JCC Member Toni Greenberg’s Journey to Better Health
It began on March 7, 1987. I was getting dressed to attend my friend’s wedding. I hadn’t worn anything fancy in a year or two. Nothing in my closet fit. I was furious — at myself, at my clothes, at my weight. I had to ask a neighbor to borrow a dress.
All through my childhood, teen years and for most of my 20’s, I was thin. I didn’t realize just how much weight I had gained in the past two or three years.
The next morning, I drove to Pikesville and attended my first Weight Watchers meeting. Ina Bronfein was the leader of the class. She saw how unhappy I looked and spent some time with me after class. I said I was actually ashamed to be there. She said that “today is the first day of you making better choices, so let’s get going!” I followed the program, got a lot of support and lost 18 pounds. Ina recommended that I become a Weight Watchers leader. I attended training and led two groups for several years.
But eventually I stopped attending meetings, I quit following the program and the weight returned. Then I had a baby and “didn’t have time” to eat right or exercise.
The next day on my path was October 15, 1994 — my son’s first birthday. We were having the whole family and good friends over for his party. The only nice pair of pants that fit were maternity pants. I complained and whined to my husband that I looked terrible due to baby weight. He took the dangerous route of suggesting that once your child is a year old, maybe you can’t use “baby weight” as an excuse anymore. I’m sure I said some nasty things. He said “maybe it’s time to do something.”
The next morning I went back to Weight Watchers and then directly to the JCC. A friend suggested that I try step aerobics. She said it’s a great workout — I would lose weight and get back in shape.
I walked into the class and had no idea what to do. I had never seen a step and didn’t know an “L step” from a “repeater.” The teacher, Pauline Lapin, encouraged me to try and not to worry if I could only get through half the class — no one was judging.
I made it through and I was hooked. I went to Pauline’s class every Sunday and even tried other types of aerobic classes. I lost weight, but then got lazy.
Like so many others, the weight came back, then I would go back to Weight Watchers and the JCC and lose the weight. This happened several times over the next 10 years.
In August 2013, I saw a picture of myself at the beach and couldn’t believe it. I had never weighed that much, except when I was pregnant. I was wearing size 14 jeans. I returned to Weight Watchers and started taking Les Mills BodyStep at the JCC three times a week. By December 2014, I lost 15 pounds and was at my “goal weight.” I purposely lost the weight slowly, so that I would maximize my chances of keeping it off.
I was feeling great. I could fit into size 10 or 12 jeans. I was in the upper range of a healthy BMI. My doctor complimented me at my check-up in January 2015 — “keep up the good work.”
But then she called me on January 9th. “I got back your tests. You’re glucose is too high. You are a step away from diabetes. I think you need to come in and see a nutritionist and perhaps we need to consider medication.”
This was more than a slap in the face. It was like a knock-out punch.
She was shocked when I said, “No, I know exactly what I need to do and I’m going to do it.” She said she would give me three months to try on my own. She suggested limiting sugar and carbohydrates.
I was not going to become diabetic. I’ve worked in a hospital and seen the devastating effects of this disease. I watched it kill my mother-in-law. It was time to take a hard look at myself and decide if the pain of having something was worse than the pain of not having something.
The first thing I did was the hardest — ending my love affair with chocolate. I ate enormous amounts of chocolate and knew it had to stop. Many times in my life, I had thrown away the chocolate in my house, only to binge at the 7-11. I chose another plan. I would have two Hershey Kisses each day.
Then I set out to limit the other sources of sugar and carbs. I bought low sugar ketchup, switched from canned fruit in its own juice to “no sugar added, “ and paid attention to labels. As far as carbs, I stopped eating bread for lunch, replaced pasta with riced cauliflower, and either eliminated starches or cut the portion in half. Instead of chicken, rice and one vegetable for dinner, I’d have chicken and two vegetables.
Then I decided I would recommit to exercise. Up to that point, I exercised every other day. I challenged myself to exercise two out of three days each week. I started to keep a log of every time I exercised.
I looked at the JCC group fitness schedule and realized that I could only attend two step classes each week — Sundays with Pauline and Wednesdays with Amy Schwartz. I decided I would add other classes. Over the next three months I tried Body Combat, Body Attack and Body Vive. The support I felt from the teachers and fellow exercisers is unbelievable and it helped me get past those times when I wanted to give up.
The doctor was pleased that after three months, I had lost several pounds and lowered my glucose. But she asked if what I was doing is sustainable. Anyone can stop eating bread for a while (hello Passover), but how will this work long term?
It’s almost 15 months later and this is how I’m doing: I’ve lost 19 pounds since last January (for a total weight loss of 34 pounds) and now wear a size 8. I weigh 121 pounds and have lost 6″ off my waist measurement. I’ve passed people at the supermarket who don’t recognize me. Most importantly, my blood glucose is now normal. The doctor told me that I’m her “patient of the year.”
About two months ago I was standing in my closet and couldn’t find anything to wear. But this time it’s because everything was two to three sizes too big. I’ve had to buy all new clothes. I treated myself to all new workout clothes. I decided I deserved it.
Taking group fitness classes at the JCC has changed my life, and likely saved my life! I am a few weeks away from turning 60 and am in better shape than I was at 30. You will get an extraordinary workout, lots of encouragement and have fun.
Try a class and discover what I’ve found – health!