My diet story: Grandma finds motivation in granddaughter's eyes

Donna Gill

Donna Gill, 43, Blackstone

Height: 5 feet, 1 inch

Starting weight: 242

Current weight: 152

Goal weight: 142

Occupation: Repair dispatcher for Cybex in Medway

WHY I DID IT: I was always the fat girl, the one who was picked last for everything in school.

When I graduated high school, I married a year later and had two children by age 23. Taking care of two little ones, there was never any time for me. I ate fast food, and the weight just kept piling on.

I made several attempts to get healthy. When my youngest was 3, I joined Weight Watchers. I worked hard at it and lost 86 pounds, but when my marriage fell apart and I became a single mom, I made poor food choices, went out to eat all the time, and the weight came right back on and then some. I just kept on eating junk food and didn't care how I looked.

I developed high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. My doctor told me that I'd better do something or I'd be dead by the time I was 60.

Then a new man came into my life, and he asked me to marry him. I wanted to lose 50 pounds before the wedding, which I did. But after the wedding I went right back to my old ways of eating.

At 38, I became a grandmother and my granddaughter has been such a wonderful joy to me, but I continued eating poorly, dining at McDonald's and Burger King for breakfast and lunch. I was probably eating more than 5,000 calories a day at that point and washing it all down with Diet Coke.

At dinnertime I would eat, then I would also snack all night long. I had gained so much weight that I was at the heaviest I had ever been 242 pounds.

Then one day when my granddaughter was 3, she looked at me and said, "Memere, why can't you go and play at the park with me, like the other kids' grandmothers?" I then decided that I wanted to live and be healthy. I needed to be here for her.

HOW I DID IT: I started working for Cybex in Medway, which makes exercise equipment. And in November 2007, I went back to Weight Watchers. Our CEO at Cybex paid half of the membership.

Since then, I have lost a total of 90 pounds. I hit the gym five days a week and work out early in the morning at Planet Fitness in Woonsocket, R.I., or in the company gym during lunch time. The company gym has treadmills, arc trainers, bikes and strength equipment.

I generally walk on the treadmill, setting it at a steep incline, for 35 to 40 minutes and then I'll use the arc trainer for 10 minutes. With a steep incline you can burn just as many calories walking as if you were running. I also do strength training.

Most days I'm in the gym at 5 a.m. My husband thinks I'm nuts.

I attend Weight Watchers meetings once a week on Saturdays in North Smithfield, R.I. The support group and leader help keep me motivated.

SECRET TIP: Sometimes I sleep in shorts and a T-shirt so I can just get up, put on my sneakers and go.

HURDLES: I gave pizza up for a year. At Weight Watchers, they call it a "red light" food. I couldn't eat just two pieces I'd eat the whole thing. Now I can eat just two pieces and fit it into my Weight Watchers plan.

The holidays are the toughest because you never know what someone is going to have at their house if you're visiting. Now I eat something small at home so I can eat just a little when I go out. Often I make my own holiday meals and invite people to my house instead. I'll make a sweet potato for myself rather than eat mashed potatoes. I adjust desserts to make them low-sugar and low-fat.

When I go out to eat, to Medway Cafe or Applebees for instance, I'll have a grilled chicken salad and ask them to put the dressing on the side. Or, I'll have fish, baked potato and broccoli.

GOING THE DISTANCE: Today, I no longer have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. I no longer take medication of any kind, when before I was taking pills for everything.

I went from a size 22 to a size 8/10. I have about 10 pounds to go to reach my goal, which my doctor and I have decided is a good weight for me. If it had not been for Weight Watchers and the support group that we have, I don't know if I could have done it. I have to say that I have made the best lifestyle change I could have ever made. The look in the eyes of my granddaughter, who is now 5, when she tells me how much she loves the new Memere, is priceless, and I would not change that for anything.

BEST ADVICE: Don't give up. And if you have a bad day, get back on track the next.

"If you always do what you always did, you're always going to get what you always got," my Weight Watchers leader used to say. She's absolutely right.

DO YOU have a diet story of your own? Follow our format here and send it to Nancy Olesin at or The MetroWest Daily News, 33 New York Ave., Framingham, MA 01701.