Each person must live their life as a model for others.
Throughout those four months, local newspaper readers approached me in the grocery store, in its parking lot, or during my walks. Many of them asked the same questions, and one week before my birthday, I took the opportunity to answer them in my column.
Why did you do this? Where did the idea come from? Out of shape and overweight, I was desperate to get fit for my 60th birthday. The birthday present from my cardiologist was a warning about potential heart problems if I did not shape up. My physical condition was poor: I had recently injured myself by exercising without proper conditioning. Thinking that my example could encourage others, I offered to write a single newspaper article for seniors. From there, the idea took on a life of its own.
How did it feel to have your weight, progress, and statistics reported each week? It was not pleasant. Seeing my overweight self in a newspaper photo was shocking and reinforced my commitment. Knowing I'd report my progress each week eliminated the alternative of cheating, although I think I was committed in any event.
How has your husband reacted to your changes? Since this was my project, I didn't expect him to change. Nonetheless, he's been supportive, joining me at the gym and changing his eating patterns.
Why did you get a personal trainer? Without a trainer, I literally didn't know where to begin. I needed someone to organize my exercise efforts and also to hold me accountable and encourage me during tough times. Gayle Lossman did even more—she became a special friend.
Are you stopping now? No. These are, after all, lifestyle changes I'm making. I'll lose eight more pounds to reach my goal, increase my flexibility, and make further health improvements.
Were there any health benefits? My blood pressure went from high to normal, and my resting pulse rate is now in the low 40s. The "bad" cholesterol was brought down to normal range, and the "good" cholesterol came way up. I did not have a single sick day. Chronic conditions like gastric reflux and irritable bowel syndrome have disappeared.
What was the hardest part? Giving up a large evening meal was a struggle. Travel posed difficulties because of its association with indulgence. Determination was especially necessary to continue exercising when away from home.
Do you really exercise 12 hours a week? Yes. After experimenting with different exercise disciplines, I settled on working with weights in a fitness center three times a week. I also attend a yoga class to improve flexibility once or twice a week. Lastly, I play tennis, play being the operative word.
Could you do this if you had a full-time job and family? Did you consider quitting after September 11? You can't hide behind your obligations to others—your children or your employer, for example—to avoid taking responsibility for the care of your body. You can't find time; you have to make the time. And there is never an easy time to begin. Excuses abound—lack of money and time, medical problems, other priorities. Trust me, I'm familiar with them all because at different times I've used each one of them. Miraculously, a commitment cuts through the obstacles and makes change possible. Ironically, the more fit I am, the more I am able to contribute to my family and employer.
What’s the biggest change in your life? Although it's not possible to turn back the hands of time, changing my lifestyle has rewound the clock. An unreasonably optimistic outlook, bountiful energy, a fully engaged life, and a youthful figure are the result of four months of intense work. Until now I never knew results like these were possible, let alone that I would achieve them. That's why I encourage others in as many ways as I can find.
Next: Carole goes from shame to joy.