?

I certainly don’t want to imply that the only change worth making is your job, so although today’s installment continues the theme of journalists changing their lives, this one is more personal.

Fat Woman on the Mountain

Kara in 1996 at about 360 pounds

Kara in 1996 at about 360 pounds

Kara Richardson Whitely had always wanted to climb mountains, but weighing in around 360 pounds, that just wasn’t possible. But if if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain. Kara began a journey to lose weight so she could do the things she dreamed of.

On her Web site — Fat Woman on the Mountain — she writes:

At age 30, I was lost within my own body. I dreamed of climbing mountains but the only thing that went up was my weight — to about 360 pounds.

During one New Year’s Eve, it all changed when I wrote down what wanted to do instead of how many pounds I wanted to lose. I decided to look at weight loss as a lifelong journey and I got moving. I resolved to climb mountains.

Through determination and hard work, Kara has done what she set out to do, remaking her body and becoming an active woman who has hiked the Grand Canyon and climbed Kilimanjaro.

Kara in 2005. Wow!

Kara in 2005. Wow!

But it’s become even more transformative than that. She’s writing a book about her journey, she gives seminars and does individual coaching sessions, she distributes an email newsletter with diet tips. She decided to study for AFPA Weight Management Consultant certification. She’s helping others live their dreams, too.

That focus on others is part of what makes Kara’s story so beautiful. On her Web site, she lists pointers on getting started with weight loss, including this one:

4. Fill yourself with purpose: When I was preparing for Kilimanjaro, I knew I was climbing the mountain not just for me – but for AIDS orphans who lacked many of the basics in life we take for granted.
Helping others to help yourself does not have to be such a grandiose thing. (Going a week without a shower isn’t for everyone!) There are local walks and 5K runs to benefit just about anything every weekend.
On a smaller scale, there are plenty of ways to keep your hands busy — and out of the cookie jar. Spend a few minutes writing Amnesty International letters on behalf of those whose human rights are violated or knit a blanket for a baby in need.

Kara really lives this. She’s committed to doing one physical event for charity every month this year — a program she calls The Save the World Diet.

It began at the stroke of midnight 2009 when I did the four-mile Midnight Run in Central Park for UNICEF to aid the organization’s response to the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe.
I will end the year of events in December with a Kilimanjaro climb to benefit Global Alliance for Africa’s AIDS orphans programs. After all, my Kilimanjaro climb in 2007 — which celebrated my 120-pound weight loss and raised $12,000 for cause — inspired this Save the World Diet.

If you have a hard time getting your butt off the couch to go to the gym, read this Tampa Tribune story about Kara’s Save the World Diet. They profiled her shortly before she did Walk MS Tampa in March:

Walk MS Tampa falls on the two-year anniversary of when my friend and colleague Marilyn Dillon fell into paralysis from a multiple sclerosis episode. Her story goes on from there, from moments when we almost lost her to her brave and courageous return to her feet.

Also, this walk is part of my yearlong effort called The Save the World Diet. Each month, I’m taking on a physical event for charity with the hope of getting in incredible shape and making the world a better place.

I was sick of feeling helpless about my weight and all the problems facing the world around me. I decided to start taking actual steps to make a difference. Throughout the year, I will take on various challenges, including the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati to raise awareness for the American Heart Association and a can-can dance for local food pantries in New Jersey.

I’m grateful to have met Kara back in Ann Arbor, when her husband, Chris, was a classmate at Michigan Business School. Now they live in Summit, N.J. — how perfect is that for a woman who dreamed of climbing mountains? She’s reached the Summit. 

If there’s a change you’ve been struggling to make, could you change your thinking and do it for other people? Would it help motivate you to quit smoking if you donated the money you save to a favorite charity? Maybe you’re struggling with debt and you can reform your finances to allow you to support a cause you believe in? Or maybe if you have more time than money, you could volunteer as a motivation to meet one of your goals?

Other blog postings about journalists & transformation:

  • Joel Zeff becomes a motivational speaker, author and comedian
  • Tony Dearing helps lead the reincarnation of the Ann Arbor News into annarbor.com
  • Nancy Ross-Flanigan moves from daily newspaper reporter to part-time PR pro and part-time freelance writer
  • A post on newsroom job losses with comments by Jim Tobin and Katie (Gazella) Vloet

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2 replies

  1. Colleen:

    This is a wonderful piece. If we all did this kind of reporting, we’d be connecting with people in such a meaningful way, and the whole industry would be better off.

    • Thanks so much, Tony.
      One of the most enjoyable parts of having a blog is that I get to choose what I’m writing about every time, so I’m only writing stories that my heart is in. No slogging through a 15-inch weather story because shockingly it snowed in Michigan in February. And I think when you’re passionate about something, it comes through.
      It makes it even better when someone takes the time to appreciate what I’m doing. Thanks so much!

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