For three years, my doctor was telling me that my blood pressure was high and I needed to lose weight. I tried all kinds of diets like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. Yes, they worked at first, but then I put the weight back on. I’m 64 and weighed 360 pounds, and when I looked in the mirror I didn’t like myself. I felt depressed and had no energy. 

“I was eating a lot of junk food: chips, cookies, and cake.”

I’d cook macaroni and cheese or enchiladas and I’d drink sodas. My weakness was ice cream. My husband, Len, encouraged me to do the Challenge and said: “We’ll do it together.” I wanted to get healthy and have energy to do things with my family — my daughter, three stepchildren, nine grandchildren, and five great grandchildren!  

“I’ve lost a lot of weight and feel great.”

I cut out fast food. Now I eat fresh fish, fruit, and vegetables. I love cooking and making stuffed peppers with turkey sausage, and a delicious chicken with Italian seasoning and rice. For a treat, I’ll have a rice cake with almond butter. I’ve learned that by putting my fork down between bites, I take my time eating, get full faster, and don’t eat as much. I’m also having dinner on smaller plates. I never used to work out, but now I do leg lifts, squats, and arm exercises. I stretch while watching TV, and as a family we walk (and talk) together. 

I dance around the house with my family to Prince and Bon Jovi. My daughter, Jolen, jokes: “Mom, you don’t act your age!” But dancing around the house is fun and great exercise. I also dance at work when music comes on. When customers catch me, they love it — I’ve even had couples join in. I’ve lost a lot of weight and feel great — inside and out! I used to wear size 32 pants but I just ordered a pair of size 18 pants. When I put them on, they were a little loose. I feel so accomplished. My goal is to lose more weight, step by step.

“I’m happier now and have a real purpose.”

Every day I ask myself: “What am I grateful for?” I am grateful for the support from my family, that I have a job, and for the food on my plate. By not buying junk food I save $80 a month and spend the money on yarn to make scarves and hats for the homeless. If my husband and I see an elderly couple when we’re out to dinner, we often pay for their meal, because we know that many senior citizens are on a fixed income. We ask the waitress for the couple’s bill but we don’t let them know we’re paying. Seeing the smiles on their faces makes us smile.

I’m happier now and have a real purpose: to get really healthy so I can be on this earth longer with my family. I’m semi-retired and I want to enjoy life, do things, and go places.

––Joanne Cramer, Granite Bay, CA; $5K Winner

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