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How Kate R. Lost 115 Pounds and Became an MMA Fighter

BY KELLY PLOWE, M.S., RD

NAME: Kate R.

LIVESTRONG.COM USERNAME: kafenjmd21
LIVESTRONG.COM MEMBER SINCE: 2009

STATS:
Age: 28 years old
Height: 5 feet 8 inches

BEFORE MEASUREMENTS
Weight: 270 pounds
Dress/Pant Size: 20

AFTER MEASUREMENTS
Weight: 155 to 160 pounds (Right now I am working on building muscle, so I am a little heavier.)
Dress/Pant Size: 4

Katharine_Riley_B&A

Photo courtesy of Kate R. and Karen Pearson

LIVESTRONG.COM: What was you life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
Kate R.: Before joining LIVESTRONG.COM, life was very tough. I'd been bullied ever since I started school because of my weight, and I'd never had confidence. Also, I've always struggled with an anxiety disorder that made it difficult to really put myself out there and do the things I wanted to do. Right before I joined LIVESTRONG.COM, I hit an all-time low. I was just finishing up my master's degree, was unemployed, depressed and living in so much fear and anxiety that it was almost impossible to leave the house. I was letting other people run my life, and I was worn out. I felt hopeless and was not sure where to turn. I reached the point where I thought this was the way my life was supposed to be. I was supposed to be this overweight, unhealthy person that goes to a job they don't enjoy and then comes home and can get some comfort in food and watching TV. I felt bad that my fiance (now husband) had to be around me. I was just wasting my life. Little did I know an incredible journey was about to start!

Press “play” to watch Kate’s video:

LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
Kate R.: Everything happens for a reason. I'd been contemplating a career change for a few months, and I ended up losing out on a job where I'd been interning. Deep down I knew I was in the wrong profession. I started thinking that I wanted to do something sports related, and that's when I was introduced to Jason Porter, the owner and head coach of Five Element Sport MMA and Fitness, a mixed martial arts (MMA) school. I met with Jason to begin doing an internship with him at the MMA school. It was a perfect fit because I would be helping him with an anti-bullying program (which is close to my heart and in line with my master's degree in school counseling).

I knew very, very little about MMA. In fact, I thought it was just a sport where two people got locked in a cage and beat each other up. I was so incredibly wrong! The first day I walked into the MMA school I was over 265 pounds, and I thought, “This guy is just going to laugh at me and tell me to leave.” It was the exact opposite.

Jason was wonderful and ended up inviting my fiance to try a class and encouraged me to come with him. I knew my husband really wanted to try MMA, so I gave in and we took our first class two weeks before we got married. Our wedding day fell on New Year's Eve of 2009, and I thought this was the perfect time to make a change. I was starting a new life with my husband and looking into a new career, and I needed to get my life back and not let all the anxiety consume me. I made the resolution to get out of my comfort zone -- to try new things and face my fears. I was going to fight for my life.

cookingPhoto courtesy of Karen Pearson

LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
Kate R.: LIVESTRONG.COM has been crucial not only in my weight loss, but my overall health. In the past I'd tried some fad diets. I even ended up losing 90 pounds at one point, but I got extremely sick and ended up gaining all that weight back -- plus an extra 50 to 60 pounds! On LIVESTRONG.COM I found such useful information on health and exercise, and I used a lot of the recipes. After using pretty much every online food tracker out there, I found everything I needed in MyPlate, LIVESTRONG.COM's calorie-tracker app. This was the first time my goal wasn't 100 percent focused on weight loss, but instead on overall health.

It's important to me to eat healthy, clean food that nourishes, fuels and repairs the body because I'm now training like an athlete. I think one of my favorite functions is the caloric breakdown chart -- so I can keep track of my macronutrients (protein, carbs and fats) to make sure I am getting what my body needs.

The support I have also received from the LIVESTRONG.COM community has been great. It is wonderful to connect with people who have been through the struggles and overcome the obstacles. No one really knows what it is like until they go through such a drastic life change, and it is great to get support on those tough days.

LIVESTRONG.COM: Who was/is your support system?
Kate R.: My husband, my coach (and his family), the members of the MMA school and my fight team played such a strong role in my success. While I did the work, they were there to support me if I stumbled, gave me some tough love when I needed it and stuck with me through the tears (of which there were many early on).

