Name: Karen Chavez
Height: 5 feet, 4 inches
Before Weight: 129 pounds
How I Gained It: In September 2008, Hurricane Ike was churning in theGulf of Mexico, and my husband and I woke up to find that our zip code, and that of my elderly parents, was ordered to evacuate the Houston/Galveston area. We got out of harms way, but we returned to a lot of devastation that took months to clean up. Everyone we knew was affected by the storm. Besides dealing with cleaning up our properties and replacing our roofs, I was dealing with a father who had severe congestive heart and kidney failure. He was extremely confused, his memory was practically gone and he was fading quickly. The culmination of everything was almost too much to bear. I reached a point where I stopped taking care of myself — I felt I didn’t have the time or energy for it because the stress I was under felt so overwhelming. At night, when I had a little time to unwind, I would drink wine to numb the pain and eat all of the wrong foods, and I didn’t care what effect it was having on my health. That was extremely unusual for me since I had always taken care of myself.
As my husband and I stood at my precious father’s bedside holding his hands, he passed away early in the morning on April 17, 2009. My focus quickly had to shift to taking care of my exhausted, grief-stricken mother.
Breaking Point: I reached my breaking point about a year after the storm after putting on 21 pounds. That may not sound like a lot of weight for most people, but I have a very small frame and I had never been heavier than 107 pounds before in my adult life, except when I was pregnant with my son. My clothes didn’t fit anymore and my stomach had rolls, but the scariest part was the tightness in my chest that wouldn’t go away. I was so afraid that I’d end up like my dad with heart disease, and I never want to suffer the way he did. In September 2009, after a lot of soul searching and watching an episode of Dr. Oz that really made me think “God bless him for the work he’s doing!” I made a commitment to start taking care of myself again and eating right. I came to the realization that I was was leading myself down a path to self-destruction. It also occurred to me that I’m not going to do a good job taking care of others if I don’t take care of myself first.
How I Lost It: I didn’t set out to lose a certain number of pounds — for me, it wasn’t about that or the number on the scale. I just wanted to get healthy and feel good again. I hadn’t felt good in a very long time, emotionally or physically, and I was just tired of it, plain and simple.
I started my new healthy lifestyle by researching legitimate Web sites that promote healthy eating, and by making a list of the healthiest foods to include in my daily diet. I also created a spreadsheet to track my weight, what I ate each day, my calorie intake, the exercise I did, and how many steps I walked each day. I walk and jog at least 10,000 exercise steps daily, and up to 30,000 if I’m really motivated. My only Christmas gift request was a pedometer that my loving, supportive husband of 31 years gave me, along with a pair of new walking shoes. Besides lots of walking, I try to do other exercises at least five days a week, including weights, muscle-toning floor exercises and hula-hooping.
My grocery list each week included things like green tea, tons of fresh fruits and veggies, 100-percent whole grain products, nuts, lean meats and salmon. I absolutely love to cook, so I often take my favorite recipes and tweak them to make them healthier. Portion control is so important, and I find eating on a smaller plate does the trick for me. Plus, half of the plate usually consists of veggies.
What I’m doing to control my weight is nothing faddish or exotic — it’s just sensible. I do have days when I don’t eat as well as I should, but I don’t allow myself to feel any toxic guilt. I just try harder the next day and exercise a little extra to make up for it.
My goal is to grow old gracefully and enjoy my golden years by staying as healthy as possible without having to rely on medication to control the damage that I created in my own body. I also hope to be an inspiration to others, especially women my age who think it’s too late to do anything about their health or their appearance. Even my 76-year-old mother has jumped on the bandwagon — she’s gotten into reading food labels and eating much healthier. One day I hope to take all of the healthy recipes that I’ve tweaked and write a cookbook. I love how I look and feel now. I have boundless energy, I sleep better, and I’m much happier and more content these days. My only problem now? Trying to find size-2 jeans!
After Weight: 108 pounds
It took two months for Karen to get her body feeling healthy again, and she’s determined to keep it off forever.
Walking is helpingLeonlose hundreds of pounds — be sure to check out his inspiring story.