Tired of being unhealthy, area residents changed their lives
BY KRISTIN DAVIS
On a warm weekend in May, John and Kathy Moore climbed a mountain. They logged 11 miles in a single day at Shenandoah National Park.
“We were tired. We were sore. We felt absolutely incredible,” John said.
Less than one year earlier, John’s doctor had told him there was no need to schedule another annual checkup. Unless John lost weight, he wouldn’t be alive in a year.
The Stafford County couple had battled obesity for much of their nearly 26-year marriage. Sometimes, they went on diets, shedding pounds only to eventually gain the weight back and then some. They had no energy for anything other than work.
“Our lives became this little tiny bubble,” John, 48, recalled.
Kathy, 52, remembers countless embarrassing episodes: Telling restaurant hosts that they couldn’t fit into the booths they were offered. Having to sit in the handicapped section at baseball games.
“Clothes? Forget clothes,” she said. Nothing ever seemed to fit.
Then there were the things they’d had to give up: Long drives—it was hard to sit for that long. Kathy’s dream of getting a pilot’s license—the cockpit was too cramped, and they were too heavy for the small planes.
“There’s no way to hide how miserable you are when you’re that big and you can’t do the things you want,” John said.
At one point, he resigned himself. “I gave up, I gave in. I thought, ‘I will always be this big. Nothing is going to change.’”
Then came the doctor’s dire prediction. At the time, John weighed just shy of 400 pounds. Kathy weighed 260. Kathy began a weight loss program and exercise regimen in November. John followed a month later.
“I don’t want to be a widow. I don’t want John to be a widower,” Kathy said. “We’re too young.”
Since changing their lifestyles, the couple have lost more than 120 pounds between them. They know they have a long way to go still. But for the first time, John and Kathy said, they feel like they have the tools to get there.
There was perhaps no better proof than the warm day in May when they climbed a mountain.
‘IT’S CHANGED EVERYTHING’
Janet McConnell of Spotsylvania County thought the sudden dizzy spell she experienced in November might be a symptom of a stroke. Or maybe, she worried, she was becoming diabetic.
She was only in her early 30s. But McConnell weighed 280 pounds, had not exercised in years and had smoked until her husband suffered a collapsed lung nine months before—in part because of his nicotine habit.
McConnell’s spell took her to the hospital, where she learned the dizziness was a case of vertigo. But both a stroke and diabetes were very real possibilities for McConnell. Her father had died at 58 after a prolonged battled with heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. And she’d been a smoker.
Faced with her father’s death, her husband’s lung problem and her own health scare, she decided to make a change. She threw out all the junk food in the house, added lots of vegetables to her diet and started walking during her lunch hour.
Change came slowly at first. McConnell didn’t care for many vegetables, though she acquired a taste for them. She also starting exercising more. Her one-mile walks turned to two miles and then to three. Then she started sprinting when she went downhill and when she went across intersections. She hadn’t run since childhood.
“I forgot how fun it could be. It was like flying,” she said.
She bought a pair of running shoes, and when the weather got warmer, started rising at 5:30 a.m. to jog three miles through her neighborhood.
She now tries to eat vegan a few days a week, including what she and a friend call “Frugal Vegan Wednesdays,” when they try out a new, low-cost vegan recipe. She eats vegetarian during the rest of the week, except for Saturdays, when she allows herself bacon and eggs for breakfast. There is the occasional hamburger and fries. For the most part, though, she finds junk food disappointing nowadays.
Today, because of her lifestyle changes, McConnell is halfway through her weight-loss goal of 100 pounds.
“It’s changed everything. I sleep all night long. I’m not depressed. I have enthusiasm. All day, I’m buzzing with energy,” she said. “I never want to go back.”
‘I JUST KEPT GOING’
Patricia Boord of Spotsylvania County used to take multiple medications a day to keep her diabetes and blood pressure under control. Wasn’t it a shame, her doctor said during a 2007 visit, that people work hard only to retire and spend all their money on medicine.
“That hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Boord, 57.
“Like everybody else,” Boord said she was stressed at work, trying to run a household and eating poorly.
“I got really, really unhealthy,” Boord said.
Her doctor posed a question: How would she like to be healthier at retirement than when she started out in the job market three decades earlier?
“I wasn’t going to the gym. I was fat. I didn’t have the confidence for that,” Boord said.
But she felt ready to make a change. Her doctor helped her find a personal trainer. Over the next four years, Boord ate better, felt better and slowly dropped weight. She started hiking and kayaking.
Along the way, she endured knee surgery, several major illnesses and even a hiking accident. Boord’s son—her only child—deployed to Iraq for 15 months.
“I just kept going,” she said. “When you get knocked down, you gotta keep getting back up again.”
When she retired Jan. 1, 2011, Boord had lost 30 pounds. She also had enough confidence to start going to the gym, and that’s where Boord met a woman who suggested she take up competitive power lifting.
“I said, ‘Get out of here. I’m just an old lady,’” Boord recalled.
But she was intrigued. Six months after retiring, Boord entered her first meet. It was the Virginia State Championship. She set a state record in her division. A couple of months after that, she went to the National Bench Press Championships again won a gold medal in her division. In April, Boord won a silver medal in the World Masters Bench Press Championship.
She lost 30 more pounds. She no longer needs blood pressure pills. She eliminated two diabetic medicines and insulin.
Boord set two rules for herself. The first: Get up and do something. Second: When you don’t feel like getting up and doing something, refer to rule No. 1.
“I have the same issues and problems as everybody else. If I can make changes, [others] can do this, too,” she said.