Success Story: Eileen Stafford

Discover how this RealAger stopped smoking and started living.

Name: Eileen Stafford
Age: 62
Current RealAge: 57
Start weight: 243
Current weight: 165

What was really killing me: How bad I felt about myself. Also, my knees and hips hurt all the time, and my LDL cholesterol was chronically high.

My wake-up call: When my sister strongly urged me to take a good, hard look in the mirror. At the time, I weighed over 240 pounds and wore fake glasses and a frosted wig.

What I changed:

  • I quit smoking.
  • I started eating the freshest in-season produce I could find.
    (Make sure you're getting all the nutrients out of your fruits and veggies.)
  • I started drinking green tea every morning for breakfast.
  • I turned into the sodium police. Now I do everything I can to avoid processed food.
  • I started taking a 1½-mile walk every morning.
  • I doubled my gym time. Now I work out for at least an hour, five times a week, focusing on my core by using a 15-pound kettle bell.

How my life has changed: For the first time ever, I'm a runner, and I love it. Plus, my doctor tells me that my blood work is the best he's ever seen. Now, I'm totally focused on enjoying every day, living life to the fullest, and growing younger.

How RealAge helped me: By sending me daily e-mails on healthy eating and exercise, which is one of the keys to keeping my RealAge younger than my chronological age.

What keeps me motivated and on track: Keeping up with my friends who are 15 years younger than me is a huge motivator. Remembering how great I look and feel always keeps me from feeling deprived.

What I really love about the new me: I feel attractive for the first time in my life! I go out dancing, and I even went to see Lady Gaga in concert.

Read Eileen's answers to questions from RealAge Facebook followers:

Q. Were you really offended by your sister's "wake-up call," at least initially? And if you were offended, what would your advice be to someone who has to give a wake-up call to an obese friend? Is there a gentle way of doing it, or is it better to be straightforward about it?

A. My sister was always the pretty one with a good a figure, so initially I was offended. I suggest being gentle and supportive. Tell the person how much you love them and that you want to grow old with them. Invite them for short walks to start with. Invite them over for dinner, and fix a healthy meal. Or invite them out to eat, and set a good example on how to eat healthy in a restaurant. Many people overeat because they are unhappy with themselves. Showing love and support just might be what the person needs to get started living healthy and loving themselves.

Q. Why were you wearing fake glasses and a frosted wig?

A. I thought the fake glasses would cover my face, because I felt ugly. The frosted wig was worn because I was too lazy to take care of myself at that time. I had no self-esteem. Therefore, I didn't make any effort to improve myself. I was hiding behind all sorts of things to keep from seeing the real me. 

Q. I feel like I cannot just end a bad habit, I have to replace it with a good one. It seems you've replaced cigarettes with eating healthier and going to the gym for more hours, which is awesome. What was your hardest bad habit to break?

A. I think all bad habits are hard to break because they become a part of you, like a crutch. I was feeling much older than I was, because of the aches and pains and difficulty breathing. I did not want to live like that anymore. Quitting smoking was the most difficult, but when I made the decision, I never looked back. Exercising comes easy these days because it feels so good afterward. Whether it is going to the gym or walking, the hardest part is getting started, but once you get going, it's a natural high!

Q. Eating healthier often takes more time in terms of preparation than eating prepackaged food, and exercising also takes a bite out of the day's schedule. What activities have you had to sacrifice by choosing to live healthier, and do you miss those activities?

A. I really haven't made any sacrifices with time. Every Sunday, I make a pot of something healthy -- mostly soup. I use my own recipes, such as chicken soup or lentil soup. I eat soup and salad every day for lunch, which is my biggest meal. I don't enjoy cooking every day, so making a big pot of something healthy one day a week keeps me on track. Breakfast is oatmeal and fruit almost every morning. Once in a while I will splurge with a multigrain English muffin and poached egg. Snacks are walnuts and very dark chocolate in small portions. 

Q. Now that you are feeling attractive and great, do others around you want to make a change towards living a healthier lifestyle? Have you had to say goodbye to friends who continue to smoke cigarettes and eat bad foods?

A. I have a few friends who smoke and several friends who eat unhealthy. I am not tempted by that at all, and they are still good friends. I hope I set a healthy example for them, because I want them to be around for a very long time. My enthusiasm and self-confidence are contagious, and I notice more people are drawn to me because of that. And because I am happier with myself, I am more loving, with no strings attached.

Q. You wrote that you had bad knees and hips that hurt all the time. Since they hurt, how did you exercise? How did you get past the pain? It makes me hopeful that I can run again, too! I also suffer from joint pain.

A. When I lost all my weight, the pain decreased. I find that when I exercise, I have less pain. Exercising the joints lubricates them, and it's also good for arthritis. Certain exercises are better for bad knees and hips. I went to a physical therapist who helped me develop an exercise routine. I don't run as much; it's more of a fast walk, but it is still very intoxicating! By the way, stretching is fabulous for pain relief. 

Q. I know a lot of people gain weight after they quit smoking, since some replace cigarettes with food. Did you find it especially difficult to quit smoking and overhaul your diet at the same time?

A. Not at all, because I joined Weight Watchers at the same time. When you are ready to quit smoking, it's not so difficult. I did gain some weight -- about 10 pounds -- but it would have been more if I hadn't joined a weight loss program. If you keep busy and move when you quit smoking, it takes your mind off smoking and puts more emphasis on yourself and getting healthy. It's all about getting healthy, not necessarily losing weight. I focus more on that aspect. It seems to work for me. 

Q. How long did it take you to lose all of the weight, and how often did you really drink green tea (how much)?

A. It took me a year to lose all my weight, but I have managed to keep it off by staying on an exercise program. And I totally changed my eating habits. I drink four cups of green tea every day. I have two cups in the morning and make two cups to go in my thermal cup. It is so great for your metabolism and skin. Everyone tells me how great my complexion is. And I don't get too many colds. It really is a superfood.

Take the first steps to growing younger and healthier with the RealAge Test.

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