I stand in awe of my body.
—Henry David Thoreau
Although tempted to push the envelope and starve myself to reach my goal, I resisted the impulse and stayed with my ongoing eating and exercise regimen. I ended up meeting my target plus one extra—forty-one pounds lost in all. Despite years of abuse, my body was amazingly responsive. I'd gone from being ashamed to being happy with myself. I was ecstatic at the outcome.
At the same time, I remained fearful that day-to-day life would rob me of momentum and enthusiasm. Would I slip back to my old ways once the exhilaration faded?
Final Report: Success by Any Measure!
Results: Thanks to the miracle of healing combined with strengthening exercises, my hamstring was fine. Exercising daily as well as eating consciously for nutrition and energy were my new norm; the feeling of loss and deprivation was gone. I had lost 41 pounds and 66 inches in 16 weeks.
Medical tests performed at the beginning and repeated near the conclusion confirmed significant physiological improvements. Blood pressure, resting heart rate, cholesterol, glucose, and body fat were significantly lower. Lung function, already good, improved slightly. My formerly high risks of cancer, coronary disease, and osteoporosis were reduced. Although the calendar said I was turning 60, the test results put my physiological age at forty-seven.
Other changes I'd noticed were reduced sleep requirements (down from 10 or 12 hours to seven), a different rising time (5 a.m. instead of 8 or 9 a.m.), increased energy, and a more optimistic outlook—which, after September 11, was no small accomplishment. Obviously my body had responded quickly to lifestyle changes, making me wonder how long it had patiently waited.
After splurging at the birthday party, I would resume my effort mainly for health reasons. My risk of heart disease was still unacceptably high, so I needed to reduce body fat by losing more weight before going into a maintenance mode. My schedule of exercising six days a week with Sunday off for rest would continue.
To keep myself on track while simultaneously encouraging others to live more healthfully and joyfully, I offered to write a monthly column for The Union. The commentary would provide me an opportunity to explore and share the pitfalls of maintaining my new lifestyle. (I was well aware that getting fit and staying fit were two different processes.) The Union accepted my offer.
The stories that I'd shared during my 16-week makeover, plus the accompanying photographs, made many readers feel as if they personally knew me. Seniors, working professionals, teenagers, stay-at-home moms, and individuals with injuries or handicaps—many people, it seemed—were thinking about making healthier choices for themselves. After reading about my transformation, they had come to realize they could do the same thing; they were beginning their own journeys.
Their stories intrigued me. Aha! A light bulb switched on. Besides writing about my own efforts, I could tell the stories of others making lifestyle changes. Then even more readers would expand their notions of what was possible.
Like me, these individuals were not fanatics or health-care professionals. They were ordinary people who had come to realize that their unhealthy lifestyles were making them fat and/or sick. Even if they were illness-free, they realized that the quality of their later years would be negatively affected and perhaps shortened if they didn't change. We were part of an emerging movement—ordinary people struggling to take responsibility for our health and the quality of our lives.
Using my example, they were willing to go public and let me give voice to their stories so that others would be inspired to make healthier life-changing choices.
Although we didn't know it at the time, we were sowing the seeds for a much larger effort.