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How I Did It

She Has Never Let Up in Her Long Fight Against Fat

July 05, 1999|TERRI SIMMONS

On Dec. 12, 1998, the Health section told you about Terri Simmons, who lost 188 pounds, going from 318 pounds to 130 pounds. How has she maintained that loss for seven years? Here's her story. Today, by the way, she weighs 128 pounds.

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I attribute my success to daily vigilance of healthy eating and exercise.

I was finally free when I figured out that there is no secret to getting thin and staying thin. It's calories in and calories out. It has been through keeping track of my calories and exercise on a daily basis that I have been able to determine where my body will start putting the weight back on.

One thing that I have noticed in keeping a daily food chart is just how much of a "blackout" eater I was. Before, I would cook dinner and taste and lick the spoon, and by the time I finished cooking the meal, I must have consumed about 300 calories. I had finished a meal before I ever sat down to the table.

Now while I am cooking, I wait until the meal is cooked before taking a bite. I keep raw veggies around me if I feel like snacking while I'm cooking. And on my food charts, if it goes in my mouth, it goes on the chart. There is no such thing as "free" food for me. I am a compulsive overeater, and the only way I have found to get a handle on this is to be accountable and keep a food chart.

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Every morning when I wake up, I make a commitment to eat healthy and to exercise. I make my health a priority. If I don't feel good about myself physically and mentally, I am no good to anyone around me. Exercise in the morning jump-starts my body. I do one hour on the treadmill going uphill--it's great cardio. Then I do resistance training to build muscle and tone the excess skin that's inevitable when you lose a large amount of weight.

All this I do in my home; I needed an exercise plan I could live with and that was compatible with my lifestyle, or I wouldn't stick with it.

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I still make every meal an event. I paint my plate with colorful foods. I eat four to five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, and I drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water. I treat myself to frozen yogurt sometimes twice a day. But I always make sure that I get in my lean cuts of meat, fruits and veggies before having any treats.

I no longer tell myself that someday I will not enjoy eating as much as I do--I love to eat. The difference is that today I make healthier choices and I am aware of portion size. I make sure to get three balanced meals a day instead of one large meal at 10 at night. I never let myself get too hungry because that's an open invitation to splurge. No eating after 7 p.m. unless it is a piece of fruit.

I am no longer a victim of my appetite. I don't wait until the end of the day to applaud myself for making healthy choices. I can celebrate my victory over the battle of the bulge at every meal, and so can you.

How Did You Do It?

Do you have a story about how you lost weight and kept the pounds off? Or a story about how you learned to mountain climb or in-line skate, trained for a half-marathon, or discovered a unique way of keeping fit, dealing with a nagging ailment or persevering with a fitness regimen despite some obstacles?

If so, we'd like to hear from you. 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 full-body color photos 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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