Penny Leaver, 43, from Farmersville lost 160 lbs and fulfilled her life-long dream of becoming a firefighter.
Penny Leaver, a 43-year-old from Texas, wanted to become a firefighter ever since she was a kid. She told PEOPLE, "I always wanted to be a first responder." She tried becoming a police explorer in school and was really attracted to the idea of working in the fire department. She has been featured in PEOPLE's Half their size issue and talked about her weight-loss journey in great detail. When she was in school, it seemed like she could achieve this dream of hers. She lived in a house where there was a constant check on the food the children were consuming. She said, "We were counting calories as soon as we could add." She was extremely active and was participating in sports activities like basketball and softball. However, when she left for college, things took a turn for the worse.
Never let anyone tell you, you can't achieve your dream job. Congratulations Penny Leaver.— 🇺🇸Michael A. Moore🇺🇸 (@FirehouseMike) December 28, 2021
After losing 160 Lbs. this woman Is fulfilling her 'Childhood Dream' of becoming a Firefighter:https://t.co/NOSUiaOXDL
As soon as she got away from the control her parents had imposed on her eating habits, she started trying out all the food that she never could. She states, "And from there, it just started spiraling out of control and it never got better." She gained a lot of weight over time and four years ago, she weighed around 316 lbs. She talked about how she felt during that time, "I hated myself. I hated the way I looked. I hated the way I felt." She added, "I would have breakdowns in dressing rooms trying on clothes and then go eat afterwards because that was what soothed me." Her weight was also causing severe health problems like polycystic ovary syndrome, pre-diabetes and she had high blood pressure. She also developed supraventricular tachycardia or SVT which is a dangerous heart disorder that can cause heart attacks. Doctors suggested she lose weight but she really didn't understand how her weight was causing a problem.
Texas woman loses 160 lbs. and fulfills her childhood dream of becoming a firefighter at age 43 - https://t.co/l0630OsIXC— Witnessdaily.online (@WitnessDaily_) December 28, 2021
She said, "Nobody really explained to me why or how or what exactly I needed to do until the last time I went to the hospital and the cardiologist was like, 'You're not going to live to your next birthday if you don't get your weight and your life under control.'" This comment scared and inspired her to finally sign up for a weight-loss program, Optavia. The first week was extremely difficult for her but she dutifully followed all the diet plans given to her. She ate a lean protein diet and swapped her snacks for healthy alternatives like celery or peanut butter. She lost 7 lbs. in the first week of the program. Leaver successfully lost around 160 lbs. in 15 months with the help of the program and the weight loss community. However, when she lost her job in September 2020, she started to revert to her old eating habits.
She said, "I was stressing about money and trying to find a job and decide what I wanted to do with my life." Leaver then was inspired by her Optavia coach who told her that she could pursue anything she wants as her career at this point. "That was when I decided that I was going to get serious about getting physically fit and apply with the fire department," Leaver reveals. So, she went ahead with her journey of becoming a first responder. She passed her physical agility test in September this year and has already started with her EMT training in the spring. She told, "I'm very proud of how far I've come. I never would've been able to do that if I hadn't lost the weight."
Cover Image Source: Still from Good Morning America