(From Carolyn Leonard, Joy Fit Club member)
My name is Carolyn Leonard and I am a 57-year-old widow living inTampa,Florida. I have been heavy most of my life. Looking back at family photos, my weight problem started in the third grade. I grew up in a Polish/German household inBaltimorewhere food was always on the table and I was encouraged to “clean your plate”. So I did. And unfortunately, I took that food mentality to adulthood.
As a teenager, I was always the funny one since I felt that making people laugh would keep them from looking at my size. I was a size 20 in high school. I was popular but enjoyed the safety of socializing with groups.
I met the love of my life when I was 18. We met at work and starting dating. After two years, we were married. Living inBaltimore, we were big fans of the Baltimore Orioles and the Baltimore Colts. We were also big fans of eating out. We did it a lot and I gained even more weight until I reached my highest weight of 252. To be honest, my weight never really bothered my husband so it didn’t bother me. When I was pregnant with our son, Mark, I actually lost weight. I was dealing with morning sickness and couldn’t tolerate certain rich and greasy foods. While most women gain weight, I lost 35 pounds. I thought, finally the secret to weight loss for me…..stay pregnant!!!!!!
Over the years, I lost and gained weight. I always thought of a diet as depriving myself and my husband would always tell me that my weight didn’t matter and he loved me. We both started developing health problems that were weight related but continued eating the wrong foods. We were both meat and potato eaters, dessert eaters and what we referred to as “prime time” eaters – from 8:00 pm to bedtime.
In April 2005, we decided to start eating healthy foods. I had been diagnosed with Type II diabetes in 1990 and was taking oral medications. I was also taking medication for high blood pressure and pain. Simply walking was painful for me. All of my medications were for problems caused by my excessive weight.
On the morning of October 6, 2005, my life changed forever. Richard and I were excited about our upcoming vacation. We were going toCaliforniafor his birthday on October 16th to spend a week as “tacky tourists” and celebrate our 35th anniversary early (November 28th), with tickets to see our favorite rock group, the Eagles. As he was preparing to leave for work, he turned around and told me that he loved me. I responded and then heard him fall. He died in my arms before the paramedics arrived. The cause of death was a massive heart attack. Our poor eating habits contributed to his untimely death.
For three months I was in a fog. I wrote post it notes that I carried with me that read, “Breath in and out” “brush hair and teeth”. Somehow I made it through our wedding anniversary in November and the Christmas holidays. I just don’t remember how.
During this time, I realized that I needed to change my diet and lifestyle. I wanted to be here for my son, daughter-in-law and two beautiful grandchildren. I started a journal to document what I ate, when and why. It was pretty eye opening. I made minor changes.
First, I gave up fried foods. I started to feel better. Next, desserts. It was tough giving up my peanut butter and chocolate ice cream. But when I read the label, the fat content was frightening. Next, the prime time eating had to change. So I stopped buying the foods that were packing on the pounds. If it’s not in the house, you’re not going to eat it. I had a friend tell me that it was easy for me since I live alone. But I reminded her that if it’s bad for her, it’s bad for her family. So why buy it. Going to the corner convenience store at 9 pm in your pajamas for that bag of potato chips or pint of ice cream won’t happen. Trust me. My prime time snacking now consists of single servings of low fat popcorn, single serving of pretzels or my chocolate fix – two dark chocolate miniatures. I still need my chocolate but I limit it to two pieces, not a bag and not every night.
This Saturday marked two years since my husband died. Today, I weigh 155. I have gone from a size 24 to a size 14. Finally, I’m the average American woman, and it only took me 57 years to get here. My goal is 138 and size 10. I’m realistic and I know that it will take me another four months to lose the last 17 pounds but it will happen. I have not gained any of the weight that I’ve lost.
My exercise routine consists of walking, cleaning and the elliptical machine. I walk every day. During my breaks, lunch and after work. While coworkers try to park as close to the office as possible, I park at the back of the lot. I’m known for cleaning and dancing. I clean one room every day while listening to – who else – the Eagles. Also, I spend 30 minutes a day on the elliptical machine. Ten minutes three times a day.
Being 57, the metabolism slows down and it is harder to lose weight. I have reached several plateaus and adjusted my calorie intake while increasing my exercise. But I’m a realist and I’m not going to start an exercise program that I can’t continue. I do enjoying shopping at the mall and park at the opposite end of my favorite department store so I have to walk the entire mall to return to my car.
My daily menu now looks like this:
Low fat cereal, granola or yogurt with fruit, coffee and juice
Green salad with turkey, chicken, beef or fish
100-calorie pack, pretzels or almonds (one serving)
Fish, chicken, pork or turkey w/baked potato or rice and vegetables.
Total daily calorie intake 1200
I have definitely reduced the fat in my diet and eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits. Also, I drink 5-16 ounce bottles of water in addition to unsweetened tea and my nightly before bed treat of hot green tea with fresh ginger.
The best part of losing the weight is that I am now off all medications. The money that I once spent on co-pays for prescriptions is now spent on beautiful new clothes. My doctor calls me her poster child. I’m healthier now and feel great. I need that energy to keep up with my grandchildren.
Everyday I think about how I wish we had started losing weight sooner. The motivation for my change was the death of my beloved husband. I hope that my story motivates someone to make the change NOW. Let ME be your motivation. I’m 57 years old. It’s NEVER TOO LATE. Start today. Don’t DIEt – LIVEit. I’ll see you at the mall.
For more on Carolyn’s story and her fellow members of the Joy Fit Club, click here.