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Fat to Fit Winner Catherine Tenenholtz

On the verge of giving up for good, she made one last stab at losing weight. This time, she amazed even herself.

Catherine Tenenholz

— Andrew Spear

Name: Catherine Tenenholtz

Home: Harwood Heights, Ill.

Occupation: Retired Executive Assistant


I am in my mid-60s and am 5' 3" tall. In September 2009 I tipped the scale at 220 pounds. I had very little energy and severe arthritis pain in my knees and hips. It was normal for me to spend two or three days a week lying on the couch due to the pain. I took medication for pain, high blood pressure and arthritis, and my doctor was ready to put me on cholesterol-lowering drugs, as well.

All my past attempts to lose weight had failed. I asked my doctor for pills to help me lose weight, but he refused. By December 2009, I had concluded that I was never going to lose the weight.

Then on Jan. 4, 2010, something I can't explain took hold of me. Within two hours I'd thrown out every food item in the house that was made from white, sugary or processed ingredients. I stocked up on vegetables, fresh fruit, chicken, turkey and fish. I also got several kinds of dry beans, walnuts, avocados and olive oil.

That first week I lost 2.5 pounds. The second week I lost another two pounds. I was floating on air! During the third week I realized I had newfound energy and I had not spent time lying on the couch since I started eating differently.  

Around that time I came across the Fat to Fit group on the AARP website. Carole responded to my first post with encouragement and enthusiasm. So I kept posting and reading, and soon I felt like part of a family committed to reclaiming its health. By the end of March I felt like I could conquer the world. In May I started working out at the gym. I now work out every other day for about 90 minutes.

I currently weigh 172 pounds. My blood pressure is perfect, per my doctor. My cholesterol is down 30 points (no need for medication); my resting pulse rate dropped from 71 to 56 beats per minute; and my BMI [body mass index] went from 38.5 to 30.5. I still have arthritis, but because my joints support 48 fewer pounds than they did a year ago, I am a lot more comfortable.

Being part of the AARP community has kept me accountable and focused. Knowing that I have friends and a coach who understand what I am going through and support and encourage me is supremely helpful. I want to help others accomplish their goals and be healthy, and the community allows me to reach out to individuals who may be feeling the way I felt nine months ago.

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