by Sue Widemark

At the age of 48, I was a diet failure. The last successful diet I had been on was Weight Watchers. I lost 2 lbs a week to lose the 35 lbs I had gained with pregnancy, then struggled to keep it off, the only way I knew how i.e. to continue with Weight Watchers at about 1800 calories per day.

I started feeling poorly. Tired. Dragged out. I got sick of it after a while and started eating. I don't think you can get all the nutrients at 1800 calories a day. I remember when I gave up dieting. It was at a party where there was all kinds of goodies. I was starving (as usual). I ate. Gained back all the weight and continued to gain. Tried Atkins. Got a gall bladder attack. Tried Stillman. Almost collapsed. Every time a new diet came out, I tried it. Lasted a week or so, lost a little weight and then, gained it back.

I read books, psyched myself until it came out my ears. Looked for the deep psychological reasons at why I was fat and couldn't stop eating. Was a waste of time. Lived on a half diet for years. I would go up 10 lbs, go down 10 lbs etc.

By the age of 48, I was still fat at about 80 lbs over what I weighed at WW. Size 22-24 and still growing (a growing girl). I began an exercise program to be healthy. I figured that if I didn't diet but exercised, that would protect my heart. I did this because I saw the CVICU of a hospital with half corpses lying there with tubes coming out of every hole in their bods. I decided that was not my idea of a good time.

Started walking 4 days a week in November 1993. Started daily aerobics at 45 minutes a day in July 1994. As soon as I instituted daily aerobics, the weight gain stopped even though I was eating the same diet about 3000 calories a day and high in junk foods. I felt good, shaped up though still large and loved my exercise sessions.

I was losing fat slowly. I didn't pay attention even though people started to remark on a daily basis that I looked 'thinner'. Then one day, in early 1995, I put on my favorite pair of pants and they literally fell off. I tried on a pair of size 16's - and they fit loosely.

Meanwhile, I had come across a book by Susan Powter called STOP THE INSANITY. The program she advocated involved NO calorie counting (read that as NO HUNGER). And only watching the fat intake. From all my research I felt convinced that fat was something none of us really need a lot of (we DO need complex carbs because that's where most of our "B" vitamins come from). She had an easy formula.

I decided to try it for Lent and if I didn't like it, I'd go off. Afterall, my weight was in control now so I didn't have to do anything else other than the 45 minutes a day aerobic exercise.

I felt wonderful limiting my fat intake to 20 percent of what I ate. And it was easy - a quick figure in my head. Most things I liked were not forbidden (except junk food which I knew I didn't need anyway). For instance, I could have pizza minus the cheese and it tasted just fine. I even have found a type of macaroni and cheese which is low fat and I can have it. Dairy queen plain is 25 percent fat. Hostess chocolate cupcakes are 28 percent fat. I allowed myself a cheat each day up to 28 percent fat. I was in fat city. (ok, thin city!)

When Lent ended, I did not end the S.P. program because I had less indigestion than I had had in years, I felt wonderful, I was not hungry ... it was awesome. And it was healthy. I have been on this less than 20 percent fat program ever since. I have exercised every day of my life since Aug 1994 except I usually take one day off a week because now I have been training athletically for 1-2 hours a day and am very sore so need that day off.

When I was laid up with a broken leg, I laid off most aerobics for two weeks but remained on the eating program. I did not gain any weight. (Actually lost a couple of lbs but it was probably muscle). (At the Pritikin Institute in a study of over 10,000 fat people, they ate about 200-300 calories more than usual there but lost an average of 6 lbs over a six week period).

I'm at about 23 percent bodyfat. I lose about 5 lbs of fat a year and gain about 5 lbs of muscle due to weight training which I do to prevent osteoporosis. (When hit by a car on my bicycle in 1998, they only had to use ONE pin on my ankle which surprised the doctor because usually with a serious injury like that in a woman of my age, they are looking at a shattered ankle and using a plate and several screws).

I am wonderfully fit and can outrun most 20 year olds. I do not look like the stylish figure as I am large and muscular but still take a size 14 so look reasonably nice and look nice in a bathing suit as well because I am lean. I can't emphasize more that when I hear people talk about Atkins and the rest of them, I've BEEN THERE, DONE THAT.

Weight Watchers is a great diet as diets go however, any diet doesn't work. NINETY FIVE PERCENT OF DIETERS gain their weight back - here's why:

1. Moderately or Severely restricting calories puts your body in starvation mode - your body burns the muscle to reduce your metabolism so your body can survive on less food. Unfortunately, it also means you can not eat as much without gaining as you could before the diet. When you get off the diet, your metabolism still remains challenged.

