Camas woman tries new activities in weight-loss quest

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



Laina Harris stretches at the end of her first Bellyfit class last week in east Vancouver.

Four pounds. That’s all that separates Laina Harris, a woman weighing in the 300s, from being a woman weighing in the 200s.

“Eventually, I will not see a three as my first number,” she said. “And I can’t wait.”

While she’s lost nearly a third of her body weight, she’s gained a whole new life.

“My life today looks nothing like it did even six months ago,” Harris said.

Today, Harris’ life is full of fruits and vegetables, homemade meals, weekend hikes and exercise classes. Her life includes doing things she hadn’t done in 20 years — such as playing tennis and taking group fitness classes — and dreaming of physical feats she wants to accomplish — such as running a half-marathon and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

“That one decision that I made has completely and totally changed my life,” Harris said. “I am so grateful for that.”

That one decision was to stop watching her life pass by and to start living. To do that, Harris had to trade in her sedentary life for a more active, healthy life.

That decision has taken the Camas woman from 420 pounds to 303 pounds — and dropping.

Harris’ weight-loss pace has slowed the last couple of months. She’s sticking to her plan — eating healthful foods, getting plenty of sleep and exercising daily — and the pounds are still coming off, just a little more slowly.

In addition to the weight-loss success, Harris is experiencing nonscale victories.

Just a few months ago, Harris was afraid and embarrassed to exercise in front of other people. The past few weeks, she’s filled her schedule with group fitness classes: Bellyfit, Zumba, cardio kickboxing — anything to keep her moving.

“You really fear going into a group setting when you’re larger,” Harris said. “But you get there and have a whole bunch of fun.”

“You realize your eyes are glued to that teacher, and so is everyone else,” she added.

She’s also taken up tennis, a sport she gave up years ago.

“The fact that I can run for the ball is awesome,” Harris said.

And she’s finding ways to continue family traditions without tempting herself.

For Halloween, Harris and her husband took their kids to a church carnival. They jumped in the bounce house, played games and went on hay rides. The kids didn’t fill buckets with trick-or-treating candy– instead they each received a small bag of candy at the carnival — and Harris wasn’t tempted to dig through their sweets.

Harris is also enjoying family-favorite meals but with healthier ingredients.

Spaghetti squash replaces the noodle variety. Homemade soup stock replaces the canned stuff. Fresh fruits and vegetables replace starchy side dishes.

Harris can see the difference her new lifestyle makes every time she looks in the mirror.

The clothes that fit her just a month ago are now baggy. Her belly is toning and her muscles are becoming defined. She can see her collarbone. She needs a belt.

“There’s no feeling in the world like it,” Harris said.

“I will not go back to stretchy nothing,” she added. “I love that I have a button and a zipper.”

While Harris revels in the victories on and off the scale, her determination is rooted in that decision she made months ago: to start living.

“There’s no finish here,” Harris said. “This is a forever thing.”

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546;;;