On New Year's Day 1997, I stepped on the scale and realized I was at 196 pounds, my heaviest ever. I needed to lose weight. I also was taking several medications for asthma, which I have had all my life and runs in my family. My excess weight made the asthma worse. I decided to make some major changes. I wanted to lose 66 pounds naturally and healthfully and adopt healthy exercise and eating habits for life.

I started by making changes in my diet. I loved sweets, like cake and ice cream, and fast food, but I knew these foods could only be eaten in moderation. I cut out butter and margarine and added fruits, vegetables and lean meat. I also learned healthier food preparation methods, like grilling.

A friend showed me some basic exercises and I started walking three days a week with hand weights. At first, I could barely go for 10 minutes, but I built up endurance, increased my time and used heavier hand weights. I lost 10 pounds, mostly water weight, the first month.

Three months later, I learned that strength training burns more calories than aerobic activity alone, so I bought a weight bench and free weights and started strength training at home. I lost weight and eventually joined a gym.

A year later, I lost my job and broke up with my fiancé. Both losses hit me hard, and I didn't know how to deal with them. Since I lost two things I had focused much of my energy on, I made losing weight the new focus of my life. I skipped meals and sometimes exercised for three hours a day. I drank about 2 gallons of water daily, to stave off hunger. I thought it couldn't hurt to drink so much water, but eventually I suffered from severe muscle cramps. After a visit to the emergency room, I found out that all the water I was drinking was flushing important minerals like potassium out of my body. I cut down on my water intake but continued exercising and skipping meals. The pounds, as well as some hard-earned muscle tone, came off, and in a few months I reached 125 pounds. People told me I didn't look healthy, but I ignored them. Then one day I realized it hurt for me to sit in a chair because my bones stuck out, making me uncomfortable. I decided to stop my obsessive behavior and resumed eating three healthful meals and now I limit my water consumption to 1 liter a day. In six months, I gained back 20 pounds.

Now I breathe easier and feel great. With determination, willpower and patience, extra weight can come off. Don't expect it to happen quickly. Lasting results take time.


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