Health Heroes: Beth Klein

Need inspiration? Meet 26-year-old Beth Klein. In two years, she's lost 80 pounds and discovered a serious passion for running.

By: Emily Leaman

Food has always been a big part of Beth Klein’s life: “My family is and has always been obsessed with it,” she says. Trouble is, the 5-foot-8-inch Connecticut native was never one for portion control. So whether it was a carb-rich Italian dinner or platters of sushi, Klein could pack it in.

She started to notice the extra weight in middle school, and says by high school she weighed more than 200 pounds. Her weight peaked at 250 pounds during her freshman year at George Washington University.

“Those 50 pounds really snuck up on me,” says Klein, who refers to the excess weight as her “freshman 50.” She says she was a couch potato and didn’t pay attention to her health or how she was eating. She’d stay up late and sleep for only a few hours a night, then fill up on pizza, hot wings, and Chinese food. “My boyfriend at the time was pretty sedentary, too,” she says. “That didn’t help.”

Klein managed to lose 40 pounds during her senior year, when she went on the Atkins Diet. But while she liked what she saw in the mirror, she knew the carb-free, protein-heavy diet wasn’t sustainable. “I just love bread too much,” she says. Klein gained back all the weight a year later.

The tipping point, she says, was a 2008 doctor’s appointment. During the checkup, Klein’s doctor casually mentioned her weight and how it had crept back up. “I was offended and angry at the time,” she says. “But the truth is, I was very unhealthy.” Klein would get out of breath walking around and overheat easily. “I was only 24, but I felt so much older.”

Though the doctor didn’t find any specific health problems, Klein had reason to worry. Her father was overweight and had a myriad of health concerns, including sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes; he’d even had a heart attack. She knew if she wasn’t careful, she’d be on a similar path.

In early 2009, Klein resolved to take better care of herself. Step one: Quit smoking—which she did. Klein also started running, but she didn’t drop weight as quickly as she would’ve liked.

“I knew it was because I hadn’t done much to change my eating habits, but it took some time to admit that I needed help in that area,” she says.

In March 2009, Klein joined Weight Watchers because she knew it would give her the boundaries she needed. Through the program, she learned how food should be measured and weighed—she can eyeball it now—and how much she should eat in a day. In two years, she’s dropped 80 pounds.

The biggest obstacle she faced was how to incorporate her new healthy lifestyle into her old routine, especially when it came to her social life. “A lot of times, hanging out with friends meant drinking or eating out at bars,” she says. “I wanted to maintain those relationships but also have health and lose weight.”

Klein’s solution: health dates. Once a week for the past year-and-a-half, she and a friend have kept standing plans to work out together at the gym and then cook a healthy meal. “I’ll still go out for the occasional happy hour, but this way I can be with a friend and still feel healthy,” she says.

Last year, she launched a health-and-fitness blog called Beth’s Journey to document her progress online. Through the site, she’s connected with a community of other healthy-lifestyle bloggers and readers who are facing the same struggles she deals with. She shares what she’s learned along the way, including healthy recipes she creates at home.

In August, she tackled one of the biggest items on her bucket list: a half-marathon. “I just decided one day I wanted to be a runner,” she says. In April 2009, she started the Couch to 5K program to get going, and since then she’s run nine races—most recently, the Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon. She finished in 2 hours and 16 minutes, and she’s already signed up for DC’s National Half Marathon in March. Her goal: to shave ten minutes off her time.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you have to make yourself a priority,” she says. “I’m better able to fulfill my obligations to others if I take care of myself.” She also makes exercise a major priority, scheduling it into her daily and weekly routine. Says Klein: “Exercise is not a should-do anymore—it’s a must-do.”

Have an inspiring health or fitness story to share? We’d love to hear it! E-mail wellbeing@washingtonian.com with details.

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