Source: Web exclusive: July 2008
Elaine Brien, 53, relished the freedom that came with living on her own after ending her second marriage in 2002. But at 190 pounds, this 5’5” government auditor in Charlottetown, P.E.I., knew she had more to lose than a bad relationship. “I guess I eat when I am stressed and unhappy, and that marriage was not good,” says Brien. As her 2005 birthday approached, she decided to buckle down and reach a new goal: “I wanted to weigh 150 pounds when I turned 50.” She did even better, and learned some new strategies that are helping her maintain her newly svelte self.
The breaking point
“Being on the dating scene was a big motivator,” says Brien. She recalls one date that precipitated her 150-at-50 resolution. “My date asked me three times if I went to the gym,” she says. “Finally, I asked him what his problem was.” That night she went home, looked in the mirror, and decided she actually did want to slim down—for herself—and more importantly, feel fit.
With just six months to reach her goal weight at 50, Brien needed to find a program that would keep her motivated. “Working out at the gym wasn’t enough.”
A big fan of Oprah, Brien picked up the O-endorsed book Bob Greene’s Total Body Makeover, a 12-week diet and exercise plan. “It is a gradual program with five simple rules around eating,” she explains. “Each week the aerobic and strength training increased. By the end of it, I was working out up to two hours a day. It was really extensive, but I stuck to it.” Today, she stays fit with weight training and long-distance walking.
The biggest obstacle
“It’s easier to do nothing than exercise,” says Brien. “I just have to tell myself to put one foot in front of the other and do it. When I come out of the gym I always feel better. And it really is a great stress release.”
When Brien turned 50, she weighed 145 pounds. She celebrated all day and into the night with friends and wore a size-8 denim outfit she splurged on as both a motivator and reward. “I can remember that day as clear as it was yesterday,” she says. “I can’t remember feeling that good about myself—ever.”
The road ahead
For Brien, embarking on new challenges is the best way to keep the pounds from coming back. She’s recently noticed her weight creeping up, so she’s begun setting new goals: This past May, she walked the fifth annual Blue Nose Marathon in Halifax, N.S. and has started training for the BMO Nesbitt Burns Prince Edward Island Marathon this coming fall. She hopes to get down from 162 pounds to 145 in time for her daughter Diana’s wedding in September.
- Step it up. “The one consistent thing I have done since all this started is to wear a pedometer every day. I get teased about it but I don’t care. I walk at least 10,000 steps every day. It works for me because it is so simple.”
- Customize your rewards. Brien recognizes she needs to set goals to keep her on track, but she also needs to have a worthwhile pay-off, which for her, is a new outfit to celebrate in. This time she is holding off and slimming down for a dress for her daughter’s wedding in September. “I need that motivation, to look good and feel good in what I am wearing.”
- Find your inner switch. If you are going to have any kind of success, you have to find whatever it is inside you that will motivate you to really commit. "For me, turning 50 and being single gave me confidence. I just felt something switch in my head. The first 50 were behind me. And I wanted the next 50 to be better."
Have your own success story you would like to share? Tell us, and your story may be featured on our site!