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FITNESS | HOW I DID IT

What the Doctor Ordered

January 12, 1998|MARJORIE FLATHERS

When I was found to have borderline diabetes at age 55, it was the wake-up call I needed. I was overweight, battled headaches and nausea and was tired all the time.

After 33 years of marriage and three kids, I had added nearly 30 pounds to my 5-foot-3-inch frame. I had tried, in a haphazard way, to follow basic nutrition, but it was simple and economical for me to fix heavy casseroles for dinner and packaged cinnamon rolls for breakfast. I slowly went up one dress size, then another. I tried most of the popular diets--and lost the same 10 or 15 pounds countless times.

When I was at my heaviest, 156 pounds, my symptoms included blurred vision, and my doctor ordered a glucose tolerance test. The results showed a strong tendency toward Type II diabetes, which she said could be controlled with diet and exercise. That was what I needed to hear.

I'd never been a big fan of exercise, but my husband and I now made a commitment to walk 30 minutes to an hour every day. It was tough at first, but I viewed each step as a fight against something I didn't want in my life.

I knew I also needed a different way of cooking and eating if I were going to lose weight and keep it off. I started by eliminating sweets, which wasn't too difficult. Cutting down on fat was harder. We had already given up red meat, but it wasn't as easy to let go of cheese, fried foods and my favorite, peanut butter.

However, I searched for low-fat substitutes and began baking chicken and fish instead of frying them. I discovered new dishes, such as veggie pastas and soups, which became favorites. Fresh fruit was my new comfort food.

In just a few weeks, I noticed the weight dropping and my symptoms disappearing. Not only did I feel better, but it was empowering to be winning against diabetes. No candy bar or double bacon cheeseburger could compete with that.

At the rate of about half a pound a week, I lost 25 pounds in a year and have maintained my new weight (131) for more than four years.

The many compliments I received were a delight.

I concluded that food is an emotional subject, and "health" means different things to different people. Sure, chopping and dicing get tedious--I'd rather be at my computer than at the grocery store. Some days I don't feel like walking, and peanut butter is still tempting. However, at this time in my life, I know that exercising and eating healthy meals are what's best for me.

Vital Statistics

Name: Marjorie Flathers

Age: 59

Occupation: Freelance writer

Old Weight: 156

New Weight: 131

Time It Took to Get There: One year

Want to Share 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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