Kelly Sanders: I Used to Be Fat
University of North Dakota
The new MTV series I Used to Be Fat focused on nine teenagers looking to change their lives and their bodies before heading off to college. Their personal struggles, both physical and emotional, were laid out for the world to see as each teen made their way through the summer.
The season finale focused on Kelly, a Minnesotan who had lost her dad to cancer when she was younger. After all her hard work over the summer was complete, Kelly had not only lost weight, she moved to North Dakota for her freshman year at UND.
Kelly and I sat down at Archives Coffee this week to talk about the show, her life at UND and what’s next for this ambitious woman.
Q: How did you feel watching yourself going through such a transition on TV?
A: I actually got to watch it in New York the Sunday before it aired. MTV flew us all out there to tape the reunion show and since mine hadn’t aired yet, all nine of us and three of the trainers got to watch it. I was really nervous and it was weird to see this whole summer put into one hour. I was nervous to see how they’d show my episode, how much I’ve changed and how they’d portray it. Having my story put out there is a big change for me.
Q: I’m sure there was so much more to your story than could be shown in 60 minutes. Is there anything you feel was left out?
A: I know for TV they have to change some stuff but overall they did a good job cutting things down and getting it to 60 minutes. I liked the way it ended.
Q: What was the hardest part of those 72 days this summer?
A: When you’re working out so much in a day and you have to do weigh-ins each week, it takes a toll on you. I never once missed a workout but there were days that I didn’t do very well. But, I always tried hard. The days that you weigh in where you know it’s going on TV, those are more stressful.
Q: How has this transition in your life been for you – how has it changed you other than just your weight?
A: I’m more outgoing and I feel like I can open up more. Even from the beginning of the year here my friends can tell how much I’ve changed. I can dress the way I want to, I can be myself more, my family and I get along better. I want to go into fashion when I’m older and I felt before like I couldn’t wear the clothes I wanted to wear because I wasn’t comfortable. Now I can and not have to worry so much.
Q: How has your transition to UND been?
A: I think it’s a lot of fun moving out on my own. After the show ended, I didn’t get a trainer on my own so I learned the responsibility of going to the gym was all on me.
Q: I know you hit your goal weight while at UND. What did you do to keep motivated and active when you moved to campus?
A: When I came to school, I lost another 20 pounds so it made me feel really good about myself. I was really worried about the “freshman 15” but I did it. It wasn’t so much about the weight all the time. It was more about how I felt and how I fit in my clothes and less about the scale. I didn’t weigh myself here at UND much, so it was a really great surprise when I hit my goal.
Q: How are you feeling now? Are you still working out?
A: We stopped taping the end of November, and I don’t weigh myself now either, but I’m also less stressed. I think about it as taking one day at a time, working out, eating right. I was at the Wellness Center actually when I saw my commercial for the first time. It was really weird.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do now at UND or in Grand Forks?
A: Going to sporting events and going out with friends. I used to do that a lot but then shied away from it. So now I want to do more of that, go to games, be social.
Q: How would you describe your first year of college so far?
A: It’s a lot of fun meeting the people I’ve met. It’s going by fast. It’s a big change from high school academics and I feel like I’m still getting that down. It’s more responsibility on me.
Q: What’s been the best part of UND for you?
A: Probably the sporting events.
Q: Has anyone recognized you since your episode aired?
A: I know when I was filming at UND a few people saw me and said stuff, but no one has really said much since then. A few people have added me on Facebook, but otherwise not much. That’s been ok with me.
Q: What has that been like for you?
A: The people who have added me on Facebook who aren’t from here have asked me for tips or talked about how I inspired them. That’s really what I wanted to do, help myself but help others. That’s why I was willing to put my story out there. It’s happened to others on the show, too. There was one guy who e-mailed me and said both his parents died and he saw my story and that helped him enroll in college. That was really great.
Q: Did you have any reservations about sharing so much of yourself on camera?
A: I know I was really shy in the beginning when they first came, especially my first interview. It was really weird for me to sit and talk into a camera with the producers and camera people, but I just thought about the outcome and how much it was going to change my life. I didn’t want to hold anything back. I don’t think I ever cried on camera, I always turned away. That was the worst thing. I didn’t want to cry on camera.
Q: What would you say to other people who want to change their lifestyles?
A: Take it one day at a time. I give people tips and exercises, and let them know they might not see results right away but they have to keep at it. People will ask about whether you get cheat days, and I tell them to think about it as a lifestyle not a diet, but to try not to stress over going out with friends for pizza. And, that you have to believe in yourself.
Q: What other goals do you have for yourself now?
A: A big goal is I really want to get into fashion. So, I want to get an internship and move to California or New York after college. I want to own a store, not make the clothes. Weight-wise I just want to keep going and still lose a little more.
Kelly was signed up to audition for MTV's I Used to Be Fat by her sister, who had already tried out for The Biggest Loser. She first made her audition tape in early March 2010, found out she was chosen for the show the end of May, and started filming June.
Watch the reunion show I Used to Be Fat Past to Present this Wednesday, March 2 at 9 p.m. on MTV.
Hvidsten, Amanda, "Kelly Sanders: I Used to Be Fat" (2011). UND News Archive. 31.