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.
*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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