Perfect Losers

It was May 2008, and Kimberly Winter Stern was living by a black-and-white rule she incorporated into her life in April 2006: wear black, eat white. 

But she was ready to shed more than just her monochromatic wardrobe.

The tenet had taken hold during a heart-rending season in her life, one in which Stern watched her husband Richard lose a two-year battle with cancer. As the battle raged, well-meaning friends brought food, and lots of it. To console the rigors of care giving and her anticipatory grief, Stern ate everything that was white: breads, potatoes, rice, pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. To hide the pounds, she wore anything black.

By the time Richard passed, a 240-pound Stern seemed only a shadow of her former self. Typically vivacious and engaging, the 50-year-old freelance writer and editor–now Contributing Editor for 435 South–had become uncharacteristically subdued. “Part of it was the grief following Richard’s death,” says Stern. “The other part? I wanted to sink back into the crowd because of the way I looked,” she admits. 

Several months following Richard’s death Stern, a self-professed despiser of exercise, hired a personal trainer. “I knew I needed someone to hold me accountable,” she says. She began walking, exercising on a treadmill and working with weights. She bought a bike and started spinning classes at a local gym.

And while she rapidly dropped what she calls “30 pounds of grief,” she amped up her weight loss by revamping her diet. She learned to eat the right foods–salads, chicken, salmon, fresh vegetables and fruits–and avoid the wrong ones–breads, desserts and other high-carb offerings that further triggered her cravings. Limited portions were key–“I learned to eat from a salad plate rather than a dinner plate,”–as were paying attention to inner signals: “It’s about eating until you are full rather than stuffed,” Stern says.

With each pound shed, Stern felt lighter in spirit too. The former owner of The Good Eats Catering Company noticed the shadow was dissipating; she felt less like hiding and more like herself. She began frequenting restaurants with friends again. But now instead of alcohol she requested water with lemon, and she was quick to ask the server for the healthy options she craved. 

“I believe that, whatever you’re doing and wherever you are, you can always find ways to honor your diet,” she says.

Eighteen months later, Stern emerged from her cocoon of grief 90 pounds thinner. At 5’8″ and more than one year after her initial weight loss, she still maintains a svelte 150 pound-figure. She’ll tell you that eating healthy–and eating well–can become a way of life, even for a writer who dishes about food in her columns and Facebook Page. “I don’t feel like it’s a struggle to make good choices anymore,” she happily reports. 

Stern insists that–with the right mindset–anyone can do what she’s done. “The key is to stay in the moment, ” she says, “and remember, it’s one pound at a time.”

These days nearly all of Stern’s moments seem pretty good. Her big personality is back, and in true “woman-about-town” fashion, you can usually catch a glimpse of her at the latest Leawood restaurant opening or social event, flitting among the crowd, glad-handing and air-kissing while at all times gathering fodder for the next big story she’s writing.

The outcome of her weight-loss journey? “I feel lighter,” Stern says, and that’s a phrase she means both literally and figuratively. “Everything doesn’t seem like such an effort.”

She’s in a relationship and she’s even wearing colors again. “There’s less of me physically now,” she concludes, “but more of me to offer emotionally, spiritually and mentally.”

words: Cisley Thummel

photos: Paul Versluis