Donna Learned to Love Running--and Herself!*

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Donna DeGroot (DDHEART)
Weight Lost: 41 pounds
Hometown: Gillett, WI
Occupation: Retired Cardiac Nurse Specialist/ re-retired Passenger Services Manager on a private railcar
What was life like before your weight loss?
 I was never hugely overweight, but always heavier than I probably should be.  I grew up being "the big little sister."  My father said he preferred his girls plump (I hate that word!) while my mother had her own weight problems.  Food was the equivalent of love.  No hugging, but here have some ice cream.  Now, that's not to blame my family but it does help to explain the complex relationship with food and the connection with emotional eating.  I love to eat and I eat when I'm unhappy, bored, when socializing, etc.  I have almost no pictures from when I was heavier.  I would avoid the camera like the plague and when I did find that a photo of me was taken, I would often get rid of it if it was unflattering. It's important for me to note, that when I try to look back through photos, I now see pictures where I was not particularly overweight but if you were to ask me I would've said I was ALWAYS overweight.  I did not have an eating disorder, unless you would count the years of yo-yo diets, but during those earlier years, I also wasn't particularly fit.  I certainly wasn't athletic.  Even as a child, I was shy, cautious and aware that I was "the fat little sister.” I was not as coordinated as other children- at least that's what I thought- and I was afraid to try things for fear that I would look foolish.  I missed out on so much.
What was your ‘light bulb moment’ that made you get serious about losing the weight?
A few years ago when I retired, I joined Weight Watchers and had to step on the scale.  My ‘OMG moment’ was stepping on that scale and realizing that this weight gain could not keep up.  I lost about 40 pounds and actually wore a size six very briefly.  Alas, I didn't keep it up.  I should have continued to go to meetings, but didn't and soon even size 12’s didn't fit.  I managed to keep some control but just couldn't seem to get myself on track.  I knew I needed to adopt a different life philosophy if I want to fit inside a different body. I don't know if I will ever be a person who likes to exercise more than she likes to eat, but I sure would like to be someone who doesn't fill the empty spaces with food.
Tell us a bit about your weight loss journey:
I found SparkPeople and the Sweatsuit to Swimsuit Boot Camp Challenge.  My endurance has improved and my resting heart rate and blood pressure are both lower than when I started.  This means my health is also improving. Plus, my clothes fit much better now and I can get back into some of those lower sizes.  Now, I need to put more focus on my emotional health- I still need to work on seeing the real me in the mirror.  It's a work in progress. When I joined SparkPeople, I had come to the conclusion that dieting didn't work.  A diet implies something that ends when you reach a goal.  When that happens, at least in my case, old unhealthy habits resume and soon the diet needs to be started again.  So I committed to myself that this would be different.  Sure I wanted to lose weight but it couldn't be just about that.  This had to be about lifetime health habits.
It doesn't matter where or when I came to believe I was that "fat little girl", but I never really believed any differently even at those time when my weight was perfect for me.  In a comment to a blog that I wrote on this subject, one SparkFriend in particular had a profound effect on me.  She suggested that I post some of my progress pictures someplace that I would see them every day.  They didn't have to be public, just something to get myself used to looking at me, myself and I.  I made a collage at that time and used it as my desktop wallpaper.  Every time I sat down at the computer, I saw those pictures and I began to see different things.  I saw many things that I liked: muscles, a lean and athletic look.  I began to see someone I really liked, and someone I was proud of. I don't know if I would ever have come to this point without that SparkFriend or so many others.  That's the role of SparkPeople for me.


What is your diet like now as compared to before your transformation?
One thing that’s different is that I have been eating the rainbow.  I eat six colors a day which means that fruits and vegetables are always the center of my eating and I try to eat wholesome, home-prepared foods and stick to foods with a limited ingredient list.  I still track all my food and drink and that continues to help me learn what works and what doesn’t.
What is your typical exercise routine like?
My husband and I walk every day or nearly every day.  I try to run every other day.  I have found running to be one of my favorite “me time” activities.  My weakness is that I still have not found a love of strength training.  I keep trying to find the right thing, but it’s a work in progress.  I get a lot of functional exercise while gardening and doing yard work.
What advice would you give to someone just beginning a weight loss program?
First, set some goals.  Structure your goals in a way that allows you to build for the big goal.  It can be really discouraging to aim for a weight loss goal, but when you define smaller goals like changing a specific eating habit and accomplish that, you will have moved toward the bigger goal.  Second, build activity into your life.  As is often said on SparkPeople, don’t set yourself up for the ‘all or nothing’ mentality.  Small exercise segments add up and if you don’t like a certain activity, keep looking for the thing you do enjoy.  Third, don’t think you have to go it alone.  Remember how I learned to accept myself?  It was from the advice of a SparkFriend.

