Carolina Gonzalez, 46, wakes up at 5am every weekday morning to turn on her coffee maker and begin her day. She moves from the kitchen to her living room, where she sets up tables and chairs to host a Herbalife nutrition breakfast club. She's been doing so for over two years now. "People come here from Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico...from around the neighborhood," she says in Spanish. "They come to have breakfast here. Sometimes it's 11am and they don't want to leave."
The breakfast club has become a gathering of 32 immigrant mothers, their children and sometimes their husbands. They come for the Herbalife teas and shakes, plus the small talk and the sense of community. But Carolina wasn't always giving health advice or supplying nutritional products. Two years ago, she was weighing about 315 lbs. She was considered morbidly obese.
When she was 17 years old, she moved to LA from Mexico, which is now considered the obesity capital of the world. Carolina tried fighting off the weight with different approaches. "The moon diet, the gelatin diet, pills, medicines from doctors," Carolina remembers. It didn't work. As the years went by, the weight piled on. It got worse after she got married. Since she couldn't get pregnant on her own, she was taking hormones and fell into depression. "I felt like a parasite," she says. "I couldn't do anything." She became addicted to soda. "One night I didn't have any. It was 3am and my neighbors were having a party. I needed a soda so bad I was crying. I put my pride aside and went to the party to ask if they would sell me Coca-Colas. They gave me four cokes. I ran upstairs, went inside and drank the four sodas." Her husband approached her and told her she needed to stop being unhealthy. "Don't do it for yourself, do it for our daughter," he told her.
Listen to Carolina talk about her transformation and the first time she felt special in a long time.
Banner image: Carolina Gonzalez shows a picture of her old self. She lost 129 pounds. Photo by Brian De Los Santos