Denver — November 27, 20011 Angela Cavaleri didn’t think her weight was anything to worry about until one morning in May, 2004 when, on the bus heading for work, she noticed that a fellow passenger had opted to stand rather than share a seat with her.
“It didn’t make me mad or anything,” she says. “But it was definitely a light bulb moment. I realized that if I was too big to share a seat, it was time to do something about it.”
The encounter also sparked some soul searching about the potential health hazards of her obesity — diabetes, high blood pressure, joint and respiratory problems – not to mention the general lethargy that had been dragging at her since she was a kid. “I never felt really great,” she says. “I was always tired and run down. I’m the oldest of four kids, and I was the only fat person in my family. I was just born fat.”
It didn’t help that she wasn’t getting any exercise. Gym class was not required at Edgewater’s Jefferson High, where Cavaleri went to school in the mid-90s. “I put on 40 or 50 lbs. in high school,” she says. By the time she turned 17, she weighed in at a hefty 250 lbs.
It took her five months to stiffen her resolve and map out a plan of action. If she was going to lose all that weight, she reasoned, she was only going to do it once. “I didn’t want to be the type who loses it quickly and then gains it all back again,” she says. “But I also knew that if I tried to change my whole lifestyle in one go I’d probably fail.” So she devised a three-step program, the first phase of which would be to go cold turkey on the junk food; “no chips, no Big Mac, no soda, no Caramel Macchiato, no Cinna-monster.”
Two months of no junk food and she was ready for Step 2; create a healthy diet — lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, no pasta, and only a modicum of processed foods. And watch those portions. “One cookie doesn’t make you fat,” she says. “It’s the box of cookies that’s the problem. We live in an all or nothing society. We either gorge or nothing. But those extremes are unrealistic. Moderation is key.”
She chose February 2005 to launch Step 3, a program of regular exercise. “I didn’t start on New Year’s Day because I didn’t want to set myself up for failure,” she says. “And also, between February and June there are no big food holidays, and not many weddings, so there are fewer opportunities to mess up.”
For ten bucks, Cavaleri bought a stationary recumbent bike at a church auction, and resolved to go for ten minutes on it every day. Ten minutes soon turned into twenty, twenty into thirty. In six months she was cranking out two hours a day on it. “Then I started getting bored,” she says. “It was no longer a challenge, but by then I’d lost thirty lbs.”
She bought an elliptical trainer and started over, working up to two hours in the ensuing six months. “I was losing clothing sizes faster than I could buy new clothes,” she says, “and I was encouraged by how much better I was feeling emotionally and physically. I lost fifty lbs. on the elliptical trainer.”
She started a running program to lose the last twenty-five. Since then she’s been lifting weights, going twice weekly to ballroom dance classes, and walking four to six miles a day to keep herself at a trim and muscular 142 lbs.
“One night I was at an Avs game at the Pepsi Center, and there was lots of room around me in the seat. I felt tiny. I also felt kind of proud. I mean, I did this myself. But really, anyone can do what I did. My advice? Trying to do it all at once sets people up for failure. Go slow and do it in small increments.”
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