Tuesday, March 12, 2013
It was embarrassing enough to weigh more than 300 pounds, but to be slapped in the face with a no seat-belt ticket by a state trooper because of it was worse.
On March 11, 2011, Janette Colantonio was pulled over by a state trooper and issued a citation for not wearing her seat belt. The officer could clearly see that it would not fit around her waist, and apologetically handed her the ticket, suggesting she get a doctor’s note and have the ticket excused when she appeared in court.
Colantonio comically laughed it off by agreeing that, yes, she was too fat. But, later she realized it was not funny at all. “Here I am, 30 years old, and I am too fat to buckle my seat belt,” she said she thought to herself.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back, she said. She refused to get a doctor’s note because her weight was something she could fix.
Colantonio said her continuous weight gain came about while suffering minor spells of depression. She lost her sibling and parents in the span of just a few years. She had her first child at the young age of 16 years old. That child was diagnosed with autism.
“I knew nothing about autism. But I learned about it real quick. It was a hard lesson. But my mom kept telling me I could do it.”
So while she had some excuses for letting herself go, she knew there was nothing medically wrong with her and with determination, she could lose the weight if she wanted to. And she did.
Colantonio paid that ticket and her weight loss journey began. She told herself that she would refuse to fail.
“I knew I had to lose big, so I started researching what to do. I began eating fruits and vegetables and lean meats. And I didn’t know anything about calorie counting. I just started eating less and better,” she said.
After watching an episode of “The Biggest Loser” she learned that her caloric intake per day should be just 1,200 calories.
She began that nutrition regimen and vowed to never stay stagnant. She added more minutes to her workout routine and if she wasn’t at the gym, she would park far away and walk every chance she got. Colantonio said those first few months at the gym were not easy. She was too big to use any of the machines and could only use the tread mill (or what she referred to as the dread mill) and free weights. She maximized her time on what she could do.
In just 12 months, Colantonio had lost 201 pounds all on her own.
Having grown up watching Debbie Chard on television, Colantonio reached out to her to see if the news station would be interested in telling her story and helping her thank the police officer who put her on this journey.
Chard did just that and the story went viral all over the world - literally. In fact, she posted her goals on her personal Facebook page and now has more than 5,000 people following her there. “I was down only 80 pounds when I started posting what I was up to. I am normally a private person but I posted it so I could be lifted up in my journey and have some accountability.”
She then created a public Facebook page, to motivate herself and others and now has more than 9,000 friends following her. She can be found at Refusing to fail: Janette’s weight loss journey.
“I didn’t think people would gravitate to the story because I wasn’t done yet. I still weighed 207 pounds. But I wanted to show people this was possible and inspire others.” Colantonio had a face-to-face meeting with the officer so she could personally thank him. He was thrilled with her progress and as it turned out, the two went to high school together.
National news outlets began calling her and she appeared on numerous morning shows around the country. A producer from “The Doctors” television show even contacted and asked her to be a guest on their show.
Colantonio agreed to do so and little did she know, a huge weight would be lifted from her.
Just having a guest tell their story was not enough for the producers of “The Doctors.” They wanted to add an element of hope, encouragement and support. Unbeknownst to Colantonio, they contacted Dr. Jack Hensel, Jr. and his wife Michelle at Lowcountry Plastic surgery. Known for their charitable work and philanthropy, Dr. Hensel and his wife were more than willing to help.
They offered Colantonio a consultation and after assessing her skin issues, performed a lower body lift, to include a tummy tuck and removal of excess skin at no charge. The surgery took place on Feb. 4 at Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital, where the staff there also donated their time and operating room facilities and anesthesia.
According to Dr. Hensel, Colantonio by this point had lost more than 230 pounds. Her skin had become deflated and was left loose and hanging. Once that was removed, her body has now begun to be transformed. Her other goal is to become a health and weight loss coach and a motivational speaker.
Weight loss is life changing, but what Dr. Hensel is so impressed with is that Colantonio changed her life all on her own. And the moment he was able to stand back and watch her expression when she saw herself in the mirror made it all worth it, he said.
For Colantonio, she said she not only feels good, but she can smile because she can wear, cute, pretty clothes again. Her jeans no longer require an elastic waist band. She can wear a belt. She can tie her own shoes. She can cross her legs again.
“I feel like I can do anything,” she said. “Losing the weight was the hardest thing but looking back on it I realized along the way that success is within you. You don’t go outside of yourself looking to succeed. You look within.”
Her husband Matthew said the biggest difference her weight loss has made in his life is that he can now take her out on a date. He explained that she would not go to the movies because she could not fit into the chairs. More often than not, she wouldn’t go out to eat either because she couldn’t fit in a booth or most restaurant chairs. In fact, Colantonio would send Matthew inside a restaurant first to check out the seating situation.
“It was embarrassing,” she said. “We took the kids out once and I couldn’t fit in the booth with them. I had to grab a chair,” she said tearing up. “I almost couldn’t sit down to eat with my family.”
But last October, Colantonio and Matthew went to the Coastal Carolina Fair for the first time with their children. She hadn’t been to the fair in a decade and her children had never been.
And to the best of their ability, Matthew and the kids follow in Colantonio’s footsteps by exercising and eating right. Colantonio has also taken on more household duties such as cutting the grass. If Matthew goes to do it, she steps in and tells him, “Nope. You’re not taking my calories. I’m losing these today.”
“You have to feel uncomfortable to get comfortable,” she said. And while she misses her Italian husband’s cooking, such as Chicken Marseille or Baked Ziti, she’s met her weight loss goal of 345 pounds and is well on her way to dropping down to that 135 pounds this year.
“I am so impressed with what she did for herself before the surgery and I am proud to have had the opportunity to give back, because Janette truly is an inspiration,” said Hensel.
(Learn more about Lowcountry Plastic Surgery Center at www.lowcountryplasticsurgery.com. Follow Janette at www.facebook.com/pages/refusing-to-FAIL-Janettes-Weight-Loss-Journey-/143930115701145?ref=ts&fref=ts).