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How I lost 140 pounds: Despite my medical challenges, I learned to love my gym time

Diane Fraser, before and after.

Diane Fraser

44, Vancouver

Pounds dropped: 140

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My turning point: I see those shows where people eat bags of cookies and dozens of burgers – that wasn't me. My weight gain was at least in part the result of medical conditions – I have an underactive thyroid and a list of medical challenges that affect metabolism, balance and co-ordination. So I was never at a perfect weight, but the biggest jump was an 85-pound weight gain over eight months when I developed an eye problem where the treatment was prednisone, a steroid known for side effects that can include sudden weight gain.

My turning point was stepping on the scale four years ago and seeing the number staring back at me: 328. I had a lot working against me – but I knew I had to lose the weight, somehow, some way. I just knew I had to change something – there would be no giving up.

My method: I had never consistently exercised partly due to the fact that my medical conditions always made it difficult for me to do anything that required balance and co-ordination – any sports were difficult for me and I learned to avoid anything that would get me too easily frustrated.

For years I made stabbing attempts at exercise and used diet to try and take the weight off and really, this never worked in the long term. With each effort, I ended up heavier than I had ever been in my life.

I started by hiring a personal trainer at my local gym once a week to give me the motivation and training I needed to learn how to exercise properly. The one-on-one teaching worked well for me and I started to gain confidence. I learned to love my gym time and made it a part of my weekly routine – something that I could not live without.

My trainer never lets me get bored and always challenges me to go harder, longer and stronger. I now work with my trainer once a week and come to the gym on my own three times a week. I needed someone to teach me how to move and give me the confidence that I would get to where I wanted even if it took me a while to learn.

And I learned to eat better too, of course: I opt for fresh, whole foods, and I pay attention to how my body responds to the things I eat. I have learned to cut out or reduce foods that don't feed my energy. If I ever get prepackaged foods, I immediately check the salt content and avoid anything that is too high in sodium.

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After changing food and exercise, my transformation was largely mental: I began to view my change less as a need to lose weight (that was a nice side benefit) and more as a need to learn how to move again.

Of course any time I weighed myself and saw a drop I was ecstatic – but I was even happier every time I could do something I struggled with in the past: Every time I walked a bit longer or took the stairs when I would have previously opted for the elevator, that was my big success.

I slowly lost the weight in increments over a period of four years. This wasn't about a Biggest Loser-style quick drop in 12 weeks, but four years of looking at the long-term gains and real lifestyle changes.

With all these medical issues working against me, I have still lost 140 pounds, 81 inches and 26-per-cent body fat. But I am not done yet.

My biggest takeaway from this long journey: You are the only one who puts up obstacles. Just because you aren't doing it as fast as someone else does not mean anything.

My kryptonite: I still have rare days where I eat chips or chocolate – or even spring for a doughnut or a great slice of cheesecake. There's nothing wrong with that – it's about balance, and when you have balance you can succeed.

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This interview has been condensed and edited.

Tell us how you lost it: tgam.ca/weightloss

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About the Author
Editor in the Opinion section

Amberly McAteer is an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe and Mail. She has been a homepage editor, online editor and community editor in Features - including Life, Travel, Style, Arts and Books. She's written columns about her quest to run a 10K and find the perfect dog. More

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