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Fitness | HOW I DID IT

A Total Stranger Jolted Her Into Action

November 02, 1998|DARLA RAFTERY

I was overweight as a little girl. You can search and search and never find a reason for such a thing. I had a happy childhood with caring parents and not a worry in the world. That is, until the weight became a serious issue in my life.

At age 11, I weighed more than 200 pounds. When I was 13, I was checked for a thyroid problem, and the results were normal. The doctor told my mother (5 feet, 5 inches, 115 pounds) that it was up to me to lose the weight because I was the only person who really had control over my eating habits. My weight increased until I was 23, at which time I had reached 320 pounds.

One day I saw a woman eating an ice cream cone. She looked to be about 100 pounds heavier than I was. I watched her walk to a bench, and as she sat down, the bench tilted sideways. The chill that shot through my body was unlike anything I had ever felt. I was overwhelmed.

I started dieting that day. Somewhere inside, I knew that I would be able to succeed this time, despite my history of dieting failures. I ate salad, fruits, veggies, bagels. I cut way down on meat and made sure I ate enough protein. I tried my best to buy healthy food, the food with the green labels reading "low fat" and "no fat." Anyone dieting knows those green labels.

I didn't exercise much in the beginning. I gradually worked an occasional bike ride into my schedule, only a mile or two at first. I knew that my weight already put a strain on my body, so I was careful not to push myself. Within several months, I was able to increase this to 25 miles, several times a week. I felt good, and the weight was definitely coming off.

The most frustrating aspect of my dieting struggle was the inevitable series of plateaus--weeks or months where I barely ate more than lettuce leaves for dinner, yet didn't seem to lose an ounce.

Three years ago, I was a size 28; now I am a size 10 and still watching what I eat. It's been a long haul, but at 26 I have far higher self-esteem than ever before. I am 150 pounds, and though I still have a few pounds to go, I try not to obsess about my weight. I eat what I like, but always in moderation. I rarely have seconds at meals, though often I would like to.

I've stayed below my original target weight for more than a year now. I have a great family and a wonderful, caring boyfriend who loves me for the person I am, pound for pound. I know I've had everyone's full support all along, although my weight loss is something I did for me, and that is the way it has to be.

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Vital Statistics

Name: Darla Raftery

Age: 26

Occupation: Veterinary technician; currently not working

Old Weight: 320 pounds

New Weight: 150 pounds

Height: 5 feet, 6 inches

Time to Get There: About two years

Want to Share Your Success Story?

The How I Did It column is taking on a new shape. In the past, we've asked you to share your success stories about losing weight. We still want to hear those stories, but we also recognize that there is more to physical fitness and staying in shape than weight management.

So we're inviting you to tell us about your accomplishments in other areas: how you learned to mountain climb or roller-blade, trained for a half-marathon or discovered a unique way of keeping fit or dealing with a nagging ailment. We'll begin running the first of these stories in the Dec. 7 issue.

As always, tell us your story in a 500-word essay listing what worked in terms of diet, exercise and encouragement, as well as any emotional and physical changes.

For weight-loss stories, send us a full-body color photo of yourself, before and after. For other types of stories, send a color photo of yourself doing the activity you're writing about.

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

In addition to publication, winners will receive a Los Angeles Times Health section gym bag.

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