Renee Kramer used to leave her workouts discouraged and in tears.

She exercised four days a week. On top of that, she diligently logged what she ate each day.

But more than a year went by and she still hadn’t netted results.

“I hit rock bottom, and I knew something had to give,” Kramer said.

At the recommendation of some co-workers, Kramer joined a new gym and overhauled the way she looked at her meals. Now she’s down 82 pounds and instructs classes at the northwest Omaha gym.

Kramer, now 44, put her health on the back burner while raising her daughter. At her heaviest, the 5-foot-4-inch woman weighed 223 pounds.

She limited her calories, eating between 1,000 and 1,400 a day. She would often skip breakfast. A nurse, Kramer sometimes couldn’t find time for a lunch break at work. Then she was left gorging on a large dinner.

Kramer joined gyms and fitness studios, but she never felt comfortable. Despite being there as often as she could, usually four days a week, she wasn’t losing any weight. At the time she was baffled, but looking back she suspects her body was going into storage or starvation mode because she wasn’t eating enough calories.

In general, our bodies burn the calories we feed it, said Jill Koegel, a registered dietitian who did not treat Kramer. Each day our metabolisms vary depending on how much physical activity we do, hormone levels, what we eat and when we eat.

Typically the less people eat, the fewer calories they burn. When they eat more, within reason, they tend to burn more calories.

“We want (our body) to be a calorie-burning machine, so you want to eat the right kinds of foods and the right amount,” Koegel said.

For months Kramer had been mulling over one last resort: joining Farrell’s eXtreme Bodyshaping. She’d heard about it from her co-workers at Boys Town National Research Hospital, but was nervous to join.

“I was scared and had very low self-esteem,” she said. “I joined by myself, and ever since I walked in the door, I was never alone. They met me with open arms and still do.”

Kramer started attending 4 a.m. classes at the gym near 156th Street and West Dodge Road in spring of 2017. Back then, she still looked defeated in the way she carried herself, said gym owner Ashlie Nielsen.

“She looked at me and said, ‘This is my last resort. This has got to work,’ ” Nielsen said. “I’ll never forget that.”

One of the first things coaches did was evaluate Kramer’s eating habits. They bumped her up to 2,000 calories a day.

Kramer eliminated fast food and most processed foods from her diet. Now she tries to eat every three hours. That means taking every window of opportunity at work, even if she has only three minutes to scarf down a protein bar.

A typical day of meals would include half of a banana before she works out and after, a breakfast of eggs and oatmeal with blueberries. A mid-morning snack might be yogurt with cereal and a protein shake. Lunch is always chicken, typically with sides of rice and veggies. Afternoon snacks are usually protein bars. Dinner is red meat and a vegetable.

“Get out of these fad diets and get into a lifestyle,” Kramer said. “Your diet has to be something sustainable. It has to be something you can do for a lifetime.”

Kramer rarely strays from her routine. At a wedding, she would skip the sweets. When dining out, she said she carefully examines the menu and does the best she can. She might order a salad and get it without croutons or cheese and with dressing on the side.

Five weeks after starting at Farrell’s, Kramer noticed results. Her clothes fit a little looser and a little more comfortably. She saw her weight drop.

“I was just going with the process and really taking it all in,” Kramer said. “The coaches and the instructors, they’re with you every step of the way. They’re very encouraging, and they always tell you to keep going, to trust the process.”

About nine months into her journey, Kramer started to notice muscle definition. That’s when fellow gym-goers, family and friends started reaching out to her for advice.

Kramer has stuck with the program and is maintaining an 82-pound weight loss. She’s in the gym, usually for 4 a.m. classes, six days a week. Now she also teaches one to three classes a week.

At first, it was a challenge for Nielsen, owner of the gym, to get Kramer to be an instructor. But Kramer finally felt confident in her own skin and believed in herself, Nielsen said.

Kramer is an inspiration to gym-goers, showing that they can have a balance between work, life and health. She inspires Nielsen to be a healthier, better gym owner.

“She does a phenomenal job,” Nielsen said. “She walks it. She lives it. She breathes it.”

kelsey.stewart@owh.com, 402-444-3100, twitter.com/kels2

Kelsey covers health and fitness for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @kels2. Phone: 402-444-3100.

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