My Sister's Lifestyle Makeover

by Susan T. White

A year and a half ago, my sister underwent a very positive lifestyle makeover, completely overhauling her diet and initiating an exercise program for the first time in her life. This had such a profound affect on her, both physically and emotionally, that I decided to interview her for my Wiki project. It has been a lot of fun for friends and family to witness her transformation. She is a true testament to the power of good nutrition and an active lifestyle.

When I asked her what had motivated her, she said that at age 63 ½, she found herself puffing a little just going up the stairs. She had assumed the role of primary caregiver for our 92-year-old mother, and she knew she got tired too easily; she had even started using my mom’s stair lift! She had been overweight for some time and decided that health was a big motivator for weight loss. She knew that she would feel better just getting down in weight. Also, she knew she was not very strong, so she wanted to work on her fitness as well.

She found a program that combined diet and exercise guidelines with instructions in self-hypnosis. The hypnosis is intended to help reduce stress and provide positive reinforcement. The program offered several different food plans, and she opted for a primarily vegan plan with some flexibility. There was no measuring or journaling, just guidelines for healthy eating. The basic guidelines were:

Lots of fresh vegetables
Fresh fruit - at least 2 servings a day
Protein from beans, lentils and tofu
Whole grains (whole grain bread limited to 3 slices a week)
Rice milk on cereal
Olive oil or olive oil spray
8 glasses of water a day
No sugar or honey
No dairy
No meat or fish (although occasionally used as a condiment)

She was encouraged to eat slowly and consciously and to take 20 minutes to eat each meal.

Along the way, she has discovered that many Indian, Thai and Middle Eastern recipes work well with her new diet plan. This has been a huge change from her previous diet, which featured endless bags of pretzels and frosted animal crackers, as well as sweets and white bread washed down with cans of diet soda. Not the most nutritious plan!

The program also encouraged regular physical activity. She had never followed any kind of exercise plan, so she started with very light exercise three times a week. Then, she went to a moderate program at a gym. Now she has graduated to spinning class, working out with weights and a weekly abs class!

I asked her what she feels the biggest changes have been. She said that she has lost a total of 48 pounds in a year and a half. She feels stronger and just better all over - especially after she works out when she gets ‘a nice high’. She doesn’t get tired nearly as fast and she is never short of breath, ever. She feels more confident, more mentally alert and more positive in general. Her doctor is thrilled!

I asked her how she continues to motivate herself and she said that she has been reinforced in part by her success. Her tastes have adjusted to all of the vegetables and fruits. Heavy food just doesn’t agree with her anymore. Basically she has succeeded in changing her habits and the way she views herself. Now she thinks of herself as a vegetarian following a low-fat diet.

Overall it’s a huge improvement over her former diet, and, as an added benefit she has discovered the joy of exercise. In looking over her sample menus, her diet appears nutritionally sound. She is getting plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains, and she is getting protein from legumes. She is drinking plenty of water. Because she is not eating dairy, she is taking Calcium supplements. I suggested that she talk to her doctor about Vitamin B12 supplements as well. Everyone has been tickled to see such a healthy and happy transformation coming later in life. She is a wonderful role model for us all.

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