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Salute to Success ~ April 2010

       Last month, it was time for us to “spring forward” with our clocks. But this time of year is also a great time for us to think about springing forward in our lives. Everything somehow seems new in the spring. New green grass beings to grow, flowers begin to bloom…
        And a lot of us begin to make fun plans for the year. People start thinking about family vacations, and how they’ll spend their summer. But we can also think about the bigger things in our lives, and make choices to move forward and not be held back by our pasts.
       This month, I want to introduce you to my friend Marcia. I’ve known Marcia’s sister, Iris, for a very long time. And now Marcia has become one of my students at Slimmons too. Marcia has had a lot to deal with in her past, and has been through some sad times. But she’s made a choice to move forward with her life.   And she has accomplished so much! I’m going to let her tell you her story in her own words…
       “This month I will turn 66. I remember a time I thought that it was so old and the end. I now think of it as the beginning of a new chapter.
       I was born in New York and moved to Miami, Florida in February 1945 with my mom, dad and older brother. Between 1948 and 1955, two more brothers and my sister Iris were born. I remember living a normal childhood, playing outside and running a lot. We didn’t have a television, so being petite was easy as all energy was spent being a rambunctious kid. I climbed walls and coconut trees. Of course, my parents didn’t know about the climbing. 
       In March 1953, our lives irrevocably changed. My 5-year-old brother was hit by a car while crossing the street and did not survive his injuries. My mother didn’t know she was pregnant with Iris. My parents, especially my mother, became extremely protective and running free was no longer an option.
       I was teased mercilessly for my carrot top and freckles and for being short. My bad eating habits began in those times. Whenever I was stressed or upset, I had to have a Nestle’s Crunch and an RC Cola to feel better.
      We moved back and forth across the country five times between 1957 and 1960 - Florida to California to Florida to California returning to New York in August 1960. This was extremely stressful on our family. I was not happy, and chocolate became my best friend.
      In August 1963, my family returned to California. A few months later, I met the man who became my first husband. It was time to learn how to do more than boil water, so I went to the library and began to read cookbooks and copy recipes. I experimented on my family, then on my boyfriend. I made cookies, cakes and comfort foods. Nowhere in sight was a healthy recipe. 
      After marrying in 1964, I really became a cook. I prepared meat, meat and more meat with potatoes, rice or noodles. I also made a lot of spaghetti. As my cooking abilities improved, I gained new talents . . . decorating cakes and making homemade candies.   The doctor was alarmed as my cholesterol rose to 385. I changed my eating and cooking habits for awhile. But I stopped, and soon started to gain weight. The “battle of the bulges” began. My long roller coaster ride with weight was seemingly unstoppable, as I went up 20, down 10, and up 20 again and again.
      By the time my marriage ended in 1986, I had tried at least 20 diets. I managed to lose some weight and was keeping it off. I joined a singles group and just as my divorce became final, I met Dave. He thought I was a snob, and I thought he was awful. Fate intervened with the help of a mutual friend, and we found out we had a lot in common. He had custody of his four children; I had none, but wanted a big family. We both loved sports, and we both loved to eat. We started to date, and I started to cook even more, enjoying the fact that there now were children in my life. We fell in love and made plans to marry. I not only ate with stress, but overate with happiness! I started to gain weight again and almost didn’t fit into my wedding dress. 
       I became fully immersed in my life of my new family. It was perfect for me, and I was so relaxed and happy that I ignored the growth spurt in my hips. In a blink, I had gained 50 lbs. Dave lost his job and was offered an opportunity in Michigan, so off we went. I was miserable leaving our grown children, my job, friends, and siblings.
       Shortly after settling in our new home, I decided to do something about my weight. I bought my first and second Sweatin’ to the Oldies tapes, and set time aside every day to exercise. My sister sent me Richard’s walking cassette, and I began to walk daily. It took four months of hard work, and I lost over 40 lbs. After flying back for my brother’s wedding, I returned home to Michigan, no longer feeling the urgency to exercise, and missing all those I loved.
       During the next five years, I gained back the 40 lbs., and added on an additional 50 lbs. I joined a weight loss clinic and lost 80 lbs. and kept it off for awhile. On a visit to California, Iris took me to Slimmons where I met Richard. That was 15 years ago. I also had an unforgettable experience when I met Richard in Toledo, Ohio.
      I looked and felt great, but … life changed. I needed foot surgery, and couldn’t walk. I began to have pity parties and ate everything in sight. One year later, I needed a second surgery on the same foot. Hours after the second surgery, I moved wrong and, just as someone would see in an I Love Lucy episode, I broke the other foot! Now I had no feet to stand on!!! The pity parties were back, along with M & M’s, cookies and chips. My emotions were out of control and my weight increased.
     When Dave’s job ended, and we returned to California, bought a townhome, and life was good. However, I was back on a roller coaster with my weight. One day, I had the shock of my life! I weighed more at 5’2” than my 6’tall sweetheart!!! We both joined Weight Watchers. But the roller coaster still went around and around.
      I had lost two brothers, and both parents, but nothing prepared me for what happened next. We were planning for the holidays when disaster struck. December 1, 2008, was the worst day of my life. My beloved Dave had a massive heart attack and was on advanced life support when the firemen carried him out. I was at the hospital about 15 hours a day, having multiple one-sided conversations with Dave. During that horribly emotional and frightening week, I learned the power of making a death bed promise. I told my sweetheart how much I loved him, but explained that I did not want to join him yet. I promised to get healthy so our three beautiful grandchildren would have me and would never forget him. He passed away on December 9, 2008.
       About a month after the funeral, Iris gave me a gift of the Cruise to Lose for my 65th birthday. She wanted so badly to do something for me, and although this was difficult for me, I decided to go with her. Planning for the cruise helped pull me through. The cruise was the most amazing experience. At the airport, Richard told me that I wasn’t allowed to be sad on the cruise. And he was right. I did not have time to feel sorry for myself, as we were so busy going from one exciting activity to another! Speaking at one of the seminars gave me a strength I didn’t know I had. Heck, I didn’t even think I could do aerobics! I met incredible people, made some great friends, and received tremendous support. The weight loss of 4 lbs. was a bonus. It was a catalyst to my healing and my resolve to keep my promise.
       I began going to Slimmons on Saturdays, and after meeting so many nice people there, I became a member. I began going on Tuesday nights, reserving Thursday nights for my bereavement support group. The atmosphere at Slimmons is so amazing. Exercise never was fun before! Additionally, every morning, I warm-up to Richard’s Sweatin’ to the Oldies tapes, and do fast mall-walking at least 5 days a week. 
       And, yes, I am keeping the promise I made to my husband. I have lost 87 pounds, and I am shooting for 100. I will make it too! My oldest granddaughter renamed me “Grandma Cookie” over the holidays, but I am aiming for “Grandma Hottie.”
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      Thank you, Richard, for helping me through the toughest period of my life, and for helping me realize that I can do anything … even this!”
      Marcia, I’m so proud of you. And I know you will reach your goal. I’m so glad you came on my cruise to lose last year. And I’m so glad you keep coming to Slimmons. Thank you so much for sharing your story with my readers. I know you will inspire many to “spring forward” just as you have.