Weight LossHealth & Beauty

How I Lost 125 Pounds on a Budget

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I'd always been a bit overweight growing up. I just thought that was the norm since most of my family members always carried extra weight. "We're a big-boned family," we'd joke. But our appetites were huge, especially coming from cultural backgrounds where food was the primary offering in times of celebration... or any occasion. When I started college, most kids would gain their Freshman 15. Me, I gained my Freshman 50. My weight-gain snowballed from there as it was so cheap and easy to buy junk food while I studied.
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One morning, I was getting ready for work and I realized that I could no longer reach my feet to tie my shoelaces. When I tried, it made it painful to breathe. I decided it was time to weigh myself, after avoiding to do so for several years. The scale read 235 pounds. Let's keep in mind I am 5'1" and I definitely did not have big bones! I was uncomfortable with myself, and it was time to take action. My excuses for not doing so before revolved around not having enough money to eat healthfully, and gyms being too darn expensive (and filled with judgmental people). This is how I got around that mindset:

  1. Use a low-cost jumpstart diet. I used something called the 3-Day Diet/Military Diet where you significantly reduce your food intake for 3 days, then eat more freely (but healthfully) for 4 days, then go back to the 3 days; and so on. It was suggested to me by a fashion model who I was friends with who watched me rapidly gain weight over the years. Slim Fast shakes only made me larger, and were filled with ingredients I could not pronounce, so I tried the 3-Day Diet.

    Before starting this diet, I'd eat packaged muffins, fast food, chips, and cookies daily. I did not know it, but I was easily eating 3,500 calories per day. The 3-Day Diet cut my calorie intake by more than half, but was keeping me full with fiber and a load of extra water. I only used this as a kickstart, mind you, and it absolutely helped getting me into the right mindset of what it is my body actually needs to function. It also saved me so much money. Here is the diet:

    The Military Diet

  2. You don't need a gym membership to burn a lot of calories. I started getting active by merely walking around my neighbourhood for 20 minutes a day 3 to 5 times a week. On my second week, I'd add 10 extra minutes and try a hilly area. On my third week, I'd keep it at 30 minutes but speed-walk instead. Every week I'd add some extra minutes and some more energy. In no time, I was finding interval walk-jogging to be no sweat... well, a lot of sweat!
  3. Use libraries and the internet for new workout regimes. Again, no money for cool gym classes, but that's okay. I found a bunch of workout DVDs at the library. They were mostly outdated Kathy Smith workouts, but cardio is cardio. Giggling at the old leotards only made it more fun. I was working out hard and having a good laugh. These days I get most of my workouts from YouTube. Just search what it is you're trying to tone and you will find hundreds of videos, even hour-long ones. Who cares if an ad pops up during? That's your time to have a sip of water and shake out your muscles.

    4. Weightlifting is important. A lot of people ignore weightlifting because they say they don't aim to be muscly. You don't have to be muscly. Weightlifting increases your metabolism, improves posture, relieves stress, and helps you reduce risk of overall body injury by giving protection to your bones and ligaments. Muscles burn more calories, even when you're sitting or sleeping, so keep them growing. I didn't have the funds to get a bunch of weights, so I started with tomato cans, filling water bottles with sand, then eventually buying a pair of 10-pound weights. You can find extremely affordable heavier weights at Walmart. I also got a $2 resistance band to workout my legs. Workouts for these are also all over YouTube!

  4. Track your food: It is so important to track what you're putting in your mouth on a daily basis. Not just for calorie-counting, but also for checking your overall mood and well-being. I weigh/measure my food before I eat to make sure my calorie intake is accurate, and I use a free app and website called MyFitnessPal to log it. If you use your mobile phone with it, you can scan barcodes of millions of items to see their nutritional value against what you're trying to take in. It will also take your weight, height, age, and desired weight loss goals, then give you a summation of what you should be aiming for as far as calories and macronutrients. I have used so many free apps and websites to do this and MyFitnessPal has been the best. Another added benefit is it's filled with like-minded health and fitness people (novices to famous trainers) that you can add as friends for motivation and support. There is also a huge forum that is also free and incredibly helpful. When you realize you are not alone in this, it is so much easier.
  5. Drink Substitutions: I loved soda so much but it was wreaking havoc on my waistline and my teeth. I had to make a slow transition instead of cut it cold-turkey, and there's nothing wrong with that. I switched to diet soda first (which is no better on your teeth), went to flavoured carbonated water, then just switched to water with fruit scraps in it for flavour. The weight poured off. I originally drank at least 4 sodas a day, which translated to at least 4,200 a week. A calorie reduction of 3,500 translates to a pound of weight loss. I was well on my way to faster weight loss, and no more money spent on fizzy drinks. Remember that fruit juices are also filled with sugar and calories and stripped of most of its fiber. It's better to have a piece of fruit than a glass of it.

