Dennis' Story

On August 18, 2007 I learned that the essay I'd written for Weight Watchers had been selected as one of the first prize winners. Around my neck is a paper clip chain representing the 75 pounds I'd shed at that point. RoseMary's holding the balloons and I have the flowers they awarded me.

Oh yeah, there was also a $100 American Express gift certificate.


Below is the winning essay.



"All the doctor ever tells me is that 'I'm old, fat and ugly'." That was my excuse for years of reluctance to seek medical advice unless the situation was, in my view, serious. It wasn't quite true of course, but it seemed like every ache, pain or abnormality was caused by my age or my obesity, neither of which I seemed able to control. Of course, in the view of RoseMary, my wife, my condition was always more serious than it seemed to me.

I had diabetes, asthma, a weak back and joint pain, but they were just parts of being "old, fat and ugly". I wasn't in bad shape for the shape I was in. I could walk two or three miles if I needed to, although a lot slower than in my prime. But I weighed nearly 250 pounds and was more than 60 years old. I was taking four glucophage tablets a day and my doctor had warned me that if my diabetes wasn't better controlled I'd have to go on insulin. I could hardly remember anytime in my life when I weighed less than 200 pounds.

Despite my physical condition, I still had dreams, admittedly fading dreams, of some day hiking into Yellowstone's Grand Canyon, climbing the terraces at Mammoth or hiking the 20 or so miles along the part of the Oregon-California-Mormon trails known as Rocky Ridge.

RoseMary's condition became alarming to me when my bride of nearly forty years wasn't able to walk with some of our grandchildren and me around any of the Old Faithful area of Yellowstone. But with a weight of nearly 2xx pounds and after 7 kids, a pulmonary embolism that nearly killed her and her own case of diabetes, what could we expect. Her doctor ran a series of exhaustive tests in July, 2005 then told her that she needed to lose 100 pounds or more or she wouldn't live another year. Her body fat was smothering her heart and lungs. He recommended Weight Watchers as a possible remedy.

As she attended her meetings and counted the points, gradually her weight came down. She was still several pounds more than me when I retired in November, 2005 from my career of more than 37 years with GE. As I watched her progress, while following the Weight Watchers plan, I became more aware of my own problems.

Finally, in January, 2006 I joined Weight Watchers too. At first, translating the plan into action was difficult. Fortunately, I only had to follow my wife's lead. I had started to work part-time for her after my retirement, so we shared meals and life-styles. While I wouldn't recommend so much closeness for everyone, it works for us.

We became each other's best support. "Do you really want that?" became a reminder between us about what we really wanted. The pounds dropped off, and the "awards" piled up. By March 25, after less than three months, I achieved my 25 pounds lost and 10% award.

I was still many pounds away from goal, but I was learning the tools. We soon found that diet alone wasn't enough. RoseMary decided that we should start riding bikes - something we hadn't done for nearly 30 years. Early in April we bought "comfort bikes" (3 speed Electra Townie) and gradually started riding them. A mile at first then gradually building until a 10 or 12 mile ride was our norm. Part of our weekly routine was an early Saturday morning 11 mile round-trip ride to our Weight Watchers meeting. Sometime around May I was able to eliminate Glucophage completely from my life. My blood sugar levels dropped from a "controlled" 165 to a natural level of 135 and now (mid-2007) around 100.

We set up an above-ground pool in our backyard in May. For Independence Day we had a backyard barbeque-pool-bike family party at our house. By this time, most of our children and grand children owned their own bikes and all 10 grandchildren over 8 years old had learned to ride. For the bike part of the party we hauled 11 bikes to a nearby bike trail. We had gone less than four miles when I took over the lead. None of the grandchildren, who ranged from 10 to 18 years, could keep pace with this old man of nearly 63. The grandkids dropped out at mile 4.5 while RoseMary, two of our daughters and I rode another four miles before turning around. Total ride distance for the day 17.25 miles.

Late in July we took six of our grandchildren for a trip through Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. We hauled eight bikes in, on and around our motorhome. One of the highlights of the trip was an 11 mile bike ride in Yellowstone on a gravel trail behind one of the geyser basins. Another highlight was a hike down into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone at Tower Falls and a climb to the top of Mammoth terrace - two of my goals accomplished in the same day. I even carried our eight year old granddaughter part of the way up the terrace trail when she became too tired.

RoseMary and I celebrated Labor Day with a twenty-eight mile bike ride along our favorite trail from San Jose to Morgan Hill and back. We were tired at the end, but elated. In just over a year for RoseMary and nine months for me, we went from "I can't do this" to "We can do almost anything we want".

By July 8, 2006 I broke the 200 pound barrier. I had lost 45 pounds thanks to a lot of help and encouragement from RoseMary and following the Weight Watchers plan. By November 4 I achieved the goal of 180 pounds that my doctor recommended and on December 16 I made Lifetime. Since then I have lost another 10 pounds - 75 pounds gone in all. My pant size has dropped from a 44" waist to 30" and my shirts are now a loose 15 instead of a tight 18. My pants and shirt sizes and weight are nearly identical to that young-looking 24 year-old who vowed 40 years ago to love and cherish a very young and beautiful RoseMary.

From left, RoseMary's sisters, Kayleen and Shana, RoseMary, Dennis, my brother Randy and my father, Ray Anderson

In 2007 we bought new bikes. Still sticking with Townies, the mew bikes are 24 speeds instead of 3. We moved the old bikes to our work, where they are handy for a quick trip to the bank or the post office. We ride the new bikes to our Weight Watchers meetings every Saturday. With panniers (saddle bags) we can do most of the week's grocery shopping or "load up" on clothes at a big sale.

I recently took a "test" on a popular internet site that showed my "real age" to be 55, not 63. I'm a slim 175 pounds instead of the nearly 250 pounds that I've been for most of the past 20 years. As an old song by Mac Davis says, "I can't wait to look in the mirror 'cause I get better lookin' each day". Thanks Weight Watchers, I'm no longer old, fat and ugly!