86 Pounds Down, Marsha is One Active Grandma*

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Marsha West (SLENDERELLA61)
Weight Lost: 86 pounds
Hometown: Lakeland, FL
Occupation: Retired Non-Profit Administrator
What was life like before your weight loss?
I was put on my first "diet" at one year of age. The doctor put me on skim milk. I was heavy throughout my childhood. My parents were very loving and encouraging in many ways but were both overweight and didn't recognize my weight as a problem until I was 11 years old. I then tried diet shakes and diet cola. I tried to lose unsuccessfully for years. At age 16, I finally lost 60 pounds, going from 172 to 112 pounds. It took me nine months to lose it, and I probably did not maintain for even a week. I went back up to 155 pounds within three months.
As a child I didn't want to run, dance, or move fast because I was embarrassed to let others see my fat jiggle. When all my friends were dating, I wasn't. I was so sad not to have a date to the prom. As an adult, I constantly felt less than other people because of my weight. I put up with bad relationships and being treated badly because I didn't think I deserved more. I had given up trying to lose weight to look better.
What was your ‘light-bulb moment’ that made you get serious about losing the weight?
When the doctor told me, at age 59, that I had three months to bring down my cholesterol and blood pressure, I wanted to do it for my health. And then, my daughter asked me to help her lose her baby weight, and I certainly wanted to support her. There was an evening when I was sitting in front of the TV eating dry cereal out of the box when I noticed how empty the box had become with me not even really tasting it. I told myself that if I wanted to live life at the weight that I really wanted to be, then I simply could not continue this mindless eating. For the next week, I felt like I was in mourning the loss of my good evening companion.

Not long after that, I was just about to overfeed my dear dog as usual; I was always afraid she might be hungry. But then I stopped. I wanted her to have the same health and energy I was beginning to enjoy! The light bulb went on and I knew what I wanted for both of us. There were no doubts and no turning back.
Tell us a bit about your weight loss journey: 
On December 1, 2008, I started my current effort to live healthy; to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I started with Weight Watchers, a program I had used to lose weight over and over again since 1968. I had previously lost 60 pounds twice in my life, and 30 or more pounds eight times. My problem was I could not maintain the loss. This time, I had lost 10% of my total body weight within 12 weeks. In March 2009, I was back within two pounds of my goal weight of 155 pounds at the time. This time I was determined not to put the weight back on. I very slowly increased my food, adding one more teaspoon of oil and one more glass of skim milk per day. I read everything I could find about weight maintenance. It was on the Weight Watchers maintenance message boards that I first read about SparkPeople.  I knew what to eat to lose weight, but did not have a clue what to eat to maintain. On SparkPeople, I found, for the first time, meal plans for weight maintenance.

I read that exercise was a primary factor in maintenance, so I started tracking my cardio exercise on SparkPeople. I went from 30 minutes of cardio five times a week to one hour of cardio six times a week. I loved seeing those SparkPoints add up and winning trophies!  I also read about the importance of strength training. For the first time in my life, I got consistent with a strength training program. After 4 months of using a SparkPeople-generated strength training program, I joined a gym and tried many new classes and machines. 

