My problem was that my weight was usually fine in the summertime, but in the winter, when I was less active, it ballooned up 12 to 15 pounds. The weight seemed to gather on my stomach, and when I saw this potbelly reflected in store windows, I really hated it.
My first step in controlling the weight gain was to see the problem. My activity level has been pretty good throughout my life. I began to see that my eating habits were my biggest difficulty.
I didn't really want to see or deal with this because I love junk food. A 32-ounce cup of cola, a large twice-baked croissant with powdered sugar, those two chocolate cupcakes with cream filling--yum, yum, yum. I decided two years ago to quit. But how? I was used to having breakfast and then driving to the 7-Eleven for a cola and a croissant.
I thought, "Can I give up cola? No. But I can find a substitute." So, I bought a carton of Snapple and took a bottle of it with me when I drove my car. When I got thirsty, the issue became: "Now, shall I go for a cola or try this Snapple?" More and more, Snapple won out, and I began to enjoy it more.
My second strategy was to become aware of my caloric intake. I was surprised when I read the nutritional information on packages of snacks. They contained two or three times as many calories and grams of fat as the weight-loss TV dinners I was eating.
A third strategy was to take time to eat more real food. At breakfast, I have orange juice, half an apple, banana, muesli and nonfat milk. Then I do some chores and have half a grapefruit. For a snack, I take time to enjoy a slice of watermelon or microwave a tortilla with refried beans. When I eat and enjoy real food, there is not as much temptation to eat junk food.
Finally, I find it very helpful to pal around with people who are involved in fitness and sports, who are knowledgeable and give advice and support.
At the present time, I work out four or five times a week for about 40 minutes. When I go to the gym, I do the stationary bike, weights and sit-ups. When the ocean is warm, I swim a half-mile.
The fitness program that I have developed over the years has been the best investment I have made. People tell me I don't look 72. I can swim three miles in the ocean in about two hours, boogie board and do 27 push-ups.
Name: Howard Mickel
Occupation: retired professor
Height: 6 feet, 1 inch
Old Weight: 182
New Weight: 169
Time Maintained: two years
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 / 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.