Heavy's Jodi Van Kessel on getting healthy and making a change

Jan 30, 2011 at 4:34 p.m. ET

When Jodi Van Kessel signed on to be a part of A&E's new weight loss series Heavy, she was dangerously overweight and in jeopardy of losing not only her husband but herself. But that's not the Jodi that exists today. Today, she stands proud as a self-proclaimed bad ass, realistically in control of a disease that once threatened to suffocate her existence -- obesity.

Jodi before

A native Texan, Jodi Van Kessel has always had a big personality and has been labeled the life of the party. But that's only one side of the heavy-hearted coin that many obese individuals face every day. Inside, Jodi was not the happy-go-lucky person she portrayed on the outside.

A victim of a poor family situation stemming from mounting tension between her husband and mother, Jodi knew it was time to take back her life. After a life-threatening stroke opened her eyes, Jodi joined the team at Heavy to shed the weight (she began at 363 pounds) and gain the life she always knew was hers to rock! SheKnows was honored to catch up with this vivacious weight loss winner who at the time of this interview has lost a whopping 80 pounds. While she'll admit she may have a ways to go in completing her journey, we're happy to report her humor is still intact only it's no longer a mask.

Jodi gets real about her time on Heavy

SheKnows: There were a few things that brought you to Heavy but usually there's this ah-ha moment for everyone who steps back and says I have to make a change. Talk us through yours.

Jodi Van Kessel: Having a stroke and being confined to a hospital bed for two weeks was the final straw for me. I think between that, and being in the midst of the constant battle between my husband and my mother was really all I needed to drive me toward the decision to do the show and make the change.

SheKnows: Walk us through life in the Heavy program. You really are cut off from your previous reality for the first month, right?

Jodi Van Kessel: I think for me, personally, the whole "being cut off from the outside world" thing was really excellent. I absolutely loved being able to focus on only myself for an entire month. The feeling of not being pulled from every direction by everyone in my life, and actually having a moment to myself to think of what is best for me, was very liberating.

SheKnows: How did you come to believe your trainers were there to help and not hurt you?

Jodi Van Kessel: My relationship with the trainers, Britney to be exact, didn't start off perfect. I think she and I had to have a breaking point with one another to truly understand why we were there. I had difficulty trusting her in the beginning. I felt that because she was fit, and beautiful, and young, she couldn't possibly understand how I felt or how hard it was for me to work out. I wasn't being completely fair, or honest with her about my physical limitations. Once I was able to break that boundary, she and I got closer and closer. As for David, he got me right off the bat. He knew exactly what I was about and exactly what I would and wouldn't give him resistance on, so he didn't take any sh** from me.

SheKnows: You really didn't have any promises of money or fame for completing the show. All you had going in was hope for a better life. Was that enough for you?

Jodi Van Kessel: I have always believed my weight is my only flaw, so money or no money, when the opportunity to make the change in a mandatory setting came about, I jumped in head first! No amount of money could buy the happiness I have been able to achieve -- well, maybe a new Camaro to enjoy my happiness in.

Jodi dishes being sick & tired of being sick & tired

SheKnows: You said something pretty powerful at one point. You had no control in your life playing a mediator between your mom and husband. Food was the one thing that was yours and you could control. Only someone who has lived that can understand that admission but for those who haven't tell us what it means to you and the control it brought you.

Jodi Van Kessel: I had felt for years that the only thing I could control completely was what I put in my mouth. My relationship with my mother has always been strained. This is a major part of what caused the beginning of the rift between my husband and I. At the time, my mother was living with us so I was constantly being the mediator between the two of them. I felt like I had no self identity at all. Between trying to be a servant wife, and a sympathetic daughter, there was no room left for me to just be me. It is so easy to forget who you are in life. I still remember how empowered I felt after I finally started making a breakthrough at the resort, how ready for the world I felt. It was then, that I realized what I had to do was get home, tell my mother I loved her, but that she had to move out, and tell my husband that, while I want him to be in this with me, if he isn't, he could get to steppin'!

Up next...Jodi dishes the nitty-gritty of actually losing the weight, whether onscreen or off.

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