CAROLYN LEONARD, 63, Temple Terrace
STARTING WEIGHT: 263
CURRENT WEIGHT: 161
WHY I DID IT: In October 2005, my husband of 35 years died suddenly after suffering a massive heart attack. The shock of his death made me realize that although we thought of ourselves as “fat and happy,” our unhealthy lifestyle had contributed to his death. We ate all the wrong foods and took extra medication to compensate for the health issues caused by our eating habits. I realized that if I did not make an immediate and permanent change in my eating habits, I would soon suffer the same fate.
I made the decision to stop medicating and start educating my lifestyle — reading labels, writing down what I was eating and walking. I set realistic goals and celebrated accomplishments. I knew I wanted to lose 100 pounds, but it seemed impossible, so I simply thought of my goal as losing 10 pounds 10 times.
HOW I DID IT: Changing my eating habits and including exercise in my day required that I commit to changing my buying habits. I was an emotional and mindless eater. The secret to my permanent weight loss is DON’T BUY IT! If I don’t buy the junk food, I won’t be tempted to indulge.
I am asked if I eat sweets, and I reply, “Yes, of course!” But I have learned that everything in moderation is the key. I now enjoy my sweets in bites and not bulk. I don’t buy a bag of cookies or a gallon of ice cream. If it is there, I will eat it. So I purchase one or two cookies and a pint of ice cream. I now can have half of a cookie and be happy. I realized that after the first few bites, I was just eating to eat.
I also wake up each day with a “calorie bank.” I have 1,200 to 1,500 calories depending on my planned activities, and I plan wisely. Unlike a financial bank, where you want to have money at the end of the day, a realistic calorie bank can be emptied each day. But just like money, you have to spend your calories wisely.
I started my new lifestyle journey in late-2005 and reached my goal of 160 in early 2007. It took 15 months to lose 100 pounds, and I have maintained my weight loss since that time.
HURDLES: I suffered a back injury in 2011, and I couldn’t walk my normal 60 minutes a day. I gained 15 pounds, but I didn’t panic. I knew that once I started walking again, the weight would come off. I had suffered with Type 2 diabetes for 20 years and am now off all medications.
I hear from people who say they don’t have 60 minutes a day to walk. It’s a matter of planning. When I go to the mall, I park far away from where I need to shop, which forces me to walk the entire mall. When I grocery shop, I park at the back of the lot, and in many cases complete my shopping and wave goodbye to the parking lot vultures as they continue to circle and burn gas.
When I was working, I would walk past the coworkers gathered outside the building and walk for my 15-minute break. I did that twice a day and after lunch. That alone gave me 45 minutes of walking and a moment for planning and solitude.
GOING THE DISTANCE: Now that I have maintained my weight loss since 2007, I know what I can and can’t eat, and I avoid trigger foods. It is a daily commitment to make more good choices than sad choices. I know and accept that with my body frame, I will never be a size 6, and I am very happy and healthy at 63 and a size 12. Celebrate your accomplishments and don’t covet someone’s size or style — create your own!
BEST ADVICE: My friends laugh when I talk to them about my food choices, saying, “If I choose (chews) it, I must use (walk) it. My advice: Take it one day, one bite, one step at a time.
I Lost It is a regular feature highlighting individual weight loss success stories and does not reflect the opinions of 4you, which encourages you to work with a physician or a nutritionist before embarking on a diet. To share your story, visit TBO.com, search Lost It; or email email@example.com; or mail to 4you, The Tampa Tribune, 200 S. Parker St., Tampa FL 33606.