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After losing hundreds of pounds, Bedford man creates new weight-loss non-profit, New England Obesity Network

Friday, August 29, 2014

By HEATHER FYFE

Correspondent

When he reached 448 pounds at the age of 32, Jonathan LaMarine was ready to give up. He had tried various weight loss programs but nothing seemed to do the trick; he just could not lose weight.

That is, until he decided to enroll in a Bariatric program at his local hospital. Over a span of four months he dropped a total of 81 pounds, solely due to a change in diet.

“When I was eating at fast food chains on a daily basis, my body had become accustomed to that way of living,” said LaMarine, “What I did when starting out with my transformation into a new kind of lifestyle was I introduced one healthy meal a day for a few weeks. Over the course of a few months I slowly transitioned from unhealthy ways of eating to healthier ways of eating.”

Through perseverance and an overall behavioral change, LaMarine was able to drop 210 pounds in 12 months without having to go through any risky surgeries.

Because of the success experienced through his own lifestyle change, he decided to develop a non-profit organization, NEON (New England Obesity Network, Inc), based out of Bedford, to help fight America’s obesity epidemic and increase overall health and well-being through “behavioral change, encouragement, education and natural holistic approaches” as the NEON mission statement promises.

“I’m a living testament that an individual with the right amount of will, courage, and determination can lose just as much weight, if not more, just as efficiently as if they had gone through with surgery,” said LaMarine, “I want people to know and see that there is a safer and more natural way when it comes to weight loss and a lifestyle change.”

NEON provides many different opportunities for those seeking help, including an online chat room where members can interact, group meetings, and face-to-face meetings to analyze clients and develop a personalized plan so that they can take strides towards a healthier future.

The program is for children and adults, rich and poor, LaMarine says. NEON plans to sponsor sports teams and increase awareness of obesity through outreach programs and various pamphlets.

“What makes us different among other entities is the fact that we are a non-profit. We aren’t ‘selling’ weight loss for a price,” LaMarine said, “you don’t have to be wealthy to lose weight.”

NEON provides access to resources that many health care providers do not cover – nutritionists, athletic trainers, physiologists and psychologists. LaMarine is currently pursuing a PhD in psychology, which he will be using to help demonstrate that “you control your body; your body doesn’t control you.”

Because of LaMarine’s personal experience, he believes he will be able to easily connect with those that seek help from NEON.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how many people have come to me privately and said that they are far more apt to listen to what I have to say over someone who never struggled a day in their life with a weight issue, but have only studied the subject from a textbook,” he said. “People want to do what I have done because they know that weight loss is possible the way that I did it; naturally.”

NEON plans to have a banner and an informational table at the Leukemia and Lymphoma walk being held in Nashua this October if LaMarine’s sister, Stephanie, can raise $1,000 to support the walk. LaMarine said his sister raises money every year, so the $1,000 should not be an issue.

“This is a prime example of two entities coming together to help one another out,” said LaMarine, describing one of the main goals of NEON, “the most important part of NEON is its determination to create “networks” with other groups, whether they are other non-profit organizations, health and fitness clubs/gyms, or other businesses throughout the communities.

NEON chose to reach out to the Leukemia and Lymphoma walk because Leukemia is one of the many different diseases and complications that can be caused by obesity. “NEON will provide facts and statistics and research findings to educate people about the very real dangers of being obese and all the other complications derived from this disease, and the very real fact that if they don’t change their ways/behaviors, they will most likely die from this disease or a medical complication brought on by it,” said LaMarine, stressing the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

NEON held its first fundraiser at the NH Fisher Cats game August 23 by selling Fisher Cats box seats for $14 a piece (or $12 for police, firefighters and military personnel).

For more information on NEON, go to neonco.org or to volunteeer email info@neonco.org or call 438-2806.

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