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How I Did It

'After Denial, I Decided to . . . Slice Off the Flab'

September 08, 1997|SHANE PRATT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Gap sure doesn't make body-conscious jeans like they used to, I thought as I sucked in and fastened the last button. And they're cutting them much smaller than I remember.

Size 34 waist, the tag read.

Mine is 32 inches, I silently protested.

Looking in the full-length mirror under lighting designed to make a Vogue model out of Medusa, I wondered why I looked so unattractive in jeans. Then I remembered the pants and shorts I had boxed up and given to a thrift store because my dryer had shrunk them.

Soon after, I stepped on a friend's scale.

"That can't be!" I wailed. "Two hundred pounds."

I had gained 30 pounds since the last time I weighed myself, which was years ago. I rarely bothered with a scale, never needing to fret about pounds. As a youngster, Mom always bought my Toughskins in slim.

After denial, I decided to take action and slice off the flab. But I had always bragged about my healthy eating habits and was an avid walker.

"What more can I do?" I grumbled.

I trolled bookstores looking for the perfect diet book, but soon learned that publications are only as credible as the author. And after seeing many of the writers peddling their books on tabloid TV, I quickly went elsewhere for information.

I found the most credible sources in a health class I begrudgingly took to clear my California teaching credential. The government provides information on nutrition, and since these sources hadn't appeared on "Jenny Jones" or "Hard Copy" to sell a book, I believed what they said, which turned out to be startling in simplicity.

I now follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid, which suggests making cereals and breads the foundation of your eating plan, followed by fruits and vegetables. Meats and dairy products should not be overeaten--despite what we thirtysomethings saw as we watched our mothers cook in the days when a big slab of beef was always the centerpiece of the plate.

Wiggling and jiggling at the top of the food pyramid are foods containing fat. Of course, I can eat these items, but portions should be scant. Sixty grams a day. This sent me into a label-reading frenzy.

Reality bites. Cutting fat and following the food pyramid are things I must do forever, unlike a diet. But I now find lower-fat foods tasty.

Since I had always walked for exercise and got fat anyway, I decided to try a gym. It didn't work. In the time it took me to drive to and from, I could have walked my four miles.

And Buddy and Jake, my dogs, are grateful I returned to walking. I now lift small weights as I watch the news. Push-ups, sit-ups and dips too.

The best exercise is the one I stick with.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Vital Statistics

Name: Shane Pratt

Age: 33

Occupation: second-grade teacher

Old Weight: 200 pounds

New Weight: 170 pounds

Time It Took to Get There: six months

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Feel Like Sharing Your Success Story?

Losing weight is as individual as gaining weight. Do you have a story on how you got in shape and stayed there? If so, we'd like to hear from you with a 500-word essay listing what worked in terms of diet, exercise, encouragement / support as well as your emotional and physical changes.

We'd also like you to send us full-body color photos of you, before and after.

Send essay and photos to "How I Did It," Health, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, and include daytime and evening phone numbers. No phone calls, please. Submissions cannot be returned.

In addition to publication, winners will receive a Los Angeles Times gym bag and a gift certificate for a free pair of athletic shoes of your choice, redeemable at any Big 5 Sporting Goods store.

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