CUTLINE: Members who have lost a cumulative total more than 793 pounds. Top row: Robert Buford (93), Daniel Steinlauf (47), Lynn Buford (243), Vanessa Forrester (65), Kathleen Keyte (45), Alan Levin (59), Joan Sturgess. Kneeling: Rose-Maria Salazar (101) and Maddy Lopata.
Winning by losing
By Jeff Glauser
Kathleen Keyte is a loser, as has been for quite some time. She helps other people become losers on a regular basis, as well.
Which is precisely why she's helped change so many lives.
Keyte serves Weight Watchers as Broward area coordinator and assistant training director, solely responsible for training new staff, overseeing construction and remodeling of new centers in the county and, best of all: her role as a mentor to hundreds of members hoping to change their lives by changing their lifestyle.
And Keyte knows firsthand what that's like.
A former member of Weight Watchers herself-- a prerequisite for every staffer-- she made the leap in the manner that most do. "I turned 40 years of age, and like so many, I felt like I needed a change," the Miami native said. "I was falling into a hole."
Since then, Keyte has lost 45 pounds and stayed at her target weight for 19 years. Upon reaching her goal, she was encouraged to stick around to bring her positive energy to others. "It's a calling," she said.
So, of all the programs out there, why Weight Watchers? "What we offer to the community is weight loss in a healthy way," Keyte replied. "We do it in such a way as to make a permanent change in behavior."
According to Keyte, the biggest benefit of the Weight Watchers, which started in New York 42 years ago, is the "group support" dynamic it provides. By having the assistance and "cheerleading" of others, "they expect more from themselves when they walk through the door," she added. Plus, the program is based on permanent behavioral adjustments, and not a quick-fix solution, since "there's no value in losing weight to regain it again."
This ties into the company's lifetime membership plan, which keeps members actively involved for life even after they've reached their goals, and for no extra cost. "We have millions of lifetime members retaining their weight," she said.
Additionally, Weight Watchers continues to be progressive to ensure it's most effective. "Our program is constantly in change," Keyte said. For example, two of the newer programs which have come out are the Flex Plan (which assigns a "point value" for foods, but allows a person to "eat whatever they want") and the Core Plan (which allows a person to "eat as much as they want" from selected items)."
Keyte gets a chance to see up to 700 members a week, and based on a typical Monday night meeting, she seems to know each one by name. "I love each and every one of them," she said.
And the feeling is mutual, as the following testimonials will attest to:
For example, there's Rose-Maria Salazar, but you can call her "Ro." Or, as Keyte said, "We know her by 'success' here." For good reason: "Ro" has lost 101 and-a-half pounds since first becoming a member two years ago.
"I came to a Monday night meeting determined to do it," said the Sunrise resident. "I've never missed a meeting since."
Like many who eventually stop in, Salazar was no stranger to other plans and diets. I've had my mouth wired shut, I've tried Phen-Phen... you name the diets, I've tried them."
But, she said, the difference with Weight Watchers is clear from the beginning. "The meetings are a big part of it," she claimed. "You're not the only one. [Other members] will help you get through it.
"It's all due to Kathleen. She's given me the determination."
Davie resident Alan Levin can empathize with Salazar's plight before finding something that works. He's been there.
He's tried scores of diets, including one that involved the urine of pregnant women. His daughter, in the hopes of finding a quick-fix, passed away after attempting gastric-bypass surgery.
So why, minus 59 pounds later, has Weight Watchers worked for him? "Because this ain't a diet," he simply said. "This is something you can do forever. It's so flexible. The only two reasons this wouldn't work are... laziness and excuses. If you lie to yourself and make excuses, nothing's going to work."
Plus, Levin said, it makes sense financially. "The money is so much less than you'd spend eating garbage."
"To be honest, it's changed my life in such a positive way," said Vanessa Forrester, from Lauderhill, who has lost 65 pounds since January. "My self-esteem is up. It's influenced other people to join because of my weight-loss."
She continued: "It's been awesome. This is my new lifestyle. It's working for me-- I used to be an oreo-eater. I couldn't do it by myself."
Plantation resident Daniel Steinlauf has lost 47 pounds in the last six months. "Weight Watchers is the only thing that teaches you to live with the food," he said. An actor in an upcoming Tamarac play, he said, "the character I'm portraying comes off much better as a thinner person."
And, most importantly, "I have never felt deprived."
Last and leanest are Lynn and Robert Buford, who have lost 336-- yes, 336-- pounds between them, including 243 (and a half, she adds) by Lynn alone. "You get to do more," she said. "When I was 400 pounds, I couldn't do much."
"We were really handicapped," Robert added.
Again, the gratitude seems to ultimately come back to a certain "cheerleader."
"Kathleen is a miracle worker," Robert said. "She's changed a lot of people's lives."