They continue to help me move forward and to keep striving for more. LIVESTRONG.COM also played a big part with the information they provide and the community. Sometimes it can be difficult to get the support you need because people who haven't been on a journey like this don't always understand, so it has always been wonderful to connect with people who are similar to you.

Giving back what I've been given has always been important to me, and if my story can inspire others to take back their lives and do something crazy and out of their comfort zone, then my heart is full. And LIVESTRONG.COM helps me do just that.

box
Photo courtesy of Karen Pearson

LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your favorite way to work out?
Kate R.: My favorite way to work out is in the MMA classes. They provide a great workout both physically and mentally, and I get to work out with my friends. I always look forward to team training as well. MMA is actually a really big team sport -- you become a family with your teammates. There is a lot of trust that goes into training, and everyone is pushing their limits together and also encouraging one another along the way. The group MMA and fitness classes at Five Element have provided an amazing support system that makes working out addicting. Martial arts has become a healthy obsession, and I love learning and researching the different forms.

LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
Kate R.:
Monday: Cardio for 25 minutes, weight training for 30 to 45 minutes and an hour of boxing.

Tuesday: I have a private lesson with my coach to work on MMA techniques for an hour, then an hour of PowerFit (a HIIT workout combining MMA techniques and exercises), kickboxing for an hour, then MMA for another hour followed by 30 minutes of team training to end the night. Tuesday is my long day, but I love it!

Wednesday: Ninety minutes of cardio and weight training.

Thursday: An hour of cardio and weight training, an hour of MMA, an hour of kickboxing and then 30 minutes of team training.

Friday: An hour of PowerFit.

Saturday: In the mornings I get to work out with one of my best friends who is a figure competitor. We usually do a HIIT workout. Then I coach PowerFit for an hour and a kickboxing class for another hour. Saturday is also our big team-training day in which we do a lot of sparring -- about an hour and a half.

Sunday: Rest day. I'm in the gym a lot, but I have very big goals of becoming a great martial artist. I first started out only going two days a week, which then grew into three, then five. I love what I do, so the time flies by at the gym.

food
Photo courtesy of Karen Pearson

LIVESTRONG.COM: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
Kate R.: I eat all of the time -- usually about five to six times a day, and each meal has lots of healthy protein, veggies, carbs and fat. People tease me because there is always food around. It's interesting because I eat more now than I did when I was at my heaviest.

I always have healthy foods around, and I have gotten to the point where I crave healthy things. I like to keep quick, grab-and-go foods on hand because I am always on the run. I love having cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs and fruit, and I think I have a jar of peanut butter stashed away just about everywhere. My favorite tip is to keep food simple. You don't have to be cooking all of the time. I cook one day a week. Meals do not have to be these extravagant things. Stick to the simple foods you love that keep you fueled.

LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the range of calories you eat per day
Kate R.:
I really don't count calories. I love using the chart on MyPlate, which shows my carb, fat and protein breakdown, and I try to keep them in balance. I eat when I am hungry, and on different days I need different amounts of calories, depending on my training.

couchjPhoto courtesy of Karen Pearson

LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
Kate R.: Lots of veggies -- that's one thing I splurge on. I usually get the precut, pre-washed packs so I can just grab and go. For me it is a huge time saver, and I probably would be searching for food to eat if I didn't. I love having broccoli, cucumbers, green beans and lettuce on hand at all times. Hard-boiled eggs are always in my fridge (thanks to my husband, because I haven't figured out the perfect cooking formula). We usually make a big batch of turkey chili or cook up some healthy protein and have that on hand for lunches during the week.

LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
Kate R.: I usually get everything set on Sunday so I’m ready for the week. I have to make a few trips to the grocery store just so my veggies stay fresh, but I do all of my cooking on the weekend because the weekdays are so busy. I almost always pack my own lunch, even when I have lunch meetings. That way I can make sure I'm fueling my body with what it needs.

weddingpicPhoto courtesy of Karen Pearson

LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the biggest challenge you faced?

Kate R.: There were so many roadblocks, but I learned that you look back at the toughest times and can smile because they really do make you stronger. It's a great feeling to look back and think, I survived, I learned and look where I am now!

