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Lost and found: One woman's life-changing weight-loss journey

Health care success stories told by the people who lived them


Lost and found: One woman's life-changing weight-loss journey

Rosemary Walton

UnitedHealthcare member Rosemary Walton is a changed woman. It's not just that she's shed 100-plus pounds. Or, that some people scarcely recognize her with her slim new physique.

It's more about what she's gained.

"I found a life that I never knew was possible," says the 55-year-old Ohio resident.

And, for anyone who has some weight to lose – whether a little or a lot – Rosemary has a message: Have hope – and never give up.

You can take that from someone who's been there.

A heavy burden to bear

For decades, Rosemary struggled with her weight. She began putting on excess pounds in her college days. And, she often turned to food because of stress.

When it came to dieting, she's tried it all over the years, she says – from fad diets to pills. She'd lose weight only to watch the pounds – plus some – return. "It was so disheartening. I couldn't get myself out of that spiral."

At her heaviest, she reached 320 pounds. She was tired. Her body ached. And, she was in emotional pain, too.

Her weight limited her activities – and at times she felt ashamed.

"On one of the last trips I took on an airliner... I didn't fit in the seatbelt," she says. "I was too embarrassed to ask for an extender."

The day that changed everything

On Sept. 3, 2010, Rosemary walked into a local gym. She now calls that her "real birthday." She agreed to a body-fat assessment as part of the tour. "I'm killing myself with food," she thought as the results – and potential health risks – sank in.

Both of her grandfathers died from heart attacks before the age of 50. "I was on my way," she says.

"I finally said, 'This is it – I've got to move on if I want to live to be here for my grandniece and grandnephew,'" Rosemary says. And, then there were her parents. Even though they were in their 80s, they feared she would die before them.

Rosemary was determined that this weight-loss effort would be different. For one thing, she wouldn't go it alone. Rosemary wanted a supporting cast. She created a "gym family" to help her stick with it. "If you don't see me here, feel free to call me out," she told the staff.

She also began to follow a sensible eating plan. And, she developed new habits to support her goals. No. 1 on her list? Being prepared. She packs her gym clothes – and healthful meals – each night before work. "I'm a Girl Scout when it comes to that," she says. "As long as I'm ready, I can't back out of making healthful choices – because they're with me."

To stay excited and energized, she also mixes it up at the gym. She's worked with a personal trainer, done kickboxing and taken spin classes. And, she's discovered that her fitness routine has greatly reduced her stress. Even if she does have a bad day, she heads for the gym – rather than reaching for poor food choices the way she did in the past.

Reading all about it – and sharing her story

With her active lifestyle, Rosemary doesn't sit still a lot. But, she takes time to read UnitedHealthcare newsletters, especially Healthy Mind Healthy Body. She loves that it's "very readable" – and covers topics that are important to her, such as stress relief and healthy eating, she says.

Rosemary's quest for knowledge, inspiration and support has paid off on the scale. She's achieved her goal weight – 147 pounds. She feels better and has more energy. And, her doctor has reduced her blood pressure medication.

She's thriving emotionally, too. The journey has brought her greater confidence and self-esteem. And, she's accomplished things she never thought possible, including two half-marathons. "I believe that I'm worthy of good health," she says. "And, I love myself so much more than I did before."

She says she also learned she needs to be honest – and share her journey with others. "The more I told my story, the more I couldn't backtrack," she says. "So, no more secrets."

And now, by sharing her own story, Rosemary hopes to inspire other UnitedHealthcare members to believe in their own journeys.

"I want to provide hope to people who believe their battle with obesity is hopeless – that obesity has won," she says. "With support and dedication, anything is possible – including a healthy life."

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