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The Healthy Living Magazine

Motivated By Loss

By Carolyn Leonard , ,

Carolyn Leonard in 2005 (with her niece, Sarah Poole) and in 2019

On the morning of Oct. 6, 2005, my husband of 35 years suffered a massive heart attack and died at home. We had been planning a birthday and anniversary trip to California, and suddenly I was planning his funeral. My life as I knew it was over; I would face a “new normal” alone.

We were both living with type 2 diabetes, and although each of us had 100 pounds to lose, we believed that we could eat whatever we wanted and simply take another pill. The doctors confirmed that our lifestyle led to his death. I knew it would lead to mine, too, if I didn’t change my habits—sooner rather than later.

Adding steps and cutting calories were simple changes that led to immediate results. I’ve never been a fan of exercise, so I started slowly and built gradually. Initially, I simply parked farther away wherever I went—the grocery store, the mall, the doctor’s office. Now, I walk daily. And I started reading labels and using smaller plates to help reduce portion size.

Because of my metabolism—which, like me, is old and works part time—I also adjusted my eating times. To this day, I adhere to what I call my “3-4-5-6 method.” I have 300 calories for breakfast, 400 for lunch, and 500 for dinner, with no eating after 6 p.m. Do I splurge? Yes! But in bites, not in bulk. Once a week, I’ll have a cookie, small cupcake, or a small portion of candy, and that satisfies my craving.

As the pounds dropped, my health improved. I’ve maintained an 80-pound weight loss for the past 10 years, and I no longer take medication. My doctor describes me as his poster child.

It saddens me that it took the death of my husband to make this change, though I know that he is proud of me. At 69, I’m in charge of my health. 

My message for other people with type 2 diabetes who face the same challenges: It is possible. With each beautiful sunrise, we make choices that have consequences. Some of them benefit us, and others clearly don’t. I am walking, talking proof that a healthy lifestyle is possible at any age and can be maintained with the power of purpose. Life is filled with wins and lessons, not losses. I have embraced the wins and have become a better and healthier me thanks to my lessons.

Carolyn Leonard, who works in guest services with Nordstrom, lives in Tampa, Florida. She has lived with type 2 diabetes for almost 20 years.

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