Teacher dances off 100 pounds to find her dream body

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In fall 2012, Roni Tarver was in a bad
The 5-foot-6-inch teacher weighed 235 pounds
and suffered back pain almost constantly. She was
popping 10 to 15 ibuprofen daily, which took a toll
on her stomach. It didn’t help that she was on her
feet most of the day and dealing with the stress
and exhaustion of being a relatively new teacher.
Her husband never once said anything about her
weight, which made her feel worse about not
taking care of herself. She had quit smoking, but
knew she needed to get active because climbing
stairs still left her winded.
“I really married the most sweet, wonderful,
compassionate man in the world. He never made
me feel bad about it, so I think I felt more guilty,”
said Tarver, 29, a high-school agriculture teacher
who lives in the Fort Worth, Texas, area. She
remembers thinking, “Why aren’t you taking the
initiative? This man loves you for who you are.”
She had never had the body she wanted. By that
November, she had had enough. She was done
being just the outgoing, funny girl. She was done
being heavy.
“I found myself crying in bed one night over my
weight, and my husband told me that he thought I
was beautiful, but if I was so unhappy, I should do
something about it,” Tarver wrote on CNN iReport .
“This triggered something in me.”
The very next day, she said, she began
monitoring her calories and walking or
riding the stationary bicycle six days a
week. After two months, she was brave
enough to step foot inside a gym. That
was January 3, 2013.
Soon after, she signed up for her first
Zumba class.
It was the beginning of her new life.
Tarver started sampling every available
evening dance class. As the daughter
of an aerobic dance instructor, the
movements came easily. By the third
week, she wanted to be there all the
time, dancing to exhaustion under the
club lights in the gym’s group fitness
room. She supplemented classes with
one to two nights working out on the
elliptical machine and lifting weights.
“My instructors were amazing, and
made me feel like they loved having me there,” she
said. “I was having a blast exercising for the first
time in my life.”
One of her instructors, now a close friend, found
her on Facebook and would message her if Tarver
missed a class. She also offered to make her CDs
with music she noticed Tarver liked in class.
After 10 months, Tarver’s teacher encouraged her
to get certified to teach her own classes. Tarver
has been teaching Zumba and other classes that
combine fitness and dance for the past four
months, in addition to the classes she takes.
“You really feel like you’re in a club, dancing with
people, but you don’t have a hangover in the
morning. At the end of it, you feel awesome, you’re
exhausted, and you can go back and do it
tomorrow if you want. It’s good for your soul, if
you ask me.”
Tarver knew exercise wasn’t enough to really get
healthy. She had to change her eating habits, too.
She didn’t follow a particular diet, but stuck to a
few principles.
The first few months, she rarely ate out, if at all,
and cut out fast food in favor of salmon or grilled
chicken with vegetables. At school, she ate a
protein shake or bar for breakfast, a banana, apple,
pear or some clementines for a snack, more fruit
and a low-calorie frozen dinner for lunch. She
used a calorie counter app on her phone to track
her intake, sticking to about 1,500 to 1,700
calories per day based on how fast or slow she
was losing weight.
She also cut out dairy, which was probably the
hardest sacrifice.
“I could drink a whole gallon of whole milk in two
days. I really, really liked cheese and milk a lot,”
she said. “It was difficult at first because I was so
conditioned to eating cheese, but I felt better.”
After a couple of months, she allowed herself one
cheat meal a week — two bacon and egg taquitos
from her favorite fast food chain every Tuesday.
She still has that ritual, but is a little freer with her
diet on the weekends.
When Tarver started her weight loss journey in
November 2012, at 235 pounds, she wore size 22
pants and was about 42% body fat. Within 14
months, she was down to 135 pounds, a size 6
and 21% body fat. Her back pain is almost
completely gone, she has her dream body and is
“the happiest I have ever been.”
“I can’t believe how easy it was — how fast the
weight came off when I was doing the right thing,”
she said. “I’m thrilled out of my mind with my
Her husband, Tom Tarver, says Roni has always
been beautiful, but it’s clear to him how much
better she feels.
“I’m very proud of her, and I would choose the
way she feels now over however she looks,” he
said. “She’s happier, and she is just a fun person
to be around. It’s the kind of person you want to
be married to.”
Tarver fluctuates between 130 and 135 pounds and
considers herself to be in maintenance mode; she
carries around some extra skin from the weight
loss, but will happily accept the extra skin over the
extra weight.
“If I could give one piece of advice to anyone
struggling with their weight, it would be to find
something active that you love doing, and don’t
give up,” Tarver said. “Consistency is key to
making any lifestyle changes. Find a support
system and tell people what you are trying to do
for yourself. When you say it out loud, you become

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