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Salute to Success ~ March 2010


        Have you ever heard of George Elliot?  Oh... even if you don't think you have, I think you probably have.  You probably read one of her books, like Silas Marner or Middlemarch, back when you were in school.   Yes..."her" books.   You see, "George" was a pen name used by a lady writer in the 1800's, because back in her day, people wouldn't take a book seriously unless they thought it was written by a man.  Her real name was Mary Anne Evans.
         Anyway, there is a famous quote by George Elliot that says, "It's never too late to be what you might have been."  Today I want to introduce you to my friend Sybil.  Sybil is one of my students at Slimmons.  She's a very strong lady who has accomplished a lot in her life.   And she has truly learned the lesson that it's "never too late."  She has a fantastic story...and I'm going to let HER tell you that story, in her own words…
        “I am 70 years old and I don’t ever remember being or feeling thin because for as long as I can remember I’ve been a yo-yo dieter. I’d lose weight and then gain it back and more. I don’t know why I never fully accepted that once I lost weight I couldn’t go back to my old eating habits!
         Exercise! Not when I grew up! We had physical education in school but many girls including me were told that it wasn’t nice to perspire in public! We played with our friends after school and rode bikes and jumped rope but never for long enough to make a fitness difference and rarely in front of a guy.
         Every summer, after attending all-girls sleep-away summer camps, I came home fit and slimmer. Two months after being home, the weight crept on again. How could it not! Active athletic summers without a refrigerator convenient gave way to inactivity and a stocked refrigerator very handy.
        But it was after my second daughter was born that I developed an even bigger problem. She required several surgeries and I ate my way through each of them for a period of five years. And no exercise!!!
        Ah, but once in a while I did lose the weight by starving myself, using crack-pot diets of eating only soup, or eating only meat, cheese and nuts and worst of all taking pills and shots. I’d lose and then gain it back again – and more.  I bought the first set of tapes of “Sweatin’ To The Oldies”. To this day, my daughters remember my dancing in front of the t.v. I danced but didn’t control my eating so nothing much happened. If I hadn’t danced and sweat to the oldies I can imagine how much higher my weight would have gone!!!
        When I was 43 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had bi-lateral mastectomies. It was during my recuperation that I fortuitously met Richard for the first time. The 27th anniversary of meeting will be in early May of this year!
        I was sitting on the banquette in the lobby of a local Chinese restaurant. I was sad, and not feeling well enough to stand while my husband secured our reservation and table. The door to the restaurant opened and Richard walked in with a group of his friends. So absorbed in my sadness and distress, I barely noticed. Suddenly, I saw Richard walking toward me. In true Richard generosity, he bent down on one knee, took my hand, looked right into my eyes, and said, “Hello, pretty lady!” I stammered a hello back, we chatted for a moment and he was gone.
      With that lovely act of kindness, Richard lifted my spirits. I didn’t feel so ugly and deformed anymore! How could I when a famous stranger came and told me that I was pretty? My husband, Jim, and I went to our table and he noticed how my spirits had buoyed! I told him why and I knew he was grateful, too.
      I had many surgeries for reconstruction after the mastectomies and after each surgery, my weight was lower and by the next surgery, I had gained it all back. By the time I was 48 and required a hysterectomy, I was pretty slim. It took having several surgeries a year for 5 years for me to keep some weight off.
     But I never felt thin. I wasn’t thin inside my head where thin really starts and needs to stay.  And so, once again, by the time I was in my fifties, all the weight I had lost and even some more came back and I was fat again. You would think I’d be on to myself with all of that dieting experience behind me, but I wasn’t. Only now can I say Duh!!
      In 2004, on the day of my 65th birthday, I was diagnosed with an intestinal obstruction and had 6 inches of my intestines removed. The small intestine is about 21 feet in length and the surgeon removed six inches – not enough to worry about not having. My weight dropped precipitously while in the hospital. At the time of diagnosis of the intestinal obstruction the CT scan also showed that I had kidney cancer and six weeks after the intestinal surgery, I had a nephrectomy to remove my right kidney. When I got out of the hospital I was thinner than I had been in all of my adult life.
      As I recuperated, I gained weight again. I became desperate and depressed. And then, a miracle.
