Part of the fun of writing about fitness is receiving wonderful, encouraging letters from strangers about their fitness efforts. Here, in her own words, is the journey toward fitness of Karen Wellhoff, 55, of Rough and Ready, Calif.:
"My husband, Joe, our two daughters, and I relocated here six years ago, and we love it! Our family is active and weight-conscious, but menopause and the 50s are merciless!
"On my five-foot frame, the pounds started creeping on. I seemed helpless to change the situation. After I was diagnosed with moderate osteoporosis three years ago, I joined Curves and faithfully exercised to strengthen my bones. I felt better. Even so, I started gaining weight—and it wasn't just muscle!
"I tried diets, but I hate to cook. I got more and more depressed. Every morning I would wake up obsessing about my weight. Friends and family told me I looked just fine. But if you're not happy with yourself, nothing anyone says makes a difference.
"After a quiet testimony of someone I met at Curves…I decided to do the one thing I hadn't tried because I thought I couldn't afford it.
"Last May, I joined Weight Watchers, and their program has worked for me. I found out the reason for my weight gain wasn't totally in what I was eating, but what I wasn't eating! I had already given up many things that were unhealthful, like caffeine, saturated fats, and fried foods. And I drank oodles of water daily and was still exercising. But based on the Weight Watchers' program, I wasn't eating enough!
"I started eating six small meals 'round the clock. A week later, I lost a couple of pounds! And did I celebrate! I was realistic enough to know that I didn't gain the weight overnight, so I was practical about losing it slowly, but surely. Only 10 months later, I was 25 pounds lighter and felt like a teenager (and I weighed less than I did then!).
"It's been so much fun, especially when my coworkers, family, and Curves friends notice the difference. Even better has been the change in my family. Because of health issues, my husband eats just as healthily as I do now! And, even surprising myself, I discovered I enjoy cooking!
"We eat lots of salad and lean protein, and are very watchful in what we eat. If we splurge a little, there's no guilt, because we quickly resume our now normal way of eating. I've become the salad queen, putting all sorts of healthy foods in our basic foundational entrée….We perform better, sleep better, play better, and most importantly, we feel better! I want to live past 100 and feel great getting there!"