    7. Food Substitutions: It does not cost a lot to make some healthier choices. That used to be one of my biggest excuses, "I can't afford healthy food." Trying some cheap minimal swaps will make huge changes. Use mustard instead of mayonnaise. Yogurt instead of sour cream. Get a big jug of corn kernels and make popcorn instead of reaching for bags of chips. Sprinkle nuts and seeds on your salads instead of packaged croutons. Use lettuce instead of tortillas. Make "Nice Cream" with frozen bananas in a blender instead of having ice cream. The possibilities are endless and they are not more expensive. If you'd like more ideas for substitutes, contact me and I will give you days upon days worth! :)

  6. Do not deprive yourself of the occasional treat. We are human, and we should act like it! You might have seen some of my recipes on here, and they are sometimes extremely decadent. Will I eat the whole thing? Heck no. Will I try some? Most definitely. It's all a balance. I log what I eat, and I know when I should try to counteract that intake with some exercise.
  7. Get out there. I mean this in a few ways. Get out of the house and do things. See what's out there. Explore this lovely world. You will not only move your body, but you will get a new perspective on life, see what you have at your fingertips, and discover what you can give back to the world. You will feel good inside and out, and you can share that with everyone you know. When I lost all my weight, I told everyone. Sure, some of it was because I was proud, but mostly because I wanted to help people who might be hiding the fact that they need help, too. I didn't mention this, but I did not go out for several years due to the embarrassment of my weight gain, and it took all these steps to help keep me out.
  8. I never regret a thing in my life, so I do not regret gaining so much weight. My life went one way for many reasons, I became so uncomfortable, and I had to handle it. I do wish I did not hide, though. I missed out on so many life events from being embarrassed about myself. Remember that you are the only you on this planet and you are beautiful no matter what, but do be kind to your body. It will thank you by being good to you for the years to come.

    If you need any other tips or healthy recipes, I'm always here and I love to help!

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July 10, 20182 found this helpful

Very inspirational ! Thank you for sharing your journey + tips with us. :) I am on a little fitness journey as well, I'm looking to lose 10-15 lbs

Reply Was this helpful? 2
July 10, 20181 found this helpful

You are very welcome! I remember I used to be very envious of those who had a little fitness journey, compared to me ;) I applaud you for staying fit. I hope some of these tips can be of some help to you. I have more tips on this topic that pop up in my head often, but I don't want readers to get bored :o

Reply Was this helpful? 1
July 11, 20181 found this helpful

Not boring at all :) I need to do more weight training. I go to the gym a couple times a week, but I feel like I'm not in the 'norm' to go in the weight room area.... I get shy and all eyes on me! -_- Well... ideally I'd just like to go back on what my drivers license says.... about 13 years ago and I'll be happy.

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You look amazing!!

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July 11, 20181 found this helpful

Try this video at home! See if you like it!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPgKYsknKw4

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July 10, 20182 found this helpful

What an accomplishment! You look great!

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July 10, 20181 found this helpful

Ah, cheers, Judy! Very kind of you :)

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July 11, 20182 found this helpful

Well you look amazing....A testament to determination and a pin-up for those who need encouragement. You show people that it can be done.

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July 11, 20181 found this helpful

Thank you! It most certainly can be. The bulk of my weight came out with full commitment in about 14 months. :)

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July 11, 20182 found this helpful

You look beautiful in both your before and after photos! Great tips, thanks for sharing.

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July 11, 20181 found this helpful

Thank you so much! :)

Reply Was this helpful? 1
July 11, 20181 found this helpful

What an inspiration. Thank you for your time and effort in putting all this in writing and posting it. You look great!

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My problem with losing weight is keeping it off and not going back to my old habits. Staying active and eating the right foods is a boost to good health. I have to remind myself of that often.

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July 11, 20181 found this helpful

Thank you! When I have those issues, I try to target what is the first thing that interrupts my course and I take action. When I have a "bad day" and overeat and choose the wrong foods, I set my mind to believe that it was part of zig-zag dieting, and that I'll counteract it the next day and it will actually be a boost for my goals. Accept it, then use it to your advantage! :)

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July 11, 20182 found this helpful

Wowie! Attosa, you're such a beautiful lady *inside and out*, and that shines through in everything you do.

