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The Reluctant Guru 

Woman loses 200 pounds and gains tons of admirers.

Worth the weight: Sarah Scott warms up to her new - role-model status. - WALTER NOVAK
  • Walter Novak
  • Worth the weight: Sarah Scott warms up to her new role-model status.
Sarah Scott cut her weight in half. And her secret won't cost $32.95 for a one-month supply.

Instead, the 43-year-old Medina County woman is touting something from which no quack, self-help yogi, or independent distributor can profit: common sense.

Because of a simple decision six years ago to eat less and exercise, Scott has found celebrity and herself in the pages of local newspapers, on a WAX-TV/Channel 35 talk show, and on Oprah -- twice. She receives hundreds of e-mails each day from people yearning for the same success. One woman confided that she quit her job because of shame over her weight. Many start their messages with "I've never told anyone about this . . ."

A bit bemused, Scott realizes she's become the latest weight-loss guru by rejecting the unhealthy prescriptive rants of most best-selling gurus.

Scott's story is a sadly familiar one. A tall teen, perhaps a bit stout, she started dieting at age 15. It was the first of a lifetime of acts of war against her body and well-being, which included bouts of bulimia. In her 30s, she topped 300 pounds. She married happily, but after a nearly two-year legal struggle to adopt a child, her weight passed the 400 mark. She couldn't fit in airplane seats. Women stared when a beauty parlor chair made a loud "crack" beneath her. She didn't want to leave the house, except for her job as an editor for a legal publisher. Life-threatening infections in her legs hospitalized her four times.

She tried protein diets, water diets, other extremes. And she found what 95 percent of dieters find out: As soon as the semi-starvation is over, the body starts conserving every calorie in preparation for the next famine. "You gain it back as soon as you start eating what you're supposed to eat, like fruit," Scott says.

Fast-forward six years: Scott jogs three to five miles a day and lifts weights a few days a week. This summer, she successfully climbed Kenya's 19,340-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Scott has received more than 3,000 e-mails praising her beauty and determination. In losing about 200 pounds, she still weighs somewhere around the 200-pound mark at 5-foot-9. But most of it is muscle -- she weighs the same as when she graduated from high school, but is several dress sizes smaller.

Seeing Oprah Winfrey and her personal trainer on TV inspired Scott to walk the length of her 350-foot driveway (she used to drive to get the mail), then slowly build up her exercise. Three years later, when she lost the weight, she wrote the talk show host, who flew her to Chicago for an appearance. She kept in touch, and Oprah invited her back after she mastered Kilimanjaro.

A friend who had organized wildlife photography trips with Scott planted the idea for the climb, then backed out because of an injury. Scott found a new climbing partner and pressed on. (Her husband, Bill, supported her quest, but had no desire for altitude sickness.) With hired guides and porters, the two women took five days up and two days back. At the peak, Scott buried her worst "fat picture" under a pile of rocks.

"For me, climbing the mountain was the ultimate way of proving: Yes, I am in good shape; now I can do anything I want."

The day she returned, Scott attended her 25th reunion at Highland High School, just about a mile from her Granger Township home. "The guys that were so horrible to me [in school] were all over me," says the laughing, blue-eyed blonde.

Now the National Enquirer is calling. Scott says she's not sure if she should risk some credibility in an effort to reach more people. On www.sarahscott.com, she devotes several pages to climbing the mountain and about four sentences to the secret to weight loss.

And she knows that, while her method applies to everyone, she's getting the attention only because of the magnitude of her loss.

"If it was 25 pounds, nobody would give a damn," she says.

More by Carrie Spencer

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