How has your life changed since losing weight and improving your health?
I have become a runner! An athlete at the sweet young age of 61!  I have taken home age group trophies from races I have done and I am very proud of that even though I know that the competition isn't so great in my age group. I know how much work it takes to cross the finish line, so even if I am the only old "broad" in a race, I can be proud.
I believe I am healthier than I have ever been. And although I live in a fairly isolated part of the north woods, I have friends all over the world who have been there for me through "thick and thin" and for whom I would jump through hoops to help in their journeys.

*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 We'd love to share your story. Email us: sparkpeoplesuccess (at) gmail (dot) com

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


Thanks for sharing....really needed to read this today. A lot of it sounds very much like my life. There is hope!! Report
GO DONNA! I just started running 3 or so weeks ago, and regardless if the scale isn't in my favor, I feel great knowing that I'm running and making it a point to better my health. Thanks for sharing your story :) Report
I really appreciated your suggestion to set small goals to reach your big goal. I haven't been thinking small enough. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story! Report
Congratulations on all your accomplishments!! You are an inspiration!!! Report
Great job Donna, your story truly inspires me to take control of my health and life! Report
Donna, thank you for sharing your story. I have also spent most of my life believing I was fat, due to a negative body image created mainly by comments my family made when I was a child. It has only been in the last year or so that I can look at pictures of myself as a young person and realize that I wasn't actually fat at all! To find out that this idea that had been so instrumental in shaping my self-perception wasn't actually true was a real revelation for me, the first step to creating a different image of myself as a whole, confident, healthy person. I was also a clumsy kid; that hasn't changed. But, I have also recently taken up running and hope to start swim lessons next summer. Once I master the coordination needed for those activities, who knows what's next? :-) Report
What a great story! Thank you for the motivation. I turned 50 this year and have felt my middle expanding and my feelings of self-worth diminishing. Report
Excellent story. Good advice. Thanks for sharing Report
Wow! You are almost a mirror for my story. Congratulations on your success and I wish you all the best in the future staying on track and staying healthy. Your story is inspiring for me, as I continue to strive to get my last 3.5 pounds off, before I adjust my goal and go for another 10, then I should be done! But I feel better than I have in years. Not bad for 65! Thanks for giving me a boost of motivation. I need to ready more stories like yours. Report
You go, Donna. Your story will help me on my road to running again.

Thank you for sharing! Report
WOO-HOO! Go Donna!!! Report
Fantastic job! You look lovely and strong.

As for strength training, I hate it, too! However, I have found a small, local gym with a group of really dedicated athletes. Being in a supportive group has really made a big difference. I have people asking me where I was if I miss training. You don't get that kind of accountability at big box gyms, and that's what I needed all along to do weight training.

Good luck and good health! Report
I noticed a lot of parallels between your story and my life.
Thanks for sharing! Report
Loved seeing your story! Report
I just love inspirational stories from another silver citizen. Too many of us use our age as an excuse. It is definitely harder and takes longer, but that isn't the same as impossible. Weigh to go Sister Senior! Report
Wow! Look at you go! Great job!! Report
You have done a great job with you healthy lifestyle. Runner? That is very cool. I have looked at some of your pictures and the ones of the lake. Is that Kelly Lake? My husband is a Thomson from the Falls. Report
You have done a fabulous job! I too have done the yo-yo thing and I also said that this time it is a lifestyle change, not a diet. I like exercise, but I tend to get caught up in life and quit doing it. This time it has to stick! You are very inspirational! Report
You give another "old lady" hope! I also am a nurse, not retired, so trying to find time for life while working. You look amazing! I especially like the back shot in black- those are not old lady shoulders even if you haven't found a way to strength train regularly. I am able to do "Body Pump" at my gym- maybe there is a DVD that would inspire you if you don't have access to classes to make it fun. Report
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.