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No workout today? No way

June 09, 2008|Jeannine Stein

Mary ANN Wertenberger started her first diet at the age of 13; she describes herself as "never the fattest kid around," but she carried an extra 20 pounds as a young teenager. Throughout her life, more diets ensued (including a stint on the appetite suppressant drug phentermine), but exercise was rarely in the picture. Now, exercise is an integral part of how this 50-year-old veterinarian from Chatsworth maintains her weight of 172, down from a high of 275.

Life-changing moment: "I remember about eight years ago seeing a client I hadn't seen for a while, and I said, 'You're thin, and you used to be fat.' She had lost 60 pounds and she did it through exercise and eating less. So I thought, 'That looks like a good idea, maybe I'll try that.' The two started walking together, which led to a revelation: "You have to do way more exercise than you can possibly conceive. . . . I laugh when I hear people saying you need 20 minutes a day."

What worked: "The main thing with my diet is I eat fruits and vegetables and whole grains, lean meats and fish. If I really want something, nothing is off limits."

She bases her calories on a formula of eating 12 to 15 calories per pound of the desired body weight -- for her that's about 1,750 calories.

Lesson learned: "When I learned how much exercise I had to do, I was in shock. Not that I couldn't do it, I just didn't know I had to do this for an hour, hour and a half every day. Now it's normal for me." And it's not an option. "It's not like I wake up and think, 'Am I going to exercise today?' "

Tips and tricks: "When I'm going out, I plan very carefully. I'll eat something ahead of time, or I'll find out where the function's going to be and what's going to be there. Sometimes I just don't care and I'll eat and even keep track of what I'm eating, but I know it'll be gone in a few days with exercise."

The lowdown: "It's always a struggle. This is the part that's tough for a lot of people. . . . You have to decide whether you're going to deal with this or not deal with it. It's a lot of work -- I'm still surprised a little bit myself -- but I understand now I can't slack off."

-- Jeannine Stein

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