61. Moving

61. Moving

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You


I have two doctors, my left leg and my right.
 ~G.M. Trevelyan

“That’s it,” my husband Paul announced when I walked into the kitchen after work one November evening. “I’m retiring in April.”

I grabbed a bag of leftover Halloween candy and ripped it open. Water boiling for spaghetti sputtered on the stove. “Bad day?” I asked and studied his face.

“No, it’s time for us to stop working and start living.” Paul smiled and shrugged. “We don’t know how much time we have left.”

“So you want to put the house on the market and move to our place in Florida?” We had purchased a small three-bedroom home there two years earlier and used it for vacations. Eventually, we planned to relocate and retire, but I was fifty-eight and Paul was fifty-nine. I finished a handful of candy corn and shoved a whole fun-sized chocolate bar into my mouth. I reached for another.

“I’m serious,” he said. “We need to do this.”

And I needed to get control of my weight. When I stepped onto the scale the following morning, the number was even higher than the day before. As I dressed, I realized I felt like I was holding my breath all day to fit into my clothes. Going up to the next size loomed in the near future. Move to Florida, the land of the sun, sea, shorts and bathing suits? I didn’t want to meet new people when I looked like this. My heart pounded in my chest.

But by lunchtime, I’d forgotten all about wanting to lose weight. The roast beef dinner the cafeteria offered tempted my growling stomach, and I couldn’t resist. The candy bowl threatened that evening. Finally, I just gorged myself on all the chocolate to get it out of the house. When I weighed myself the next week, the damage showed. I started taking walks on my days off, but Christmas was coming. My co-workers were bringing cookies to work. I was going to parties with so many goodies to taste. At best, I managed to keep my weight stable. I knew I shouldn’t be eating this way. I was taking medication for high cholesterol. Now, my blood pressure was edging up too. Instead of moving to Florida, I was heading for the hospital.

After a few weeks of trying to lose weight on my own, I realized it wasn’t working. I needed an outside authority to keep me accountable. On New Year’s, I realized “that’s it.” Going to Florida was a chance at a fresh start, and I wanted to do it with a fit body. I decided to join a group that would provide advice and support to help me meet my goal. My friend Adele joined with me. Together, we learned the information needed to look at our eating habits. I finally saw what I was doing wrong. I went through my cabinets and pulled out all the items I would no longer eat and donated them to the local food pantry. I bought whole wheat noodles, brown rice, and seltzer to replace the spaghetti, white rice, and soda I’d removed. My biggest mistake had been drinking fruit juice with every meal. I thought I was doing something healthy and not looking at the mounting calorie count. With all these changes, I lost five pounds the first week. I could breathe in my clothes again.

Each Friday after weighing in and attending a meeting filled with tips and encouragement, Adele and I shopped at the Farmer’s Market for fruit and vegetables. We joked and laughed about the advice we’d heard to encourage each other to keep going. Adele reached her goal quickly; she had less to lose. I continued walking and gradually increased my distance from one to three miles. The pounds dropped off slow and steady. One day at work, a co-worker trailing me to a meeting said, “Elaine, it’s time for a new pair of pants. You’ve got no butt left.” I had dropped two sizes and my clothing was extremely loose. I found some smaller pants to wear in another closet. I didn’t want to buy any new winter clothing since we were moving. Maybe the only thing I’d need in sunny Florida would be a new bathing suit.

Paul resigned from his job in April as planned. With all the changes I’d made in our eating habits, he’d lost weight too. We started painting the house in preparation for putting it on the market. In a couple of strokes of good luck, our house sold to the first couple who called, and I received permission to work remotely from Florida since I wasn’t quite ready to retire.

As I weighed in at my final doctor’s appointment before the move, the nurse said, “You look great.” Turned out, I was only one pound over my ideal weight.

I smiled and then beamed when the doctor told me, “Your cholesterol numbers are perfect.” Not only had I lost weight, but I had achieved another goal, becoming medication-free. To celebrate, I went shopping for a size-8 summer wardrobe. That week at my last group meeting, I announced my success and hugged the group leader. “I’m so proud of you,” she said. Adele echoed her sentiments, telling me I had done an amazing job.

As Paul and I packed our house for the move, I placed my large-sized clothing in a huge donation bag. “That much less to move,” Paul said happily, thinking of all the boxes stacked in the garage.

We moved to Florida two years ago. We continue to care about what we eat and keep it healthy. It doesn’t feel like a diet. I have dessert every day, sugar-free pudding made with fat-free milk or 100-calorie-pack cookies. Sometimes, I snack on mini-dill pickles, only five calories each. My walks have increased to five miles, and I do them most days of the week. My husband and I are known in our neighborhood as the “active” couple. And early retirement? It’s everything it’s cracked up to be. The best secret we’ve learned: just keep moving!

~Elaine Togneri

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