Success Story: Dahne Rodriguez

Discover how this RealAger got a handle on her emotional eating and her blood sugar.

Name: Dahne Rodriguez
Age: 55
Former RealAge: 69
Current RealAge: 57
Starting waist size: 40
Current waist size: 28

What was really killing me: Not keeping my diabetes well controlled, which was draining me of energy and greatly impairing my vision.

My wake-up call: When I took the RealAge Test and found out my RealAge was 14 years older!

(How old does your body think you are? Take the RealAge Test to find out.)

What I changed:

  • I jump-started my weight loss with the Amazing Soup Diet.
  • I started eating more whole grains and other foods that have more fiber.
  • I reduced the amount of red meat I eat.
  • I started paying more attention to my portion sizes, eating less, but more often.
  • I learned to eat chocolate—my true love—only in moderation, and not daily.
  • I started walking for fitness and feel great about doing it.

How my life has changed: I'm much more in control of my eating and my life. I found out that if I eat every 2 to 3 hours, I'm not always craving food. In fact, I actually want to eat much less.

What keeps me motivated and on track: Connecting with other Sharecare members on Facebook who are also on a journey to live healthfully. I also use recommendations from my RealAge Grow Younger Plan to continue to lose weight, gauge my progress, and stay motivated.

What I really love about the new me: Having a whole new way of life that helps me eat better, feel more energetic, and control my blood sugar and my health.

Q. I find portion control the hardest thing to do. You say you ate less, but more often. How much and how often?

A. The first thing that I did was switch to smaller bowls and plates. It really tricks the mind. Smaller plates mean that you put less food on them. Eating less didn't happen overnight, but using smaller dishes helped get me started.

Since I need to take insulin for my type 1 diabetes, I try to eat every 2 to 3 hours to help me stabilize my blood sugar. When I eat more often, I consume less food because I am fuller for longer periods of time. Plus, this helps me avoid snacking. There are certain foods—milk, for example—that will keep me full longer. In the beginning, I ate the same types of foods in order to get control of the portion size; I ate fresh veggies, more lean protein, less bread, and different types of fruit. I cooked my food rather than buying foods already prepared. It became easier after a while, and I actually wanted less. I also forced myself to eat more slowly so that my brain would register my food intake more accurately—a trick I learned from RealAge. (Find out how your eating speed significantly influences your weight.)

Q. How far and how long do you walk? I walk about an hour several times a week, and when I don't walk, I work out at the gym. Still, the scale doesn't budge, which is very frustrating. Do you think walking really helped you lose?

A. YES! Walking has been the key to helping me take off the pounds. You should remember that exercising not only burns calories but also helps you build lean muscle. Remember that muscle weighs more than fat, so even though you are exercising several times a week but aren't seeing a big loss, you are still getting stronger, building muscle, and making your bones stronger.

I don't just walk around my neighborhood; I do fitness walking. That means not just speed walking or jogging. It is an aerobic workout! I use firming bands and "Walk at Home" DVDs, walking anywhere from 3 to 5 miles at least five times per week. I was taking taekwondo for several years, but since my vision loss, walking has become my main source of exercise.

Again, if you are exercising but don't see inches coming off, try looking at your diet. Experiment with different foods, and take a good look at nutrition labels to see if there is something in your choices that is keeping your weight on. Maybe consult a nutritionist for a better solution. Good luck! Remember that it takes time and a certain amount of discipline to change a lifestyle routine. (Could a thyroid problem be stalling your weight loss?)

Q. I have trouble with emotional eating, too. What strategies do you use to redirect your urges to overeat unhealthy foods when you feel sad, angry, or depressed? For example, do you go for a walk, call a friend, or find some other way (other than food) to soothe your emotional upset?

A. I am an emotional person by nature. Food can be a great comfort for some of us. I deal with it every day. The first thing that I did was to stop buying all the junk that triggered my poor eating. My husband likes to keep chips in the house, so I asked him if he would be willing to not buy them anymore. Luckily for me, he agreed!

There's nothing wrong with snacking. But now, if I feel that I need a boost in my mood, I will take a walk or call my "go to girl"—my daughter, Erika. She always calms me down when we discuss my two beautiful grandchildren. Meditation is also a great comfort. It helps to relax me and helps me figure things out, so I make better choices. If I really need to, I keep dark chocolate around for a quick boost. I keep small pieces around, so I don't eat too much. A little goes a long way! Sometimes I just need to sit outside and rest my eyes until the worst passes.

Q. How long did it take you to get to where you are today?

A. Seriously, about a year! I was surprised at how long it took to take off 22 pounds, which is my total weight loss to date. I'm really glad that it took this long, actually. I feel that it is the change in my lifestyle—like better food choices—that will stick with me, because I did it slowly and deliberately. When I was younger, I could have lost 22 pounds in a matter of weeks. Now, it takes me longer because my metabolism has slowed. The old expression, "It gets easier with age," sure doesn't hold true for weight loss! The exercise is what helped me to metabolize the food faster. As long as I keep moving, I can enjoy food again, and life is getting better. I feel that nothing in life is worth rushing. It's all about lifestyle change for the better. I feel great and have a lot more energy.

Q. What do you do when you have a craving for something really bad? Like french fries or whatever food is your Achilles' heel.

A. I have to be honest. I do give in to my "bad foods" once in a while. I love french fries and fresh baked bread. I could eat the whole loaf! The thing is, I eat these things in moderation. If you can eat your "bad foods" once in a while and only in smaller portions, I feel that it satisfies your taste for junk. We—and I definitely include myself—like to eat bad things every so often. I don't think that you should never eat cake or ice cream or whatever! I just don't eat it often or in large quantities. As my story said, I love chocolate. I told my endocrinologist that I am not giving up chocolate! I am, however, eating very little. Just enough to get the taste. Cravings come and go. I do not believe in depriving myself; I just don't overdo it. After all, I'm not superhuman; I love to eat, and that will probably never change. I just try to choose better or eat the bad things much less often in smaller amounts.

Q. How often do you walk? What's your secret to getting out there even when you don't feel like it?

A. I try to walk five times a week. Sometimes I get another day in there, but mostly it's 5 days. I don't always feel like moving, but I keep my goal in mind and just think about how really good I'm going to feel afterward. Walking helps me organize my thoughts for the day ahead. I do have hard days, days that I would rather stay on the couch. If I have one of those days, I just switch a rest day with an activity day, or vice a versa. I really do feel much better when I schedule my exercise. It seems to help me get motivated, and I feel better physically as a result. Diabetes can really zap your energy. The more active I stay, the better my health is in general. (Try some other mood and motivational boosters for overcoming diabetes.)

Q. What's your favorite healthy snack?

A. As boring as it may sound, I love to eat fresh fruit. I eat a lot of fresh blueberries, strawberries, and bananas, and sometimes I add plain low-fat yogurt or maybe some frozen yogurt. Nuts are also good for snacking on. The only problem with nuts is that it's very easy go through a whole bag! So I just take a handful to satisfy my taste for them. I also like to eat chopped raw veggies—anything that has a crunchy texture. I love the crunch, it slows me down when eating, and I find that I'm satisfied longer.

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