      Another restaurant and this time Richard was sitting at the next table. We noticed each other and “flirted!" Moving his lips only, he offered me food from his table and I silently offered him food from mine. It was very funny! But when he stood up from the table to leave, I ran to meet him in the lobby before he left the restaurant. It wanted to give him a long over-due thank you.
      I cried as I told him what he had done for me 25 years before in that other restaurant and I thanked him for the compliment that made me feel that I could get on with my life. The timing of our random meeting was wonderful the first time and even more wonderful the second time because I could finally thank him.
      Right after our second meeting, I decided to take a class at Slimmons. It was so close to home and the weight was creeping on again. I didn’t take Richard’s class, at first. I felt a little shy and found the other instructors wonderful, each in her own way. And finally I decided to take one of Richard’s classes.
     Richard greeted me with a warm hello and welcome on that first night and again, he told me I was pretty. He greeted me again in the second class I attended and before the third class he came to me and said, “I remember you! You’re the lady from the restaurant! I said yes and we laughed at his eureka moment!
     A week later it was my 70th birthday and Richard led the class in singing Happy Birthday to me. Yes, it was my happy birthday, but it was only part of a birth process for me. Even at my “old” age, I was learning to lose weight safely and keep it off! And it was the fifth anniversary of the kidney cancer! What a happy birthday that was!
     I’ve lost 33 pounds, I rarely miss at least 5 classes a week and I’ve bought the dvds of the old “Sweatin” tapes and use them when I travel.  Now I’ve got the tools to keep the extra weight off and I used those tools daily. And lucky me, I’m able to shop in my closet and wear all of those clothes I bought when I was thinner for 5 minutes at a time!!
     Richard’s commitment to me by simply being there is an example of what you can do. That has been wonderful. The insights I’ve gained from his remarks as class ends and from Project Me, have shown me a new path to keeping the weight off. Oh, and I love the music – it keeps me in touch with “young” music which is often better than old! Richard makes me laugh during class and does that feel good! He is a very funny and has a great singing voice (probably knows every song every written). He dances and jumps and is so happy when lots of people show up for class. I laugh as I work my tail off! Who could ever have imagined that for a girl who was told it was unseemly to sweat!
      I feel so well and that’s pretty hard to do given my medical history. My cholesterol is down over 100 points and my blood pressure is normal and is like that of a much younger woman!
      Consistent with my age, I recently had two surgeries to remove cataracts. Richard was so supportive – I was scared I’d gain weight again because I’d have to limit my exercise for six weeks. Fortunately, the doctor cleared me to exercise three days after each surgery and I was back at it again. I gave up the weights and toning because the doctor thought it best, but the aerobics did the trick of lifting my spirits and helping me feel fit. Thank goodness I’m back to weights and toning because it feels so good.
      I have lost 33 pounds!
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      It took me a long time to learn that it’s never too late to try again. This time, with Richard and his staff at Slimmons, I not only tried again, but I’ve finally gotten it right!  I’m having fun feeling like a champion because I am winning my weight war one day at a time and one dance at a time. Sometimes those days are stressful because I occasionally crave the junk I don’t eat any more. I haven’t become a “weight saint” and probably never will! But most days are well structured and comfortable. And when I fall off the wagon, I get right on again. That’s a feat I had never mastered until now and that’s okay because when I push the weakness down I WIN!!!   Richard taught me that and it’s a lesson well-learned
     I hope to give you an update on my story when I reach the age of 100, which is my goal. If nutrition and exercise have anything to do with longevity, what I’ve learned at Slimmons will get me the years I need to get me to that goal. And I’ll be slim and laughing all the way!”
     Sybil, thank you so much for sharing your story with my readers this “lucky” month of March.   You are truly a lady who has made your own luck by never giving up. And thank you for helping me teach my webbies that it’s never too late to start…or to start again. It truly is never too late to be what we “might have been.” I hope this month will be the month many people will begin their journey to achieve their dreams.
     I’d be honored to do an update story here on the web when you turn 100.   I wonder if we’ll still call it “the web” then? Wonder what computers will be like?   Maybe everybody will just see a 3-D me right there talking to them! Who knows what the future holds? But one thing is for sure. We can all start building our futures, today!
     Oh, and Sybil…I’m glad I get to see you someplace other than restaurants now! LOL!