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Wright’s Corners volunteer firefighter and nurse lost more than twice her weight

Once weighing over 300 pounds, Bonita “Bonnie” Reid now swims in an extra-large jacket she ordered months ago, but that was before she lost more than 185 pounds. She’s gone from wearing a size 30, to a 6.

“Size 30 was the biggest size in the plus-size store,” said Reid, who at 57 has had to battle weight all her life. “I’ve never been called petite. Looking back, I was kind of chunky in my kindergarten picture.

But Reid said after she got to 330 pounds she was having trouble walking, was in pain and couldn’t even ride her own horse. The family owns Blaze’s Pony Express and takes the ponies to birthday parties, but she was in too much pain to walk them.

Also a nurse, Reid at one time counseled people recovering from heart attacks – and realized that someday that could be her.

On June 10, 2012, she signed up online for Weight Watchers. Though she admits she can’t remember why, she clearly remembers the day she decided to change her eating habits.

“One of the great things is how proud my daughter is of me,” said Reid.

Her daughter, Alaina, 23, is also a volunteer for Wrights Corners Fire Company and an advanced emergency medical technician for Twin Cities ambulance. Her son Derek is a dispatcher for Rural Metro.

Reid admits there is no magic pill to lose weight.

“If I hadn’t have done the exercise I wouldn’t be as small as I am because you have to build muscle that burns more calories and that’s what I think is going to help me keep it off,” said Reid. “I don’t think it would be easy to go back to how I was eating. I used to eat bags of chips and ice cream and stuff like that. I also drank a lot of soda – diet soda. It was never regular soda. I don’t drink any soda whatsoever now. I drink a lot of water now.”

She and her husband, Michael, have been married 40 years.

What is your job?

I’m a registered nurse at the Buffalo VA hospital. I’m the union president for the registered nurses. I’ve been there 29 years. I’m the director of National Nurses United.

On the Today Show you were recognized nationally for your accomplishment. How did that happen?

I have a friend who lives in New York City. When I got to my goal, around the first of September, I posted before and after pictures on Facebook. [My friend] sent it to Joy Bauer on Fit Club – without asking me.

Were you surprised?

Well they were looking for people who had lost more than a 100 pounds, without surgery, just through diet and exercise and since I had lost 185, I really wasn’t too surprised.

What was it like behind the scenes?

It was exciting. They flew me to New York City from Chicago, where I was for a union meeting. My friend came in and we stayed overnight. It was very interesting behind the scenes. And they did hair and makeup. I’m not a real makeup person, but I looked pretty good., but I would never do all that. When I was on the show I never said a word. Hoda and Kathie Lee did all the talking. If they had asked me something I would have spoken.

Did anyone else notice you were on TV.

The public affairs officer [at the hospital] posted a link to it. That’s 2,000 employees in the facility. I know a lot of people in my job and most people know I lost a lot of weight, but it seems like in the past six months people were not recognizing me.

No wonder, 185 pounds. That’s got to be more than twice your weight.

Actually I weighed 144 this morning, even after some holiday parties. I try to stay below 150. I’m about 5-foot-4. So if you put me on that grid I would probably still show up as overweight. That’s so ridiculous.

Well you look very petite to me.

I’ve never been petite in my life, but now I’ve built a lot of muscle.

What prompted you to change your diet?

We had been having national negotiations, out of town, two weeks out of every month. We were living in a residence that was very nice, but we had been doing a lot of eating and I had gained 30 pounds. I was always around 300 pounds for the last 15 years, but doing this I went up to 330. These two ladies who were working with me started going to Weight Watchers and were showing significant weight loss. I thought, “Dang if they can do it, I can do it.”

So how did you do it?

I had tried Weight Watchers numerous times in the past. I hated going to those meetings. I hated going to the weigh-ins, but now they had that online-only option. But it’s not only Weight Watcher, there’s all sorts of apps you can get for your cellphone. Lose It, My Fitness Pal, you just have to be accountable for your eating. So, I thought, OK, I’m going to do it. At that point my knees were killing me, my back was killing me if I stood up for any length of time. I had horses at home. I was forced to care for them, but I was too heavy to ride my horse.

That must have been hard to take.

Yeah. She was kind of old and had arthritis. I just couldn’t do that to her. So I hadn’t ridden since October of 2012.