Most of my challenges were breaking through the mental barriers I had set in place. I never realized how incredibly mean I was to myself. For more than 20 years I had convinced myself that I was ugly, fat and completely worthless, and that was very tough to face. I had to learn to quiet myself when the negative talk would start up again. For a while it was a tiring battle, but every day the negative voice got a little quieter. There were also a lot of physical barriers. At the age of 23, my knees hurt, I was out of breath from just walking and I had asthma. I had never run even half a mile in my life, and one of my goals was to run a 5K.

When I started MMA, I could barely even make it through 15 seconds of a two-minute round, but I kept telling myself to do a little bit more each time. One of the most difficult times for me was when my husband's work schedule changed and he could no longer come to class with me. I was terrified and almost quit. I was one of very few girls in the school and was afraid of holding others back and had no confidence. This ended up being one of the best things that happened because it forced me to really be on my own and figure out why this journey was important to me. The people at the school were great to me, and I always found someone to work with who encouraged me to keep coming back. As my journey went on the obstacles went away, but new ones always arose. I just learned how to manage them better.

LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
Kate R.: Fake it until you make it. I created an alter ego when I first started this journey to fake the confidence until I learned it for myself. My alter ego's name was Super Kate, and she was a superhero full of confidence and never got scared or backed down from what she wanted.

Whenever I would talk myself out of a goal I really wanted, I would think, What would Super Kate do? And then I would do it. This has always just helped me get the extra courage and confidence I needed to go after my goals -- no matter how crazy they were! It is funny because Super Kate actually turned into part of the Five Element PRIDE Anti-Bullying Program. It was such an amazing experience for me to go back to my old school, be Super Kate and teach kids what to do if they are being bullied.

kickPhoto courtesy of Karen Pearson

LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your life like now?
Kate R.: Life is amazing. I could have never imagined that this is where I would end up, and I feel as if I am only getting started. What started off as goals to just make it through two one-hour MMA classes a week turned into getting my first belt in MMA. When I accomplished that, I set other goals like running my first 5K, which turned into half marathons and obstacle runs. Then I got to a point where I thought I needed to take things to the next level with MMA. I wanted to compete. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would want to compete in mixed martial arts. I started off with a few grappling tournaments, and then I got my first kickboxing match this past December.

I trained my butt off and used LIVESTRONG.COM throughout my training camp to ensure I would be on weight for my fight and that I was eating healthy and fueling my body the right way. When I weighed in for the kickboxing match, I was 120 pounds lighter than when I started, and I knew I had already won. After three tough rounds against a tough opponent, they called my name and raised my hand: I broke down crying in the ring right there!

In May, I met my biggest goal to date. I got in the cage for my first MMA fight. Just getting in the cage was a huge celebration for all the hard work I had put in. I was overwhelmed by all the amazing support I got from the people at Five Element MMA and my friends, family and teammates. The girl who never had a lot of friends in school now had a huge family around her cheering her on, no matter how crazy the goals were. Getting healthy and achieving all these goals has given me confidence that has completely changed my life. While I still deal with anxiety issues, they are much more manageable. I am no longer depressed, and I look forward to what each day brings. Most importantly, I finally have my life back -- and I am determined to make it amazing!

Currently I am getting ready to compete much more in MMA and kickboxing. LIVESTRONG.COM has been crucial for me to stay on target with my eating, especially now with weight training for the first time. My goal is to be an athlete and LIVESTRONG.COM makes me feel as though I am and keeps my training and nutrition on point.

Another huge goal of mine is to continue to give back what has been given to me. I am working toward my brown belt now and have started coaching more. I never thought I would have the confidence to coach, and I have to say that I love it. It allows me to share my passion for this sport with others and to see them get the same life-changing benefits. It's been amazing to see how much the MMA school has grown. I went from me being one of the few girls there to having more than 30 amazingly strong females around me, and I hope to continue to pass on the amazing mental and physical benefits of the martial arts to all.

 

Kelly Plowe, MS, RD, CSSD is a nutritionist and food and health communications specialist. As a registered dietitian and certified Sports Dietitian, Kelly helps consumers put health and nutrition research into practice. She believes diet is at the center of a healthy and fulfilling life and is dedicated to helping others be their best. Kelly lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their bulldog, Sunny. She is an avid runner, weight lifter and CrossFit enthusiast.

Living in SoCal, Kelly spends most of her free time cooking, eating out with friends and going to music concerts. Follow Kelly on Twitter and on Instagram.

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