Name: Alicia Blank
Current Age: 29
Weight Lost: 68 lb
Successful Strategies: Portion control, a supportive spouse, and nonfood rewards for every 10 pounds lost
Four years ago, my husband, Tom, and I hiked theGrand Canyon. We’re both nature photographers, and we love the outdoors, so I thought it would be the perfect pastime for us. Instead it was miserable and humiliating. Our hiking buddies were a couple in their mid-40s; I was 25, but they left me in the dust. I was so sore afterward, I could barely move.
Two weeks later, my knees still hurt. “It’s because you’re overweight,” my doctor told me. His words didn’t surprise me; in fact, I felt relieved and grateful to know there was something I could do. My knees had ached for years, and I just thought I had inherited problem knees. He explained that 1 pound of excess weight feels like 4 pounds to your knees. But what did surprise me was the number of calories he told me I was eating.
To maintain my 218-pound body, he said, I had to be eating about 15 calories a pound, or 3,270 calories a day. There was no way I could be eating that much! My doctor gently suggested that I track what I ate and how much I exercised for 2 weeks. At the end of 14 days, I was convinced: I was eating way too much and only exercising sporadically. It was the wake-up call I’d needed to get into shape.
Gaining More Than a Spouse
My weight started to go up after I got married, 9 years ago. My husband, a wonderful cook, made dinner most nights, and he’d serve me the kind of big-man portions he fed himself. We also liked to eat out a lot. And when food is put in front of me, I eat it all. Other than my daily soda habit, I was a pretty healthy eater–lots of fruits and veggies and not a lot of junk foods–but I never paid attention to portion sizes.
I didn’t notice the weight gain at first. I’d put away my clothes for the winter, and when I’d take them out the next spring, they would be snug. Then one spring, they didn’t fit at all. “They must have shrunk in storage,” I told myself, and off I went to buy new clothes.
But after my wake-up call, I started to eat healthier by removing the most obvious diet offenders. First, I cut my two daily sodas to a once-a-week treat. I stopped eating chocolate and desserts. I lost a couple of pounds, but I knew I needed something more structured. That’s when I saw the Richard Simmons diet advertised on TV.
I think he’s corny, but his food plan looked reasonable. It’s modeled after the USDA food pyramid. You get a plastic notebook with windows, and you put in the food card that fits your weight and height. The windows show what foods you are allowed each day, and as you eat them, you shut the windows. When all the windows are closed, you’re done eating for the day–simple. I loved that there were no gimmicky frozen meals or prepackaged foods, just lots of fruits and veggies.
In It Together
My husband, always supportive, quickly got on board with my weight loss plan by downsizing the overgenerous food portions he’d been serving me. We were both surprised at what appropriate serving sizes really looked like. The tennis-ball scoop of mashed potatoes looked minuscule compared with the half-plate portion we’d been eating. We started sharing restaurant entrees because they were twice the size I was supposed to eat.
Five exercise videos came with the Simmons food plan. From the very beginning, Tom would do the goofy ’80s music workouts with me. We’d laugh like crazy. It was so much fun, and it kept me exercising regularly. I steadily lost about 2 pounds a week.
In addition to using the videos, I started walking every morning or after work. On weekends, Tom and I hiked local trails. I was determined to get in shape to go backpacking. When the videos started feeling too easy, I looked for ones that included both aerobic and strength training.
Back to theGrand Canyon
To keep myself motivated, I focused on short-term goals. Every time I lost 10 pounds, I’d pamper myself. At 175 pounds, I went to a day spa for a mini-massage, manicure, and pedicure; at 165, I got a full-body massage. I reached my goal of 150 pounds just 10 months after I started.
We went back to the Grand Canyonto celebrate with the same friends we traveled with 4 years ago. I told them up front that I planned to walk them into the ground–and I did. After 50 miles of backpacking, I wasn’t achy, sore, or swollen. Our dream of making the outdoors a regular part of our lives has become a reality: Our next backpacking trip is coming up in a couple of weeks.
No-Measure Perfect Portions
Here are some easy ways to eyeball portions:
Your fist = a 1-cup serving of cut-up fruit, pasta, rice, or yogurt The palm of your hand = one 3-ounce serving of beef, chicken, or fish Your thumb = 1 ounce of cheese The tip of your thumb = 1 teaspoon of peanut butter, olive oil, or butter