Kim M. is a 52-year old single woman who has three grown children; she lives in Portland, Oregon, where she runs her own business out of her home.
What made you decide to lose weight?
I wanted to improve my health and to FEEL healthy. A small heart attack focused my attention on the physical shape I was in. I realized I had a lot of work to do in order to be and feel healthy. I needed to STOP smoking, reduce cholesterol, exercise more rigorously and more often (walking around the grocery store was not going to cut it), find a heart-healthy diet that I could consistently follow, and lose weight.
I did successfully quit smoking. This was an unbelievable achievement for me. I thought I could never stop. This gave me confidence that I could do the other things on my list.
Had you tried to lose weight before?
Yes, twice. I needed to lose weight after my first pregnancy. It was fairly easy. Being busy caring for a young family and being young myself, I did not have to think too seriously about my eating habits in order to lose weight.
The second time was different. I was older, my kids were grown and out on their own. I was beginning to have to deal with some of the indignities of getting old. I had to break off a relationship, which was a gut-wrenching experience. I was depressed. Thinking weight loss would improve my spirits, I went on a crash diet and exercise program and smoked when I was hungry. It worked. I lost a lot of weight and was actually skinny; very skinny. This did not last for long. I started to eat again, this time with a vengeance. Fatty foods became a haven where I felt satisfied and numb.
Are you currently at a weight you are happy with?
I am beginning to lose weight in a healthy, steady way. It is taking time, but I know from experience that fast weight loss leaves me open to a fast re-gain. And a fast, crash-type weight loss would place even more strain on my heart.
Describe your weight-loss program. How did you get started?
I realized I was getting nowhere on my own, so I joined a cardiac rehab program that addressed all of my problems (weight, stress, exercise, and unsuccessful emotional patterns). One of the most immediately helpful areas was the sound, scientific and practical nutritional advice. I have been introduced to foods I thought I would never enjoy and would never try. The genius of this part of the program is that our group eats a heart-healthy meal at every meeting. The meal is planned and prepared by a nutritionist. Interesting and valuable information is exchanged during the course of our dinner. I am eating food I would never have dreamed of eating or even know existed. These meals are satisfying and taste great. They are not expensive or too complicated to try.
I also have learned some behavior tips that are very helpful: what a serving is, what a balanced plate should look like, how the mind feels full, waiting a few minutes before going on for a second helping, eating small amounts more often, drinking water but not the intimidating 8 glasses a day. There are a lot of simple, common-sense tips that make the weight loss adventure much easier than one would expect.
How have you been able to maintain your momentum?
I have learned to ask others to support me in my efforts towards improved health. When I am feeling low, one of my family or friends or "instructors" is there to re-energize me. There are down days when I do not follow the good advice I have received, and I eat too many fatty or sugary foods. The difference is that now I can get right back on track and do not allow myself to feel that I have failed forever. I am in this for the long run.
Did you give up any favorite foods?
Of course, I have given up some of my favorite foods that I used to eat on a regular basis. Cheese, bacon, lamb, salty chip snacks, and chocolate binges are some of the foods I have given up eating often. I will very occasionally have one or the other and enjoy it. I am becoming aware, though, that I do not enjoy them the way I used to. They seem too sweet or too heavy.
I would say that my diet is strict but in no way as limiting as I thought a healthy diet would be. There are many hundreds of foods that taste great and are healthy. The biggest part of a strict diet for me is eating fresh foods: vegetables, fruit, grain, and fish. I have cut highly processed foods out of my diet. It also helps me not to have tempting junk foods in the house.
What major challenges do you encounter, and how do you get past them?
Emotional problems are my biggest challenge. Feeling sad, lonely, or frustrated really brings on the urge to eat foods that are not healthy for me. Under this kind of pressure, I can eat a lot of them. I am learning other ways to ease the pain rather than eating. Taking a walk or calling a friend, for example.
How do you handle eating out?
I don't eat out often. When I do, I almost always order a salad with dressing on the side. I am amazed at the amount of dressing that is provided. I have found that one small spoonful is really enough. There are times when a salad is not enough, so I allow myself a treat of beef or pasta, and I don't worry myself sick over the amount of butter or unhealthy fats used in the preparation. Then, I am extra careful about my next few meals.
What type of exercise do you do?
Walking -- it's what I prefer and it helps with my weight loss.
What kind of support do you receive to help you lose weight?
Family and friends are there to cheer me on, so to speak, but it is the taste of the healthy foods, the feeling of satisfaction after eating them, and seeing results on the scale that support me daily.
I find that there are more and more products easily available that are healthy, tasty, and easy to prepare. This is very helpful. I realize that many others are becoming aware, care like I do, and are trying to be healthy too. I do not want to be the only "sick" person around.
How do you reward yourself for achieving your weight-loss goals?
Buy a DVD or book.
What tips or advice do you have for others?
Make the diet process an adventure. Find a healthy eating routine that is satisfying and effective. You will undoubtedly be full of discoveries about food and yourself. Never give up finding a system that works for you. Never give up if you find you are human and have lapses on your path to healthy eating.
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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