Sometimes it takes a complete life change to realize you aren't living as healthily as possible. For Air Force veteran Diana Philpot, it took retiring from the service for her to realize it was her career that had been keeping her healthy. Once she was no longer in the service, she said, her weight climbed higher than ever before — until it reached the point where she'd had enough. Over the course of two years, Diana shed 76 pounds with the help of healthy eating, lots of exercise, and tracking everything in the Lose It! app. For more of her story, keep reading.
POPSUGAR: How much weight have you lost?
Diana Philpot: I started at 206 pounds and currently weigh 130, so I've lost 76 pounds.
PS: What got you started on your health journey? Had you tried any diets or programs in the past?
DP: As an active duty Airman for 30 years, I had weight and fitness standards to adhere to. Three times during my service I exceeded the maximum weight for my height and was enrolled in a weight loss program. The Air Force's program was overseen by a dietitian and exercise physiologist, and required two days of education, daily logging of food and exercise (in a paper log, pre-computer days), and weekly meetings and weigh-ins. Each time I was successful at losing the weight, but the number on the scale was my focus.
Then five years after retirement I had no such structured program or mandatory participation. My weight ballooned up more than 30 pounds. I was showing signs of pre-hypertension, pre-diabetes, and high cholesterol. My overall health was the catalyst this time, and I keep that focus firmly in mind, knowing this is a continuum rather than a fixed point where I can revert to old habits.
PS: What apps or aids do you use for weight loss?
DP: Primarily Lose It!, also Fitbit, Charity Miles app, Garmin GPS sports watch with HRM (a gift to myself at the 50-lbs lost milestone!). I use all of the features on Lose It! — from the social to the planning and goal setting. I signed up for Premium when I decided I wanted to track my fiber intake. Eventually I added a goal for almost every category in the goals area. I enjoy the motivation and encouragement shared with my friends list and in groups. I like the ability to compete with myself in challenges, and I'm in several at any given time. I often plan meals a day ahead of time so I know how I will handle a meal out, drinks with friends, or a day when I can't get as much exercise as I'd like.
"At the end of the day, the number on the scale is just a number. It doesn't define me."
PS: Describe how your weight has influenced your life. For how long prior to losing weight were you aware of being overweight?
DP: Throughout my childhood and into early adulthood I was very thin, to the point of being teased by my family and my contemporaries well into my 20s. I was always very self-conscious because of this. In my late 20s I developed those coveted womanly curves and the teasing stopped, so I was happy.
After I married, I was eating more socially and even matching my husband's food intake despite his being three times more active than me. I gained weight gradually. But I was aware of being overweight by my early 30s by looking in the mirror and noticing my uniforms were tighter. And, in fact, that's the first time I was enrolled in the Air Force's weight loss program. And it's when I began buying clothing in larger sizes.
Since I had been so thin for so long, this was foreign to me, and it felt just as bad as when I was being teased for my low weight. I yo-yo'd up and down from my early 30s to my early 50s, when my weight just kept going up.
PS: Was there one specific or defining moment for you that made you realize you wanted to commit to yourself and work to lose the weight?
DP: My defining moment when I realized I wanted to commit to losing weight was a visit to my doctor in January 2015, when my weight was recorded at the highest I had ever seen. At that visit, my doctor told me I was destined for medications for the rest of my life to control several conditions. She suggested I could stand to lose 10 pounds, a gross understatement that I gently chastised her for later. If our doctors are unable to have that hard conversation with us, then how are we to understand the significance of our poor habits?
"I am light on my feet again. I've got nearly boundless energy. I feel sharper mentally."
PS: How has your eating behavior changed? Are you eating new foods or eating differently than you did before?
DP: Now I only eat when I'm hungry. I eat three meals a day instead of one large one. I snack more than I ever have. But the foods I eat are not processed or minimally processed, and they are nutrient dense or I don't put them in my mouth. I eat fruits and vegetables in abundance instead of as an afterthought. I eat red meat only four or five times a month, and eat much more fish and chicken. I have at least one meal a week that is meatless, just because I like it.
