Readers Share Their Weight Loss Stories

Dispatches from the battle of the bulge

by Christina Medvescek on July 1, 2004 - 3:01pm

In her daily life with mitochondrial myopathy, Deanna Briegge of Perry, Okla., often turns to this bit of wisdom from financial guru Bob Proctor: “You can do anything if you put your focus on how to do it, rather than on why you can’t.”

Although Briegge, 59, isn’t overweight, she sees her scale slowly creeping upward each year and tries to focus on ways to maintain health and fitness — watching her diet, taking the stairs, trying not to eat when stressed.

“My advice is to become aware of what you eat and drink,” she says, adding, “Staying busy is one of the criteria for keeping weight down.”

Cindy Deatherage, 41, of Chenoa, Ill., also believes in the power of focus.

“I didn’t think I could lose weight because of being in a wheelchair,” says Deatherage, who has Friedreich’s ataxia. “That was an excuse! I don’t think any plan will work unless you’re ready to commit.”

Here’s more advice from dieters in the trenches:

Don Schings before he started dieting Don Schings ning months after he began losing weight
Don Schings and wife, Judy, before and about nine months into his three-year plan

Don Schings, 60
Sun City Center, Fla.
Spinal bulbar muscular atrophy, type 2 diabetes
Part-time wheelchair user
Height: 6 feet
Highest weight: 314

Goal: to lose 90 pounds using the WeightWatchers.com online program

  • Look for a simple, uncomplicated diet program.
  • Check with your doctor; his strongly advised against the Atkins diet, fearing it might impair his health.
  • Budget your weight loss over time. He plans to lose 40 pounds the first year, 30 the second and 20 the third.

Jyl Frey, 50
Tucson, Ariz.
Myotonic muscular dystrophy
Part-time wheelchair user
Height: 4 feet 11 inches
Highest weight: 204

Goal: to lose 30-50 pounds through a low-calorie diet, exercise and the appetite suppressant phentermine

  • Take your lunch to work rather than buying.
  • Eat dinner on a smaller plate.
  • Take more steps during the day, such as making multiple trips from the laundry room to the bedroom.
  • Realize that weight management is a lifelong process.

Laura Bañuelos at her wedding before MG, and after eight months on prednisone when receiving a Nevada Point of Light award
Laura Banuelos at her wedding before MG Laura Banuelos eight months after receiving prednisone

Laura Bañuelos, 31
Las Vegas
Myasthenia gravis
Takes prednisone, uses a walker and a scooter
Height: 5 feet 3 inches
Highest weight: 212

Goal: to be as healthy as possible

  • Cut out the “whites” — salt, sugar and flour — in order to cope with the weight-gaining side effect of prednisone.
  • Become a label reader. Her diet is heavy on fruits, vegetables, homemade juices, chicken and lots of water.
  • Don’t keep forbidden food in the house. If you must buy sweets, buy one cookie instead of a dozen.
  • Exercise, no matter how limited. She sometimes takes an hour to walk the dog a half-mile, but it still helps.
  • Don’t worry about the numbers. “Prednisone won’t let you lose a lot of weight, but get as healthy as you can.”

Bob Mora, 63
Tucson, Ariz.
Dejerine-Sottas disease, heart disease
Power chair user
Height: 5 feet 9 inches
Highest weight: 160

Goal: to maintain heart health and maximum mobility by following the Dean Ornish diet and doing daily stretching/movement exercises

  • Don’t lose too much weight. He lost too much fat in his buttocks, making sitting painful and requiring a special cushion.
  • The keys are motivation and education. “Learn the consequences of not losing weight and of eating the kinds of food you’re eating.”

Cindy Deatherage before her diet Cindy Deatherage after starting her diet
Cindy Deatherage before and during dieting, with fellow dieter, husband Larry

Cindy Deatherage Power chair user
Height: 5 feet 4 inches
Highest weight: 159

Goal: to reach 140 by following Weight Watchers, playing with her dogs and changing habits

  • Find a partner. She and her husband are a weight-loss team.
  • Figure out your self-comfort eating times and plan to do something else, like playing computer games.
  • Fill the kitchen with low-fat and healthy fresh foods.
  • Remember that losing weight is about eating less of the wrong foods.
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