Both of your pictures are lovely, what an inspiration you are! :)

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July 11, 20180 found this helpful

Thank you so much, Suz! I'm so happy TF has introduced you to me! :)

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July 12, 20180 found this helpful

Awww, thank you.

Same feelings here too Attosa :)

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July 11, 20181 found this helpful

Wonderful essay, Atossa. Congrats on all that hard work. Weight loss is a challenge for most of us, but diet and exercise are really the key.

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I joined Weight Watchers several years ago and lost over 75 pounds. The meetings were very helpful to me because I knew I was not alone and I also had the accountability of the weigh in. And I learned about portion control. I couldn't lose the last 20 or so pounds without exercise, where I discovered I love to dance (bellydancing, hip hop, Zumba). Whether it is hiking, biking or a boot camp class, learn what your passion is and keep moving.

In addition to your Military Diet, I would like to recommend the Whole30, a 30 day diet focused on whole, unprocessed foods. It's a great way to reset your taste buds to real food, especially if you have been eating a lot of processed or restaurant meals. Unlike the Military Diet, it teaches new habits that you can continue to use during your weight loss. I've had a number of friends who have lost a ton of weight using this plan. Nearly all of Atossa's delicious recipes are Whole30 compliant, with a couple of changes.

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whole30.com/.../

I would stay clear of extreme diets like South Beach, Keto, Paleo, etc., unless you are very willing to track your food and the effects to your body and mood. These are mostly designed for bodybuilders and athletes trying to lose that last percentage of body fat. Any sensible diet will work if you practice portion control, avoid salt and sugar and are moving enough during the day. And don't forget to drink lots of water. If you weigh 150 pounds, you should be drinking about 75 oz. of water a day, more if you are sweating or drinking alcoholic beverages.

Good luck to all of you. I should take this reminder and get back to my dance classes as I'm about 20 pounds up from my low point. Oh well, it's fun to lose it a second time. :)

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July 11, 20182 found this helpful

LOL, you hit one of my passions. Here is an article I wrote several years ago.

www.thriftyfun.com/A-Healthy-Path-For-Losing-Weight...

And here is my before picture, which I really should have added to my article. Those babies are now 15 and 18!

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July 11, 20181 found this helpful

Very pretty pictures of you Jess, and your children, incredible how fast time goes by as you said your babies are now 15 and 18.
Your article was great too.

When I gain a few pounds, I crank up the music as it has a way of getting me to move, (dance around the house), which as you and Attosa said, keeping your body moving is a big part of it all.

I think the more we practice "keeping our body moving" the more we find we need to keep moving as it becomes something that feels good, and our body then "needs it".

At home here, when we need something that's upstairs in the house for instance, I'll tell my husband I'll get it, "just so I can climb the extra stairs" as I know that even though I have to get up - no matter how comfy I am - I go up those stairs, then back down again, and I feel better about doing it, than not, which is a great mental thing for wanting to do it the next time. Little things like that, that make us feel good about moving our body keeps us wanting to keep moving it...and after a while, that too becomes part of the way we do things which in turn, keeps the calories burning.

Reply Was this helpful? 1
July 11, 20180 found this helpful

Congrats on your weight loss, too, Jess! Phenomenal! One of my friends had great success in WW, and another is really loving Whole30. I think you have to try them out to see what really works for your own body since we are all built differently. I have a really good reaction to healthy fats, and don't take grains in so well. The same might be the opposite for someone else. It's finding what works and sticking to it. I think the same goes for the exercise. I twisted my ankle the first time I did Zumba and it made me so sad :D I'm so happy you love it! "It's fun to lose it a second time" -- I actually do find joy in the process. It feels disciplined and makes you feel good. GORGEOUS PHOTO! Those smiling faces. <3 Thanks for sharing your experience with us, too!

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July 11, 20180 found this helpful

Suz! Love that you use the stairs and getting something as a way to move! It really makes such a difference. We live on top of a crazy hill and our house wraps around it, so going upstairs just to get to our front door equals 5 flights of stairs. I REALLY adore taking things down to the trash one small bag at a time. By the end of the day I have done so many flights :) Little things can make a big difference! Keep it going, Suz!

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July 11, 20180 found this helpful

wow that is so great!! Congratulations on the lifestyle change! It's so great to hear about our editors and their triumphs, Cute kids BTW

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July 12, 20180 found this helpful

Thanks! It's such a common struggle for most of us and yet we feel alone. It's great to have a community of people to support each other. :)

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July 12, 20180 found this helpful

Thanks! I actually did sprain my ankle one time in class. It was terrible, two weeks before I could put weight on it and months before it felt mostly back to normal. Everyone is always slightly broken in exercise classes, seems like. I agree with you entirely on the weight training. It's the magic bullet for weight loss for many.

