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How I Lost 40 Pounds in My 50s and Reclaimed My Health

September 13, 2023
Photo by i yunmai on Unsplash

Three times in my life, I’ve dealt with severe weight gain, which has always been pretty hard on my knees and back. The first time I really gained weight, I was 26 years old and had just quit smoking cigarettes. Despite the weight gain, when my mother died from a stroke eight months later at 61, I knew I’d made the right decision. Given my age and fast metabolism, I was able to bounce back quickly.

The second time, I was 32 and living in California with my soon-to-be husband when I was diagnosed with fibroids. Eleven of them lined the wall of my uterus, and every time my menstrual cycle hit, I learned firsthand the meaning of excruciating. Despite the fact that I repeatedly explained to both my gynecologist and insurance company that my fiancé and I didn’t want children, it took 18 months for them to approve a hysterectomy. By the time they finally did, I was married, consistently taking severe pain medication, my uterus was the size of a five-month pregnancy, and I had gained 40 pounds.

The battle back to my normal weight — around 160 pounds — took longer this time, but I was able to maintain my weight until I went into menopause eight years later. I was completely unprepared for the onslaught of attacks on my body: breast pain, cramping, daily headaches, GERD, and “menofog” were joined by more famous symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. And yes, then there was the 20 pounds I gained overnight that no matter what I did, simply wouldn’t leave.

By 2019, I’d gained 10 more pounds and I no longer recognized myself. My body’s shape had changed: there wasn’t just more of me, it was more of me in places I had never before experienced fat, like my back and arms. My thighs weren’t just big; for the first time in my life, I had pockets of cottage cheese-like fat. I hurt all the time.

First, I tried a new eating routine.

My husband, deeply concerned about my health, would send me articles about the health risks associated with sitting too much. I don’t have a physical job, but rather than try and rework exercise back into my routine, I literally gave up, which made me depressed and scared I would die young, like my mother. I was paralyzed.

One day, in the summer of 2020, a friend told me she lost 40 pounds without exercise, surgery, or gimmicks. She had my attention. Intermittent fasting (IF) appealed to me right away. The idea of being able to eat whatever I wanted within an eight-hour window seemed not just sustainable, but downright doable. I’m not into extremes of any kind, and I’m also risk-averse so I spent two months educating myself about IF. I read studies and anecdotal accounts of what happens to each of our organs — including the brain — during fasting.

I started in October 2020 and set a goal to lose 30 pounds in six months. This seemed safe and sustainable for a woman in her 50s. Within a week of starting IF, my GERD was out of control. Members of my IF Facebook group suggested I eliminate processed sugar, so I gave it a shot.

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Second, I gave up processed sugar.

Once processed sugar was out of my system, all of my menopausal symptoms abruptly stopped — and they have yet to return. When I had my annual physical in January 2021 and saw my optometrist a month later, I was very happy. My bloodwork was perfect, and my eyesight had actually improved. My optometrist said he’d only seen this a few times in his 30-year career.

This appointment was motivating, so I started looking toward other ways to help some of my other health issues. Along with reducing processed sugar intake, I started to focus on consuming foods also known to reduce inflammation in the body — and lost another 10 pounds. In total, I’ve lost 40 pounds; 10 pounds below my goal.

I feel incredible and I’m motivated to keep going.

I no longer dread each day. Now I wake up excited and on fire! My husband replaced the articles about the dangers of sitting too much with ones about the benefits of this or that plant. He tells me all the time that I look more beautiful than he’s seen me in a decade. I don’t kid myself. I’m not 30 anymore, but I also don’t feel 55 and I don’t believe I look it. What’s shocking to me is that I was able to lose weight and turn my health around in less than two years.

What’s different about this time? At 55, my opportunities to lose weight and reclaim my health are dwindling. Every day I remind myself that my mother’s life was cut short by a stroke. Only six years younger than she was when she died, I am determined to have a different health outcome.

Read next: The Best Weight Loss Snacking Strategies, Say Nutritionists

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