How One Couple Worked Together to Lose 267 Pounds*

By , SparkPeople Blogger
A couple facing diabetes and other health issues joined together to start a weight loss journey that took them from sedentary and lifeless to vigorous and healthy. They now have many Valentine's Day celebrations ahead of them as a couple thanks to careful food tracking and daily walking!

Names: Steve and Debbie Cartwright
Usernames: Sac-6582 and Debarizona
Amount of weight lost: Steve lost 180 pounds and Debbie lost 87 pounds
Hometown: Peoria, AZ                 
Occupations: Steve is in ministry and Debbie is a facility director for a camp/retreat
Ages: Steve is 54 and Debbie is 52
What was life like before your weight loss? Steve's health gradually worsened over time and he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. He continued to add medications until he was not only on insulin but other oral medications for diabetes, blood pressure and high cholesterol. So at 345 pounds, he got serious about his condition.

At the same time, Debbie was tired all the time, also had high blood pressure and was in the beginning stages of diabetes. She was able to exercise a little but ate so poorly that the exercise wasn't making much of a difference.

What was your "light bulb moment" that made you get serious about losing the weight? Faith was at the root of Steve's "ah ha" moment. As a minister, he was confronted with the fact that he was not taking care of himself as he should. It came down to a passage that says we are to love our neighbor as "we love ourselves" and he realized he did not love himself. "In fact I hated everything about me," he says. "So I was challenged through the Bible and others to start loving myself."

For Debbie, it was a combination of Steve getting progressively worse from his diabetes, their health insurance changing and costing far more for prescriptions, and the realization that she was going to be costing their budget almost as much as Steve if she didn't change her habits and help Steve change his. She had another light bulb moment when she actually started logging her calories. The realization of how many calories she had been eating knocked her out of her denial about what was really going on.

Tell us a bit about your weight-loss journey: For Steve at 345 pounds, it wasn't easy! With his doctor's guidance he started by just reducing portions and walking 10 minutes a day. "The first day I walked about a quarter of a mile and the next morning I was in so much pain," he recalls. "I was ready to throw in the towel. It was about five months after I had started this journey that I found and everything changed. I stopped tracking my calories and exercise on paper and started using the SparkPeople app and online tracking. The first couple of months under doctor's care I went from reducing my portions to a very strict calorie count." "During that time I did have some forbidden foods that I would avoid," he continues. "This would change after I got past my first 50 pound weight-loss milestone. After that, nothing was off limits but I had to record everything I ate and I had SparkPeople to help me keep track of my calories so I would stay within my limits."

Debbie's journey was a little easier. Her weight started to come off very quickly at first. Eating a reasonable amount of calories and exercising every day was a winning combination for her. As the weight came off, her momentum increased to do a little bit more every week.  She enjoyed a steady weight loss for about eight months, losing about 75 pounds during that time.

Did you encounter any obstacles during your journey and, if so, how did you deal with them? Steve was an emotional eater and found it hard not to binge or reach his calorie max quickly each day. He learned to not beat himself up when he did overdo it. Debbie and her support was another huge help as they worked together on a journey to a healthier lifestyle. She did most of the cooking and, although their new lifestyle took more time to do all the food preparing, it has paid off for both of them.
Debbie had an extremely stressful summer cooking for youth camps a few years ago. Very long days on her feet led to little energy to exercise and little discipline over her diet. Following that tough summer, she entered an even tougher battle with breast cancer surgery and radiation. These continued to limit her exercise but didn't keep her from eating properly.

She stayed steady for about a year before kick-starting her weight loss again and staying vigilant about what she was eating. Debbie also started to turn parts of her walks into jogs and this transition really made a difference. Just getting her heart rate consistently to a higher level and adding some increased strength training helped get her momentum back.  She was able to lose those ten pounds she had been holding onto since her illness and was able to lose about ten more on top of that.  She is still about thirteen pounds from her goal weight but determined to get there!

What tools, routines and habits did you find most helpful to help you stay motivated?  Steve found the more he was able to exercise the more he felt like doing and that led to weight loss which also began to really motivate him.  He started looking for ways to be active, like parking further away from the store so he would have to walk and taking stairs rather than elevators or escalators.