I also agree about the grains and healthy fats. A lot of the older style diets focus on fiber and no fats, which are not generally conducive to weight loss. So many theories have been upended throughout my lifestyle.

My most effective diet is called the Slow Carb, where you focus on protein (meat, eggs, beans) and vegetables. No dairy, no grains, no sugar (including fruit). Then you cheat one day a week and have whatever. My husband used to bring home cinnamon rolls on Saturday mornings. It still worked but it was a challenge to plan around.

The hardest thing for me about weight loss for me was when I stopped losing weight. I was still working out hard and looked fine but I didn't get all the attention anymore. Those compliments were a driving force and when they dried up, I missed them. Plus, you do have a bit of loose skin and stretch marks, etc. You have to love your body enough to not care about its imperfections, no matter what your weight. Now, I'm learning to love my wrinkles and grey hair. But I'm glad to have the opportunity, many don't get the privilege of growing old.

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July 12, 20181 found this helpful

Here they are now, they look a little different. :)

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July 12, 20180 found this helpful

I know what you mean about it being tough when you don't have all the attention from the weight loss anymore. That's one of the reasons I adore MyFitnessPal. It's filled with little cheerleaders on your page, leaving hearts and compliments when you log a workout or fill out a day's worth of food. It's not as huge as the new compliments from losing weight, but it definitely helps. I noticed when I dropped most social media and iPhone apps, including MyFitnessPal, I put on weight and I was not as chipper. The friendships and support are such a big part! I see some of my own FitnessPals joined ThriftyFun through this post! Love!

I'll have to look into Slow Carb (and not cos I want one day filled with cinnamon rolls... kinda)! ;)

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July 12, 20180 found this helpful

Wow, look at them! Gorgeous!

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July 11, 20182 found this helpful

Toosa! Just when I thought you couldn't be more amazing!! MARRY ME PLEEEEEASE! ;-) XOXOXO

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July 11, 20180 found this helpful

I was like, "Who is this?" AHHH! My fit fam! Love you! Forever FH! xxx

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July 12, 20180 found this helpful

I think her boyfriend would be unhappy at this development. :) She is pretty amazing though.

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July 12, 20180 found this helpful

Hahaha Mr. JMC is relentless, and thankfully harmless! :) A wonderful support xx

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July 11, 20181 found this helpful

Congrats!! Thanks for the amazing advise. I feel like I am always "Work in progress" I appreciate your great tips. Keep on feeling and looking great!!! Many Blessings!!

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July 11, 20180 found this helpful

Thank you so much! A work in progress is always great progress as long as you keep pushing forward, even with baby steps. I'm here if you need me!

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July 12, 20180 found this helpful

Work in progress, love that!

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July 11, 20181 found this helpful

Thanks for sharing your story! You are an inspiration!!!!

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July 11, 20180 found this helpful

Thank you for reading my story!!!! :D

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July 11, 20181 found this helpful

what a great story! I love to hear of people managing to lose without surgeries and hard stuff. It is not necesary

I know that sometimes excess skin is an issue when a person loses over 80 lbs so I hope you managed to sort that in some way

I can personally attest to the wisdom/effectiveness of a 3 day 'reset' whether via a stringent diet like Military diet or a juice fast. I have fasted at least once every couple of years for years and my life is so much the better for it.

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July 11, 20180 found this helpful

Thank you! A lot of people who have seen me recently after knowing the heaviest version of me assumed I had a surgery! I knew in my case, I could figure it out with hard work alone. I do have a bit of loose skin on my abdomen (the area where most of my fat tends to accumulate) that I can really see when I'm doing push ups in tiny workout gear. It used to bother me, but the price of the removal is too high, and I don't have plans on being naked outside. :D I keep my diet clean to keep my skin in best form, and I can wear swimsuits just fine. Mindset wise, I could actually go to a nude beach and be confident, but I'll pass on those. ;) I'm glad you know the effectiveness of the reset diets and fasts. For some, they do not go over well, but for some of us, it's just the right trick. Thank you for reading and writing in, Jean Genie!

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July 11, 20181 found this helpful

Wow, this is great. I always seem to spend more money at the grocery store when I am dieting. I have never heard of the military diet before, but it's worth a try. I love the fact that the website also includes substitutions for some of the foods on the diet that I don't like. Having to eat foods that I don't like on a diet is a real motivation killer. I am concerned that I will get hungry on this diet, and then I am moody...my poor husband. But I will give it a try. Thanks for the link and you do look great!

