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Plus-Size Model Does Some Subtraction

About 10 years ago, I was a 5-foot, 10-inch plus-size model. I weighed 265 pounds at my heaviest and was wearing a size 26.

Now it is 1998 and I have achieved a few surprising things: First and foremost, I have maintained a 100-pound weight loss. I also have developed better nutritional and exercise habits through consistent goal setting and, lastly, the insight and knowledge to help others do the same.

During my fitness journey, I realized that in order to succeed at any endeavor, particularly successful weight loss, it is imperative that you set realistic goals. Because I never exercised, or knew that it could be fun, I started very slowly, walking a quarter of a mile four days a week. After a few months, I increased my distance to two miles. About nine months later, I was race walking in 5K/1OK races, and enjoying it. Also during that time, I lost 65 pounds, started weight lifting and was able to shape and tone my legs and arms to achieve better symmetry and overall body shape.

Another very important component was increasing the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables and cutting down on starchy carbohydrates and fats. This really aided the fat loss and the continued maintenance of that loss. It was exciting and challenging to discover new cooking methods using vegetables and different types of nonfat meat broths and herbs to season food instead of the usual fats and salt. All of this helped me lose the fat, gain muscle and a sense of accomplishment, not to mention a large library of books, magazines and training manuals.

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As the years passed, my fitness level continually improved. I tried different training methods and mixing up my routines, including walking, running (distance, wind sprints, hills), various dance styles, step aerobics, skating, lateral slide boarding, circuit weight training and whatever I could think of and my body could do--sensibly, of course.

This type of training was such fun to me that I found myself in fitness competitions and in a feature profile in the magazine Ms. Fitness. But the most cherished benefit from my weight loss odyssey was to be chosen as a participant in the exercise video that Florence Griffith Joyner made in 1996, titled “The Flo-Jo Workout.” To be able to work out with an Olympic gold medalist and woman of her stature was the icing on the cake.

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Vital Statistics

Name: Charletha Tatum

Height: 5 feet, 10 inches

Old Weight: 265 pounds

New Weight: 160-165

Old Size: 26

New Size: 8-10

Time to Get There: 2 1/2 years

Time Maintained: 10 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.


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