As anyone knows if they’ve tried to do it, losing weight and getting in shape is hard work. And keeping it off may be even harder! How do you succeed, if you’ve failed at these things most of your life? Is it possible to finally find success after years of struggling? Is it too late, if you’re over 50?
The answers are YES you can succeed; and NO, it’s never too late!
It’s incredibly inspirational to meet someone who has been there and to find out how they did it. So, today I am launching a new series for 2017 on the blog. I’ll be interviewing people who overcame challenges and found a healthy lifestyle, especially those who did it later in life (like me!).
Meet Delores Curtis, a Realtor who celebrates her 62nd birthday in February. It’s been an honor to connect with her on Instagram over the past year, where every day she inspires me and countless others.
Delores lives in southern Maryland with her husband, and enjoys spending time with her children, their spouses and the grandkids. She lost 181 lbs. over 18 months, fought numerous health challenges, and literally changed her life.
Let’s find out how she did it!
What was your life like before your transition, compared to now?
I have struggled with my weight for most of my life. Tipping the scale over 350 lbs. and wearing men’s 5x shirts, I realized that my weight gain had stopped me from living a productive and rewarding life. I repeatedly gained and lost weight over the years, I experimented with weight loss programs and within six months to a year of starting a diet, I would return to my bad eating habits and would gain the weight back plus more.
Given my age and years of obesity, my overall health wasn’t ideal either. The majority of my complications were a direct result of my struggle with weight. To name a few of these complications: I was easily winded walking up a flight of stairs – a huge problem for a Realtor (no pun intended), I was hospitalized and diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, acid reflux, high blood pressure, and enlarged heart, and needed a daily water pill to keep my fluid retention down. When I was hospitalized, they kept me for four days. When I left the hospital, I turned my phone on silent. I really didn’t want to talk to anybody about how I ate myself in disrepair.
After arriving home and the initial shock of my newfound illnesses wore off, I drifted back into my old eating habits…thus, the cycle began all over again. I returned to a highly diminished quality of life, swollen feet, lethargy, and let’s not forget about the daily aches/pains that made getting through each day and sleeping at night a constant challenge.
How did you lose the weight, and how long did it take?
My first 30 days, I began by cutting out potatoes, pasta, white bread, white rice, flour, regular soda, cookies, cakes, pies, and processed sugar. To help flush the fat, I drank no less than a gallon of water a day and lost 20 pounds!
A huge tip I learned was to be aware of “hidden sugars” – just because it says sugar-free it doesn’t mean it’s carbohydrate-free. I learned to read labels on everything, including condiments and seasonings – even if it was labeled organic. It’s true that quick-fix diets can help you get the pounds off, but most of the time those pounds come back with a vengeance.
I meal prep 2-3 days a week. A little prep work goes a long way. I love leftovers and can create entirely different meals with just a little thinking ahead. When it comes to eating well, meal planning is one of the easiest things you can do to set yourself up for success – and save yourself stress overall.
My typical plate consists of a baked chicken, fish, beef or turkey. I also fill my plate with vegetables and a small side of carbohydrates. For between meals, I have a variety of low carb/sugar snacks that I have found work for me. For me, I eat when I am hungry – I typically stick with three regular-sized meals in addition to two snacks every day. This is what has worked for me; an alternative would be to have four or five small meals throughout the day.
As I mentioned earlier, I lost the 20 pounds in the first 30 days. I was feeling energetic and motivated to keep moving forward. It was time to start using that gym membership (which I’d been paying for three years— and never used….but I digress.) First step, time to buy some workout gear – I headed to Walmart! The last I remember purchasing gym gear, I was in my twenties.
I started going to the gym 5-6 days a week. I could only walk on the treadmill at the lowest speed, but I kept going as if my life depended on it. I would walk for an hour, take a break, and get right back on until I completed a full session. I later increased my workouts to 6-7 days a week. I was under the impression that you should stay away from the boring, ineffective cardio exercise and treadmill workouts to see real results – and I am here to tell you, that is not true – I lost the first 100 pounds in 9 months on that “ineffective” darn treadmill.
