Name: Dianna J.
LIVESTRONG.COM Username: russages
Age: 65 | Height: 5'6"
BEFORE Weight: 370 pounds | Dress/Pant Size: 5X
AFTER Weight: 175 pounds | Dress/Pant Size: 14
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
I retired from my job as a clinical social worker in October 2012, when the constant arthritic pain I live with made it impossible for me to continue working. The very next day I went on a diet and lost about 60 pounds over the next six months before discovering LIVESTRONG.COM. Prior to losing that first 60 pounds I lived in denial about how I looked. I avoided mirrors and did not exercise. I ate a lot of fast food, candy and snacks. Originally, I was "on a diet" and constantly felt deprived. I was pleased with my success but afraid of the future. After joining the LIVESTRONG community, I began to realize that I needed something more than a temporary diet.
As a result of my severe genetic arthritis I have used crutches since 1984 and a wheelchair since the mid-'90s. I have always lived with a lot of pain, and my coping mechanism has been denial. I did not acknowledge pain, hunger, how I looked, what I ate, etc. On top of my arthritis getting much worse, my obesity and poor eating habits were also affecting my health and life in other ways -- blood pressure, immune system (I was often sick with flu, colds and infections), self-esteem, depression, sleep and social life. Although I was in denial about my body, I was also ashamed of myself.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
My inspiration to start making a change was my retirement. I knew that an extrovert like me would not do well cooped up in the house. I felt that I would just be sitting around lonely if I did not make a change for the better.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
The LIVESTRONG community members helped me realize that a "diet" is temporary, but a lifestyle change can last forever. They encouraged me to stop beating myself up for mistakes, convinced me to increase my calorie goal to 1,200 and try new foods as well as helping me become more aware of the role protein, carbs and fat play in a healthy diet. I tracked my food on LIVESTRONG's MyPlate Calorie Tracker app 99 percent of the time. I accepted slow, lasting change over unhealthy crash dieting. After all, this is going to be for the rest of my life, right?
Whenever I needed help the community was right there to offer support. I believe the LIVESTRONG community has helped me avoid my past pattern of denial and begin to really accept myself.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
I have wonderful, supportive friends and family. They ask me where I want to eat if we go out and what I want to eat if I go to their house. My friends and family understand addiction, and these days I am much more open with them about my struggles, thanks in large part to the community at LIVESTRONG.COM. I practiced being open with the community members, and it helped. Being open and honest has become a good habit that helps keep me out of denial.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your favorite way to work out?
Because of my disability I am unable to do most regular "traditional" exercises, but I do what I can. I lift two-pound weights while seated, and I get cardio exercise by cleaning my house. For example, sweeping, vacuuming and general tidying up while using my crutches is a real workout for me.
I also attend physical therapy twice a week for help with chronic hip pain. Although therapy has not helped the pain, it is helping prepare my body for hip replacement therapy later this year. It has helped me to stand up straighter, and I do feel stronger as a result. As an added bonus, it allows me a few extra calories to eat as a result of those workouts!
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
I do upper-body exercises with two-pound dumbbells while seated and also manage to get some cardio by cleaning house on my crutches almost every day. I also attend physical therapy twice a week and perform the hip exercises the therapist assigns twice daily.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
I typically eat three meals and two snacks a day. I have three egg whites and whey protein for breakfast, and I usually have a salad with tuna or turkey breast and dairy for lunch. For dinner it's meat or fish with healthy, low-calorie vegetables and maybe a sweet potato on the side. Snacks vary, but I like nuts, popcorn, Greek yogurt, mangoes, cut veggies and fruit.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the range of calories you eat per day?
I usually eat between 1,200 and 1,500 calories a day. Now that I am maintaining rather than trying to lose weight I let the scale tell me what to eat. If my weight starts to go up by more than two to three pounds I cut back on my calorie goal, and if my weight drops more than a couple of pounds below my maintenance weight I eat more.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
These days in my fridge I always have egg whites, tuna and other fish, turkey breast and other lean meats, Greek yogurt, fruit, tomatoes, baby spinach and a variety of vegetables.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
Due to my disability, my husband does the cooking in our family, but I discuss all meals with him and help remind him to weigh or measure my food. After discussing the meal plan with my husband I immediately log it into the MyPlate Calorie Tracker.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the biggest challenge you faced?
Almost every day is a challenge for me just to remember that this is a lifestyle change and that everything I put into my mouth does count. I know that I am addicted to the pleasure I got from overeating, but it did not make me happy. Denial is my biggest challenge.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
I am able to do this because I have been honest with myself and others. Honestly tracking what I eat is a must!
Also, when I was actively losing weight I did not weigh myself very often, but now that I am in maintenance mode I weigh myself daily. That helps me avoid the denial that is part of my ongoing challenge.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your life like now?
As a result of my weight loss I am able to be much more independent and can dress myself with little help. My health has also improved. I no longer take blood pressure medicine and haven't had a cold or the flu since 2012. I have maintained my weight for the past six months, but I may choose to lose another 10 or 15 pounds at some point in the future. I have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon in June for a possible hip replacement. I was not a candidate at my previous weight. I recently had surgery to remove excess skin on my arms and breasts. I have become aware of what hunger feels like, and I am not afraid of it.
I am happily retired and grateful for the years I have left. I probably would not have lived long at 370 pounds, and the quality of my life was poor. Now I am more independent and able to visit with friends. There is so much more I can do, and I have the attitude and resolve to do it. After all, I feel I am conquering my biggest burden.