Terry Halfacre never refused her father's rich home-cooked dinners or the treats co-workers passed around during the day—she thought it would be rude. That was one reason she was overweight; stress and fatigue also prompted her to eat. For someone accustomed to feeling competent in every other area of her life, it was a source of no small frustration that she seemed to have zero control over her weight. Phoning as often as she e-mailed, Linda Thacker had an uncanny ability to know exactly what was going on with Halfacre. "When I said, 'Everything's great,'" Halfacre recalls, "she knew if it really wasn't. And when I told her, 'It's not going so well,' she'd know all about that, too. She taught me: You just keep going."
Encouraged by Thacker to walk anytime she could—a few minutes at lunch, around the block with her daughter—Halfacre began exercising again. But she wasn't exactly loving it. When Halfacre graduated to using a treadmill and lifting weights on her porch, Thacker sensed she felt guilty about taking time away from her boyfriend and daughter. "One of Terry's main stumbling blocks was that she was afraid to take care of herself," says Thacker, who wrote in an early e-mail, "Remember, you have to be a little selfish until everyone gets used to the new Terry."
Committing to a leaner diet was also difficult at first. "I can't seem to get from day to day without getting caught up in the self-sabotage that has always kept me from jumping over this hurdle," Halfacre e-mailed near the beginning of the project. "Am I really just that weak?" But since the plaintive note, she's gained more energy from exercising and found herself cooking low-fat foods, like soups and salads, with plenty of vegetables and chicken or tuna for protein. The bonus: Halfacre discovered that she can eat the same quantity she did before—now eating simply leaner food—while taking in half the calories.
With the treadmill and weights reinforcing healthy eating and vice versa, the whole balance between diet and exercise began "taking on a life of its own," Halfacre says. She has lost 30 pounds and continues to shed about 2 pounds a week. That said, both she and Thacker agree that weight goals aren't productive; you have to find a program you can live with for the rest of your life.