As Kansas obesity numbers rise, one KU junior shares her battle with weight loss

Two years ago, Aley Brown avoided walking up hills and steps because it was horrifying. Today, she’s 90 pounds thinner and proudly strides up stairs, loving the dose of cardio exercise.

At the age of 18, Brown was 5-foot-6 and 215 pounds. Bad news from the doctor changed her life that year. She was diagnosed a pre-diabetic with high blood pressure, and she was at risk for glaucoma.

According to Center for Disease Control (CDC), 35.7 percent of Americans are obese. CDC defines “overweight” as having a body mass index between 25 and 29.9, and obese is a BMI of 30 or greater. Brown had a BMI more than 30.

“I felt awful about myself and I couldn’t believe I let it get that far,” Brown said. “I decided to change. I felt like I had this huge, long life ahead of me.”
America’s obesity rates, along with health issues, are expected to dramatically increase over the next 20 years, according to a recent study, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012,” a report by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“I am surprised,” said Matthew Jones, a sophomore from Portland, Ore.  “I figured with all the information on how to properly diet and take care of yourself these days, it’d be a lot easier to maintain your weight.”

Kansas’ obesity rate is expected to more than double. Currently, 29.6 percent of adults are obese, according to the study, and the rate is projected to reach 62.1 percent by 2030.

“You see a lot of people running and a lot of people bicycling, but they aren’t the majority of the population,” said Demetria Obilor, a senior from Las Vegas.

“We need better programs for children, and more so, we need to educate parents so that they can reinforce the values that are being taught in schools.”

Obilor also said Kansas has a somewhat sedentary life style, and she wasn’t shocked about the climbing rates.

“Obesity is caused by a number of factors, including genetic and environmental factors,” said Ric Steele, a professor of applied behavioral science. “The fact that kids are not getting enough physical activity every day contributes to the problem and the kinds of foods they eat.”

Obesity is genetic in Brown’s family. Bullying in high school also contributed to her obesity and low self esteem.

“Girls were absolutely awful to me,” Brown said.

Girls picked on Brown throughout her childhood. She said she was a chubby girl but popular, which made some girls jealous. When she joined choir, Brown was chosen to sing a solo. Bullies said she looked fat in the dress she performed in, which she had trouble zipping up.

Brown was also cyber bullied in high school because of her weight. Someone created a fake Facebook account and added Brown. After she accepted the unknown request, the person sent her links to websites that said things such as “how to tell if you are fat or pregnant.”

On a couple of occasions, the “hot guys” in school asked her out on dates or to dances. She rarely received attention from guys, and when she realized they were joking, she was hurt.

“I remember coming home from high school and sitting in front of my TV,” Brown said. “I would eat a whole thing of cookie dough and just feel bad for myself.”

While visiting home for fall break during her freshman year in college, Brown’s little sister asked her to go the mall.

“I made up an excuse to not go to the mall with her, because I was too embarrassed that I couldn’t fit into the same clothes from stores that she wanted to shop in,” Brown said. “I couldn’t fit into anything from American Eagle.”

Reflecting on her embarrassing experiences helped Brown change her life. She said “it all started with small changes.” After receiving the bad news from the doctor, she started cutting out the bad relationships in her life. She also started going to the gym for 20 minutes a day and eating healthier foods.

Brown’s weight loss progressed and she continued going to the gym and doing small workouts throughout her day. Family and friends encouraged and supported her new life style. She kept herself motivated by Googling weight loss quotes. She printed them off, cut them up and stuck them in a jar. Anytime she felt down about herself, she would pull a random quote to keep her going.

Today, Brown is 125 lbs and happier and healthier than ever. Over the course of two years, she lost 90 lbs.

As soon as Brown lost weight, guys started to notice her and started seriously ask her out. She was flattered by all the new attention, but she didn’t realize it was negative attention. She said she made a couple of bad decisions. Her new challenge became weaving out the bad guys.

Girls also started treating her differently. Before she lost weight, skinny girls didn’t want to be her friend. Now, some girls think she’s vain. Skinny girls, who didn’t know her before, want to be her friend.

“It’s weird,” Brown said. “I never get used to seeing myself. It feels good. I don’t have any health problems anymore.”

Brown’s goal is to become a nutritionist so she can help others accomplish weight loss and healthy life styles. In April, at 140 lbs, Brown started a blog to motivate other people struggling with obesity.

“The first blog I wrote was so hard,” Brown said. “It’s emotional and physical. It’s hard being that open, but I’ve had some many people tell me they go through the same things but no one ever speaks up and talks about it. Nobody wants to talk about their weight because everyone has weird body-image phobias.”

To view her blog, go to

“The hardest part was starting,” Brown said.

  • Updated Oct. 1, 2012 at 9:38 am
  • Edited by Sarah McCabe
  • Karmeka Shaleigh Allen

    Loved it

  • BB

    Wow! Thank you for being willing to share your story. So many people struggle, and don’t have the voice.

  • Renee French

    So proud of you Aley!!!

  • Coach T

    Such a motivating story! Thank you for sharing…and for speaking up! I’m anxious to follow your blog….as I struggle with my weight too. Take time to love yourself every single day! You SHINE!

  • Brian Jay Gilmore

    Edit suggestion: “Obese is having a BMI over 30. She had a BMI over 30″. It’s redundant, and perhaps a bit of a tautology.

    Otherwise, Aley, I’ve already told you a dozen times about how awesome you did. Don’t think I can tell you enough, though.

  • Christine Weaver

    How brave of you to share your story! I know it will help many! What a beautiful person you are inside and out!