Catherine Hanaway has been throwing her weight around for a long time. After all, she was the first woman ever to serve as Missouri’s Speaker of the House; she won the Republican nomination for Secretary of State; and was named by President George W. Bush as the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Missouri. Today, she’s a top attorney in John Ashcroft’s law firm, the Ashcroft Group.
There is one big difference for Hanaway these days: She has a lot less weight to throw around, literally. Since September 2011, Hanaway has lost more than 100 pounds. The change is so dramatic that some people who know her—including me—find it hard to recognize her. Not long ago, I was in the gym at The Lodge Des Peres, when I saw a person walking on the treadmill with a very determined gate. I thought to myself, That looks like Catherine Hanaway’s walk, but it can’t be, she’s too thin. I moved around the room, trying to get a better look. When I walked up to her and made eye contact, she said to me, unprompted, “Yes Paul—a hundred pounds.”
Hanaway says she gets that kind of reaction a lot lately. Her goal is to lose another 30 pounds, which would get her close to her ideal weight. She tells me this is the first time she’s ever discussed her weight in public. “It is hard for me, but I honestly think it’s part of holding me accountable and that’s why I’m willing to do it.”
As a powerful presence in politics, law enforcement and in legal circles, Hanaway always seemed to have a stern appearance. But she admits there were times when she was stung by some very biting comments about her weight. “When you’re in public life, you get a lot of anonymous letters,” she confides. “I got one when I was speaker that said basically, You are grossly obese, disgusting and an embarrassment to anyone who calls themselves a Republican. Obviously, it was hurtful.”
Hanaway tells me she’s battled her weight for most of her life, but now it’s a fight she feels she has to win. ”Before it was about aesthetics; this time around, it’s about what my life is going to be like for the rest of my life. In terms of my health, my interaction with my kids, and my ability to succeed professionally—it’s kind of all on the line.”
Hanaway made the decision to lose weight after a political strategist tried to convince her she would be a good candidate to run for governor. When she told the operative, “I’m too fat,” the strategist told her about weight loss coach Charles D’Angelo. She says D’Angelo helped her reach her goal and taught her how to overcome her poor eating habits. “I definitely was in this compulsive cycle with food,” she explains. “I would start the day by saying I’m going to be good; but I would look forward to the next thing I was going to eat, eat something terrible, and then feel guilty about it. That compulsive cycle isn’t there anymore.” She also walks on a treadmill 55 minutes a day at least five 5 days a week. She admits staying on track is hard to do, but the setbacks help keep her focused. “It’s been a little rocky lately, but it’s a good, cold slap in the face that this is a very tough journey.”
The weight loss has allowed her to do things that she wouldn’t have thought possible a couple of years ago. She went on a 120-mile bike trip with her daughter, and then kayaked through the Channel Islands National Park. But just as important, she says, are the little things. “Just walking up the hill to take my son to the bus stop, which previously would have been a monumental challenge, is now just part of the daily routine.”
Despite her weight, it’s hard to think that her struggle has held Hanaway back (see list of accomplishments above), but she feels it did have an impact on her career. “It’s that sense of internal self-doubt and what you might have done differently if you felt better about yourself.” These days, she says she generally feels better, has more stamina and greater focus.
So now that the holidays are over and you are trying to get yourself to the gym, maybe this story will give you some inspiration. As for Catherine Hanaway, she still has a lot of weight to throw around—but figuratively, of course.