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West Allis woman part of Extreme Team


January 2015

Experts will tell you that having a workout buddy or a weight-loss mentor will help you stick to your fitness program. But millions of TV viewers as your cheering section?

Thatís what Cassie Kraemer had going for her during her quest to get back in shape. Over a one-year span, Kraemer lost 176 pounds ó more than half her body weight ó in a journey documented on ABCís "Extreme Weight Loss."

"I needed the accountability and I needed the help. I recognized that," says Kraemer. "Itís the answer to my prayers. Being on TV isnít for everyone, but itís also very freeing to let it all out there."

Now a toned 167 pounds, 5-feet-7-inches, Kraemer carries herself with a pride that once was unimaginable. She had been overweight for nearly 20 years.

"My self-confidence is up, my self-esteem is up," says Kraemer, 41, who lives in West Allis. "Now because I have so much more energy and I feel so much better about myself, Iím a better employee, a better friend, a better wife ≠ó just better all the way around."

Growing up, Kraemer had been physically fit. She had an unplanned pregnancy at age 21 and placed her son up for adoption ≠ó events that set into motion years of overeating and a sedentary lifestyle.

She worked from home and barely left the house. When she had marital difficulties in 2009, the then-250-pound Kraemer packed on another 100 pounds.

Her turn on "Extreme Weight Loss" included individual and couples therapy to address her painful past.

"I tried a million different diets, but I had never dealt with the emotional side," says Kraemer. "This was the first time I had done that. That probably was the biggest thing for me, to be able to actually get to the underlying root and have the tools to not turn to food for comfort."

Kraemer was selected to be on the TV series after she wrote a letter to Chris Powell, one of the trainers on the show, to ask for his help. She wanted to lose weight before reaching out to her son, now a college student in Ohio.

"I didnít want to meet him overweight, because that wasnít the person I was or should be," Kraemer explains. "And I was turning 40. Iíd been 20 and blinked my eyes and all of a sudden I was 40. I didnít want to blink my eyes again and be 60, and look back on my life and regret missing out on everything."

Participants on the showís Season 4 began with a 90-day boot camp in Denver, including testing and evaluation at the University of Coloradoís Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. The work there was hard but worthwhile, says Kraemer.

"Itís a beautiful state, and itís very active compared to Wisconsin," says Kraemer.

When she returned home, Kraemer stuck to a workout plan seven days a week. She also followed Powellís "Choose More, Lose More for Life" nutrition plan, which features alternating high-carb/low-carb days known as "carb cycling."

Kraemer got help from an unexpected source ó former Green Bay Packer star Donald Driver, who came to her home and helped her replace unhealthy foods in her kitchen with better options. He also worked out with her for several days. "Heís a great motivator and a kind and caring man," says Kraemer.

She says she quickly got used to a camera crew following her around, documenting the ups and downs. "Itís best not to pay attention to that, so you can be real and authentic," she explains. "Lots of people act differently when the camera is on them. I was just myself."

Or maybe itís that Kraemer was just too busy to notice. She exercised two to three hours a day, six days a week (one hour on Sundays) and attended classes at Lakeland Collegeís Milwaukee Center, in addition to holding down her job as a financial analyst with AT&T. She was awarded her MBA in finance on May 4, just 10 days before her finale episode was filmed.

How did she fit it all in?

"Iíd get up early and get my two-hour workout in before work. I just didnít have any time to waste. The TV was barely turned on. I was in bed by 8:30 p.m. so I could get eight hours of sleep," Kraemer explains.

"During that year, I had to put myself first. I had a schedule, and unless it was a life-or-death situation, whatever I had scheduled at that time, thatís what I was doing."

Kraemer did meet her son at her 90-day welcome home event, at Jacksonís Blue Ribbon Pub at the former Pabst brewery, when she was celebrating a 77-pound weight loss. She calls that reunion "awesome and awkward." But it motivated her to continue with her healthy lifestyle. He also was in the audience at her one-year "reveal."

The relationship between Kraemer and her husband is also stronger now. Halfway through her weight-loss year, he turned to better eating and exercise habits and lost 64 pounds. "We eat well together and have fun together," she says.

Since the show aired in July, Kraemer returned to Colorado to have surgery to remove excess skin. To maintain her new weight, she exercises an hour a day. Among her favorite workouts are circuit and strength training, team sports and dance classes. Sheís also big on trampoline aerobics at Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park in Waukesha.

"Itís really fun, and you burn up to 1,000 calories an hour," she explains. "You feel like a 3-year-old, because youíre jumping around and having a good time. I like to do things that trick you into working out, that donít feel like a workout."

Kraemer believes in paying it forward. She maintains a special Facebook page to encourage others who want to lose weight. The T-shirt she sports in one photo sums up her new outlook on a healthy lifestyle. It reads: "Too Fit to Quit."

Cassieís tips for healthy eating:

ē"Find out where you spend the most calories ó for a lot of people, itís soda ó and if you cut that back, youíll lose weight without changing anything else."

ē"You donít have to wait ítil Monday to start the program. You can start it at the next meal. If you mess up, thatís OK. Start over again at the next meal."

ē"Iím going to allow myself to eat what I want on the holidays, but I wonít turn each day into a week-long celebration."


This story ran in the January 2015 issue of: