Updated May 6, 2013
I have always wanted to be a fashion model. At age 19 after losing several pounds, by practically starving myself and jogging 3 miles a day, I went to an agency for an interview. I was told to lose 10 more pounds and then come back. I knew I couldn’t do that, so I marched right into a See’s candy store. On the way home I ate a bag-full of chocolates—I was broken-hearted over my shattered modeling career. At 19, I was 132 pounds and wore size 8. Even though I was considered pretty by most people, I still wasn’t satisfied with how I looked.
When my 30’s came around, I got tired of restricting my food and forcing myself to exercise, so I started a love affair……….with Ben & Jerry. Yes, the three of us met almost every evening in front of the TV. I consumed my very own pint in one sitting—but I considered myself a vegetarian—the lacto-ovo kind, eating lots of high-fat foods, especially pizza and desserts! My weight continued upward.
My 20-year-high-school reunion came around in the year 2000. I decided that I had “pigged-out-a-plenty” to date, and that I now was ready to apply all the health principles I had learned over the past decade. I read Dr. McDougall’s book, “The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss” and cut way back on dairy and free oils, exercising only moderately a few times a week. At age 38, I was at my heftiest, 178 pounds. In 20 days I had lost 11 pounds, and was ready for my class reunion.
After the reunion, I continued to lose more weight through the summer until I reached 155 pounds. Unfortunately, when the holidays arrived, I went back up to 169 pounds. I hated being so fat and unattractive! I didn’t want to be embarrassed by wearing a bathing suit and was tired of covering up my flab with big clothing. I especially hated my big abdominal roll that got in the way whenever I bent over. (But my dear husband says he always thought I was a knockout. Gotta love that man!) For sure, I wasn’t “turning heads” anymore.
On May 13, 2001 (this was a momentous date), I re-read Dr. McDougall’s weight loss book, and another great book of his, “The McDougall Program – 12 Days to Dynamic Health.” I was again flooded with scientific information showing that the best diet is one loaded with whole grains, starches, fruits and vegetables. Dr. McDougall recommended writing down my goals and why I had those goals. He also listed every reason why people say they “can’t” change their lifestyle—leaving me without an original excuse.
I began keeping a journal, wrote down my goals and decided to be very serious about my weight loss. At 39, I promised myself that I would not spend another decade in this unflattering condition. So my journey began in earnest, and as every day passed, I became more serious. I really cut down on fatty foods, dairy and sugar intake and increased my exercise by including weight training twice a week. If I fell off my regimen and ate badly or didn’t exercise for a couple of days, I didn’t throw in the towel—I simply started again, keeping track daily of what I ate, what exercise I did and my weight. I would also jot down special yearly family events so that when they rolled around again the following year, I could look back in my handy little journal and check what my weight had been the previous year.
Losing the first 10 or 15 pounds boosted my enthusiasm and confidence. As the fat melted off, I noticed muscle definition in my arms, legs, shoulders, and chest. My chubby face was reshaping—I discovered I had cheek bones and sharp angles to my jaw. Others noticed as well and commented. People began asking me what I was doing and telling me I looked fabulous—which is what I needed to hear.
Weight loss wasn’t the only benefit I got from my lifestyle change. I lost the desire to nap in the afternoons! I now have more energy than I did in my 20’s! I remember watching some kids play one day and noticed how they ran. I thought about how long it had been since I was a kid, when running around didn’t feel like hard work. Then, one day it happened. I was out for a walk when suddenly the urge to take off running hit me. What a glorious feeling!
My hair now grows faster and has a healthy shine to it. My complexion is much improved. Women younger than me often tell me they wish they had my skin. A young co-worker of mine told me one day as she was looking around the gym she noticed cellulite on the backs of almost every lady’s legs. Her conclusion was cellulite was an inevitable part of aging. However, as I walked by in my shorts she said she realized there was hope to being cellulite free, even in your forties. That compliment made my month!
