Early seating for meals, please. That way, we can hit the midnight buffet each night. I know dinner is six courses, but I don't want to miss anything--you know, it's paid for. That's what I told my travel agent when she booked my first cruise in 1984.
Was I looking forward to the shipboard experience, meeting new people, great entertainment, the exotic ports, the full moon?
No, I was thinking about the food. Back then, I was addicted to food--I still am. However, in 1984 I weighed 198 pounds and wore a size 20 1/2 dress. Since 1990, I've weighed 130 pounds and I'm a size 10.
It is great to look good. I can buy cute clothes on sale, and I am receiving compliments for the first time in my life. You see, I was always big. First a fat kid, then a chubby teen with a "terrific personality and great sense of humor," and finally a young woman with "such a pretty face." It wasn't vanity that led to my weight loss but, rather, a serious back ailment that struck in 1989. I was told to lose 35 pounds or have major back surgery. I was terrified of the surgery, so I decided to lose the weight.
I started with the Nutri/System plan. There was good variety and, best of all, there were tasty, low-calorie, low-fat versions of most of my favorites. Of course, the portions were smaller: Instead of a plate of ravioli, my serving was six ravioli. In three months, I had lost my 35 pounds.
I was satisfied and really didn't plan to go any further, but a funny thing happened at the office. People started telling me how good I looked. I was receiving a lot of emotional strokes. Then, I began to worry about disappointing my co-workers and the embarrassment if I gained any weight back. So, I had to keep the weight off.
I decided to use the portion-control techniques I had learned. And by using Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine and the myriad low-fat, healthy products available now, I managed to lose 33 more pounds. I've maintained this loss since 1990 by eating whatever I want from Friday night until Sunday night. Then, every Monday morning, I go back on my program. On vacation, I eat whatever I like, because I still love to eat. But, as soon as I am back to the office, I'm back on the regimen.
Because I have so much more self-confidence, my husband and I are taking ballroom dance lessons. When we have to change partners, I'm not afraid to have a stranger put his arms about me, because I'm not fat anymore.
Do I still go on cruises? You bet. My next one is in November. Now we take second seating and skip the midnight buffets. Instead, you'll find us on the dance floor.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Name: Linda Berg
Age: Over 40
Occupation: Corporate communications services manager
Height: 5 feet, 3 inches
Old Weight: 198
New Weight: 130
Time to Get There: 18 months
Want to Share Your Success Story?
Losing weight is as individual as gaining weight. Do you have a story on how you got in shape and stayed there? If so, we'd like to hear from you with a 500-word essay listing what worked in terms of diet, exercise, encouragement and support, as well as your emotional and physical changes.
We'd also like you to send us full-body color photos of you, before and after.
Send essay and photos to "How I Did It," Health, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, and include daytime and evening phone numbers. No phone calls, please. Submissions cannot be returned.
In addition to publication, winners will receive a Los Angeles Times gym bag and a gift certificate for a free pair of athletic shoes of your choice, redeemable at any Big 5 Sporting Goods store.