Knowing when to shed the ‘fat coat’

When I write for newspapers I inevitably wind up with far more information than I can fit into a 600-word lead. Such was the case with a story I wrote for the Observers (Charlotte and News &), scheduled to run in both publications Tuesday. The story is about not getting discouraged if, a month into your new fitness program, you aren’t seeing the results you expected. In the course of reporting I ran into Debra Delano of Charlotte, who had a great story, only a smidgen of which made it into the story. More  of her story appears here.

For years, Debra Delano was content to carry extra weight — a lot of extra weight. Then, about four and a half years ago two things happened. One was Dr. Phil. “I saw him on Oprah, and he was saying that wearing a coat of 100 pounds of fat is not normal. People do it and they keep it on because it works for them. Then, one day, it doesn’t.” A couple days later she was walking through a department store when she caught sight of herself in a mirror. She took a long look and realized that her fat coat was no longer working for her. Within a year, she lost 100 pounds.

“I did it through nutrition at first,” says Delano, who lists her age “40-plus.” “I tried to keep my calories to around 1,200. I ate healthy, natural food, like my grandparents did. I held back on sugar and unnatural products.” The owner of an espresso bar, she also modified her business practices.

“I sell cookies and bagels and muffins and, I was constantly taste testing,” says Delano. “That food does not call my name anymore.”

Debra Delano before Dr. Phil and a department store mirror got her attention (here) and after (above).

She hasn’t had soda in years and keeps a close eye on sodium, carbohydrates, calorie content. She didn’t keep a food journal because she didn’t want to have to think that much about food. And she didn’t become militant. “I don’t like beef or chicken, but I love pork. Bacon — is there anything better in the world than bacon? I also have Ruffles potato chips every several months.”

Through modifying her diet alone, Delano dropped 40 pounds, especially interesting since once she started exercising, she become an adrenaline junkie. She sky dives, bungee jumps, scuba dives, zip lines and goes hot air ballooning, now sports a couple tattoos. Her daily exercise regimen consists of weight lifting and line dancing. The later she does once a week at a local club and daily, alone, for 45 minutes before work.

“It felt so good,” she says of being active, “that I just wanted to continue.”

That, she says, was what motived her to continue.

“When you feel better, your mind is clearer,” she says. “I can speak in clear sentences … food does affect you that way. It’s amazing that way. It’s,” she pause, “it’s maybe like an alcoholic giving up alcohol.”

“The thing is, I wanted it. That was big. I didn’t want the excuses. There are a lot of things in my life I can’t control, but what I chose to eat, I can. Nobody forces you to eat this stuff.”

She was made aware of that again last month. “Over the holidays, I ate cookies and sweet things. I was lethargic, had mood swings, went through highs and lows. I just didn’t feel me,” she says. She went cold turkey New Year’s Day. “After 3 or 4 days with no sugar I started feeling like myself again.”

Delano leads a radically different life than she did four and a half years and 100 pounds ago.

“Being a completely new me, I have a lot of things on my to-do list,” she says. “You know the book ‘100 Things to Do Before You Die?’ I’m speeding my way through that.

“I want to do it all.”

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