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More than 70 lbs and six dress sizes ... / Paris woman takes control of her life
PUMPING IRON — Komulainen, who has lost 70 pounds in a year, also exercises with hand weights as she walks.
PARIS — Tammy Komulainen is 70 pounds lighter than she was a year ago and has gone from a size 22 down to a 10. She went from being unable to jog a single lap – not even half a lap – on a track, to doing a vigorous 12-lap workout six days a week.
Komulainen, 38, of West Paris, grew up in South Paris and graduated from Oxford Hills High School in 1992.
"In high school, I was slim and trim. I modeled and played a lot of softball. But after high school? I had four kids and some stressful events in life."
She started putting on pounds, and they wouldn't come off.
"I'm five-foot-four and my weight got up to . . ." She stops, laughs, and rolls her eyes, reluctant to say the exact amount. "Let's just say it was over 200 pounds."
Komulainen went from a girl who was happy to have her picture taken to a woman who hid from cameras. She was so embarrassed by her weight, she would stand in the back when group pictures were taken.
A decision to get in shape prompted her to buy a year's membership at a gym. After six months of working out on treadmills, stationary bicycles and weight machines, she had not lost a single pound.
She went to a nutritionist and made changes in her diet – but it didn't help.
"I started getting migraine headaches. Not knowing the cause, the doctor wanted me to stop going to the gym and start walking. That's when I came to the track."
By track, she means the one at the Gouin Field Complex in South Paris. Her first efforts there were small.
"This was in the spring of last year – June, I think. I couldn't do a quarter of a lap without stopping and taking a break."
But Komulainen kept at it, progressing from walking to being able to jog. After four weeks, she started seeing results.
"I suddenly dropped 10 pounds. Then, after that, the weight kept coming off."
She began doing exercises as she walked and jogged. She'd jump rope while doing laps, she'd carry hand weights – three-pounders. She'd go up and down bleachers, using them as a real-life stair climber machine. She'd do side-stepping on the track. If there were not many people around to see her, she'd go onto the field and do pushups and crunches.
Her fitness level climbed, her weight dropped, and her health improved.
"I used to be on medications. I'm down to one pill a day now. That's a huge drop. I think that's the result of being fit. I used to have migraine headaches all the time. I have fewer of them now. I definitely see a difference in my health."
Komulainen retired the three-pound weights that she walked with and graduated to five-pounders. Those, now, have been retired in favor of eight-pounders.
As she began to feel better and more energetic, Komulainen, who walks at the track in the mornings, added a second workout each day during her lunch hour.
"I started with Richard Simmons' Sweatin' to the Oldies. I did the P90X workout program. I did the Insanity workout. Now I'm doing Jillian's weights [Jillian Michaels weight training]."
Her diet has changed, too. Not just her own diet, but that of her four teenage children, as well.
"At first when we did our food changes, they were like, 'Mom!' Now they love it.
"We don't have cows milk any more. We've switched to almond milk. Yogurt has changed to Greek yogurt – that was horrible for the kids at first, but they've developed a taste for it."
She was going to let her children have white bread and she would have wheat, but that didn't last long.
"One day they got into my bread and said, 'How come you're not letting us eat this stuff? It's good.'"
She also changed from regular noodles to wheat.
"When it first happened, they said, 'What happened to the color of the noodles?' I said, 'That's just the new style.'"
And then there's vegetables, which have become very popular in the Komulainen household.
"My kids say, 'don't just boil them, mom. You know you can bake them and you can grill them.'"
These changes have made grocery shopping easier.
"I have more fruits and vegetables in my shopping cart. When I go to the grocery store, I don't shop the center aisles, I go around the outside of the store: produce, meats, dairy on the other end, and I'm back at the check out counter. I've become pretty fast at shopping."
One of the challenges of losing so much weight is having clothes to wear. Komulainen said that over the course of the year she had to shop for clothes many times, and each time was exciting. But it was also frustrating.
"The way I was losing weight, I didn't know how long I would be at a particular size. So I started borrowing clothes from friends that had the next size down."
In the fall of last year, Komulainen, who works at the Department of Health and Human Services in South Paris, invited a friend and co-worker, Shannon Anderson, to walk with her at the track.
"She asked me and I said, no way," Anderson recalls.
But Anderson felt a need to improve her health, so she changed her mind and accepted her friend's invitation.
"I started walking with Tammy last October. At first, I couldn't even talk. I felt like a Chihuahua trying to keep up with a Great Dane."
Komulainen was using five pound hand weights as she walked, so she gave her old three-pounders to Anderson.
Anderson stuck with it, exercising as she walked. Then Komulainen moved up to eight-pound weights.
"I was comfortable with the three-pound weights," Anderson said, laughing, "but when Tammy moved up to eights, she made me go up to fives.
"I started out looking at exercise as a necessary chore, but now I really enjoy it. And I've definitely gotten more fit."
Evidence of Anderson's improved fitness came in an unexpected way.
"I have a 15-year-old daughter who started training for soccer this summer. We came over here (to Gouin Field) and I kicked her butt all the way around the track. She couldn't keep up. She said, 'Mom, you're in way better shape than I am.'"
As for Komulainen, she expects to drop more dress sizes, but is not focusing on that.
"I definitely want to lose more weight, but right now I'm just enjoying doing the workouts and staying fit. I feel healthier today than I have in years."