Pauline was overweight for 31 years, since becoming pregnant with her son. Each time she tried to diet, she’d end up gaining more. Her knees stabbed with pain when she walked the stairs of her house. Her cholesterol and blood pressure were high.
In June, 2014, she committed to losing weight. And not just a little. At least 50 pounds.
For support, Pauline reenlisted at Weight Watchers. “I had joined and stopped 10 times in the past 31 years,” she says. “Life’s challenges kept getting in the way.”
By spring, 2015, she’d purchased a Fitbit. Tracking her steps and competing with friends, she walked 8-10 miles a day and lost 38 pounds. She plateaued, as she had before, in the 150s. She decided she needed to build muscle, but couldn’t afford a personal trainer. She heard about Orange Theory, a gym in Birmingham, MI. Professional trainers teach groups on rowing machines, weights and treadmills. Participants wear heart monitors, watch their heart rates on a screen. The goal: to reach the orange zone, or maximum heart rate, for at least 12 minutes of an hour-long workout combining cardio and strength training. (This sounds serious to moi.) Pauline could walk to the studio and home.
She was in.
She started out once a week, then twice, and soon upped her workouts to 5 a week. Before long even her smallest clothes hung on her stronger, leaner frame. After not stepping on a scale for several months, she decided it was time.
The result? She had dropped 14 more pounds and reached her Weight Watchers goal. At her next physical, her HDL (good cholesterol) had risen to 99.
Once, as part of a program, Pauline interviewed an obese woman. “She told me when she boarded a plane, she could read peoples’ faces. She knew they were hoping not to sit next to her. She said she often felt invisible.”
Of her transformation, Pauline says, “As my body changed, I changed. I regained the person I lost many years back. I’m 68 and have more energy than I did 20 years ago. Is it confidence, or have I become visible?”
In August she traveled to Italy. She hiked hills for long distances, with no pain. Recently, she cleared her closet of clothes that were too big. “Previously I saved larger sized clothes in case I needed them again. I never trusted myself to get rid of them.”
Like most of us, Pauline has faced challenges. After 17 years of a “dysfunctional” marriage, she was divorced 15 years ago. In 2010, her mother and stepfather of 50 years died within 3 ½ weeks of each other. 2 months later, her mother-in-law died. (Pauline had helped care for her during the 2 years she was bed-ridden with back fractures.) Her son was diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 16, after being deemed ADHD for many years. (“A gifted student,” he was supported by Roeper School, friends, therapists and parents. Today he’s leading “a happy and productive life with few signs of the disorder.”)
In the past, when her ex-husband didn’t fulfill his divorce settlement payments, Pauline “didn’t want to rock the boat” in co-parenting. “Trusting” her ex would come through, she remained “passive.”
Now a renewed Pauline has hired a lawyer and is suing for money still owed. “This time I won’t give up. My resolve is connected to the stronger person I once was and am again.”
She’s changed her attitude about other things as well. Her father died at 26 when Pauline was 4 months old; her brother, 2. Her mother, needing an income, went to law school and became a working lawyer—quite an accomplishment for a woman in the late 1940s. Pauline grew up feeling “abandoned.” Now, looking back, she appreciates what her mother did.
Aside from her son and a half-brother in Chicago, Pauline has little biological family. Her brother died of a heart condition. She has no aunts or uncles. Instead, she says, “I adopt friends as family.”
One family, especially dear to her, is the Rossis. Among them: Alessandro Rossi, the charming (I can attest to that) owner of popular downtown Sarasota restaurant, Mediterraneo. A few years ago, she and her son traveled to Stresa, Italy, for Alessandro and Valeria’s wedding.
Because of her Italian heritage (her biological father was Italian), Pauline visits Italy often. “Italy feels like home.”
Pauline says, “I find people and things that make me happy. I try to challenge myself every day. I don’t dwell on the one thing that may not have gone right, but on the countless things that do.” One thing that makes her happy is driving a doctor to work at the Detroit Medical Center in the morning. She finds their conversations “enriching.” She devotes afternoons to self-improvement and volunteering.
On Sunday, Oct. 11, Pauline went to Weight Watchers to share her progress. She said, “OMG! I made it!” She wrote a Facebook status update: “Today is a great day! After 31 years, I finally lost the baby fat and regained my soul!”
Way to go, Pauline. Thanks for sharing your story. And for being an inspiration.