I made lots of SparkFriends, blogged and read blogs, and found people my age that enjoyed running. So, I decided to try it. What a shock when I ran my first 5K and won a medal for third place in my age group! I have gone on to run 15 more 5Ks and two 10Ks. In 2012, two of my greatest accomplishments were maintaining a weight that placed my BMI under 22 and running my first half marathon. I would never have done that without SparkPeople! In fact, my great SparkFriend, ONEKIDSMOM, came all the way from Nebraska to central Florida to run with me, and even stayed with me when my pace slowed around mile 11. We finished together and it was amazing!
What is your current typical exercise routine like?
Right now, I’m training for my second and third half marathons with a local Galloway (run-walk-run) group. I run twice a week on my own and participate in one group long run weekly. I cross-train three days a week, mixing up a variety of activities including walking, elliptical, low-impact aerobics, cycling, swimming, Zumba or Pilates. I also stay busy in other ways too, such as enjoying ballroom dancing with my husband regularly and active play with my grandkids.
How would you describe your typical diet now as compared with before your weight loss? 
I have greatly improved my nutrition. The biggest thing I learned when tracking my nutrients was that I ate far more sodium than I realized. I gave up many processed foods and learned to enjoy the "Super Foods" I read about on SparkPeople. I participated in the Tame Your Sweet Tooth Challenge which really helped me reduce my reliance on artificial sweeteners as well as sugar. It has been years since I had a day with less than six servings of fruits and vegetables or two to three servings of nonfat milk. My consumption of saturated fat is a fraction of what it used to be as well.
What advice would you give to someone just beginning a weight loss program?
The most important advice in starting a weight loss program is DO NOT GIVE UP! No matter what, do not give up. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it. Over and over, I got discouraged by the scale and just how hard it is to lose weight. I had to quit getting disgusted with myself and start being a detective. The SparkPeople trackers are great for looking honestly at what you are eating and what you are doing. If something isn’t working, mix it up: change what you are eating or change your cardio exercise. While losing weight, I found that focusing on my lowest weigh-in of each month was the best information because I always saw progress. Focusing on daily or even weekly weigh-ins can get very discouraging. Also, it is good to know from the beginning that achieving goal weight is not the end of the journey. Developing a healthy lifestyle is what it takes to live life at the weight you love!

How has your life changed since losing weight and improving your health?
My cholesterol has gone from 229 to 159. My triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol) were high and HDL (good cholesterol) was low. I’ve been able to reverse this and all are in desirable ranges now. My blood pressure used to hover around 140/90, and now it is usually 115/65.
I have so much energy now! At age 64, I watch my grandchildren (ages three and six) six days a week. At my old weight, I could not have done it. Now, I can keep up with their boundless energy!  I enjoy life much more than when I strained to move around. I feel so much better about myself, too.

Go, Marsha!

*Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.

Have you lost weight and kept it off using SparkPeople.com? We'd love to share your story. Email us: sparkpeoplesuccess (at) gmail (dot) com

