Shedding Pounds Saved One Woman's Life

FRIDAY July 23, 2010 -- Things hit the "big crescendo" for Marci Williams in December 2005.

Williams, 47, of Greensboro, N.C., had been obese for some time, weighing as much as 332 pounds at just 5-foot-3.

That month she went to her family doctor for a routine physical. The physical changed her life.

"That day, I left her office with a couple of medications for high blood pressure," Williams said. "The following day, I got a call that I needed to go to her office to get a referral to a diabetes educator, who would teach me how to inject insulin." Her fasting blood-sugar level indicated that she had developed diabetes.

Within a couple of weeks, Williams learned that her cholesterol was also off the charts. "It was outrageous," she said. "The doctor's office called to let me know I needed to be on two different cholesterol-lowering medications as soon as possible."

Williams had metabolic syndrome, a major risk factor for heart disease. The diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure were combining to wear out her heart prematurely. And her body already was showing signs of damage.

"My resting pulse was in the 120-something range," she recalled. "That's a racing pulse for most people, and that was my resting pulse."

Her doctor referred her to a cardiologist, who performed some tests and laid it out plainly for Williams.

"I just knew the minute he walked in this wasn't going to be a very good appointment," she said. "He said, 'You know, you are not going to live to see 50 if you don't lose this weight.' He made it very clear to me that all these things that were happening to me were symptoms of obesity, rather than stand-alone illnesses. His advice to me was [that] we can treat all of these symptoms, but the only way to cure this is to lose the weight."

First things first. Williams underwent angioplasty in January 2006 to open up her arteries and relieve her racing pulse. The procedure went well, and she had no significant or permanent damage to her arteries.

She then met with a diabetes educator to learn diet and exercise tips that would help her lose weight.

Williams started watching what she ate, carefully counting the carbohydrates in her diet. She also began light exercise. She set a goal of working out 30 minutes a day, but she says it came hard. She sometimes had to exercise for 10 minutes, then come back and do another 10 minutes later in the day.

She also started fitting additional physical activity into her day. She started parking a little bit farther from her workplace and walking in, for instance.

Results came almost immediately. Her doctor okayed her for more strenuous exercise in mid-February, and she joined a women's-only gym. She weighed in at 300 pounds exactly. She'd lost at least 25 pounds without much effort.

She stepped up the exercise and kept it up, while watching what she ate. As she shed pounds, she also shed symptoms. She stopped having to take insulin. Her blood pressure came under control. Her cholesterol improved.

These days, Williams weighs between 135 and 140 pounds.

"It takes a concerted effort to keep the weight off," she said. "I'm like anybody else: I don't relish the thought of getting up at 5 in the morning to go to the gym. But I know that's what I have to do."

Yet she has no interest in complaining about the results. "My numbers rock," she said with a laugh. "When people ask me how much weight I've lost, I always want to say, yeah, yeah, yeah, let me tell you about my numbers instead. That's what really counts."

Posted: July 2010


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