The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 26, 2013

VIDEO: Former Joplin woman in running for The Next Fitness Star

A former Joplin woman who topped out at 216 pounds after her father’s death is now one of five finalists in The Next Fitness Star competition, sponsored by Women’s Health Magazine.

Over four years, Tarrah Speer Lee changed her lifestyle and lost 92 pounds. She is now a fitness trainer and nutritionist.

Lee, who lives in Denver, grew up in Joplin. Her mother is Donna Speer Farley, and her late father, Don Speer, was a Joplin police officer for 16 years. Lee graduated from Joplin High School in 2000.

Lee said she had been overweight all her life because of unhealthy food in her household and lack of exercise. She said her dad before his death had undergone three heart bypass surgeries. He died at age 52 in October 2006. A heart attack after a car accident killed him, Lee said. She was 25 when her father died.

“The first few months after his death I was in depression and I ate more,” Lee said by phone. “When my weight reached 216, I said to myself ‘this is not what your dad would have wanted for you.’ I started living my life differently.”

She committed herself to eating healthy and exercise. She quit a career in corporate marketing and event planning to become certified as a fitness trainer and a nutritionist. It’s now a successful career for her. She has a show on a web-based radio station, milehiradio.com. It’s called “Denver Nutritionista.” It streams at 9 a.m. on Fridays.

She said it was one of her clients who told her about the Women’s Health competition.

“I told my story in the video and entered it,” Lee said.

She said she didn’t expect anything to happen, but two months later, she was informed that she was one of the five finalists. There had been more than 3,000 applicants.

Lee, now 31, said she thinks her struggle with weight gives her credibility with her clients that some other trainers might not have.

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