When a person is overweight, one of the basic questions is… When I have so much to lose, how do I even start?
This is the story of how my mother got started at age 70.
She was sedentary and over the years had two knee replacements, some eye surgery, a broken wrist, lumps in her breasts that had to be removed, and various problems with her health, including emphysema. She sat at the computer all day playing solitaire, eating chips and drinking diet soda. Her main source of exercise was going downstairs to fix something to eat and carrying it back up the stairs to her desk. She weighed in at almost 300 pounds, a lot of weight for a 5’7″ woman to carry around.
Must read: How to Lose Weight for Good
It all started when I hit a number on the scales that disgusted me. I told my mom I was going on a diet, something she had heard plenty of times over the last 25 years. She rolled her eyes and went back to her chips and diet soda. Although I was losing weight, it wasn’t until I had lost about 30 pounds that she grudgingly mentioned it. When I had lost 50 pounds, she started getting interested and mumbled something about wishing she could lose weight, too. I offered to help her get started.
Her issue with dieting had always been that it takes so long and she couldn’t possibly stay on a diet long enough to lose 100 pounds. I told her that this diet was going to last 6 weeks, no more, no less. She would have to eat what I gave her and do what I told her, but just for those 6 weeks. If she did, it was possible to lose up to 30 pounds. She sighed and said she needed to lose 30 pounds to go down one dress size, but even that would be nice, so she agreed to my terms.
I changed my ultra strict diet over to one that incorporates some simple exercise with 5 meals and snacks per day. We did it together. I cooked and put her food in containers and stuck a note on each so she would know when to eat it. I was flabbergasted when she complained about the food. She had a variety of meat, fish, veggies, fruit and complex carbs like potato, rice, and sweet potato.
So why did she complain?
She said she felt like she was eating all the time! She wasn’t hungry when it was time for her snack of chicken and pineapple chunks! She actually felt guilty for eating healthy food that was keeping her metabolism up. Mom… shush… and enjoy your food!
The combinations of protein with veg and proteins with fruit stopped her hunger pangs and put an end to her cravings within the first week. She said she “thought” she could do this for 6 weeks, but was still skeptical. She had it in her mind that it was possible to lose 30 pounds, and even though she knew that would only bring her down one size, it’s better than going UP a clothes size!
She stuck with the food program because her hunger and cravings were gone, but after trying the exercises once… yes, just once… she said she hurt herself and couldn’t do them anymore. No, she didn’t hurt herself, but she thought I would buy it. I told myself that it would be a miracle if she stayed on the diet for 6 whole weeks and I let her slide with the exercises. Giving her grief for not exercising wasn’t going to help.
Miracle of miracles! She made it through 6 weeks and lost about 25 pounds! She was so pleased that she asked if we could do it for another 6 weeks. And we did. And we lost. She went to her club meetings and knit ‘n’ bitch sessions and stayed on the diet fairly well. As the weeks passed, friends started asking if she had lost weight, which progressed to compliments, which progressed to “Wow!”
As she was able to fit into a smaller size, she weeded out her bigger clothes and sent them off to the thrift shop. There was no turning back. It snowballed. The compliments, the smaller clothes, her improved self-esteem, mood, energy level… she was on a losing streak that made her happy.
After about 6 months, she decided she would take a walk once in a while. She’d lost 50 pounds and finally felt she was up to something more strenuous than pushing a shopping cart around the supermarket. The walks became more frequent and she walked farther. She was starting to firm up while she lost weight and went down another size.
I’m so proud of my mom. She has lost 65 pounds and is excited about losing another 35 to make it an even 100. She never believed she could do it and said she had given up hope because she just didn’t know how to start to lose a hundred pounds. She figured at her age it didn’t really matter, but knows now that it matters a lot. Most of her aches and pains are gone and she is rarely out of breath. She sleeps better and has much more energy now that she isn’t hauling around that extra weight.
If you need to lose weight, start with small goals, small meals at small intervals, and small walks, and watch the numbers on the scale get small, too.