Before: 238 pounds
After: 149 pounds
Shelli had always been naturally slim, so when she packed on 70 pounds during her pregnancy at age 30, she says she was “mystified” and unsure of what to do. After giving birth to her son, she worked out hard and lost 50 pounds, but says that her husband continued to be critical of her weight and she started to gain it back.
The fights intensified and the couple decided to split in 1995. A newly single mom, Shelli once again began to pack on the pounds, eventually getting up to 260 pounds. “I thought, if he thinks I’m fat, I’ll show him fat,” she says.
Bye-Bye, Baby Fat
Shelli didn’t date and focused on raising her son. She weighed around 238 pounds for the next 14 years. “I was busy raising my son alone and felt the extra weight ‘protected’ me from getting into a relationship with a man—and I was correct! I felt safe but miserable with the way I looked and felt,” she says.
The Turning Point
As she approached her 50th birthday and 30-year high-school reunion, she felt it was finally time to reclaim her “femaleness,” and she vowed to drop the weight. These events also coincided with another milestone—her son’s high school graduation.
Shelli says she knew that without him she was going to be lonely and needed to focus on something other than raising him. “My son was graduating and finishing a chapter of his life, and I wanted to do the same with mine, she says. “It was time to close the fat door.”
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Shelli, a legal secretary, started out with the Atkins Diet (Does the Atkins Diet work?) and lost about 30 pounds. Then she joined Weight Watchers at Work and she kept shedding weight at a rate of about 2 pounds per week. “The program taught me correct portion sizes and I was eventually able to "eyeball" my foods to know about how many calories I’m consuming so I can stay in check,” she says.
Friendly competition also helped Shelli stay on track—especially since the people she saw at work every day were always around to hold her accountable. “Having your ‘lunch buddies’ working to lose weight with you is so inspiring,” she says.
For exercise, Shelli walked a mile or 2 after work every other day and started working out at the gym, doing both cardio and weight training twice a week. “I used to be a runner and gave it up, but I know how to walk hard and fast to get a sweat on,” she says.
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Shelli lost about 70 pounds in time for her high-school reunion, and the night of the event she reconnected with an old friend, who she’s now been dating for over a year. The support from that new relationship has helped her lose another 20 pounds. “He’s superfit himself and has a fabulous body, and he tells me I’m beautiful every single day,” Shelli says.
The love of her son also keeps her on track—she said he cheered her on every step of the way, and then took cues from her and lost 30 pounds of his own. “He was so impressed by how hard I was working, so he decided that he wanted to feel better and look better too,” she says.
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Overall, she says she’s more personally fulfilled. “My motivation comes from being at such a good place in my life right now and not ever wanting to go back to the pain, embarrassment, and hateful reflection in the mirror again,” she says.
At 50 years old Shelli feels better than ever. “I really, truly feel sexy again,” she says. She went to Jamaica with her boyfriend to celebrate their 50th birthdays and was excited to wear a bikini on the beach. “I finally feel healthy, strong, and attractive again,” she says. “That ‘protective weight’ was keeping me from living life to its fullest.”
Counteract your calories. Don’t let a day of indulgence set you back permanently. “I do whatever it takes to stop myself from slipping. I weigh myself every day. If I’ve gained a pound, that motivates me to get on my running shoes and walk an extra mile around the block,” Shelli says. “One day of overeating doesn’t undo all the work you’ve done. If you slip, don’t freak out. Just get back on board.”
Let milestone events motivate you. Shelli said she needs events to help her set goals for herself. Anything from a party to a family reunion can give her the motivation she needs to stay on track. “If I have a date in my head to be ready by, the closer the event comes the more I know I have to get in gear. It helps apply the pressure I need so I don’t just coast.”
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Pregnancy Weight Gain and Losing Weight Over 50
She Lost the Baby Weight—and Then Some
Shelli Charnquist was skinny all her life—until she gained 70 pounds during her pregnancy. It took her more than 14 years to take it off, but now she feels better than ever!
Photo courtesy of Shelli Charnquist
Before: 238 pounds