Healthy eating habits helped physical therapist Nancy Sterling put a lifetime of yo-yo dieting to rest
Weight Then: 236
Weight Now: 163
Pounds Lost: 73
I’ve been a swimmer for as long as I can remember, but my weight always yo-yoed. A few years ago, with my 50th birthday looming, I reached 236 pounds—the highest I’d ever been. I was so heavy that my knees, hips, and feet hurt. One day I struggled to carry a 55-pound bag of dog food into the house. As I dropped it to the floor, I imagined the relief I’d feel from getting rid of so many extra pounds. I became determined to lose the weight.
I was chubby growing up, but Mom’s healthy cooking and my swimming kept the weight in check. When I went to college, though, my sorority sisters and I ate constantly. The “freshman 15” became 30. I learned how to go on fasting streaks, but once I lost weight, I’d go right back to my old ways. And the pounds would pile on again—with friends. This routine shaped the way I’d eat for 3 decades to come. But as my 50th birthday approached, it nudged me to take stock—I had too much ahead of me to live this way. I’d been going to Weight Watchers half-heartedly for years; this time I vowed to make it work. My wonderful leader encouraged me to show up even when I hadn’t followed the program and taught me to really think about what did and didn’t work. I realized I needed to set clearer limits—doughnuts in moderation might be okay for someone else, but not for me (willpower was never my strength). Fortunately, my swimming was a tremendous help. My masters team, the YMCA’s program for adults, got a new hard-driving coach; my workouts intensified, and I noticed how much stronger I felt in the pool when I ate healthfully.
Breaking Habits—and Records
Soon, I was gliding through the water like a kayak, not lumbering like a barge. I spent the months after my 50th birthday losing the last 10 pounds and rewriting theMarylandmasters record book for my age group. In May 2006, I won a national individual event for the first time. In fact, I won six of them! I’m finally looking at food as fuel. It feels as though I’m aging in reverse! If I’m winning races in my 50s, I can’t wait to see what I’ll accomplish in the years to come.
How I Did It
I ate fewer…refined carbs like the ones in muffins and cookies and cookie dough! Instead of stopping for a giant muffin and a cappuccino after swim practice, I’d go home and whip up a healthy yogurt smoothie.
I ate far more…fruits and veggies a minimum of five a day, as well as two to three dairy servings daily. The way I’m eating now makes me feel light in and out of the water.
I exercised…by swimming four times a week for 1 1/2 hours per workout double what I used to. My new coach and teammates supported and challenged me and kept me motivated.
My mantra: Quitting is not an option; I know that I can do this.
Unexpected gain: I feel more confident with my physical therapy clients who wants weight loss advice from somebody who is heavy? Plus, I finally feel comfortable in my swimsuit!
Health bonus: My knees, hips, and feet don’t hurt anymore!