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FITNESS | How I Did It

She Swore Off Diets, Made Better Choices


I woke up about a year ago realizing that I had gained a few pounds each year for quite a few years, and I had the figure to show for it. I decided to shape up through exercise and healthy food choices. Today, I weigh 22 pounds less, going from 150 pounds to 128 pounds, and buying size 10 pants instead of size 14.

This article is not about diets. Four times in the past 14 years I had gone on an advertised weight-loss program. I always lost the pounds--and always gained them back. The last time this happened, I said to anyone who would listen--my husband was the captive audience of one--"I will never go on a diet again." And I haven't.

Here's how it went:

I quit eating butter on breads, though I still use it moderately in cooking. Yes, I love butter, but I am now used to picking up a roll or a slice of hot sourdough, breaking off a bite and slowly chewing it.

When I am home I drink lots of water--eight or 10 glasses, all before 4 p.m.

Breakfast: My normal breakfast was--and is--half of a plain bagel or a soft-boiled egg and dry toast or a small bowl of cereal with skim milk plus a 6-ounce glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

Lunch: Now I normally have a glass of water, a piece of fruit, a glass of water. Midafternoon, when I feel the first pangs of hunger, I have been known to clean up some leftover Mexican rice. Sometimes I have a chunk of Reggiano Parmesan cheese and a couple of crackers or a second piece of fruit or both. The amazing thing is, I really never liked fruit, but gradually I am overcoming my aversion to it. I believe the sugar that fruit contains dampens my appetite.

Dinner: This is my largest meal. I know that is against all best advice, but throughout my life, dinner has been the highlight of my day. I have a cocktail or a glass of wine and some "salties." I eat what I want. What I seem to want is vegetables and a bit of protein.

Exercise: Nearly every day, I do 15 minutes of leg lifts and sit-ups, therapy for bad knees and therapy for a bad foot. I either walk three miles or work out in the pool for about 40 minutes.

Sweets: I am lucky not to have a sweet tooth. Sweets are not my problem.

Fats: I keep my intake low. With fresh foods, this is easy. I do not buy frozen or canned foods. I eat fresh fruit and vegetables and simple meats or fish.

Bedtime: Almost every night I have a cup of warm nonfat milk. Usually I accompany this with a teaspoon of crunchy peanut butter and two crackers.

You notice that this list is positive. That is exactly how I feel--positive. I lost 22 pounds and I didn't diet. The only negative words herein pertain to "diets."


Vital Statistics

Name: Betty Ann Safarik

Age: 78

Occupation: Retired

Height: 5 feet, 5 1/2 inches

Old Weight: 150

New Weight: 128

Time It Took to Get There: Nine months

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 and 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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