Sunday, January 21, 2018

Defying the Odds, Dropping 108 Pounds

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

At 64 years old, MaryAnn embarked on a daunting weight loss journey. She dropped 108 pounds by age 68, despite her failing health. Here’s how …

MaryAnn’s list of health problems is familiar: high cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. For her and many others, the cause is largely related to unhealthy body weight. MaryAnn’s concerned physician recommended she see a cardiologist. With her health in serious jeopardy, she took action.

On Her Own

Many Center members have experienced successful weight loss. Membership provides the tools, guidance, and motivation to achieve such fitness goals. Along with being an extreme success (losing only five pounds can be a feat), MaryAnn had the challenge of overcoming advanced age and poor health. 

A widow at 28 years old, MaryAnn raised a son alone while earning her college degree. A lucrative career in banking followed. Despite her success, she lacked support to improve her health and wellness. A strong, independent woman, she embarked on this journey with only the help of Center membership.

Prioritizing Her Health

You won’t find MaryAnn sitting around much these days.

She joined the Center when it opened. MaryAnn made friends during her workouts. She enjoyed the camaraderie and atmosphere charged with motivation. She needed this entity of support. The first six months of her journey were a particularly daunting struggle. In one pivotal day, MaryAnn gave away all her junk food. She completely changed her way of eating and living.

“At the start, I was always terribly hungry. I got massive headaches and often went to bed crying,” she shares. Considered an addiction, MaryAnn was previously unable to control eating sweets. As a result, she still does not touch the stuff.

Four years later, she considers herself “sober from sweets” and free of over 100 pounds and all medication. She maintains this by avoiding sugar and carbs, without hesitation. She never slips, even at parties where she avoids pasta, bread, and gourmet desserts. “It is not worth the splurge,” MaryAnn explains of her fixed mindset. She admits after the first year cold-turkey, sweets tasted terrible to her.

MaryAnn developed healthy ways to make food taste delicious. Friends as well as strangers often want her recipes, assuming they are potions for their own weight loss. However, MaryAnn attests there are not any fad diets or quick fixes—just long-term commitments to healthy habits.

The Age Factor

As the body ages, even a 10-pound weight loss cannot be approached as done in younger years. Maintaining the diet and exercise level of our 20s may result in weight gain as we add years. Diet and activity level must adjust to compensate for age-related changes. Additional efforts must be made to maintain muscle mass and avoid weight gain.

Biologically, losing weight gets harder as we age. Starting age 20, our metabolism begins its natural downward progression. Losing weight becomes more challenging—but not impossible.

In her sixth decade with 100+ pounds to lose, MaryAnn knew she had to take drastic steps. Her lifestyle was unhealthy, regardless of age. However, it was compounded by her advanced years and the health conditions her weight caused. Exercise was an essential component to her success.

The Workout

Building muscle, losing fat.
Personal Trainer Jessie (left) with MaryAnn.

Senior workouts should focus on building muscle rather than simply losing fat. Muscle mass decreases with age. This can be fought with strength training— exercise machines, free weights, resistance bands, and body-weight exercises.

The goal is to build a stronger body, one capable of everyday activities. This also helps assure independence and vitality later in life, along with better health. Plus, muscles burn more calories than fat. Tone up and increase your fat-burning metabolism even while at rest.

MaryAnn’s standard workout includes a circuit of cycling on the recumbent bikes, using the fitness equipment, and lifting free weights. She spends about 2.5 hours at the Center, three times per week. In between, she constantly moves. “I even do stretches in the shower,” she laughs, “I have become a real health nut!”

Today, MaryAnn has replaced snacking with writing. She is working on a memoir, Weigh of Life, to help others of all ages and sizes.

You’re Never Too Old

To those who believe they are too old to worry or care about excess body weight, MaryAnn exclaims, “At an older age, you have to care more [not less]! You can be thin or overweight. You can be healthy or sick.” She emphasizes body weight can become an issue of life or death, as it did for her. That fact is significant even at an age when skinny jeans and cocktail dresses are easily retired for sweats.

MaryAnn also speaks of the impact being overweight has on one’s emotional state. She shares how added weight makes you feel negative about yourself, which perpetuates more weight gain and poor health. “Often, you end up in unhealthy relationships, believing it’s your only option and all you deserve,” she admits. The reasons to lose excess weight go beyond youthful vanity.

Major weight loss through diet and exercise is possible—even later in life. It is not ever easy; but, it is possible. And when you achieve it, you feel amazing. Just ask MaryAnn.

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