VALDOSTA – Crystal Butler paused as tears escaped her eyes.
Reflecting on her mother’s journey made her emotional, but she couldn’t talk about her own path without mentioning her mother’s.
Butler recalls moving her mother into her home after she was diagnosed with cancer. She said she quit both of her jobs to care for her mom, an act of kindness that lasted six years.
In that time, her mom’s weight fell from 170 pounds to 59 pounds, Butler said.
“I went through a lot of emotional eating because I was hurt seeing her just deteriorate before my eyes,” Butler said. “I turned into an emotional eater to cope with the fact that my mother was dying and seeing her in the condition she was in.”
She said her weight began to fluctuate and ultimately became a medical concern.
Butler endured three unsuccessful knee surgeries and 18 months of physical therapy. She was on crutches for eight months.
“The doctor told me I could either lose the weight or I lose my leg,” she said.
The message served as the wake-up call she needed, Butler said.
She lost 115 pounds.
Since, she has established the Weigh to Go support group to assist others with weight concerns. Founded in January, Weigh to Go members walk daily and meet monthly.
With 97 active members, Butler said group members encourage one another and receive help with lifestyle changes.
The group serves the purpose to go beyond shedding pounds and provides motivation for women through any trials and tribulations that may cause weight gain.
Contributions to a person’s weight gain could be emotions, a bad relationship, feelings of loneliness and numerous others, Butler said.
“I can feel what these women are going through and that’s why I’m able to help heal them. There’s no way I can see an overweight person and pick at them because I have been a victim and I know how that feels; so therefore, you can’t heal what you can’t feel,” she said.
“It would be hard for someone who hasn’t experienced this to help somebody. But when you have walked in those shoes, you’re able to relate to how it felt when you were in those shoes and how it felt when you came out of those shoes.”
In February, the group took on the theme “Matters of the Heart” by conversing about topics such as depression, hopelessness, thoughts of suicide and helplessness which may have played into weight gain.
Butler said coupled with walking and a Biggest Loser challenge, members have lost more than 500 pounds altogether.
Women split into groups so no one walks alone. Butler’s group meets at 4 a.m. and includes the oldest member, Ethelrene Hargett.
“Just her alone motivates a lot of people,” Butler said.
Butler has been her own source of inspiration as she has influenced others to create similar groups outside of Valdosta, in places such as New York and Virginia, she said.
Anyone wanting to join Weigh to Go must be cleared by a physician. The support group has three registered nurses, three licensed practical nurses and one nurse practitioner who help with diet and nutrition.
Butler said she wants Weigh to Go to help women unapologetically lose weight and be healthy in a way that is beneficial for them.
“I have a heart of compassion,” she said. “I have a heart of loving people for who they are, and I just want to see every woman happy about themselves physically.”
Call (229) 269-0393 for more information.