I used to be fat for the simple reason that I ate too much. As a teenager, in my 20s and well into my 30s, I ate for emotional satisfaction, out of stress and for compensation when things went wrong.
Then one day--as I realized that the big 4-0 was fast approaching--I thought, enough of this type of behavior. I'm an important person, I'm a valuable person and, yes, life is tough, but I want to participate fully in it. I want to make the most of who I am.
I started taking classes (achieving a master's degree in English at Cal State Long Beach) and traveling (to New York and Europe), and I made the effort to do things for others because I knew that focusing more on other people would make me feel better about myself.
It was an attitude change and a lifestyle change. Along with this new mental outlook came a new physical discipline, because wanting to make the most of yourself means having a healthier body and looking better, too.
I changed my eating habits by eating smaller portions, cutting out most of the sweets and eating healthier foods, such as salads, fish and bread. No more mashed potatoes with gravy, pot roast and banana cream pie for me!
I tried to get more exercise. For example, when I went to Cal State Long Beach, I made sure to park my car a long distance away so that I would have to walk from one end of the campus to the other to get to my classes.
Soon the pounds dropped off, and I went from the 140s, which I had been most of my younger life, to about 115 pounds. I've been able to maintain that weight for at least the last 15 years.
These days, instead of eating a piece of chocolate cake and turning on the TV to escape from the hurts of the world, I open my textbook (I'm learning Italian in preparation for a trip this summer), munch on a salad and think of how much better my life has become since fear of turning 40 made me take stock and try to improve myself mentally and physically. Both go together to make a happier, more productive person with a much higher sense of self-worth.
Name: Edith Wood Harvath
Old Weight: 145 pounds
New Weight: 115 pounds
Height: 5 feet, 3 inches
Time to Get There: Six months
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.