Here are the expanded interviews from the Lauren McComas Hometown Hero Story:
LAUREN MCCOMAS (HOMETOWN HERO) - I have battled my weight my whole entire life, I was a chubby kid. I tried all of these weight loss programs, all kinds of different diets, weight watchers, but nothing really clicked until I found out I had thyroid problems. I found a great endocrinologist, I learned how to eat and not be an emotional eater... I still struggle with it every day, but I've got tools to handle that now. I was at my biggest my sophomore year of college... 357 pounds... I just snapped. I was tired of living this way, I was tired of fighting this my whole entire life. I said to myself, "This time I'm going to do it!"
I had a great support system. I threw all that crap out of my kitchen-- it was a 'kitchen binge': instead of eating everything, I just threw it all away. I adopted a policy of if God didn't make it, don't eat it. I've always worked out, I've always enjoyed working out, I just hadn't been good with the whole dieting thing... You can't out-train a bad diet. I knew that but didn't practice it. I fell in love with my training, I fell in love with my progress, as I was getting more fit and losing weight, I could come in and see these people deadlifting, I said "I want to do that", and after losing weight and getting better body movement I said "I can do this". Everybody looks at working out as a chore, but I see it as "I'm not trapped in my body anymore, I can do all kinds of stuff". I think that's why I like it so much."
[There's a picture on the wall in the YMCA with her holding a sign up saying "315lbs" and smiling... I asked her about that] Well...at that point I had already lost 42 pounds, so I was feeling kinda sassy... I knew it...I knew it right then and there... I don't know what, I was lucky enough to wake up in the morning and (snap) right then and there. I'm not going to live like this anymore. I was 22 and almost 400 pounds. I'm going to be dead by 40. I got to get it together. I knew it at that time, so that's where that smile came from...
I graduated from Marshall in 2012 with a degree in Psychology and I was thinking of going to get my Masters and Doctorate in counseling. But later I thought: I don't want to change your life in the office or on the couch, I want to change your life in the gym. This place changed my life, and I'm a firm believer that it can change anybody else's life too... Now I'm going back to school to get my doctorate in physical therapy. People started asking to work out with me even before I got certified. I would post pictures on Facebook and people were saying "you should work out with me..." and it would get to be over the summer that I was working out with 3-4 people a day, but I wasn't certified... I figured I kinda like doing this... so I went out and got certified.
Everybody is different, but fundamentally a lot of people who were in my situation, there's just a lot of hopelessness. They can't see themselves succeeding. Most of them have been overweight their whole entire life, and that's their reality. They don't understand that if they do work hard and if they're nice to themselves that they can succeed... and they can lose weight, and they can change their lives and they can be happy... it all starts up here (points to the head)... and they have to be nice to themselves...they beat themselves up too much.
You have to fix your head, and your heart, and it will all fall into place... but the cool thing about this is, you can fix your head, and your heart, while you pump some iron... killin three birds with one stone, not two, three. That light that goes off when they realize that they're worth it and they can do it... It's the best thing in the world... I feel so blessed to even be a part of it... and I watch them get better and watch them succeed, I get so happy for them.
[Thoughts on being an inspiration to others] That's a hard question to answer, I hear it two and three times a day. I don't know how to take that, because I feel like I'm just doing what I know I should be doing.
I hated vegetables at first, and wouldn't eat them unless covered in cheese... but it's kind of weird...once you start eating them you actually kind of like it.. It sucks at first... it's hard... but eventually it's possible, and it's worth it... and it's better for you. These little things, these little victories they just add up into this big snowball amazing thing... Little baby steps... little good things that add up into this super-awesome thing!
DEBRA JOHNSON (ONE OF LAUREN'S CLIENTS) - Lauren's an incredible trainer. We found her about four months ago. I had asked for recommendations. My mother and I wanted to start working out together, but we had different goals... Mother wanted to just work out and maintain a very healthy lifestyle, and of course me I always want to be thinner, trimmer, so we met Lauren, and started working out. It's been an incredible time and we just can't imagine a week without working out. She understands the needs of women... with Lauren she understands what I need, and work me out so that I don't bulk up. She can work [me] out at the same time as my mother... she throws nutrition in... She's the whole package, 100%.
CHERYL JUSTICE (SENIOR HEALTH AND WELLNESS DIRECTOR AT THE HUNTINGTON YMCA) - I've known Lauren for ten years or more, she's worked out here since she was a teenager. She has always struggled with her weight. Always trying to be healthy, always working out, but never quite achieving that goal that she wanted. Then when everything clicked together and she was able to achieve success, she wanted to be able to help other people. So, she asked me if I thought she could get a job as a personal trainer. She started studying, overstudying... I mean she was real into it. She passed her certification with flying colors and has been an awesome trainer for the Huntington YMCA. We've put a before and after picture on the board that inspires people. People who call in who struggle with their weight and never can quite get it to click, I always recommend Lauren. Lauren is on fire for helping people. If you tell her that there's this client who wants to lose 30 more pounds or that they are over 200 pounds, she wants that challenge. She wants to help them achieve that goal. She's not in it for the money. She wants other people to achieve the success that she's achieved. She's also a good Christian girl, and she cares about her people.