2. Dieting causes the Leptin levels in the body to be raised. This is the chemical which makes you hungry. These levels stay high in people who have been off their diets for several months. This is your body's way of telling you to EAT A LOT when there is food available. This, in part, accounts for the affinity to 'binge' after a diet. It is beginning to be called 'diet related bingeing'.

3. Since your body burns so much muscle and organ tissue on a diet, you only lose less than 40 percent fat. But when you gain back, you gain all fat. So if you lose 5 and gain 5, you end up 'fatter' than you were before the diet. The burning of the organ tissue can compromise your gall bladder and kidneys and if continued long enough, your heart as well. Your body needs a certain amount of calories each day in varied nutrients. Fat supplies the least nutrients so it must search elsewhere to obtain the nutritional foods it needs. Guess where it goes... right to your organs and muscle tissue.

***** You can be sure you will not read about this information outside of the medical field because the diet industry is a 40 BILLION DOLLAR industry. What you see on TV are not the 40 and 50 year olds. You see women in their 20's who have started out genetically blessed. (If it wasn't a rare talent, why do the models get paid so much?). Additionally, most of them have been to the plastic surgeon as well. And they show us these women and tell us if we follow their plan, take their pills or use their equipment, we will look like that.

I saw a woman in her 40's in the bike store who had obviously gone after the waif look for many years. On her skinny no-muscle stick legs, she had all kinds of cellulite which wiggled horribly when she even moved a bit. She looked AWFUL. That is the diet look and not the genetically blessed, surgically altered women we see on TV.

I discovered a whole bunch of other things. If you eat food that is low in fat, your appestat works i.e. you stop when you are full. There are two reasons for this:

1. Food with fat in it is highly tasty and very seductive. We tend to want to eat it just for fun and ignore the fact that we no longer are hungry.
2. Food with fat in it is low in volume and high in calories so we get far too many calories long before we feel full.
For instance, if I eat a piece of bread with butter on it, I'll eat a whole loaf. If I don't take butter on it, I'll eat and enjoy one piece and stop there.

Fat is an acquired taste. If you really lay off of it for a while (about a year or so), it's like quitting smoking... it no longer tastes good to you. Now when I eat cake, I eat one piece and cut the icing off and I used to be the person who said "Cake is a vehicle for the icing". I used to eat the icing plain without the cake. Now it tastes icky and greasy to me

I come from a fat family. I was a fat kid and a fat adult. My mother weighed over 300 lbs most of her life. My father was not as fat as my mother but plenty fat. Believe me, there IS a strong genetic factor going about how you gain weight and how much you gain.

But I'm here to tell you that there IS a way you can not feel hungry, get all your nutrients, eat most foods and still get and stay lean and that is the Susan Powter low fat program. Easy. Under 20 percent fat in your nutritional program. Exercise at least 40 minutes daily.

It's not only easy, it's the only SANE way you will find of losing weight and keeping it off. But first you need to change a few attitudes:

1. Unless you go to the plastic surgeon, are genetically blessed and eat under 1800 calories a day, you will not look like a super model. Do you even want to? Did you realize that they wanted the models so thin to model underwear and swimsuits because then, they didn't look sexy and therefore would not deter people from seeing the clothing? Hello?
2. Any body type is cool. Most of us have thunder thighs or stomachs or something else. The average size of a woman is 12-14 and not size 6! We all can look nice even if we don't starve, and visit the plastic surgeon. Accept yourself for what God gave you. If you are quite fat, chances are that's what your genetics are. You can control your weight but don't expect to be a size 5 - that's not a reasonable goal. My hip bones are too wide for a 12!
3. Eating and exercising is about good health and living long and fully. Don't get confused by trying to be stylishly thin. More exercise programs end up in the gutter because people have the wrong motivation. Make a commitment today to exercise daily for the rest of your life and then, keep it religiously. Yes, it's possible. I exercised even with a cast on my leg (could do health rider and stationary bike for 30 minutes a day).

If you can get to the above attitudes and make a commitment, you will never have a 'weight problem' again. You can throw out your scale. You will be like normal people and can eat when you want and how much you want (just watching the one restriction in fat content). You will know when you are full and will stop eating. You will never feel 'bloated' again.

After living nearly 40 years of life half dieting, in guilt and anxiety, these last five years have been awesome. I want you all to get there. IT's worth it..........................NEXT PAGE