At my 25-year high-school reunion, a group of gals asked me why I look better now than I did in high school. I love being told I have the body of a 25 year-old. I am so happy to have a fit, healthy body—being seen in a bathing suit is no longer embarrassing—I even tuck my shirt into my pants and feel comfortable. On the practical side: I can tie my shoes unencumbered and I don’t fear becoming a burden to my children in my old age.
In the summer of 2003, after hearing Dr. McDougall speak on the dangers of consuming dairy products, I finally gave up all the milk, cheese and ice cream. The results: I lost another 15 pounds that year and the mucous left my throat. I have lost a total of 46 pounds by changing my diet and exercising. The only time I get a cold is if I wear myself down from over exercising or eating too much sugar. I haven’t had the flu or any sickness in nearly 7 years.
That same year (2003), I decided to get certified as a personal trainer. At 42, I got a job at the very classy Marriott/Renaissance hotel/gym a mile down the street from our house. My confidence from my renewed health and appearance became so great that last October (2005), I sent some photographs to 7 San Francisco modeling agencies in order to see if I could get an interview. I figured older models are becoming more popular—why not me? One week after sending my photos, I was called for an interview. They had me read a “dry script” about energy conservation, took a few pictures, measured me, and said they’d call within a couple of days. Two hours later they called and offered me a contract—I cried.
I am now 44 years old, 5′ 8″ tall, and I weigh 132 pounds. I am the mother of a 22 year-old daughter and a 15 year-old son. My husband and I have been married for 23 years. Most importantly, I’m now a healthy-looking vegan. I’m just finishing my book describing my experiences on losing weight healthfully. My desire is to help others, like I was helped by John and Mary McDougall. One of my favorite quotes by Ern Baxter is; “If your lifestyle doesn’t control your body, your body will eventually control your lifestyle”.
As a teenager, one afternoon I was walking through a shopping mall with my father. He noticed me staring at every pretty girl that passed. He said to me, “Son, the reason you find them attractive is because they look healthy.” My retort was, “Dad, that’s not what I’m looking at.” But, in truth, it was the glowing appearances of these young women that attracted me and for a basic biologic reason: We are designed to find healthy people attractive. We seek robust looking people because they are likely to have the best genes, to pass on to our children. People who are in good health are also more likely to be able to live long enough to raise a family. Thus, being attracted to a person with good health is a “species survival mechanism.” The “attraction advantage” to health is not confined to the man-woman relationship.
Societies in the past placed great value on the health of their members. Sick people cannot defend the castle or toil in the fields for food. In a community where every person counts, the unhealthy ones are quickly identified as a burden and become outcasts. In modern wealthy societies, like we have in the USA and Western Europe, being overweight and sick is tolerated—so members in rundown conditions are not cast aside—at least literally, but as we all know, they are figuratively exiled.
To improve attractiveness, men and women alike spend thousands of dollars on clothing to cover up their unsightliness, buy expensive automobiles in hopes others will notice the car and not them, and subject themselves to image-altering plastic surgery. A far more effective approach to enhancing attractiveness would be to work from the inside out—and that means a change to a nourishing diet, exercise and quitting bad habits, like smoking and using intoxicants. The result will be a glowing radiance seen by everyone around you.
Have you witnessed the change in people who quit cigarettes and/or alcohol? Their personal appearance improved. How about someone who succeeds at a serious exercise program? The same benefits are experienced for their outward form. For most people, the rewards from a diet change are even greater than those from exercise and cleaning up bad habits. This is why when people follow a starch-based diet (the McDougall diet) they not only lose weight but they also look younger and healthier—thus more attractive to others.* Kathy Roberts is an excellent example of the beautifying benefits from the right diet and lifestyle.
* I must add that when the Atkins diet was the rage, some people lost weight eating all that meat and cheese, but they had a gray-tinged complexion and appeared listless, looking much like “death warmed over.” My point is that weight loss as your only goal, does not necessarily mean you will enhance your personal appearance.