A Slow and Steady Walk to Health

The motivations for losing weight and getting in better shape were many:

* My doctor's ultimatum--either do it or start taking medication for hypertension and high cholesterol.

* I wanted to feel better, especially with regard to arthritis problems.

* I didn't like the way I looked.

* My clothes were never comfortable.

* I wanted to postpone or avoid the typical problems associated with aging.

* I wanted to live a longer, more satisfying life.

Over a period of about seven months starting in early 1997, I changed my diet from a typical one containing lots of junk snacks and prepared, high-fat, high-sodium food heavy in meat products to a new diet based largely on fruits and vegetables, mostly uncooked, combined with occasional pasta, rice, cottage cheese, bagels, and small servings of lean meat two or three times per week. In addition to changing the type of food, I gradually trained myself to eat less of it, but I now eat more often, usually three small meals plus two or three snacks per day.

I began a regular walking program starting at about one mile every day, gradually increasing to five miles per day. During the last 12 to 14 months, I gradually substituted slow jogging for part of the walking, until I now jog about 4 1/2 miles and walk a half-mile for a total of five miles.

In addition, I developed a group of simple daily exercises, including sit-ups and light weight-lifting. When I started I could do only seven sit-ups and was lifting only a few repetitions of a 10-pound dumbbell. Today, I am doing 100 sit-ups, 100 push-ups and 100 repetitions of various lifts using a 40-pound barbell. For me, many repetitions of light weights done rapidly works well. It took about 12 months to reach this level of exercise versus about seven months to lose most of my excess weight through diet and more moderate exercise.

As a result of all this, I now feel about 20 years younger, don't hurt at all from arthritis, feel stronger and more comfortable, look better, don't need to take any new medication, have much less indigestion, fewer colds, have developed a genuine liking for fruit and vegetables, and hopefully will live a longer, more satisfying life.

My advice: Expend a little effort and self-control and you can do the same. Just start out slow, increase diet and exercise efforts regularly, and keep at it on a routine basis.


Vital Statistics

Name: Larry Smail

Age: 62

Occupation: Retired design engineer

Old Weight: 195

New Weight: 155

Height: 5 feet, 8 inches

Time to Get There: One year

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.

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