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Published: Monday, February 02, 2009, 4:39 PM
Updated: Monday, February 02, 2009, 4:43 PM

Amy Langeler used to be the kind of girl people looked at and said, "Wow, she sure is pretty. If only she weren't so heavy."
Now they just say, "Wow, she sure is pretty."

Langeler, 33, could be the poster woman for everyone who set a goal this year to lose weight.
Some things about her have not changed since she lost 80 pounds. Her movie star smile is still dazzling. Her hair is still long with a hint of curl. She is still 5-feet, 6-inches tall, but nearly all other features have shrunk.

It didn't happen overnight.

Langeler knew what other obese people know - that being overweight saps strength and energy, undermines self-esteem, and threatens overall health. An athletic teen who was captain of the high school cheer team, she weighed about 120 pounds when she married her husband, Matt. Soon, however, her sit-down job and taking in too much sugar resulted in progressive weight gain.

"I don't have any pictures of me with my son, Colby, because I shied away from the camera," she said. She weighed 205 pounds when she delivered her second child in August 2006.

"I wasn't comfortable in my own skin. I hated walking past a mirror or even getting my picture taken. I'm a very outgoing person but the weight had such control over my personality."

Langeler wanted some small things - to sit in an airplane and not feel the sides of the seat pushing into her thighs, to wrap a regular bath towel around her body, to get into a car and not have it drop six inches. More seriously, when she realized that keeping up with her children, just going up a flight of stairs, made her short of breath, she knew her health was being compromised.

"The night of Feb. 28, 2007 was my turning point," said Langeler, a free-lance graphic designer who lives on North Drive in southern Georgetown Township. "I laid in bed on my side and couldn't feel my bottom leg because my top leg was so heavy that it cut off my circulation. I knew I had to take control."

The next morning she purchased a Billy Blanks workout video, "Tae Bo Elite Boot Camp," a fitness plan that combines kickboxing and aerobic exercise.

"I adopted a motto from my pastor that I've stuck with from that day forward and it is: I cannot be defeated and I will not quit," Langeler said. She set her sights on a four-week plan and determined not to miss a single day, no matter what, even when she was on vacation.

Working through progressively intense video workouts, then adding elements like running, elliptical training, and a twice-weekly kickboxing class, Langeler has been faithful to the promise she made herself. It took 17 months of hard work and a new emphasis on healthy eating to reach her healthy weight, but she has no desire to stop exercising or to eat the way she used to eat. She works out every day at 2 Intense Fitness where she said she has found not only good exercise, but the kind of friendship that she needs for support.

The former flabby size 18 is now a muscled size 4 and has discovered a new aspect of success: she can inspire others.

"I've had several people in church come up to me and tell me that I'm their inspiration," Langeler said. "Me! I couldn't believe it. There's no magic pill, just pure determination."

In addition to a healthier lifestyle, Langeler realized another goal - to meet Billy Blanks and appear in one of his videos. He told her she was also an inspiration to him, and to all those watching the videos.

"I realized I was there for other people." Her story also was featured in "Fitness Magazine."

Langeler found encouragement in unlikely places. She and Matt teach the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace classes at their church, The Carpenter's House in Hudsonville. "Every time Dave Ramsey said the word 'debt,' I heard the word 'fat.' While working their way out of personal debt, she applied the same principles to weight loss.

To those who are looking for an easier way, or who are making excuses as to why they can't do what she has done, Langeler says, "You have to reach your 'I've had it' moment. I don't accept any excuses. People just need to get moving."

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