2018 NEM Winner NEM Bolingbrook, IL Leader: Kelly Blaszczyk

I recently received a bracelet for Christmas that reads, “She believed she could, so she did.” I wear it every day as a reminder that I am solely in charge of who I want to become if I just believe in myself.

 I have not always been overweight and out of shape although I was always lead to believe I was. When I was growing up, I was relentlessly bullied by people who did not see my body shape as “normal.” I have always been curvy and developed earlier than others my age. My mom had no idea how to dress someone so opposite herself; buying clothes in junior high was the epitome of awful. I always felt awkward and big. In fact, I felt that way for so long, it was eventually who I actually became even though I had athletic abilities and enjoyed being active. Before my family moved out of state when I turned twenty, I went through a period of mild depression. I gained a large amount of weight in a very short amount of time. I will never forget the first picture I saw of myself from behind when I could not actually identify the image as me since the person was so large. That’s when it hit me how much weight I actually gained.

Before my 22nd birthday, I started eating healthy and exercising, which was difficult since I was raised on soda and whatever other types of junk food I liked. I managed to drop about 20 pounds very quickly and kept it off for a few years. Eventually, I had three beautiful daughters of my own and they became my focus while I put myself second. I hit my heaviest weight at almost 250 lbs. It’s soul crushing when you step on that scale and realize those are your numbers. When you go clothes shopping and realize you have to buy from the plus section. When people constantly underestimate your physical capabilities because you are too big.  I decided to focus on my health before trying to get pregnant again because I did not want to hit 300 lbs, which was an absolute possibility. In the fall of 2014, however, I became pregnant unexpectedly. Sadly, I miscarried the twins I had conceived. Although the rational part of me knows it was not due to my size, a small part of me will always believe that is true. I really focused on my eating and exercising (and co-founded the NEM Group I still lead), and was able to lose 50 lbs before becoming pregnant with my fourth daughter.

She is now 2.5 years old, and I am feeling physically better than I have ever felt! I took this challenge very personally and didn’t let excuses get in my way. Incredibly, I was able to lose almost 10 inches in just my waist in the past 12 weeks!!

I have four small kids and own a business with 15 employees. I managed to put myself on my own priority list and believed enough in myself. I’d like to think the woman I lead will be able to see themselves in me.