Weight Loss Success Stories: Carolyn Leonard

Friday, October 26, 2007 - 10:13am

By: Carolyn Leonard 

I stopped by CVS recently to pick up a few items. The pharmacist said, "I haven't seen you in awhile." He was right. There was a time when he saw me on a regular basis. I was taking medications for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and pain medication. I was there so often that we were on a first-name basis. His name is Monroe. I don't see him much anymore and here's why.

In April 2005, my husband Richard and I decided to start eating healthy. We were both taking medications that were weight-related. At that time, I weighed 252 pounds, and he weighed 220 pounds. It was his decision and I should have realized then that there was a problem. We had been married for 35 years and when I approached the subject of losing weight, he always told me that my weight didn't bother him so it didn't bother me.

Looking back at family photos, my weight problem started in the third grade. In high school, I wore a size 20. I met my husband in 1968 and after dating for two years, we were married. My wedding dress was a size 22. I was able to lose weight once, when I was pregnant with our son, Mark. I couldn't tolerate rich or greasy foods. While most women gain weight, I finally found the secret to weight loss for me: Stay pregnant! Unfortunately, I only had one child!

We didn't eat a lot, just the wrong foods-lots of bread, fried foods, and snacks. We were definitely "prime-time" eaters. Our TV snacking started at 7 pm and lasted until bedtime. There was always ice cream, cookies, salted snacks, and my personal trigger food-potato chips. There were nights when I could consume an entire nine-ounce bag. You don't realize how much you've eaten while you're watching TV.

On October 6, 2005, my life changed forever. Richard was preparing to leave for work. He told me that he loved me and I responded. I heard him fall. He died in my arms before the paramedics arrived. The cause of death was a massive heart attack. Our unhealthy lifestyle had contributed to his untimely death. I made the decision that day to continue with our "new menu" as we called it. I had to be here for our son, daughter-in-law, and two beautiful grandchildren.

I gave up fried foods and increased my fluids. I drink 5-16 ounce bottles of water daily. The biggest adjustment for me was changing my "prime time" snacking choices. No more ice cream, cookies, or (dare I say) potato chips (sigh)! I stopped buying the trigger foods. If you don't buy them, you won't eat them. Many nights I thought about going to the corner convenience store at 9 pm for a "fix," but going in my pajamas wasn't an option.

My new menu includes cereal, yogurt, and fruit for breakfast; soup or salads with chicken and turkey for lunch; 100-calorie snack packs for an afternoon pick-me-up; and chicken, fish, pork, and occasionally beef (usually once a week) for dinner with baked potato, brown rice, and lots of vegetables. My prime-time snacking includes low-fat popcorn, pretzels, or two pieces of dark chocolate. I also enjoy a cup of hot green tea with ginger before bedtime.

Today, I weigh 151 with 13 pounds to go to reach my goal of 138 and a size 10. I am currently wearing a size 14. Finally, I'm the average American woman, and it only took me 57 years to get here. I've reached several plateaus and have increased my exercise while maintaining a healthy 1200 calories per day. I'm realistic about my exercise and won't start a program that I can't continue. I walk 30 minutes per day. Also, when I shop at the mall, I park at the opposite end of my favorite department store so I have to walk the entire mall. I also purchased an elliptical machine and spend 10 minutes three times per day exercising while listening to music.

Do I cheat? Yes. I set "mini goals" of 10 pounds. Once I reach a goal, I'll reward myself ONCE and then move on to my next 10 pounds. I've lost 100 pounds or as I like to say, I've lost ten pounds ten times!

The best news is that I'm off all medications. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1990 and took two oral medications. My blood pressure is normal, and I no longer need pain medication to walk. My doctor calls me her poster child. And I've NOT GAINED BACK any of the weight that I've lost. I wish that we had started eating healthy sooner. I know that my husband is proud of me.

My philosophy is don't DIET - LIVE it. Let me be your motivation to make that change. It's never too late. By the way, the money that I once spent for prescription co-pays is now spent on new clothes! Sorry Monroe.