PS: What does a typical day of eating and/or exercising look like for you now?
DP: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are smaller meals than before, but so varied in content that I feel full on fewer calories. I snack on fresh fruit, low-sodium beef jerky, nonfat Greek yogurt, boiled eggs, and quality high-protein bars such as from Pure Protein or NuGo Nutrition. I enjoy frozen yogurt instead of ice cream treats.
I strive for 75 minutes of exercise a day. I walk my dog daily, even in the Summer. I practice yoga three times weekly. Most days I walk between three and five miles with my husband. Sometimes we run together — I'm just starting that activity, but he's been an avid runner all his life and now I can keep up with him for shorter distances. In the Summer I bicycle to my local pool and swim laps for an hour at a time. In Winter or Summer if it's too unpleasant outside to walk or run, I use the elliptical machine at home. And I have started resistance training with bands and small hand weights.
PS: Was fitness a part of your weight loss plan? How did you incorporate fitness, and what types of activities did you do?
DP: Fitness was the initial area where I took action, as it was the most difficult for me. I had detested exercise. But I knew that if I wanted to enjoy my retired years traveling and hiking with my husband, I had to make changes to remain fit enough for those activities.
First I started with a yoga class, and my husband joined me. Come Summer I began swimming, something I hadn't done in 35-40 years, and found out I loved it. I bicycled to and from our community pool, and I started taking a longer route home just to get more time on the bike. When the pool closed for the Summer I was at a loss. When I couldn't find an affordable indoor pool in my area, I decided I had to bite the bullet and do something else. I chose to begin walking with a friend — who lives 200 miles away! At an agreed upon time we donned our walking shoes, picked up our cell phones, and walked out our respective front doors to walk our neighborhoods — but with the phone contact we had a walking partner and accountability. It worked very well! After months of walking and then run-walk intervals, I'm now able to run up to four miles.
"Decide what your reason is for losing weight, then keep it in the forefront of your mind."
I also enjoy kayaking, hiking, and camping when I can. During weight loss, I was trying to get 45 minutes a day of exercise. But about midway in my journey, I read that the US NIH advises 30 minutes of exercise daily for cardiovascular health, 60 minutes a day for weight maintenance, and 90 minutes a day for weight loss — I immediately upped my game to 90 minutes a day. Now I don't know what I did with all my time when I wasn't exercising at least an hour a day!
Diana before and after
PS: How has weight loss changed your life as a whole? What are some exciting moments, positive changes, and nonscale victories you have experienced?
DP: I am light on my feet again. I've got nearly boundless energy. I feel sharper mentally — probably from cleaning up my diet! And I've dropped more sizes in clothing — from XL and size 18 down to S and size 6 — than I would have ever thought possible. I know I look healthy now, and I feel better than I've felt in 25 years, or come to think of it, maybe ever.
And when shopping in a warehouse store, my husband saw two separate occasions of "gentlemen" checking me out when I wasn't looking. That happened to the 56-year-old me!
PS: If you could give your best advice to people trying to lose weight and stick with it, what would that advice be?
DP: 1) Decide what your reason is for losing weight, then keep it in the forefront of your mind. That is your motivation; no one else can provide that for you. Post it on your refrigerator, the bathroom mirror, or on your computer screen at work. Place a photo of the "before" you or of your goal prominently in your space. Heck, tattoo it if you must, but keep that reason where you are constantly reminded of it.
2) Know that losing weight is relatively easy, but to make it stay lost you have to commit to changing your life for good. This is not a diet, it's a way of living fully and healthily. If you feel deprived, you're not doing it right.
3) Even if you don't use an app, you should log your food and exercise, and weigh yourself daily. This is the accountability factor that will earn you success in weight loss and for the rest of your life. Without knowledge of exactly what you are doing and how it affects your body, you will flounder. You will make excuses for lack of progress. You will quit before you are done.
4) Never quit! No matter a poor food choice, a bad day, or a week when you gain instead of lose, if you quit, you won't get past it. If you learn from it, or just let it go and carry on, you might lose a battle here and there, but you will win the war!