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July 12, 20180 found this helpful

Thank you so much, Karen! Substitutions are always around. Always. I couldn't stomach much more canned tuna back when I started it, so I substituted it with chicken breast, then started switching it up every night just to kill the monotony. Of course the franks became a bore quickly, so I found turkey dogs, et cetera :) Just remember it's a reset and that you will have days off. Even if you can follow it MOSTLY, you will see a difference. When that difference shows (and it does show quick) it won't make you moody... such a lovely payoff :) Good luck to you and thank you for reading!

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July 12, 20181 found this helpful

Attosa! I just thought you were always tiny You never told me but then I never asked ;) You were beautiful before but are stunning now. Thanks for sharing. You really are an inspiration. I should get back on the bandwagon. Xox

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July 12, 20180 found this helpful

Thank you for reading, Sue! You have access to my direct bandwagon, you know. Plenty of healthy goodies on there! ;) Lots of love your way, always. Japan or bust! x

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July 15, 20181 found this helpful

First, attosa, I want to congratulate you and tell you how GORGEOUS you are. I am also in the process of losing weight. I have lost 65 pounds so far and am looking forward to losing 39 more. One thing I have learned is how much being fat has cost me emotionally, socially, and yes, financially. I wasted so much money on quick, convenient food and transportation (I don't drive). Cutting back on Uber and fast food left me with more than enough money for some dumb bells and some decent sneakers. Walking to work and preparing my own meals also eliminated my lower back and knee pain. I used the MyFitnessPal app as well as Sparkpeople (both free). Also, I use YouTube exercise videos which are free. The main advantages of working out at home are going at MY OWN PACE without being judged, and not having to stick with a routine I hate just because I paid for it. I never used a diet, but I track EVERYTHING I EAT. I try to eat enough protein, try to eat at least one vegetable and/or fruit with every meal and have reduced my carbohydrates somewhat. I have given up the compulsion to eat everything on my plate just because it's there. I did finally join my neighborhood gym last month (planet fitness) at $10 a month. It is worth it to me because I have access to equipment I could never afford or fit in my house and I go three times a week. Also, everytime I go to Goodwill I see exercise equipment and workout clothing in good shape, sometimes even brand new!

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July 15, 20181 found this helpful

Congratulations, Amy! Those are excellent adjustments you've made to better your health. I'm so proud of you. I love that you've saved so much by not using Uber or taking in convenient foods. It really adds up, doesn't it? I found awesome dumb bells and ankle weights at the thrift store lately, as well. You're very lucky to have the $10 membership! It's good to use those machines we can't really replicate at home. I know it's tough to jump to the gym straight away because it's so incredibly intimidating, but once you get going, you not only build better muscles, but you get great confidence inside and out. Hats off to you, Amy! Keep it going and have fun kissing goodbye the last 39!

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July 15, 20181 found this helpful

Attosa, these are all great ideas! Have you thought about sharing this with Womans World magazine? If they show interest they may feature you on the cover and put your story and suggestions as a featured article. Plus you'd be helping to inspire so many more by reaching a huge audience. Anyway, kudos to you!

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July 15, 20180 found this helpful

Hi LB! I have always wanted to share more but I'm not so confident with my writing. I'm just good in small doses or with small audiences. I will perhaps try to reach out to more people, though. I have to remember it's not about the perfect writing, it's about sharing my true story that might be helpful to others, which is my end goal with this! Thank you so much for the wonderful comment!

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July 15, 20180 found this helpful

You look great. It's good you're doing it now because later in life it seems nearly impossible because your metabolism shows down. I tell my kids in order for me to loose weight I'd have to starve myself and work out like crazy and it's hard when your knees, back, and hips are showing age. I've been trying for the longest to loose 15 pounds and I've about given up. It's scary because every year adds another pound or two.

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July 15, 20180 found this helpful

Hi Betty! It is definitely easier when younger, but certainly not impossible later in life. My mother was struggling with the battle of bulging belly, so I had her log her food. I saw her diet was mostly empty carbs, so we changed that straight away, along with adding a 20 minute fast walk every day (followed by a lot of stretching). She was good as gold but had to keep on it :) I think it's different for everybody, you just need to see where your adjustments lay. Don't give up on your 15 pound loss. Even tiny changes will show change and keep you motivated. Wishing you the best with this!

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July 15, 20180 found this helpful

WOW! This really was a major event in your life. So glad you had the moxie to see it through.

So many nice compliments...and all so very true.

Shall I send my carpenter over to widen your front door? We wouldn't want you to muss your hair while getting your big head through the doorway.

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