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Kris Wilson’s Lifestyle Change

How Kris lost weight and changed her life.

I retired at the end of December 2017 at 55 – fat, out of shape, with high blood pressure. I had a job for 20 plus years as a federal agent (for US EPA-CID) that required a variety of functional fitness abilities (chasing someone, shooting in many positions, carrying things, rescuing a co-worker if necessary, walking, standing for long periods of time, etc.) but was largely sedentary. Many hours over many years were spent driving, sitting in cars doing surveillance, sitting in court, reviewing evidence, and many (sometimes three a day) meals eaten in the car. So the result was I wasn’t in good health when I retired.

I could no longer run, which had always been my exercise of choice, because of severe arthritis in my feet, plantar fasciitis, bunions, and degenerative disk disease, all of which combined to make it too painful to run on a regular basis. I was familiar with Aquamotion and had participated in classes and enjoyed them, sporadically, when I had a day off or was working from home.

I started doing Aquamotion classes more regularly in January 2018, and started to see a difference in my energy level and flexibility first. I was still very overweight, with a big belly,  and feeling lousy from taking high blood pressure medicine, but was starting to see water aerobics as a way out of the bad health I was in. I reached bottom about six months after retiring, when I was napping every day and still feeling overwhelmed by life and old. The final straw came for me, when I was on a weekend trip with my best friend and her son and my kids, and at various times in the weekend, my friend, her son, and my daughter all patted my belly and commented on it. In July 2018, at 205 pounds, I decided to add a change of diet in along with more regular attendance (3-5 days a week) at classes.

I decided to follow the original South Beach Diet, on the recommendation of my doctor. This is based on the book by cardiologist Arthur Agatston (note: The brand name South Beach Diet has been sold to a company that has changed it and sells processed “diet” food now – that’s not what I did.) There is a two-week long strict Phase 1 intended to help you get rid of cravings, and then you get in to the main part of this eating lifestyle, Phase 2. Essentially, I gave up sugar (except naturally occurring sugar in foods like fruit or milk), fruit juices, white rice, regular pasta, white bread, fatty meats, and potatoes. It’s not a low fat or low carb diet. Nor is it a high fat diet like keto. You can eat healthy fats and lots of carbs but no “bad” carbs (ie. white, processed, high glycemic index carbs). The diet focuses on lean proteins, whole grains, lots of vegetables, cheese, healthy fats and nuts, and fruit.

I didn’t find it to be too terribly hard to make the transition to eating this way. I wasn’t a big dessert person, so I didn’t struggle with giving up sweet things. Potatoes, pasta, and white bread (which I would never buy but would enjoy at an Italian restaurant or something like that) was more difficult. I continued to cook most of the meals that I’ve always cooked but just substituted some ingredients in for others that I was now avoiding. For example, I would make a beef roast with vegetables, but instead of carrots, potatoes, and onions I would replace the potatoes with brussell sprouts or something else that was allowed. I replaced white rice with riced cauliflower, or more rarely, brown rice. I started using pasta made of lentils or chickpeas, which tasted odd at first but now tastes normal. I pretty much eliminated all fast food and processed food, because processed food has so many unhealthy ingredients and hidden sugars, even in foods that are not sweet. I still occasionally have a pizza, but now it’s with a cauliflower crust. I like to drink alcohol, and still do, but stopped using fruit juice or sugary mixers in drinks. Instead I have red wine or low carb beer and also found some decent sugar-free mixers. I also started drinking much more water than previously. I eat a large amount of food every day, but very different types of food then I ate in the past. Now, my diet is a lot of lean protein and vegetables with smaller amounts of whole grains and healthy fats and fruits.

I felt better almost immediately after switching to this way of eating. Within a month, I had lost 15 pounds, the big scary belly started to disappear, and I had much more energy. I went off my high blood pressure medication, with my doctor’s approval, within about six weeks fo changing my diet. I found myself wanting to go to water aerobics every day, and was able to work out harder, and get much more out of it as every pound came off. I decided to get certified and join Aquamotion as an instructor, to keep me busy in retirement and as a self-motivator. I don’t ever want to have to stand on the deck teaching a class if I’m not looking healthy and fit, so that will help me stay on track with this healthier lifestyle.

I have now lost 50 pounds, down to 155,  and am happy with my weight, appearance, energy and fitness level. I’m able to do so much more than I was at 205.

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