There were a couple of things I didn’t want to give up, first of all was my morning coffee and the occasional strips of crispy bacon…and I use the term ‘occasional’ loosely. I don’t always eat the healthy stuff, but who does?
I’ve lost 181 pounds in 18 months. Diabetes is gone – and so are the pills. I no longer prick my finger. And for the first time in my life, I focused on nutrition, moderation and portion control instead of the typical and popular “diet.” This allows for more realistic goals as increase success in long-term maintenance.
Editor’s note: Delores is a talented cook, and shares many of her mouth-watering meal ideas on Instagram.
What is your day-to-day routine like? What types of exercise do you do?
I am still working hard to maintain my weight. Since my weight loss journey began I have never stopped pushing towards my goals and staying consistent – there has not been a time that getting healthy wasn’t a priority for me. That being said, I’ve gone from someone who could barely walk up a flight of stairs without being winded, to now lifting weights, using strength-training machines, elliptical machines and I have now started lifting free weights.
My ideal gym regimen is six days of activity and one day of active rest. On those days that I can’t make it to the gym, I make sure I get my workout at home. I live in a small-space apartment and working out from home can be challenging. But in my opinion, who needs space when you have motivation to help you stay on track? Yes, it’s a chore to pull everything out, workout and put everything neatly away. But when I’m done…it’s worth the beautiful results!
What challenges have you faced in your efforts at becoming healthier?
In July of 2015, I encountered a major setback in my routine when I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. The compilations kept me from maintaining my routine for months on end. During my six-month-long recovery, I had no gym time, no driving…nothing but pain. I kept thinking about how hard I had worked to get to where I was and how I refused to let it be in vain. Before the tumor, I was 25-35 lbs. away from my goal weight, one step closer to excess skin removal surgery. I regained 29 pounds and immediately noticed the change in the quality of my days. My clothes felt a little tight and my body felt heavy and sluggish. I also did not have the mental clarity I once had when I was fully healthy. However, the physical changes were the ultimate motivation for me to get back on track and continue my journey.
Today, I have about 40 more pounds to lose. And 40 lbs. might be stretching a bit, because 20 lbs. of it might be excess skin. But I can’t complain with where I am. I’ve learned a lot over these last couple of years – about what works, and what doesn’t for my lifestyle. I am more optimistic than ever, because I’ve given up quick fixes. I found the key to success was changing mindset from diet and embracing change as a new lifestyle – a long-term commitment to health and not a short-term commitment to fickle and temperamental results.
What tips would you give to someone wanting to become healthier and more fit?
I would highly recommend focusing on creating a sustainable healthy lifestyle, not temporarily following a fad diet. I’m not knocking anyone’s route to healthy living. But at the end of every “diet” you will have to return to real life. I’m just speaking from experience when I say that effective weight management requires a committed, sustainable approach to lifestyle and behaviors that promote weight-loss and weight-loss maintenance over time.
What is the most important lesson this journey taught you?
I lost 181 lbs. in 18 months and finally began to feel healthy, energetic and strong again… both mentally and physically. I quit looking for “quick fix diets” and unrealistic regiments, instead looking for ways to prepare food that would fuel my body, while maintaining a sustainable workout out routine – at the gym or home.
The biggest thing I have gained from my journey is the importance of loving yourself at any age. I’ve found, sometimes, the hardest part of making a big change is getting started. As we get older, we can feel as if we have gotten get stuck along the way. I believe good old fashioned healthy eating and exercise will get you through those ruts. Healthy lifestyle – at any age – is totally within reach for all of us!
Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story with us, Delores!
Be sure to follow Delores on Instagram at @agentdcurtis, on Twitter at @Distracted2013, and on Facebook at getlostwithdee. In addition, she has a new website under construction, www.getlostwithdee.fit.
Find out about my online and in-person personal training services for women over 40.