Before: 185 (size 16 pants, 12 top)
Pounds lost: 50
Lightbulb moment: Learning my mom was concerned about my health
Biggest benefit: Reversing bone loss in my hip!
Right after I turned 50, I went to my doctor for my annual checkup. I was so close to menopause that he ordered a bone-density test to make sure my skeleton was OK. He told me that as my estrogen started to dwindle, I was at risk of losing bone and even of developing osteoporosis, a serious disease that can lead not only to thinner bones but also to fractures (Find out: Why should women worry about bone health?). I was shocked when I got the results: My right hip bone actually was thinning. My doctor said it was osteopenia, a condition that can eventually turn into osteoporosis. Bone health had never been on my radar, but I knew what had caused it. The unhealthy lifestyle I led in my 40s had done more than contribute to my having to shop for larger pants.
I'd gained a few pounds over the years, but weight was never really an issue until, when I was 41, I moved from New York City to Atlanta. Walking around New York had made it easy to stay active, but Atlanta is a driver's city. Even though I lived downtown, there were very few stores or restaurants within walking distance. Plus, I had a 20-minute commute into suburbia for work. So I bought a car, and soon I was sitting on my butt to go just about everywhere.
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My hectic job--I'm a copartner at a recruiting firm--didn't help. I was working long hours, and at the end of the day I barely had enough energy to roll through the drive-thru for a quick dinner, let alone cook something healthy or hit the gym. (Video: Prepare Healthy Meals) Even worse: My office was a dieter's nightmare. It was normal to have lavish breakfast meetings, and if we were working late, we'd order in pizza or some other junk. (Satisfy cravings—smarter—with this free two-week plan: Eat This, Not That!) Weight creep is a terrible thing, and it happened a lot faster than I realized--I was gaining a few pounds each month, and my clothes just kept getting tighter. By the time I hit 50, I was wearing a size 16. I'd step on the scale and see 185 glaring up at me--the heaviest I'd ever been. Thankfully, about a year before I learned I had osteopenia, my mom gave me a kick in the butt that inspired me to take control of my health.
Letter from Mom
I've always had a great relationship with my mom, but she's known in our family for commenting on how much everyone should or shouldn't eat. It never really bothered me growing up because I'd always been thin. But as my pants got larger, her comments became a lot more personal and started to make me angry. I knew she meant well--she had been a fat kid, and she has exercised and watched what she eats to keep her weight down for as long as I can remember. But when she sent me a letter telling me how much she wanted me to get in shape, I was annoyed. I tossed it in the trash and tried to forget about it, but one sentence stuck in the back of my mind: I'm worried you're carrying too much weight on your heart. That was the first time she mentioned my health, and it scared me.
A few weeks later, I was checking e-mail when I looked up and saw my reflection in the living room mirror. The person staring back disgusted me. I looked huge--like a football player. At that moment I realized I was sick of being fat. That same day, I made my first appointment with a personal trainer. (Here’s what to expect when you hire a trainer.)