Brenda lost 125 pounds by Taking It Slow
Brenda Hollar ditched the quick fixes and shed 125 pounds.
Name: Brenda Hollar
Current Age: 41
Pounds Lost: 125
Occupation: Children’s services specialist
In college, running and playing sports burned off all the supersized burgers and fries I ate. Then, in 1980, an injury changed everything.
While playing basketball, I went up for a jump shot, landed wrong, and blew out my left knee. During surgery, the doctors removed all of the cartilage and, along with it, my vigorous lifestyle–and the pounds started piling on.
Things got worse after I finished grad school and got a job. My busy schedule and frequent travel eclipsed any thoughts of exercise, and I didn’t adjust my eating to make up for my new sedentary lifestyle.
From my mid-20s to early 30s, I steadily went from 125 to 255 pounds, and the pain in my knee worsened. I was so large that before client dinners or presentations, I had to scout out the venue to be sure that I could get through the rows of chairs and the seats could hold me. One night, I arrived at a business dinner only to find everyone already seated in a booth. When I literally couldn’t fit in, I decided I had to lose some weight.
Being a take-charge, impatient person, I wanted fast results. My knee hurt too much to exercise, so I tried the grapefruit diet, salad-only diet, super-low-calorie diets, Weight Watchers–everything. I’d lose 30 pounds, but the diets were too restrictive and I eventually gained back all the weight and more.
After several years, I was ready to give up on dieting for good. My weight was only an issue when I’d shop for dressy clothes or make a presentation before a new audience. Otherwise, I wasn’t that unhappy with it. I was self-confident and successful at my job and had good friendships. I was ready to accept myself as being large.
Then my body revolted. My knee pain got so bad, even walking to and from my car was agony. I developed asthma and had frequent migraines. When I went to the doctor, I was diagnosed with hypertension and high blood sugar. I was only 37, and I needed blood pressure pills! I was also facing diabetes, the same disease that was costing my father his eyesight and had contributed to his stroke. That’s when I knew I couldn’t accept myself “as is.”
Taking My Time
Because quick weight loss fixes hadn’t worked before, this time I focused on the long term. I set a goal to get a clean bill of health by my 40th birthday. Allowing myself more time to lose the weight, I looked for small changes that I could make and live with.
Instead of starving myself, I cut out about 500 calories a day by reducing portions of everything except fruits and vegetables. I ate as many of them as I wanted (a tip I learned from Weight Watchers). At restaurants and business functions, I was extra careful about portion sizes. I bought bottled water instead of sugary sodas. I knew I could never give up chocolate and sweets, so I allowed myself a small, daily treat, such as a miniature chocolate bar instead of a full-sized one. That little indulgence made it much easier to choose the grilled-chicken salad over a burger and fries at fast-food restaurants.
To keep track of what I was eating, I started a food journal. I was less likely to keep overindulging at business functions when I knew I’d have to record everything. I also planned my meals for the week: If I had a business lunch on Wednesday, I’d have a lighter dinner that night. If I wanted to splurge on pizza, I’d eat less later. For the first time, I was in control. I ate plenty of healthy foods and wasn’t hungry.
After 8 weeks, I had lost about 20 pounds. To continue losing without eating less, I added exercise. Although my knee pain had eased up, running and basketball were still out of the question, so I turned to a childhood favorite that just happens to be easy on your joints: bike riding. The first time out, I made it only 10 minutes–not even a mile–before I was gasping and wheezing.
But I kept at it, 10 minutes after work, 5 days a week. Then, every 2 weeks, I added 5 minutes, until I hit 30. Not having more time to exercise, I challenged myself to ride faster. Now, I can go 10 miles in 30 minutes.
When the days got shorter and colder, I joined Curves, a women-only gym, because its circuit-training workout takes just 30 minutes to complete. And there’s a Curves wherever I travel, so I don’t miss workouts when I’m on the road.
The Little Things Add Up
It wasn’t always easy. Sometimes I’d order a burger and fries after a tough day at work. But unlike before, I didn’t let one bad day wreck everything.
After a year and a half, I’d lost a total of 125 pounds. Today, at 41, my health is excellent. I’ll still need a knee replacement, but now the recovery should be smoother sailing.
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