Another motivator involves his clothes. Losing weight can become very expensive when it comes to clothing. So Steve and Debbie would go to their local Goodwill store. Steve would buy several items to get him through and a couple items he aimed to get into. After both became too large Steve would return them to Goodwill and get some more.  Steve keeps a pair of size 54 pants and a 3 XL shirt hanging on the bedroom wall. Each morning he sees what he used to wear to remind him not to go back.

For Debbie, SparkPeople was essential. Morning exercise was also a must because she knew she wouldn't have been as consistent if she put it off until later because of working long and often odd hours. Consistency was an important key to her success. Having fun with exercise also helped, especially in the beginning. Her favorite exercise when she was still quite overweight was to simply use a step and go up and down, up and down, to her favorite music. She also enjoyed dancing and since it was fun, Debbie was motivated to continue.

Debbie also found that the habit of non-judgment was very helpful. She didn't have to be perfect or expect herself to be. She refused to swear off any foods. As long as she counted it in her tracking and stayed within her day allotment, she allowed herself some treats like chocolate or other favorite things.

Did you ever slip up or hit a plateau? If so, how did you overcome it? Plateaus happen but when Steve would hit one he would remind himself that as long as he was doing the work it was paying off inside whether or not it was showing on the scale or in how his clothes fit. He also learned to not put all his stock in what the scale said. How he felt, looked (to himself in the mirror and as others would notice the change) and how his clothes fit were ways he would evaluate his success. Debbie changed up her diet a little but mostly changed the exercise she was doing and increased the intensity.

What advice would you give to someone just beginning a weight loss program? Steve found these three keys to help him win at weight loss:
  1. Be patient: You didn't get in the shape you're in overnight and you're not going to lose it overnight. "It took me about two years to reach my goal weight," he says.
  2. Cut yourself some slack: Don't be so hard on yourself when you mess up. Pick yourself up and go at it again. But this time do it with an awareness of what caused your mess up. (Learn from your mistakes.)
  3. Never have a forbidden food: When you tell yourself you can't have some food it will be the food you obsess about.

    Debbie echoes the key of giving yourself time. "Stop looking for quick fixes because that will never be permanent," she says. "Changing your lifestyle is permanent and it works, so be patient with yourself and celebrate small victories and take every opportunity to move more."
Did you experience any other benefits in addition to losing weight? When Steve started his journey he created a skinny man's bucket list. He wanted to hike into and out of the Grand Canyon, speed walk a half marathon, be able to run, ride the roller coaster (that he had been told to get off of because of his size), buy clothes that weren't two dollars more for the big sizes. Happily, Steve has accomplished all of these items and more! He has also reached his goal of 160 pounds from his starting point of 345 pounds AND has maintained that weight loss for two years! At his last physical in November of 2013, Steve's blood work was all normal and he is no longer Type 2 Diabetic and is off all medications. Although he is still learning to live, this journey has impacted his whole life, every part of it--from work, to family to emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing.

Debbie not only reaps the benefits of a healthy and active husband, she also got off blood pressure and diabetes medication and feels energetic and great in addition to beating cancer!

How has your life changed since losing weight and improving your health?
Steve is happier and has more energy and is looking forward to all life has to offer. He marvels at how good it has felt to go from being a spectator in life to being a participant. Debbie is FAR more active and doing things she never would have thought she would be doing. She finds herself hiking for enjoyment or walking three miles to go to the store and back just because she wants to. Her taste has changed for food, as well, and she really enjoys healthy food and willingly avoids overdoing it on rich desserts or fatty foods. Steve sums up where they are now this way, "Having Debbie on the same journey wow… what can I say, together we have a lot to look forward to."
Way to go Steve and Debbie! The SparkPeople community is proud of your success! How about you? Can you partner with someone to begin making lifelong changes? I'm sure Steve and Debbie would be happy to SparkCheer you on!

