April 23, 2009

When I married at age 23, I weighed 140 pounds, which was average for my height and body frame. In an effort to impress my new husband with my homemaking skills, I made rich, high-fat breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and rarely exercised, gaining 20 pounds in a year. Before I could even think of making an effort to lose weight, I became pregnant with my first child.

I had a normal pregnancy and gained another 40 pounds. Unfortunately, the baby developed a rare brain disease in utero and was stillborn. My husband and I were devastated, and spent the next year grieving our loss. I became pregnant again the following year and I delivered a healthy boy. I had two more children over the next two years, and by the time my youngest daughter was 3 months old, my 200-plus-pound body barely fit into size-18/20 clothes. I felt completely out of shape and run-down -- I couldn't even walk up a flight of stairs with my baby without getting winded. I couldn't imagine living this way for the rest of my life and resolved to get healthy, once and for all.

At first, I trimmed portion sizes at mealtimes, which was an adjustment since I was used to eating huge plates of food at each meal. Next, I added exercise. I didn't want to go through the hassle of finding a baby sitter every time I wanted to work out, so I bought aerobics tapes to do at home. I could squeeze in a workout when the kids took their naps or during their playtimes. With these changes, I lost 25 pounds in four months and felt better than I had in years.

I educated myself about nutrition and exercise and made further changes in my diet. I cut out highly processed foods and added whole grains, egg whites and lots of fruits and vegetables. I also began eating six small meals a day, which kept me more energized and prevented overeating. I also learned the importance of strength training, and I exercised with aerobics tapes that used weights. I weighed and measured myself each month, and now, three years later, I weigh 120 pounds.

I'm in the best shape of my life. I have more than enough stamina to keep up with three kids, all under the age of 10. This energy has given me a positive attitude toward life and the courage to try new things. I developed better relationships with my family and friends. I now feel stronger and healthier. I walk with confidence, not shame.

People often ask me for advice on losing weight, and I tell them that you have to commit to nutrition and exercise for the rest of your life. Find a plan that works for you and you'll be surprised at what your mind and body can accomplish.

Workout schedule Tae-Bo aerobics, mountain biking, walking, kayaking or running: 30 minutes/2-3 times a week