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For Southern Californians, small changes in health habits add up

Incremental changes in diet and exercise helped put these Southern Californians on the right track to a healthful lifestyle.

January 02, 2012|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

Barbara Unsworth, Chino Hills

My first small change was to participate in Jazzercise classes two or three times per week, purely for fun. The movement felt good, as did the positive social ambience.

After six months or so, I noticed a slight change in the way my clothes fit. The next step was to purchase a scale to see what this change in my clothes was about. With pounds slowly but surely coming off, at the rate of about a pound per month, I became motivated to watch my food intake. I started eating lots of fruit at breakfast and lunch.

The dance exercise became a habit, one that I started doing daily. On the days with no scheduled classes, I started doing Zumba DVDs at home.

I also started using a luncheon plate rather than a dinner plate. I ate half my restaurant meals, doggy-bagging the second half for another day's meal. I watched as the scale slowly showed lower and lower numbers. (Daily measures keep me vigilant.)

I have my splurges: Italian sandwich, potato chips or a burger and fries — not frequently, but often enough to avoid any fear of forbidden foods. When the scale leveled off at 135, I declared that to be my ideal weight, regardless of what any charts said.

I started taking a leisurely bath instead of a quick shower each day and added yoga relaxation. I was able to gradually reduce, then completely stop taking a low dosage of blood pressure medication.

The last step has been a gradual change to a more active lifestyle. I started walking 20 to 40 minutes most days and started attending a tai chi class, as well as yoga and line dancing classes.

Life is good. And that's no small change.

Kane Phelps, Pacific Palisades

Last year at age 69, I attended my niece's wedding in Rosarita, Mexico. When I saw the wedding pictures, I was shocked by how my stomach protruded over my belt. I had never been overweight in my life, so I did the body mass index calculations and was further shocked to learn that I was 15 pounds overweight.

I simply reduced my fat and sugar intake by eliminating desserts other than fruit (except for special occasions). While I did not keep track of calories, I eliminated fatty meats such as pork and dark-meat chicken and turkey.

At the same time, I added 20 minutes of evening exercise — dancing while watching sports on TV — to the daily routine I already had in place, which includes exercise in the early and late morning. My early morning routine is generally to go to the gym, work the treadmill for 20-plus minutes, then do another 15 minutes of weight machine strength conditioning, mainly in the upper body. My late morning "break" is another round of dance or movement for 20 minutes.

I lost, on average, a half-pound per week. It took 10 months to lose 20 pounds. Today, almost a year later, though I've added to my fat and sugar intake by having ice cream occasionally, I'm still trim, fit and following the same exercise routine.

Allan Marion, Beverly Hills

I was 50 pounds overweight and have a history of artery disease in my family. I kept my expectations low and lost only a pound a week for a year by making small changes in my eating — small choices, basically tweaking what I ate.

I would eat pizza two times a week instead of four, and order salads and other foods with dressings and sauces on the side and just dip each bite slightly for flavor. I would eat desserts four days a week instead of seven, and use nonfat ice cream with nonfat whipped cream and chocolate sauce. I made small choices, expected very slow progress and remembered that this is for life, not temporary.

I added walking every morning, starting with 15 minutes a day. The key was not trying to lose more weight quickly but knowing that these are lifetime changes and that I needed to be able to live with these changes for the rest of my life.

Norm Chernin, Van Nuys

For more than 20 years, I played tennis for a couple of hours every Saturday, Sunday and on holiday mornings with the same partner until he developed a health problem that precluded him from playing any longer.

Notwithstanding that exercise, I gained more than 45 pounds over my optimum weight during that time period. As an alternative to tennis, I began walking at lunchtime. As my speed and endurance increased, so did the distance that I covered. I also added weekends to my walking time.

I have been walking virtually every day for more than five years and have lost about 45 pounds. I now can wear shirts, slacks and suits that I have had in my closet for years. And I have come to really enjoy the sights that can only be appreciated by walking as opposed to driving: flowers, trees and colors and textures of objects that I pass; architectural and artistic features of buildings and structures along my way.

John Kremer, Fullerton

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