DEAR READERS: Many of you responded about the mature woman who felt like giving up because she was overweight. This particular letter has details that may inspire those of you who need a little push.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I'd like to add to your response to Overweight. She didn't state her age, but lamented it could be too late in life to lose weight. I'd like to challenge that idea. I gained 70 pounds with my pregnancy at 33 and lost only 10 to 15 pounds giving birth and nursing. I'm 5 feet, 2 inches tall and got up to 186 pounds, which I carried for years, well into my 50s. About 15 years ago, I had a bad ankle break that required surgery. In the hospital they tested my A1C and said I was at risk for Type 2 diabetes, which terrified me. I was at least 55 at this point.
While still bedridden, I massively altered my eating, adding more complex carbs (such as a small amount of rice and beans twice a day) and eating four smaller meals per day. I was still getting no exercise, as I couldn't put any weight on that ankle. This was enough to improve my A1C, but at 160 pounds, I was still obese. I kept that weight off for five years or so, but I didn't lose any more. I was overjoyed that I didn't gain it back. If I added a few pounds for a month or more, I would cut the sweets out of my diet until it was gone. I was vigilant.
At this point, I rejoined a gym and got regular exercise back into my life, and after another year or so, I was ready to attack my weight again. Over the next year to 18 months, I lost the rest of the weight, another 30-plus pounds, and I now maintain a weight of 130 to 135 pounds -- in my 60s.
Of course, this story doesn't expose how difficult this was and how important it was to make incremental but sustainable changes. Lots of people find it discouraging to take such a long, slow journey to permanent weight loss. I hadn't expected to be able to lose over 50 pounds, ever, much less to keep it off, but I did.
I can't really say why I was able to succeed when so many others fail. Maybe because I grew up eating home-cooked whole foods and kept that up my entire adult life. I never drink soda, never went on a fad diet, and consume very little alcohol, but I do love ice cream and homemade cakes and pies! If it's in the house, even now, I eat it up quickly. Thankfully, I can control myself in the grocery store, and I give myself monthly treats.
Too, I have generally been more active than most and, over the years, would go to a gym for a year or two and then slack off for a few years. But I've always loved feeling strong and was always a walker. This may have made it easier for me to commit to regular exercise.
But I did lose all this weight after 55, most of it after age 60, after carrying the weight for over 15 years. You can do it. Take it slow. Total denial isn't sustainable. Keep moving your body. Age doesn't have to be the determinant. -- Victorious
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)