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Colleagues Kept Him on the Healthy Path

November 23, 1998|PETER TAM

Losing the weight was easy; getting motivated to start was the difficult part.

I had been overweight since I was 3 years old due to my parents' excellent cooking. Because they were always so busy, they would prepare food for the week--which I would always finish in two days . . . usually at night, after a hearty dinner.

Now my life has changed a great deal. My co-workers pushed me to lose the weight and get in shape. They told me what, how and when to eat. I learned to read nutritional labels and restaurant menus. I sought out low- and nonfat alternatives. I began asking how meals were prepared.

My co-workers taught me to graze, about four or fives times a day, spaced three to four hours apart. I learned of the importance of breakfast and how that should be the biggest meal of the day. And most importantly, I learned that dieting by starvation may cause some weight loss, but that's lost muscle, not fat--whereas exercise leads to muscle gain and weight loss.

Besides healthy eating, weight training was instrumental. That's another thing that I learned from my friends. I bench-press at least twice a week, and I also work out my back, shoulders, arms, legs--in short, the whole body. Larger muscles burn more calories, in addition to making me look and feel better. So even at rest I'm burning more calories.

To lose the weight, I dedicated myself to eating healthy and going to the gym. At my maximum, I was spending three hours a day at the gym. I would spend the first hour or so lifting weights. I then spent my last half-hour to hour doing cardiovascular: bike, run, walk, anything to keep my heart rate up and get me sweating. How did I find the time? One and a half hours before work, 1 1/2 after.

The result of all this healthy eating and cardiovascular and weight training has been improved confidence. I feel better about myself, I'm not as afraid of doing new things. Since I know I've challenged myself and won, I feel that success is almost always probable. This new body (I've dropped from a size 42 to a size 32) has helped me overcome much of what used to hold me back. For example, last year I went backpacking. Just recently I learned how to bike, and now I mountain bike almost every weekend. Early this June, for the first time in my life, I went white-water rafting.

What really helped me was simple: Start and don't stop. Share and tell. I didn't seek encouragement, but thankfully I received a lot of support and guidance from my co-workers. Be conscious of all your decisions: Take the stairs, park farther, and walk, dance, pace, or whatever while watching TV.


Vital Statistics

Name: Peter H. Tam

Age: 25

Occupation: MBA student

Height: 5 feet, 5 inches

Old Weight: 210

New Weight: 155

Time to Get There: Eight months

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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