New Food View

So much of this Italian’s life used to revolve around mealtime. Now, her healthy lifestyle includes eating in moderation and exercising.

Jean Janelle is Italian. And for more than 70 years, her diet consisted of lots of pasta, warm bread, cheeses, gelato and whatever else her little heart desired.

“My mom cooked the Italian way,” Janelle recalls. “We ate and ate and—’Oh, here, have some more!’ No one was conscious about losing weight and going to the gym like they are today.”

But her heaping habits began to catch up with her. When Janelle got married in 1963, she weighed 98 pounds. After her second pregnancy, she began to pack on the weight; and for the first time in her life, she struggled to lose weight. “My weight was a problem from then on,” she says. “I was 189 [pounds] at my heaviest, and I am just barely 5 feet tall. That’s too much weight for this little skeleton inside me.”

Then in her late 60s, Janelle began taking medications for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Bigger Wardrobe or Better Lifestyle

The 73-year-old remembers the conversation that changed her life. “I told my husband that my clothes were shrinking,” she says. “So when he said we’d go out tomorrow and get a bigger size, I was happy. Problem solved. I went to bed thinking that the next day was going to be terrific. Who doesn’t love new clothes?”

But the next morning Janelle had an epiphany. Instead of purchasing a whole new wardrobe to accommodate her expanding waistline, she made the harder decision: She chose to love herself enough to change her lifestyle.

“It was like a switch in my mind was flipped, and I decided that I didn’t want to be heavy and have all these medical problems anymore,” she says.

“I really feel you just have to love yourself enough to make the changes,” Janelle adds. “I change my hair color because I don’t like me with gray hair. Why wouldn’t I change my lifestyle so I can live to see my grandchildren and eventually great-grands?”

In the Zone

Janelle is a volunteer for the Cardiopulmonary Wellness Department at Parrish Health & Fitness Center. She’d overheard staff members as they gave group lectures to patients who were much younger than she is. Many of them were overweight and had heart problems.

That’s when she knew if she didn’t make some changes, she’d soon be sitting in one of those chairs herself. She knew she had to do something.

Janelle began her health quest in October 2011. Even with the holidays coming, she knew she had to start. “I have to be in the zone with this anyway,” she says, “so I might as well start now.”

Her doctor told her that if she lost weight, she could also ditch the medication. “I didn’t think it would be possible to get rid of the diabetes and stop taking the medication; but I thought, what a heck of a good trade-off,” Janelle says.

How Bad Do You Want It?

Impossibility quickly became reality for Janelle.

“I woke up every morning and thought, I can do this just for today. Just one day. When that day was over, I felt so proud of myself,” she says.

“I changed my whole style of cooking and what I ate,” she continues. “Now I have pasta maybe once a month instead of twice a week—after salad, and only one serving.”

Perseverance paid gigantic dividends for Janelle, who dropped weight and lowered her blood glucose levels significantly over a three-month period. The end result: a smaller, slimmer Jean Janelle who wears smaller, slimmer jeans and does not need to take medication for diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol.

“You’ve got to really want it,” Janelle says. “I could talk to someone all day long, but it comes down to this question: How bad do you want it? It’s a lifetime thing. You can’t go back to your old habits.”

Body and Soul Mate

Exercise is a critical component of the equation for Janelle. She walks every day and also works out at Parrish Health & Fitness Center three times a week. “I can’t do without it,” she says. “It helps me feel better about everything in life, and I didn’t think that would ever happen for me.”

She also attributes much of her success to her husband, Arthur. “He is my greatest supporter,” she says. “He’s always telling me that I look fabulous. His encouragement means so much to me.”

For Janelle, healthy weight loss through lifestyle changes has been its own reward. The fact that she is down to a size 10 from 18 is thrilling. And the way her clothes fall nicely over her figure is fabulous—according to Arthur. By Erica K. Daniels

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