Is being overweight something you’ve had to deal with all your life?

I was chunky in my kindergarten picture, actually looking back. Then I got it under control for about five years after college and then I got pregnant and gained 40 pounds with the first pregnancy – and never lost any of it. Then two years later, got pregnant again and gained another 40 pounds. So that put me up to 240, then over the next 20 years it kept inching up and inching up.

Were you one of those people who didn’t want to be in photos or look at yourself?

I wasn’t happy with how I looked and I wasn’t in many photographs. When I got ready to go on the Today Show they asked for full-length before photos. I told them, “Don’t you know fat girls don’t take full-length photos?”

Is this the thinnest you’ve been?

Yes. Before, when I lost weight, I got down just below 160.

So you know it’s hard to keep it off.

Yes, but I know I’m not going to get pregnant at this point (laughs). I know now the rest of my life I’m going to have to watch it. So I have not stopped doing the Weight Watchers. I think I am going to have to do that pretty religiously for a long, long time. I’m a registered nurse. I know what I have to do.

Do you feel better?

What do you think? I feel great, at least 30 years younger. I feel younger, strong. I can do anything now.

What can you do that you couldn’t do before?

Walk. Go up stairs. I can up-and-down a lot of stairs. I can ride my horse. I bought a new horse when I got to my original goal of 160.

What do people always ask you?

How I did it. Some people, especially nurses, before they say I look great, make sure that I didn’t lose it because I was sick, because a lot of time when heavy people lose weight you just assume they did it because they want to, but if you get sick and lose weight you look better, but you don’t feel better. It’s always thoughtful when people ask, “Are you OK?’’

When did you decide to join Wrights Corners Fire Company?

My son and daughter were involved and my daughter said, “When you lose some weight you can join.” I always said I was too heavy to join. After I lost 60 pounds, I still weighed 260 pounds. She told me to join and I said, OK. A year ago in March I got in and since then I’ve lost another 100 pounds. So they’ve had to resize me for my gear three times.

Has losing weight changed your role in the fire department?

It’s a lot easier to move around in the gear. It’s easier to walk and get on and off the truck. I’m not 20 year old. My daughter is in her 20s. She does the hard stuff. I still do the support like hook up the hose and drag them around. I would not go inside. I am an exterior firefighter. The EMT is the big thing. Being a nurse it was easy for me to transition to the EMT role, but I still had to take all the same classes as anybody that was new.

What has been the most fun for you in this weight loss journey?

Clothes and the horses. I grew up loving horses and I’ve always loved horses. Being able to get back to riding.

As a nurse, do you give people who want to lose weight advice?

At one point when I worked in cardiac rehab I had to counsel people on their diet and exercise. I always could exercise, until right at the end, until I gained that last 30 pounds. I was still relatively fit taking care of the horses every day. But then when I got to 330 and I would see heavy people in the wheelchair carts in the grocery store I thought that was going to be me or I am going to die of a heart attack if I don’t do something. I wanted to retire healthy.

Have you changed both what you eat and your exercise?

When I first started with Weight Watchers I was too heavy to exercise in any meaningful way. I could barely walk. I started walking first and after I lost 60 pounds I started going to the exercise room at work. Then, when I lost a little over a 100 pounds I joined Snap Fitness and that’s when I really started to get in shape. Even though I only lost an additional 60 pounds I lost a lot more in inches. I like being strong. I exercise five or six days a week, 30 minutes of cardio, 30 minutes of strength training .

How should we be eating?

I fill up on vegetables. Fruit and vegetables. You shouldn’t be hungry. There’s no reason to be hungry when you are losing weight, if you fill up and are eating volumes of the right kind of food. It doesn’t have to be salads. There are all types of wonderful vegetables out there and all sorts of wonderful ways to fix them. I found I felt better if I didn’t eat so many carbohydrates and refined foods. They call it clean eating.

What do you tell other people?

I tell people if I could do it, you could do it, but you have to be accountable to yourself and you have to make a commitment to do it for the long haul.

What’s your secret for the holidays?

Portion control on the bad stuff and filling up with healthy foods. You have to limit the fruits a little, because of the sugar, but there’s no limits on vegetables. Make healthier versions of your favorite foods. That doesn’t men you don’t have any Christmas cookies, but you can’t have 30 – maybe three.

Know a Niagara County resident who would make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email email: