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By Stephanie Thurrott

Name: Hoang Nguyen

Age: 38

Residence: St. Paul, MN

Job: Ophthalmic medical technologist

Home Life: Single, though she thinks it’s time for her boyfriend of four years to pop the question

Peak Weight: 180 pounds

Current Weight: 140 pounds

Height: 5 feet 6 inches

Hoang Nguyen’s weight gain followed a path that might be familiar to a lot of people. As a child and teenager, she kept her weight at healthy levels. “After graduating from college and getting a 9-to-5 desk job, though, that’s when I ballooned,” she says.

Exercise had been nudged off her calendar — she had been active in her younger days but now she was tired after work. In her free time, she went out with friends instead of working out. Between her workplace cafeteria and meals in restaurants, she was tempted to turn to unhealthy foods.

AN UNEXPECTED CONNECTION MAKES THE DIFFERENCE

But in 2013 she was inspired to make a change. “I was working at the Mall of America and I ran into a friend of a friend. She was a Minnesota Vikings cheerleader, and talking to her got me thinking about my dance days,” Nguyen says. “After that I thought I should get back into dance.”

She had danced in musical theater as a child and studied jazz, ballet, and tap during college, but she hadn’t danced in almost 10 years. She joined a program where she could take unlimited classes to work on her technique and started taking four or five classes a week.

“The dance studio was so close to work, I just walked two and a half blocks to get there,” she says.

Dancing reminded her of other activities she had enjoyed when she was younger. Next up? Hockey. Nguyen had played hockey casually as a kid and enjoyed it, so she reached out to a women’s hockey association and got a spot on a recreational team. “Minnesota is such a hockey state — it’s so big here — and I wanted to do something fun,” she says.

She also started running, in part to spend time with her sister, who was a busy mom with four young children. Nguyen’s sister was in a running club called Moms on the Run. Even though Nguyen doesn’t have children, she started running so they could spend “sisterhood nights” together where they could hang out and stay healthy. “When I ran my first 5k nonstop, that was great,” she says.

While she enjoyed playing hockey and running, she discovered that dance was where she wanted to focus her energy. Most recently she danced at the performing arts festival Minnesota Fringe. And she joins Flash Mob America’s performances in her area. “I do flash mobs whenever I can,” she says.

She says she dropped about 25 pounds in the first three to four months after she started dancing, and the rest of the weight came off more slowly. “Now I am back to my high school weight,” she says.

EXERCISE LEADS TO BETTER FOOD CHOICES

Participating in all of these activities motivated Nguyen to start eating healthier. She scaled back on eating out and moved her diet toward smaller portions with more greens and veggies.

She also trimmed her dinnertime visits to her mom. “My mom cooks a lot of stir fry and fatty Asian food,” she says. “I love her, but every time I would go over, she would keep on feeding me.”

WHAT’S BEHIND HER WEIGHT LOSS SUCCESS?

Nguyen says camaraderie helped her stay committed to exercising. She ran with her sister, and she likes dancing with other people and the instructors in the classes.

And she’s quick to point out that while throwing herself into exercising worked for her, it’s not for everybody. “Everyone is different,” she says. “I took on all of these activities, but not everyone is able to do that. If you need to go slow, take it step by step.”

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