Formerly Fat—Nurse Bowick of Rochester

Nurse BowickThis is not just any “formerly fat” narrative. Theresa Bowick of Rochester, New York, attended the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center (where she has subsequently returned to address the graduating class). After acquiring Licensed Practical Nurse credentials while working and raising a daughter, she went to community college for an associate degree in nursing. Then she graduated from SUNY Brockport with a bachelor’s degree, along with the prestigious President’s Citation Award. She is currently working full-time with the developmentally disabled while also pursuing the nursing field’s most advanced degree.

But before listing her other accomplishments, we will tell you that at one stage of Theresa Bowick’s life, things did not look promising. She was a fat girl in a family in which obesity was the norm, in a chaotic environment complicated by many detrimental influences and, as Rochester Woman Magazine said:

Her desire to become a nurse was born out of a need to heal from an abusive relationship that seriously affected her self-worth.

Bowick later told journalist John Addyman:

Obesity is a multi-faceted disorder. It has to be dealt with in a multi-pronged approach…It’s about navigating life and learning how to shed the weight and it’s not necessarily the physical weight, it’s the emotional and spiritual weight. The stuff in my head was much heavier than the stuff on my hips.

Addyman’s story, titled “The Fat Girl who Grew Up to Be a Swan,” is in the current (September) Issue of the regional magazine In Good Health, and includes a quotation from Bowick’s quotation:

Now I’m taking all these other swans along with me. I don’t want to swim alone.

How did this swan revolution come about? With the help of Weight Watchers, Nurse Bowick lost more than 75 pounds, wrote a grand-prize-winning Inspiring Story, and appeared on the cover of the organization’s magazine. Then, she wrote a book: Collard Green Curves—A Fat Girl’s Journey from Childhood Obesity to Healthy Living.

For book publicity events (perhaps inspired by Lady Gaga’s meat gown) she constructed a dress from actual collard greens. One of the book’s main concepts is that the method of preparation is just as important as what people actually eat. For instance, while the traditional American collard green recipe is delicious, steeping the greens in pork fat is disastrous nutritionally speaking. Nurse Bowick also hosts a weekly radio show on health-related topics.

The Conkey Cruisers

On one life-changing day, Theresa Bowick learned that in her neighborhood, the perception was that anyone out exercising must be either fleeing from the police, or the police themselves travelling in undercover garb of running shorts and athletic shoes. The idea came to her to start a community bicycling club. Unbeknownst to her, the city had almost completed the El Camino Trail, the perfect venue for such an endeavor. Donations showed up, and the Conkey Cruisers became a reality. It wasn’t just ordinary bikes that were needed—many adult tricycles are in the mix, because a full one-third of the regular riders are over 55 years of age.

Throughout the summer there are three evening rides per week, with rain cancellations publicized on Bowick’s Twitter page. Much of the support work is done by her fiancé, Rudolph Harris, and the events are very well attended by people of all ages, even those up into their 80s. Margaret Madigan reports:

In its inaugural year, “Conkey Cruisers” received numerous honors; including a feature in President Barack Obama’s Fitness is Fun Newsletter, a House of Representatives congratulatory note in the official United States Congressional Record via Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, a New York State Assembly Citation and a City of Rochester Proclamation.

This year Bowick received the Get Outdoors Award from Park and Trails New York. But it hasn’t all been rosy. A few months ago, practically all the bikes were stolen from the group’s storage site. Rather than dying, the program received publicity and donations that brought in even more bikes than before. This is the story of a woman who not only helped herself to escape from obesity, but who continues to encourage and uplift her entire community.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Fat Girl Who Grew Up to Be a Swan,”, Sept. 2015
Source: “Theresa Lou Bowick.”, 02/03/14
Source: “Bikes Stolen From Neighborhood Bicycle Program, Community Donates 3 Times as Many.”, 07/06/15
Image by Theresa Bowick

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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