Community member spotlight — Linda Ann Smith

Published 2:24 am Sunday, July 13, 2008

“If I can do this, you can too,” says the “Aerobic Granny” of Carriere.

Local woman Linda Ann Smith recently lost a total of 75 pounds and 22 percent body fat. At 54 years young, she is looking and feeling fantastic! In fact, she has done so well on her chosen weight loss plan, she was recently featured in a book, “Champions Body-for-LIFE.”

“I’m so proud of her,” said her husband Bill Smith. The couple beams when they talk about Linda’s recent weight loss achievements.

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Her weight loss story is incredible, but then again, looking back on her beginnings, so is she.

Smith was born and raised in New Orleans in the Ninth Ward. “I was in foster care ’cause my real family had abandoned me. I was born without an esophagus,” she said.

After experimental surgery where her small intestine was used to fashion an esophagus, Smith was sentenced to a one year life expectancy. “When I turned a year, they said maybe three. When I was three they said, maybe seven.” They also thought she would eventually need another operation.

As her seventh birthday came and went, the miracle that was Smith, had an esophagus that grew with her. At 54 years old Smith has no problems. “I outlived the doctor,” she joked.

Smith’s scars and an old newspaper article talking about her rare surgery are her only reminders of her rough introduction to life.

Things did improve for Smith. She is grateful to her foster care family, which she refers to as “God’s angels.”

In turn, not being able to have children of their own, the Smiths shared their lives with 22 foster children over 15 years, some of whom they still keep in contact with. They also adopted two daughters: Sarah and Jennifer Nicole “Niki.”

For most of Smith’s adult life she remained a self-proclaimed aerobic nut. She worked out, instructed and taught workshops on becoming an aerobics instructor. It wasn’t until one of her step children, a child from Bill’s first marriage, made her a grandmother that she began to slow down.

“I gave [aerobics] up to be a granny,” she said. “I said, ‘Okay, this is my new life.’ I just started gaining weight and gaining weight and gaining weight.”

She did try to diet and lose weight — she tried starving. “Everyone said, ‘So what? You look okay. Ignore it.’ I just couldn’t ignore it. It wasn’t me,” she said.

“One day, I had a little tiff with my daughter about eating some of her cookies and she told me no, I was going to eat them all and she wasn’t going to have any for school. That hurt my feelings. I went and cried — then realized she was right.”

This was January 24, 2005. That night she found the ad in the Picayune Item. Smith went online and decided it was something she could stick too. The next day she started the program.

The weight loss website offered her meal planning, grocery lists, tips and a support system.

The program worked for Smith. “That’s what I’ve been involved with for the past three years and I love it. I believe in it.”

After achieving her goal weight, Smith continues to live the lifestyle. Each 12 week challenge that Smith completes places her closer to her new goal — becoming a Body-for-LIFE Champion.

In 2006, she was chosen as top ten achiever in her weight category. This was based on all the users located in 36 different countries.

Today Smith loves to motivate and give motivational talks to those who need help kicking bad habits and reaching their goals. She has been certified as an aerobics instructor since 1988, and she recently received a position at a local gym to teach an aerobics class geared towards senior citizens.

She is also extremely excited about the book which highlights her story. Her family certainly shares her enthusiasm.

Her husband says, “Her family is very proud of her for making it into that national publication. She has 12 quotes, from a sentence, to a story.”

This Carriere resident now feels confident and has conquered shyness. When she’s in the gym she is taking on the world. “There’s nothing that can hold me back.”