Before October 2011, Chilliwack's Haley Smith had very nearly resigned herself to what she thought must be her fate: she was fat.
She couldn't remember a time when she wasn't fat.
In middle school she had hated running because of the way the fat moved on her body.
And by her early 20s, she was pushing 300 pounds.
Just getting up off the couch was a serious effort, and she remembers arriving at the top of a single flight of stairs, sweaty and out of breath, thinking "I guess this is how I am now."
Turns out she was wrong. After less than two years of eating better and working out, Smith is getting ready to leap, climb, swing and crawl through a seven-kilometre obstacle course set up in the streets and alleys of Vancouver on Sunday for the Concrete Hero Urban Obstacle Challenge to benefit the BC Cancer Foundation. "It's been quite a journey," Smith said. Growing up, the 25-year-old Chilliwack secondary grad said she ate a lot of processed foods because her mom had Crohn's disease and couldn't eat whole grains and raw vegetables, so there weren't a lot of these healthy foods around the house.
She also ate to feel better when things like her parents' divorce got her down.
More drawn to the arts than sports, her life was "very sedentary," she said.
What sparked her transformation almost two years ago was a combination of frustration and inspiration. She was fed up with the limitations her weight imposed on her and the upand-down "fat stares" that it drew from strangers, and she was inspired by other people's weight-loss stories on the website Reddit.
"Something just kind of clicked." Starting out at the gym-even a women's-only gym-wasn't easy, but she soon got over people looking at her when she worked out.
"I felt like I was getting stares, but you know, they were actually the stares of 'You go girl; you can do this. We're behind you.' And that's changed my thinking," she said.
She has lost almost 80 pounds and gone from a size 24-plus to a size 16.
Running, not getting up off the couch, is what gets her out of breath these days, and she can't remember the last time she was sick.
"I'm certainly along the way to where I'd like to be," she said.
Her approach has been pretty simple: counting calories, eating healthier foods and getting exercise.
She first heard about Concrete Hero from her boyfriend.
Not only did it seem like a fun, physical challenge, it was for a cause close to her heart.
Cancer has killed both of her grandfathers, her grandmother, her uncle and her mom's best friend.
"It's important to me," said Smith of raising money to find a cure.
On another level, of course, conquering Concrete Hero will be also be a celebration of one of the most important things she's learned over the last two years: "You can change."
For more information about Concrete Hero and to help Smith reach her fundraising goal before the Sept. 29 event, visit www.concretehero.ca and enter her name under the "Donate" tab.
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