New year, new resolutions – a lot of us make them only to break them. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We asked you to make 2004 your Healthiest Year Ever (HYE), and we’re celebrating readers who did just that. One of them can now say she loves her body! Another feels giddy enough, after losing 60 pounds, to wear hot pink high heels. Here, their secrets on how you can share in their successes.
Last February, Debbie O’Rourke’s husband, Jeff, woke up in the middle of the night with severe stomach pain. At the hospital in Campbell River, B.C., the doctor told them Jeff needed gallbladder surgery, but not until he lost weight.
Suddenly aware of her own health, Debbie got on the scale the next day and was shocked to see the needle pointing at 214. “I thought, If something happened to me, what would my family do?” says Debbie. “We realized we had to make some really drastic changes.”
So, Debbie and Jeff’s kitchen cupboards and fridge got a makeover. Cookies, crackers and pizza were replaced with lean protein, vegetables and whole wheat pasta and bread.
Debbie also joined a gym. Soon, she rediscovered parts of her body she’d thought were gone forever: “I have elbows and wrists now!” Today, Debbie is down to 154 pounds and has gone from a size 18 to a size 8, while Jeff has dropped 50 pounds.
“It’s nice to watch my husband’s face light up when he sees me,” says Debbie. “After 13 years together, it’s as if we’re newlyweds.”
Be kind to yourself
Susan Maher went on her first diet when she was nine years old.
That was the beginning of a cycle of dieting and self-criticism the Victoria resident continues to fight even today. “Everything I felt about my body was self-hate.” So, she declared 2004 Be Kind to Susan Year.
Now every time she starts to make a joke about her size, she stops, and encourages friends to remind her of her promise when she lets herself slip. “I also try to recognize my efforts at being healthy in a positive way, rather than making the scale the almighty judge.”
She focuses on healing her relationship with food and meeting her target of walking 10,000 steps a day. “I do it because it’s attainable. I can walk 2,000 steps now and another 2,000 an hour from now.”
As a kid, Rose Heck endured countless taunts about the size of her behind. The Olds, Alta., native still struggled with her body image even after giving birth to five children, becoming a personal trainer, running in several half-marathons and coming in third in the World Masters Powerlifting Championships in 2003.
Eventually, her negativity began to affect her clients and her family. “I can’t be effective when I tear myself down,” Rose says, with new-found insight. This year, whenever she criticized herself, she tried to think about what her body does for her.
Rose has come to see that the parts she begrudged most are the ones that serve her best. “My butt is shapely and has to be strong for doing squats and dead lifts. My abdominals are actually quite defined. And my legs are powerful,” she says.
Edith Hamann, a training co-ordinator with the Department of National Defence in Trenton, Ont., used to feel as if there weren’t enough hours in her day. “I would look up at the clock and notice it was 10 at night, but I still had lots to do,” she says. The pressure led to pounding tension headaches, exhaustion and, often, unhappiness.
So, for her Healthiest Year Ever, Edith started prioritizing. She now postpones cleaning the kitchen after supper, for example, in favour of playing cards with her 10-year-old daughter. “The dirty dishes will get done eventually,” she says. And instead of letting thoughts of the office nag at her all evening, she writes them down and doesn’t think about them until the next day. When things get too crazy, Edith walks away. Strolling around the block at lunchtime every day calms her and restores her energy.
The payoff? Fewer headaches, better sleep and new-found vitality. Plus, she’s smiling more. “I have more time to do the things that I like. Little things that used to bug me don’t bother me so much anymore.”
Participate in a triathalon
When Charlene McMorris feels stressed, reaching for her running shoes and hitting the pavement helps her cope. “I’m focused on where my feet are landing on the road and my breathing, so I can’t think about my problems,” says the Coquitlam, B.C., resident.
That wouldn’t have always been Charlene’s first reaction to stress, though. She didn’t start exercising until a few years ago, when she began walking to recover from foot surgery. For her Healthiest Year Ever, Charlene was ready to take on a new challenge: a triathlon. From January to June, she trained almost every day in preparation, whether swimming, running or biking.
Meanwhile, Charlene’s mother was in and out of the hospital 12 times with heart problems. “The only thing that kept me going with my training was the posts of support on the Chatelaine forums,” Charlene says. (Intrigued? Visit www.chatelaine.com/forums.)
Since completing her 20-kilometre triathlon on Father’s Day last June, Charlene has had one thing on her mind: “Training for a longer one!”
You may recall reading about Chatelaine research assistant Lisa Weaver’s 14-pound weight loss in our April 2004 issue. The Toronto resident has since dropped another 14 pounds, meeting her weight loss goal. It all started when she no longer fit comfortably into the largest sizes at her favourite clothing stores.
“I couldn’t even tie my shoes without feeling out of breath,” says Lisa. A good friend of hers had lost 80 pounds, and another had joined Weight Watchers, so Lisa figured she had nothing to lose except a few unwanted inches.
“Once I started, I realized that it was easy,” Lisa says. She boosted her fruit and vegetable intake and cut back on sugars and starches. “The results kept me motivated,” she says.
Now Lisa doesn’t worry about trying on clothes. And the too-small outfits banished to the rear of her closet have found their way back to the front.
Walk 5km a day
Rhonda Habart had tried every diet out there and finally decided, “I’m meant to be a fat girl.” Then, at a physical in late 2003, her doctor asked a question that changed Rhonda’s thinking: “What would you do if your teenagers, Cassie or Breanna, were 50 pounds overweight?”
Something snapped. “I knew then that nothing was going to keep me from my goal,” says Rhonda. Around that time, she read about a 105-year-old woman, also in Guelph, Ont., who walked five kilometres every day. “That got me thinking, If she can do it at 105, I can do it at 45.”
Rhonda started by walking around the block. “Afterwards, I would sit on the floor for 20 minutes just to catch my breath,” she says. But as her Weight Watchers-inspired food choices helped her shed pounds, walking got easier.
Today, 56 pounds lighter, Rhonda walks five kilometres with ease every single day. “I have amazing legs, and my face has this glow. It’s changed the way I look at myself in the mirror.”
Regain strength & swim competitively
Since being diagnosed with lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease, four years ago, Brenda Hall’s been on a journey to get her mobility back. She started fending off the disease’s arthritic symptoms by swimming, at first with an inflatable jogging belt for support, eventually working up to 60 laps five times a week.
This past year, the Hay River, N.W.T., resident gave in to her competitive streak. She started training every day for the Canadian Masters Swimming Championship, even when temperatures sank below zero.
The event itself was a blast. “My mother thought it was neat to see my name up in lights at the competition,” says Brenda. Up next: adding cycling to the mix and training again for the World Masters Games in July 2005. “When I swim in the morning, it grounds me.”
· Her advice to you “Don’t wait for an illness to get you on track. You have to take care of yourself now.”