LaRhea Burke created a new life for herself when she moved from Ohio to Topsail Island, and now she’s helping others do the same.
When LaRhea Burke moved to Topsail Island from Ohio, she was overweight, fleeing an abusive relationship and hoping for a new start to life. The decision led the then 31-year-old mom to redefine herself by losing more than 100 pounds and becoming a personal trainer at Surf City Fitness.
The move answered her a lifelong dream to live at the beach. Having not been to the ocean before, the seeds had been planted by movie sunsets and the unhurried lifestyle. While contemplating this next phase of her life, she began an internet search that led to a condo on Topsail Island that looked out over the water. With the assistance of an Ohio shelter for abused women that helped with moving costs, it became a reality. She and her then 10-year-old son made the move.
After moving to Topsail in 2018, the beach lifestyle presented its own challenges. One of them was her weight of 270 pounds. “I didn’t want to go out in a swimsuit. I was embarrassed and ashamed,” she recalls. A 12-week video training series of low-impact aerobics began her transformation. She was directed daily as to which of the 30-to-45-minute videos to do.
“I was in the house where no one saw me,” Burke says. “When I decide on something there is a strength and a will that does not waiver.”
With a training routine in place, she then had to look at her diet.
“You have to have some type of physical activity and monitor eating,” she says. “If you combine the two, you’re going to lose weight.”
This led to meal prepping, and foods like chicken, rice, broccoli and salad became part of her routine. She lost 60 pounds that first year.
As she kept researching on the internet, Burke found information that said if you increase muscle mass, you can eat more and not gain weight because your metabolism increases. She began weightlifting after overcoming the fear of rejection or ridicule.
“I remember pulling up in the gym’s parking lot, and I was afraid to go inside,” she says. “I was afraid of what people would think and worried if they were judging me.”
She summoned her courage and was greeted by a staff member who was nice and encouraging.
“Even after all the meal prepping, workout plans, gym memberships and the decision to make a change that would impact my life for a lifetime, the sole reason I was able to lose the 100 pounds and grow into a personal trainer and group instructor is because of the love and support I received from my friends and the community around me,” she says.
How do you face a challenge like losing 100 pounds?
Burke says it’s about inspiration: “Do the impossible. Challenge yourself to do things you think you cannot. This works in weight loss and life … What is inspiration? Inspiration is when you take on the impossible. To be an inspiration you must do inspirational things. Do the impossible.”
Now a trainer, she has learned how important it is to greet newcomers and make them feel comfortable. She recalls a teenage girl who brought in by her parents and is now a client.
“She had bad anxiety, tears in her eyes and was emotional,” Burke recalls. “However, within two months, she’d overcome that fear and l loves working out. She built self-esteem as well as getting fit.”
Burke says she loves being a trainer and watching others reach their goals.
“It reminds me of the path I’ve traveled,” she says.
In addition to personal training, Burke also teaches classes in kickboxing, TRX (hanging suspension straps) and Zumba, a dance-based fitness program.
She’s also set new goals that include launching a clothing line of women’s workout apparel called Love’s Active Apparel to reflect her fitness philosophy and her Christian faith.