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Meet a weight loss icon
May 21, 2007, 12:00 AM By Heather Murtagh

Kate Smith, a school teacher in Foster City, lost more than 100 pounds.

In her 20s, Kate Smith had just accepted she was going to be big.

The 32-year-old English and journalism teacher at Bowditch Middle School in Foster City had been large since she was 7 years old. The trend continued until Smith gave birth to her now 4-year-old daughter Elena. That’s when Smith decided she wanted better for her own little girl. Her loss of more than 100 pounds earned her the cover of People magazine last week in a two-piece bathing suit no less.

Getting down to her goal weight wasn’t an instant fix, nor is it over. It’s a daily battle for Smith to maintain her weight and stay healthy for herself, her family and her students.

Extra pounds always weighed Smith down. She was extremely insecure in school and was teased a lot in middle school.

Before entering high school, Smith went to a Weight Watchers summer camp. She entered her freshman year at a healthy weight, however, didn’t maintain the lifestyle changes taught during camp. Slowly the weight piled on.

After graduating from San Mateo High School in 1992, Smith headed to the University of the Pacific then Fordham University for her master’s degree. It was after college that Smith simply accepted her large physique as the way it would always be.  

As Smith studied English in school, she laughed when people asked about her pursuing a teaching career. While attending school in New York, she took a position as a teacher’s aide and fell in love. Smith maintained her love of writing and continues to teach and practice it today.

At 28, Smith gave birth to Elena and her outlook on her weight changed. It was no longer something to be accepted, rather something she didn’t want to pass on to her daughter.

Smith knew it would be a team effort and she got started. At her heaviest, Smith — a 5-foot-9-inch woman — weighed 250 pounds. Pregnancy didn’t help her hide her weight well. Smith didn’t take photos during her pregnancy because she didn’t like the way she looked.

Losing the baby weight and maintaining that loss went well as long as Smith put effort into it. In February 2004, when Smith reached about 190 pounds, she joined Weight Watchers — a program she stuck with for a number of months to help retrain her thinking about her habits.

Weight loss was all about changing eating habits for Smith until she reached 180 pounds. Smith had no desire to participate in physical activity. As she lost weight, however, Smith found herself with more energy and the desire to participate in physical activities. For one year, Smith just took long walks around her neighborhood in San Mateo.

By late August 2004, Smith weighed 165 — the lowest she’d been in 10 years. At that point, she started work at Bowditch and shortly after, married her second husband Ron Smith. The couple got wrapped up in their new life and planning the wedding. Shortly after their wedding, Smith found herself back up to 180 pounds — a scary realization.

The pair joined the Foster City Athletic Club. At the same time, Smith joined — a free Web site allowing individuals to track their exercise and food intake.

It wasn’t until Smith saw her food intake in print that she truly understood how much she ate. Smith began the day with a large breakfast, followed up with a big lunch, then a value meal at McDonald’s before heading home for dinner.

Being accountable to herself and others attempting to lose weight was a motivating force for Smith who reached her goal weight of 150 pounds rather quickly. The detailed account of her habits allowed Smith the ability to see the small changes she could make that would make a big difference.

Her grandfather had lost 100 pounds when he was Smith’s age. At more than 300 pounds, Smith’s grandfather was told he needed to lose the weight or he wouldn’t see his children grow up. He weighed himself every day and kept the weight off for 50 years.

"He would say, ‘if I weighed a little more one day, I eat a little less. If I weigh a little less, I eat a little more.’ It’s genius, because you have to stay accountable,” she said.

Despite questioning by others if she eats enough, Smith today eats six smaller, healthier meals a day. She works out daily and blogs for

Maintaining her routine on keeps the weight off for Smith. Without it, she finds herself five pounds heavier.

Her hard work brought her to the writers of People and the producers of "Good Morning America,” — which she appeared in a four-minute segment of last Monday morning. Everything adds to her students’ understanding of life — from weight to the quick turnaround in the media.

When she isn’t teaching or working out, Smith loves to write and read. She stocks her classroom with literary classics, especially Shakespeare. She coaches track and field and loves Tae Kwan Do — a sport that offers inner focus and awareness along with physical benefits.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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