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Woman With Down Syndrome Hopes Her Taylor Swift Dance Will Help Others Get Fit

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Meghan Smith, 28, has been working hard over the last six months to get in shape. After starting Weight Watchers last spring and stepping up her dance workouts, the Fresno, California, native, who has Down syndrome, has lost 27 pounds.

Smith was featured on local news station KFSN this week when a video of her dancing to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” made the rounds on the Internet. Smith’s brother Zach had reached out to KFSN to share his sister’s story, and with his sister’s permission, he sent them the video of one of her dance routines.

Smith says she wants to inspire others in the Down syndrome community to work on their fitness, and her family says they’re beyond proud of the progress she’s made, both physically and mentally.

Along with shaking it off on a regular basis, Smith now eats lots of vegetables and chooses chicken over fried foods. She told The Mighty she’s enjoyed the attention her story has garnered so far.

“I feel great,” she said. “I love being a star.”

She now wants to encourage her other friends to look into Weight Watchers to “learn how much to eat, to exercise more and make new friends.”

Meghan Smith smiles while wearing a dress and high heels

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, adults with Down syndrome are more likely to be obese than those without the condition. It’s often the result of untreated hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone.

International Down Syndrome Coalition‘s Board Chairman Beth Sullivan explained to The Mighty why it’s so important for people with Down syndrome to stay active and eat healthy. In addition to hypothyroidism, Sullivan said other factors contributing to obesity include the tendency to be sedentary, fewer opportunities for sports with peers and teams, and slower metabolisms.

“Good nutrition, healthy eating habits and staying physically active are frequently more successful when the entire family is involved,” Sullivan noted, adding that “there is evidence that a healthy diet can help dramatically reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Zach Smith, a special education teacher in Fresno county, says growing up with Meghan (and two other younger siblings with Down syndrome) was one of the biggest reasons he pursued that career path.

Megan Smith poses with her younger sister

“She always has had a clear sense of what she wanted in life, she just needed help with getting society to open it’s ceiling on what it would allow,” he said. “From being a key member of local action clubs for folks with support needs, to moving out into her own place here at the beginning of February, to her weight lost, she is really blowing the doors off of what even we, her family, thought was possible for her. I think at this point we are only scratching the surface of what individuals with support needs can accomplish, and how they themselves have skills we as a society need in order to move forward.”

Originally published: January 12, 2016
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