Teacher Drops Weight With Blood-Type Diet, Zumba
By COSHANDRA DILLARD
In May 2011, Chapel Hill ISD kindergarten teacher Denise Smith gave herself the gift of life. Carrying at least 100 extra pounds, she pledged that she would make a lifestyle change for good. In about a year, she went from a size 24 to a size 8 petite.
"I decided right then and there that this was it," Ms. Smith, 51, said. "I had turned 50, and I just was going to lose weight. I put up with it long enough. I want the next 50 years to be healthy."
The mother of two adult children found inspiration at the Tyler Public Library. She'd tried many diets before but she decided to try a diet described in the book, "Eat Right 4 Your Type" by Dr. Peter J. D'Adamo.
"I'm celebrating healthy living and a healthy diet," Ms. Smith said. "I lost weight with no pills, no medications. I didn't spend any money for dieting."
For the first three weeks of dieting, she did not look at a scale because she was afraid of what it may read.
And in the beginning, she said didn't feel like moving, but as the weight fell off, she incorporated Zumba into her weight-loss regimen.
"I took baby steps at first, but I was always determined," she said. "When you're real large, you just don't feel like it. It's baby steps."
She added, "I made the commitment, even though I have two jobs, to go three nights a week to Zumba, whether it was in the summer or in the winter."
Ms. Smith faced some complications along the way and quickly learned that it is important to listen to your body.
In late March, she passed out at school and was rushed to the hospital. He doctor explained that she lost too much weight too quickly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a healthy weight loss is between one and two pounds weekly. A gradual weight loss over time, studies show, is more effective in keeping weight off.
Ms. Smith, who once suffered from high blood pressure, had also developed low blood pressure.
"I not only changed the outside of my body, but I also changed the inside of my body. ... What's happening inside is just as important. The whole thing has been a journey."
After a month, she resumed her diet and exercise routine. She was also advised to consume more sodium to keep her blood pressure at a normal level.
"Your road may not always be smooth," she said. "It taught me something. I learned I have to eat more often -- more, smaller meals."
Ms. Smith struggled with weight all of her life, so being a petite size created a new issue related to body image that is taking some time to get used to.
"I don't see myself as what I weigh," she said. "I still consider myself the fat girl. My mind hasn't changed. I look in the mirror sometimes, and it's kind of weird. It's hard to explain."
Ms. Smith admits that she doesn't follow the special diet entirely but uses it to guide her through a healthy selection of food. She used to frequent fast-food drive-thrus and Friday night was synonymous with pepperoni pizza.
She said her diet now consists of mostly protein sources such as beef and a large salad, made with romaine lettuce, onion and spinach. She makes use of her George Foreman grill daily and incorporates a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, what she calls "good eating."
"I will be eating this way for the rest of my life," she said.
Keeping the momentum and maintaining weight loss may be more difficult than kicking off a healthy lifestyle, she said, but it's all about choices.
She said many times, she and colleagues would go to a restaurant for lunch during in-service days, and she chose to look at a menu online before going so she could make the healthiest choice.
"When you set your mind to something, you can do it," she said. "If I can do it, I know other people can do it, too."
Ms. Smith, who thrives on health information, wants to share her story with others, and motivate them to jump-start their health journey.
"If I've learned anything in life, there are some things that are doable and some things are not doable," she said. "Know your doables. Losing weight is doable. So if you want it, just do it. If you want to lose weight, it's all in your hands. There's nothing stopping you but you."