*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

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Amazing and congrats! Not only did you both lose a lot of weight, you both look 20 years younger. Awesome job. Report
Fantastic. Great to see you featured in the Spark Mail. It is so interesting how losing weight and getting to a normal BMI will get people off Type 2 diabetic medicine. Richard Bernstein M.D. in his book "The Diabetes Solution" says that all obese people are Insulin Resistant and with time will develop Type 2 diabetes if they don't lose weight. I got his book at the library and it is well worth reading. He has lectures on YouTube. Report
Amazing inspiration, thank you for sharing your weight loss journey with us! Report
What an awesome, inspiring story! Thank you for sharing this!!! Report
Wonderful story. Congratulations to you both !!! What an inspiration !!! Report
This is a great story! So motivating. Congratulations to you both! Report
Thank you. I am a Christian and I felt that I don't love myself either. Blessings to you. Report
Great story guys. This really inspired me to work harder on my nutrition and be more patient. Report
I love the idea of a 'skinny person's bucket list'!!! Congratulations to you both. :-) Report
Your story is very inspiring, thank you for sharing! Report
You both look so good and years younger too!
Enjoy your new you! Report
You two look FABULOUS!!! Congratulations and keep up the great work! Report
Awesome!!!! Way to go.... Report
Remarkable change for both of you! Great inspiration for those of us that need to lose weight for health issues! Susan Report
You two are a great inspiration. I was especially moved by the "Love Yourself" comment.
I heard the same thing spoken by a character in a movie later in the day. I told my husband that it must be really meant for me on my first day of the Spark lifestyle.
Thank you for your wonderful story. Report
Great job working together! Report
Awesome transformation. You are a great inspiration! Congrats!! Report
WOW! You two really are amazing! Great job and keep up the hard work! Report
WOW! What great journey to take together. You both are an inspiration to us all. Report
That is awesome! Kudos to you two!
Steve & Debbie - thank you for sharing your story. I found it very inspirational. A husband and wife working together and supporting each other like this is an example of what marriage should be about. You helped each other be the best you can be. Report
It is a pity that some people have to be faced with life threatening illnesses and lifestyle diseases to realize that they need to live and eat healthier. Anyway, job well done! Report
thats awesome to have each other so happy for you thats awesome Report
Congratulations. It took commitment and work. Nicely done. Report
Thank you for the inspiration! Report
You are both every inspiring and congratulations on the long and rugged road. Report
You guys look great but what is more important you are healthy!!! WTG! Report
Congratulations nto you both!! This is such a great accomplishment! Report
You both inspire me to try harder at making this Healthy Lifestyle work for me. I've lost around 60#s but still have quite a ways to go to be at a Healthy Weight. Congrats to both of you, you look great & have added many healthy wonderful years to your life. So Proud of Both of You & how you were there for each other through thick and thin--LOL. Hugs. Report
Wow, what an encouragement! Report
Congratulations to both of you. After years of watching me go to the gym, my husband finally decided to join me. When you compare what I can do in terms of flexibility and endurance, with what he can do, he really needs it. Just as we were starting, I fell cross-country skiing and broke my leg and ankle, so we are on hold.
This may not be a popular point of view, but I think we owe it to our loved ones to pursue good health. Report
Great job both of you ! Report
How wonderful that both of you were there for each other - not too many couples have that level of support! Report
WTG Steve and Debbie! Report
Loved this story! My husband and I just recently committed to getting healthy together, and this is such a wonderful inspiration. Congratulations, you two! Report
I love this happy ending,wish that I could get my husband on board with me on this journey as you two have done. Report
Really enjoyed reading about your successes! Best to you both as you continue your journey by maintaining that fantastic weight loss! Report
You guys have accomplished so much, and can now do so much more! It is wonderful to see Spark showcase your story - And I get to say "Hey! I met them!" Report
Amazing story. Congratulations to Debbie and Steve! Report
Steve and Debbie, thanks for sharing your story. You are both quite an inspiration with your weight loss and your faith. You have both accomplished so much it really is amazing. Report
Inspirational! Thank you! And thank you SparkPeople. Report
Wonderful motivating story of how a couple can work together to achieve better health and fitness. Congratulations.! Report
Congratulations Debbie and Steve, you did it. And you have inspired many. Thank you. Report
You two are amazing! Thanks for posting! Report
Nicely done and congratulations! The key really does seem to think of it as a lifestyle change instead of a diet. I wish you Many happy and healthy years together. Report
Congratulations to both of you. What a fine example of how high we can raise ourselves up when we bend down to help another! Report
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