October 4, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Conner Rensch gets recognized pretty much everywhere—at the salon where she works as a hairstylist, when she’s running errands around town, and even when she is out with friends for the evening.

It all started with a January 2014 “Half Their Size” People magazine cover. Since then, her YouTube video has gone viral; she’s appeared on television shows like Good Morning America, The Steve Harvey Show, and Inside Edition; she’s been the subject of articles in local publications and national websites; and she’s talked about her personal journey with numerous youth and community groups.

“I never set out to be someone people would recognize,” she says. “I set out to inspire and motivate.”

Over a period of two years beginning when she was 19, Rensch lost a total of 130 pounds from her peak weight of more than 270.

“As many weight loss shows as I watched, there was never really anyone I could relate to, in terms of growing up being bullied and being overweight your whole life and not ever knowing what it was like to be in shape and be healthy,” she says. 

Sharing her story meant including the honest details as well as posting the “before” pictures and unenhanced “after” pictures.

“Initially I hesitated because it’s very personal and it comes with a lot of baggage,” she says. “When you share your flaws or insecurities—and I am very public about the way I look now—there is always going to be backlash. Stretch marks are not something that people necessarily want to see or want to share, but the reality of life in general is that everyone has things that they’re embarrassed about.”

People come up to Rensch now and share their own transformation stories or thank her for inspiring them, she says. So knowing she has given people hope is worth the occasional strange Facebook message from admirers, the razzing from her friends, or even the negative online comments like “She doesn’t need to show that” or “Why is everyone giving her so much praise? It was a problem she created.” As Rensch phrases it, “It negates the negative.”

“I never set out to be someone people would recognize,” she says. “I set out to inspire and motivate.”

-Conner Rensch

“I always think back to when I was losing weight, I wish I would have had someone to look up to or be able to say, ‘She went through hard times and so can I’…I really wanted to be an example,” Rensch explains. “I would never not want someone to come up and tell me their story…It always comes back to why I did this. It’s not for the people who have been in shape their whole lives but for the people who are struggling.”

More than five years into being slim and fit, Rensch says her goals have transitioned from weight loss to staying healthy through good nutrition and an active lifestyle. She hasn’t weighed herself in many months.

Her professional goals have transitioned, too. Her website and her public speaking messaging has become more about transformation than specifically about weight loss. A book is in the works, and she is also looking into signing with an agency to expand her motivational speaking and schedule more corporate speaking engagements.

“If the publicity was all taken away, I’m still me and I’m the exact person I want to be, inside and out,” she says. “The benefit is that I’ve helped others. I’ve never felt a sense of happiness like helping others reach their potential. It’s so powerful.”

Visit mybutterflyjourney.com for more information.

connerrensch2

More from Omaha Magazine

  • 20130420_bs_8233 Medium Copy_2Feeling Young on the Run Tori Young, 40, was on the drill team in high school. She never considered herself an […]
  • MichelleTroxclairOut of the Shadows This article appears in July/August Omaha Magazine. At the risk of stating the […]
  • 20130205_bs_5166 copyKaren Sokolof Javitch The image of Karen Sokolof Javitch singing and camping it up on YouTube in the music […]
  • 20131008_bs_5922The Road Home A loaf of bread. A tank of gas. Pick up the dry cleaning. There are myriad detours one […]
  • Terence HerrickTerence Herrick Growing up, Terence Herrick figured he could make a difference in the world with a badge […]