Photos courtesy of Kay Alexander
Meet five grandparents who collectively shed—and kept off—more than 600 pounds. Here, they share their first-hand secrets on what works and how they won the battle.
1. Kay Alexander
Before: 273 pounds
After: 136 pounds
She lost: 137 pounds
How she did it: CalorieCount.com
Why she did it: Combined health risks of high cholesterol, elevated blood sugar, and ultimately, a heart attack in 2010, finally motivated this now 58-year-old retired chemical engineer and grandmother of 13 to lose the excess weight that had plagued her for years.
Why she chose CalorieCount.com: "The ability to easily track my daily exercise and what I ate, and plan healthy recipes with this online resource gave me the extra push I needed."
The scoop: After 18 months, Kay lost more than 130 pounds and has kept off the weight for more than a year.
Best advice: “If exercise is difficult at first, motivate yourself by using a pedometer to track your steps. And share the challenge with your spouse or a friend. My husband, Mike, lost more than 70 pounds himself by tracking his calories and exercising with me.
2. Vicki Valenta
Corpus Christi, Texas
Before: 300 pounds
After: 175 pounds
She Lost: 125 pounds
How she did it: Gastric Bypass Surgery
Why she did it: Vicki’s final wake-up call was losing her job in the non-profit sector. At 5 ft. 1 in. and weighing 300 pounds, this 58-year-old grandmother of two knew her employment options would be severely limited.
Why she chose gastric bypass: After exploring several surgical options, Vicki’s physician recommended gastric bypass as her best choice for success since the procedure makes it almost impossible to overeat. (Doing so results in extreme nausea and stomach upset).
The scoop: In the six years since her gastric bypass surgery, Vicki is 125 pounds lighter, has reversed her type-2 diabetes and found work as a substitute teacher. She has plenty of energy for her students and can now get down on the floor with her two granddaughters, who are three and 18 months old.
Best advice: “On Mondays, I plan my meals for the entire week, and keep a daily food diary to track what I eat. And instead of eating snacks right out of the bag, I fill up a 4-ounce bowl.”
3. Midge Duguay
Fort Myers, Florida
Before: 235 pounds
After: 135 pounds
She lost: 100 pounds
How she did it: Weight Watchers
Why she did it: Her daughter, who was training for a marathon and wanted to lose a few pounds to help improve her time invited Midge, a grandmother of 11, to join her at a Weight Watchers meeting. As a cardiac nurse, Midge knew all the health dangers of being overweight, yet she was more than 100 pounds overweight.
Why she chose Weight Watchers: Midge thrived on the camaraderie, support, and valuable information that the program offered though its weekly meetings. "The ability to diet without feeling deprived and its common-sense approach to food encouraged me to never miss a meeting and push toward my long-term goal."
The scoop: Fifteen months after beginning the program and incorporating walking and swimming into her life, Midge reached her goal of losing 100 pounds and has kept it off for more than seven years. She now inspires others by working as a Weight Watchers leader.
Best advice: “Do something special at each weight loss milestone to remind you of what you’ve accomplished; get a manicure, pedicure or buy some pretty new lingerie.”
4. Claudia Rhen
Before: 250 pounds
After: 160 pounds
She lost: 90 pounds
How she did it: Jenny Craig
Why she did it: Following a series of stressful events, including the loss of several close family members, 59-year-old Claudia turned to food for comfort. Although aware that she was gaining weight, Claudia lacked the motivation to take it off despite suffering from achy joints and lagging energy.
Why she chose Jenny Craig: Becoming frustrated at her multiple attempts and failures at losing weight, Claudia knew she needed an individualized and easy-to-follow plan. Through the Jenny plan she learned the importance of portion control and the concept of Volumetrics, which is how to feel fuller on fewer calories by eating foods rich in water, fiber, and protein and lower in fat.
The scoop: After 18 months averaging a loss of about 1.2 pounds per week, Claudia continues to focus on being more active. She regularly walks and takes water aerobics and strength-training classes at a local fitness center. "I'm proud to set an example of healthy living for my children and two young granddaughters, who love to compliment their g-mom on her slimmed-down figure."
Best advice: “Since so many restaurants serve large portions, before I begin to eat, I transfer what I don’t plan to eat onto another plate and ask my server to pack it up for me to bring home.”
5. Brian Collins
Before: 375 pounds
After: 179 pounds
He lost: 196 pounds
How he did it: TOPS (Take Pounds Off Sensibly)
Why he did it: Brian’s struggle with weight started early in his life. In 2007 after successfully losing over 100 pounds with TOPS, he “let down his guard”: he stopped exercising and indulged in fattening foods like ice cream and French fries. The weight piled back on. Topping the scale at 375 pounds, Brian tired quickly and had trouble with such simple tasks as reaching down to tie his shoes.
Why he chose TOPS: Determined to lose the weight again and keep it off for good, Brian realized that he needed weekly group meetings for support and inspiration. By sharing his challenges, successes, and goals and learning the latest on health and wellness, Brian was re-energized to take control and make a commitment to a permanent lifestyle change.
The scoop: Two and a half years later, 48-year-old Brian is proud to hold the title of 2011 “International King Runner-Up;” having come in second among TOPS members for greatest weight-loss achievement. He dropped from a size 52 to a 34, and he now shares adventurous hiking and camping trips with his six grandchildren. He realizes that losing weight and being healthy is a lifetime effort that takes commitment and change.
Best advice: “It’s not always what you eat, but how much you eat. At dinner I fill half my plate with vegetables, one-quarter with protein like fish or chicken, and the other quarter with whole-wheat pasta or brown rice.”
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.