Anne B. is a 38-year old mother of two, a boy aged 6 and a daughter aged 5. She lives in Roanoke, Virginia, and works part-time as a pharmacy technician.
What made you decide to lose weight?
I think the main reason, to be honest, is that I didn't like the way I looked. I have always had trouble keeping extra weight off, but after having two children I was about 30 pounds more than before I had kids. I wanted to see if I could get back to where I had been. I wasn't trying to be skinny, because I felt that wasn't really realistic for me. I would have been very happy losing just that 30 pounds. I was up to 180 and that just made me feel unhealthy.
The other reason is that I didn't have as much energy, or as much ability to keep up with my kids. I got tired easy.
Had you tried to lose weight before?
Before having kids, I occasionally went on various diets. My weight would go down to 120 or 130 but then slowly creep back up to around 150. If I really tried hard, I could keep it down, but I wasn't that motivated until my weight went up to 180. That is when I really got serious!
In the past when you tried to lose weight, what went wrong? Did anything you tried seem to work at all in those past attempts?
Really, I was doing the same things I do now, which is to walk in the morning and avoid high-calorie foods. The difference is that in the past I wasn't as committed. Now, I have built these practices into daily habits and have been keeping it up for over a year.
Did you learn firsthand any "myths" about losing weight?
I think the main myth is that it is easy to shed a lot of pounds through some kind of miracle diet and keep it off. I think most people figure out that it doesn't work like that. You can shed weight fairly fast, but then you gain it all back. Keeping it off means being dedicated to an exercise program, even something as simple as walking, as long as you do it almost every day, and for enough time.
Are you currently at a weight you are happy with? How long have you been successfully maintaining it?
Yes, it took awhile for my weight to come down, but it did go down at a fairly regular rate, so I could see I was making progress. I reached my goal of about 150-155. It took awhile to figure out how much walking I needed to do, and even more importantly, what foods to eat.
Describe the program you used to successfully lose weight. How did you get started?
I walk every morning through our neighborhood. There are a couple of steep hills, so it gives me a pretty good workout. I walk for about 45 minutes to an hour. I walk with a friend, and we talk most of the time, so it really is a fun thing to do. We decided to lose weight together and have been a great support for each other. You can't just stroll leisurely, you have to really get you heart beating and keep that pace up.
It took awhile to work up to that. We didn't just start walking fast for an hour. We started walking slower, walking shorter times, and walking an easier route. After about 4 months we had worked up to our current route, which has steeper hills, and our current pace.
The other key is, obviously, watching what I eat. I avoid fattening foods. I figured out that there are a lot of foods that have fewer calories that I enjoy eating. For example, I eat salads with fresh vegetables but I don't put much dressing on them. I snack on grapes, carrots, whole wheat bread, low-calorie yogurt and crackers, that type of thing. I drink less soda, and more water and juice.
Did you give up any favorite foods?
I enjoy chocolate -- such as ice cream, cookies, cake -- and I have given up a lot of that. I still eat a little of it, because I don't think there is a point in total abstinence, but it is easy to get too many calories if you are not real careful. Very easy! So I don't buy very much of that because it is just too tempting. If I don't buy it, then I can't eat it. A lot of mistakes are made at the supermarket. Don't go shopping when you are hungry, you'll buy everything in sight that looks good.
What major challenges do you encounter, and how do you get past them?
The biggest challenge is finding time to walk. I don't mind walking, so it isn't hard to get motivated to do it, but you have to walk for an hour or so, and that can be hard to fit into the schedule. The single most important advice I have, personally, is that you need to find an exercise plan you will really do, and find a way it can really fit into your schedule. Once you do that and commit to it, you are most of the way there! I believe most people can lose weight, and keep it off, if they make realistic goals and then stick to a plan.
The other thing is finding food substitutes. When you are in the habit of snacking on cookies, it is real hard to give them up. But I was surprised to find foods with fewer calories that I really enjoyed eating. You should find foods that have bulk to them so that they fill you up. It takes time to adjust to that, but as your weight starts to drop, that is very exciting and for me that was the reward and made it worthwhile. Getting on the scale -- that is my reward! It is really worth it, and to top it off, the time I spend with my friend has been very rewarding.
Jeffrey Heit, MD, Internist with special emphasis on preventive health, fitness and nutrition, Philadelphia VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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