“I lost 76 pounds.”

One woman’s triumph over obesity

Source: Web exclusive: July 2008

Annie Curran, 35, was already headed for obesity in her teens. But with the help of her mom, who joined a gym with her and monitored her portions, she left home for college at a healthy weight (138 pounds at 5’7”). Free at last, however, her self-restraint began to slide and over the next 15 years, the marketing coordinator at an IT company in Montreal gradually put on close to 100 pounds. "I didn’t like myself physically at all," she says. "I was shocked my boyfriend found me attractive at my heaviest, when I sure didn’t." At a regular check-up in March 2007, Curran finally learned her weight (she’d avoided a scale for years), and broke into tears at the news: she was 236 pounds, which put her in the obese category. Worse, she had high blood pressure: If she didn’t get active and lose some weight, she would need medication. Still, this gym-hater floundered for the next few months, feeling demoralized and down.

The breaking point

A few months later, Curran went on a hiking trip with her boyfriend and a few friends. "This 65-year-old woman booted it up the mountain and back down and I wasn’t sure I could make it a quarter of the way. I felt so bad the next day. I was so sore I couldn’t walk. I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something.’"

The challenge

To find an enjoyable exercise program and learn how to cut back on portion sizes to reach a goal weight of 145 pounds.

The plan

Curran knew she needed an exercise program that included both cardio and resistance exercises—she’d picked that up watching weight-loss TV shows (The Biggest Loser and X-Weighted) and reading women’s magazines. Instead of joining a gym, however, she bought an elliptical machine and a small set of weights, which she uses at home three times a week. When weather permits, she also walks to work—a seven-kilometre round trip.

Curran knew she had been overeating, so she decided to start counting calories. She began watching her intake by maintaining a daily food diary at the website my-calorie-counter.com, and bought a kitchen scale to help her measure out correct portion sizes. "To learn that one cup of cooked pasta was more than 200 calories was a huge shock to me," she says. "I thought, ‘Oh, my God. I was eating at least three or four cups in one meal.’"

The biggest obstacle

Going out to restaurants and bars to socialize with friends presented a lot of temptation. "Not knowing what to eat in a restaurant was really tough. So I ate less, and always ate salad instead of rice or potatoes." Curran eventually learned to be satisfied with soda water or water, and the occasional low-calorie drink, such as gin and tonic.

The results

"I’ve surprised myself," Curran says. "I’d never thought I could get such good results—I have zero self-control." But she has: since embarking on a healthier lifestyle in October 2007, she’s lost a whopping 76 pounds—and is just 15 pounds away from her goal weight. "I feel great. It’s like night and day. Now I can actually look at myself and feel good. I’ve gone from a tight 18 to a size 10 and clothes shopping has taken on a whole new dimension." (See Curran’s before and after pictures.)

The tips

  • Lean on friends. Curran hit a few plateaus in the weight loss journey, and one thing in particular really helped keep her motivated. "The encouragement and compliments from friends and family really fuel me," she says. "I don’t know how well I would have done without them."
  • Log on. Another big motivation: Curran monitors her weight loss progress, as do others now, on her own personal blog.
  • Substitute teachings. Everyone has a favourite food, and for Curran, it was pasta. She’s cut back from eating it four times a week to once a month, because she found a delicious low-cal substitute. "Spaghetti squash, which is about 50 calories a cup, is the greatest thing ever invented."

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