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Awesome story!!!!! Report
Hi Marsha. Your story is so inspiring. I love the way you're using the SparkPeople resources to help you continue to maintain your weight loss. Good for you!! Report
Congratulations to maintaining your goal weight for 10 years, Marsha!
You have always been an inspiration to me,
and I'm right behind you! (well almost... I'm only at 7 and half years but will get there!)
19Mar2019 Report
I just friended you so I have you on my official list of role models - at the rate I'm going, I won't live to be 67... Report
such an inspiration! Report
This is a very inspirational story! Congratulations on your weight loss and your fitness achievements! Thank you for sharing your success story. = ) Report
I found your story from the link on your page. So inspiring. I love how SUSANSKI sums it up in a nutshell, and copied it to remember your advice. Report
I want to be a wonderful grandma like you!
I. LOVED. this. blog.
Thank you for sharing, Marsha.
These are the things I took away from it.
1. Do not give up.
2. If it's not working, be a detective.
3. Sparkpeople trackers are great at being HONEST.
4. Spark friends are dear and valuable beings. :)
5. "Developing a healthy lifestyle is what it takes to live life at the weight you love!"
You so rock! Thank you for sharing your story. I've been on the rollercoaster my entire life, as well. Restarting my effort and working to make lasting changes. Report
So proud to say you are on my friend list!! Keep going, girl!! Love this recognition that you definitely deserve!! Report
You are an inspiration to us all!!! Report
I needed to see this. I am so glad you figured out what works for you, Marsha. I too have struggled with my weight most of my adult life. I am now 62 and overweight again. I just don't want to diet anymore but I also don't want to give up. I need to find what will work for me once and for all. Report
Thank you Marsh! I'm 63 and have 125 pounds to loss. You have me the courage to go for it.I can do this! Report
You have no idea how reading your post today saved my life. I was ready to give up. I am 60 years old and have been down the same road as you had described about yourself. You have given me hope again. Thank you so much Marsha, for writing this page so many years ago and thank you SPARKPEOPLE for posting it again. Report
Thanks for inspiring me. Wonderful!
What a wonderful story. I also am in my 60's and want to know how you started running. Report
Congratulations on your victories! Thank you for sharing your story; it is very en-couraging to me as I have been struggling or preoccupied with weight loss and control since age 12! Way too long! Report
So wonderful to read your story!! I KNEW you were an inspiration to me--now I know more about WHY!! Report
I love it when I unexpectedly come across your story and get to read it again. You are a real inspiration. Report
Way to go Marsha! I have goosebumps reading this! U r my inspiration! Report
Such an inspiring story. Good for you! I am ready to keep chugging along! Report
Go get 'em, girl! Report
WOOOOOHOOOOOO! Thanks for sharing.
Wow! You go girl! Report
Congratulations!! You are amazing!!! You inspired me. So awesome to see how you are reaping the benefits of your hard work. Report
awesome! Report
Thank you for sharing. Very inspirational. Report
Awesome! Congratulations on finally figuring it all out. Report
Thanks for the inspiration. I can really identify with how you started out and I know what it's like to lose and then regain weight. I just turned 50. You are giving me hope! Report
Thanks for giving me hope! I too have lost weight and gained it back many times. I am now 60 and facing health issues because of my weight . I am now determined with God's help and the help of friends to succeed.I need a spark buddy if anyone is interested.. Report
Love the photo of you running. It's so inspirational. Thanks for giving me hope! Report
Just signed up on Sparks People (again)....Last year I lost 47 lbs., (on my own), but very soon the pounds started coming back. Since this time last year I've gained back 40, and am so frustrated with myself! I can lose the weight by changing my habits, but I never seem to stick with it and back it comes. I'm 59 right now, and my goal is to turn 60 (next August), with a new fit and healthy body, and a life long attitude to stay that way! Thanks for your blog.....you look great1 Report
Awesome Blog Marsha. Congrats and keep up the great work on yourself. Report
Your story is just what I needed to read today. Thank you Marsha. Report
Very motivating. Thankyou for sharing your story. I need to get motivated again. I got off track. I work out plenty, not its time to monitor the food in take Report
Thanks for sharing your story. I am in need of motivation and encouragement this morning, and you have provided both. Report
Great to see your story showcased here. Your SparkBlog entries are so engaging. Report
You look so amazing. WTG Report
You are an inspiration to me! I'm 56 and have lost and regained so many times that this time I'm finding it difficult to be motivated. Your story/experience has given me a needed boost of faith that I can lose the weight and keep it off at my age. Thank you!! Report
Beyond an inspiration...you are such a role model. I appreciate your persistent spirit and how you attacked the process of getting healthy. Way to defy all the aging stereotypes (you give me hope). Brava! Report
I am so happy for you! Thanks for sharing your story!
Amazing!! Report
This was one of the most motivational and inspirational success stories I've ever heard! Whenever I need motivation, I will think of Slenderella! Report
Congratulations, Slenderella!! Report
Great to see your blog featured in the Spark Mail. Judith Beck PhD has managed to stay slim and fit for over 20 years using her method, so we know it works. She has the key to keeping it off. You are proof of that.
Denise Austin is the mother of two grown girls, 56, and 5'4" and 112#, so it is possible to be older and fit. Report
WTG Marsha!!! Thx for sharing! Report
Marsha, You are an amazing encouragement and a picture of living life to the fullest. Loved reading about your journey! Report
impressive and I so glad you are proud of yourself you should be!!!!!! Report
Wow! So impressive! Report
Congratulations, Marsha! You're such a wonderful and positive inspiration. So great to see your success story here! Report