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After wake-up call, Price turns her life around
From 312 to 221 pounds and counting
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Jonna Price raises her arms in victory. Since she decided to turn her health around on March 30, she has lost 91 pounds. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Sunday, January 13, 2013

By HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Accent Editor

Jonna Price didn’t set out to lose 91 pounds. Her only goal in March was just to keep from getting any bigger.

Ten months later, she couldn’t be any more delighted.

On March 30, she went to a doctor’s appointment. She weighed 312 pounds, and the doctor said she was going to continue to gain weight.

“I was thinking I was going to be one of those people they have to cut out of the house. That terrified me,” she said.

“I sat in my car in the parking lot for 20 minutes and cried,” she added.

Then she drove straight to the YMCA.

She asked to speak to the manager. Executive Director Brad Kinkema came to talk with her.

Price told him, “I don’t know” what to do. “I need some help. I need to know what I need to do.”

He recommended her to Wellness Director Rebecca Adcock, who worked with her right away. Adcock set her up on a computer program that monitors calorie intake and exercise, and she assessed Price’s level of fitness.

When Adcock asked what Price’s weight loss goal was, Price did not know how to answer.

“I didn’t go to lose weight,” she said. “I went to not gain weight. When Rebecca told me to set a goal weight, I was just throwing out numbers.”

Price’s knees are bad, so she could not take traditional exercise classes. Instead, she participated in water aerobics.

She went to the classes every day. On the fourth day, her knee gave way when she got out of bed. It would be impossible to exercise.

Or nearly impossible.

“Something just said ‘don’t quit,’” she recalled.

Instead, Price went to the class and went out into deep water. She wore some floats to keep her up. Without her feet touching water, there was no pressure on her legs.

It was a little lonely out there, too far from the other women in the class to visit and laugh, “but it kept me going,” she said.

Healthier eating also has played a role in her improvements. She said she learned there’s no trick to portion control — just pay attention to the serving size information on food packages.

“You get to the point that you know what a half cup is,” she said.

She has kept to 1,800 calories per day. She eats six small meals each day to keep her metabolism on an even keel.

In these nine months, she’s gone from a size 24 at 312 pounds to size 16 at 221. Pounds aren’t all she’s reducing. She has gone from too many medications to count down to just six. She hopes to get off them all.

She also gained something she wasn’t expecting: a fun routine with new friends. Now that her son has left home, “This gives me some purpose,” she said. “It gets me out of the house, something to do and meet people.”

Her son, Averion “AJ” Williamson, is a staff sergeant in the Air Force. He is a 2005 graduate of Martinsville High School.

Gradual increases

“I never battled weight as a kid,” Price, 44, said. “I was a size 0 all the way through school. I ate everything I wanted.”

When she was pregnant in 1987, her weight went from 108 to 176 pounds. She lost most of the weight.

However, migraine headaches she’d been having since childhood caught up with her. She suffered intensely from them, sometimes for 14 days straight.

The nausea that the headaches brought on made her go long spells without eating. That, she said, is what slowed down her metabolism.

She gained weight and took on a jolly persona to go with it.

“Being large never made me mad,” she said. “I always joked about being big.” She called herself Big Mama Kousa.

A turning point came when she went to King’s Dominion on a church trip a year or two ago. The group had waited in line for a roller coaster for an hour and a half. When their turn came and she sat down, the seat belt did not fit. The attendant told her she could not ride the roller coaster.

“I knew I could either get off in shame or make a joke about it,” Price said. Determined to ride, she told the attendant and the others around her to “get a crow bar, get an extra man,” anything to force her into that seat belt.

“They got that thing closed and I got on that roller coaster,” she said. She made a point of riding all the roller coasters that day, going through the same comic routine of squeezing into a seat belt.

However, the joking hid an inner revelation. “The doctors always considered me morbidly obese, but that was the first time I ever felt morbidly obese,” she said.

It was one of a long list of difficulties: she only could tie her shoes from the side, and she felt claustrophobic in rest room stalls, she said.

“I always joked about my size, but I started noticing some things” getting worse, such as not being able to get out of the bathtub, she said.


Price measures her victories pragmatically.

The first thing she was excited about was being able to cross her legs. She had not done that in years. One day, she heard a flip-flop sound. She looked around to see what it was — and discovered she was sitting with her legs crossed, moving her foot and flip-flop.

Another gratifying moment came when she wore her first pair of high heeled shoes in 15 years.

Price is looking forward to matching her inner beauty with her newly uncovered outer beauty. She aims to be a better person, maintain a pleasant attitude and to “know God on a personal level.”

Price stopped working in 1996 because of health problems. Now she looks forward to finding a job. She doesn’t know yet what it would be, other than that she would enjoy working with the public.

She also looks forward to spending time with her 1-year-old grandson, Alec Joshua Williamson.

Her son has not seen her lately, and she’s looking forward to his reaction. Not only has she lost weight, but she does not smoke or curse.

“He’s going to have a whole new mommy,” she said.


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