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Friendships are part of what makes life special and the first words spoken that lead to these bonds are varied sometimes quite unique, for you never know what kind of difference one person may make.
For Amy Curtis, that friend was J’Nell Ash and those words were “Don’t give up.” Curtis has been involved with Taking Off Pounds Sensibly, or TOPS, since Dec. 2009 and met Ash when she came to a meeting in 2009.
“She walked in and I thought, ‘She’s lost, she’s so skinny,’” said Curtis. “I found out she had lost her weight and gained it back and lost it again a few times.”
Since Ash was at her goal weight, she was classified as a KOPS, Keeping Off Pounds Sensibly. However, at more than 300 pounds, Curtis was not and that night she was feeling the stress of having several responsibilities on her shoulders and not being able to lose weight.
“I homeschool my children and it keeps you busy, you don’t stop,” said Curtis. “(Ash) had homeschooled her children also, so she knew what I was talking about.”
Ash came up to her after the meeting and told her to not quit, to keep going and that she would help Curtis. For several weeks, Curtis turned her food diaries over to Ash to evaluate. Curtis slowly went from hating vegetables and fruits to dying for a banana snack.
“She knew what to do and how to help,” Curtis said. “She believed in me and didn’t make me feel like I was hopeless.”
In return, Ash feels compelled to keep her weight off not only for her health, but because she knows Curtis sees her as a role model. Curtis admits to putting Ash on a pedestal and for good reason.
“J’Nell has MS (muscle dystrophy) and even though she has that obstacle to overcome, she still does runs and bike rides,” said Curtis. “So, when I don’t want to work out, it makes me feel like a weenie.”
Ash had asked Curtis to run in the Founders Day 5K June 2011, however, Curtis said no, not wanting to be made fun of for her weight. She told her she would do it the next year, so this past June, Curtis finished the 5K and even though she didn’t run all of it, finishing it was the main goal.
“J’Nell had told me anyone can do it and when I went across the line, she hugged me and I cried,” she said. “It represented a transformation.”
“I’ll never forget it,” said Ash. “It was a beautiful moment.”
Both women entered the TOPS meeting looking for support and accountability for losing weight or keeping it off. What they found in each other is a friend who is capable of pushing them to be their best and holding them to their goals, as well as being there for other aspects of their lives.
“She’s there for me for anything,” said Curtis. “She’s objective, honest and doesn’t judge me and anything I say will stay with her.”
Ash has held onto her goal weight for three years with Curtis holding her accountable and Curtis has lost 81 pounds under Ash’s guidance. She said she has 60 more pounds to go and believes she can because Ash has taught her anyone can get down to their goal weight.
“I’ve been overweight all my life and I had spent my life praying that God would ‘fix me,’” Curtis said. “This was God orchestrated because I feel like J’Nell was an answer to my prayers.”