For most people, getting a traffic ticket is nothing to celebrate, but for one woman from South Carolina, it was a moment that she says inspired her to lose close to 200 pounds.
Janette Colantonio was driving home from school in her hometown of Summerville, when she saw the lights of a state trooper flashing behind her, reports Fox 6 News. She immediately knew what the ticket was for. It was a seatbelt violation. Colantonio weighed 408 pounds and had not worn a belt in years — she simply couldn't fit it across her body.
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The trooper, Mark Amos, was nice, says Colantonio, "but that ticket was like reality in my face." It was the beginning of a year-and-a-half long journey towards a healthier lifestyle, and along the way Colantonio shed close to 200 pounds by eating right, exercising, and learning how to change her unhealthy habits. She says she used no pills or surgery, but lost all the weight naturally.
For Colantonio, the ticket was a wake-up call that motivated her to change nearly everything about the way she lived, and later she even sought out Amos to thank him personally.
Weight loss brought on by a sudden moment of epiphany is not rare. We see these dramatic turnarounds in the media all the time.
Texan Melissa Morris used to weigh 673 pounds, and made headlines earlier this year when she dropped 500 pounds. Her motivating moment? She was unable to visit her sick mother's bedside in the hospital because her motorized chair would not fit through the door.
"Everyone in my family was in my mom's room but me," Morris tells ABC. It was an all-time low, and it prompted Morris to get gastric bypass surgery that eventually lead to her dramatic weight loss.
"These types of moments happen all the time," says Jean-Pierre Després, professor of kinesiology at Laval University in Quebec and a member of the Obesity Network of Canada.
Després says that everyone's trigger is different. "It's like they turn the switch on. It could be a discussion with the kids, or maybe they've just learned they have type 2 diabetes. Whatever the case, they need to be psychologically ready to make that change."
Després says that when that moment comes, it's important that the individual have access to the information and support that will allow them to act on their motivation.
"In Canada, we have 2.5 million people with type 2 diabetes," says Després. "It's a societal disease that can be explained by lifestyle, and what do we do? We give them pills."
He says a life-long obese person needs access to a dietician and kinesiologist. These professionals can help formulate a plan so that when an individual reaches that defining moment, they can "flick that switch" like Colantonio did, and make significant and lasting change to their personal health.