Barbara: before
Age: 50
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 232 pounds
Last year, Barbara says she experienced one of the worst times of her life. She says her husband cheated on her, fired her from her job and asked for a divorce. It was time for a full mind and body rejuvenation.

In her whole life, Barbara says she's never done anything balanced. She's either been very thin or very fat. She says she was once so overweight, she considered getting gastric bypass surgery. "My BMI was 39 and it needed to be 40 [to qualify for the surgery]. I was willing to gain weight at that time to be able to get the surgery," she says. "Now, I am glad that I didn't get the surgery." Instead, she's ready for a lifestyle change.

At the age of 50—"a young 50," she says—Barbara has even started to move on from her husband leaving her. She has met a man who, she says, likes her the way she is. Now she wants to like herself, too, and has added quitting smoking to her challenge. "I'm ready to do whatever it takes."
Barbara: before
Hello out there!

Well, the first question that is on your mind is, "Is Barbara still smoking? Did she sneak a puff or two?"

Let's answer that right away. No! The last cigarette I had was February 20, 2007. I was using the patch and I have since stopped. I do have a "magic pill" from my family doctor and so far so good. Mostly I have decided in my mind, and when you believe strongly about something, I'm sure it will happen. I'm done smoking for good.

I have followed Phase 1 of this program perfectly. But I don't give myself that much credit, because it is so easy! Because I am eating regular meals, I don't have as many of the little hunger urges that I used to. Now, do I ever get hungry? Of course I do. Especially late at night when I get home from work. But I try to drink water and occupy myself doing something else before I go to sleep. Last night I dreamed of eating little candy bars and they were so good. Thank goodness dreaming doesn't add calories!

I have a confession to make. I did weigh myself yesterday morning. I'm not going to say what the scale said, but it was absolutely true to form from what Bob said to expect. Forget the scale, I'm going to gauge my progress by how my clothes fit me. They are just a bit looser than before. Not a whole lot, but I am definitely not bloated like I was before. Joe was trying to give me a compliment and said, "Wow Barbara, your stomach is not nearly as big as it was before." He was trying to be nice, but argh!

One of the other challengers, Bill, wrote me an e-mail. He said to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. But every single day that I wake up, I have to psyche myself up to get through the day. One day at a time.

Before you know it, I'll be modeling bikinis with Kirstie Alley.

God bless you all,

Barbara: before
Hi Bob:

I need your help! I'm starting to struggle a bit. I have been doing everything blah, blah, blah, and I'm sure America wants to hear that everything is rosy.

It's not.

I'm really getting disgusted because I don't feel as I'm losing much weight at all. I didn't weigh myself—I actually threw my scale away with my cookies—but I tried on the pants that I wore the day we taped The Oprah Show and they are still stinkin' skin tight on me. I even popped the button on the waist trying them on. What is up with this, Bob?

I threw away the cookies, I quit drinking the soda, I haven't had ice cream for 22 days and NOTHING. Give me at least a crumb, here! I'm doing the exercise. I thought maybe I was doing it wrong, but how can you walk on a treadmill wrong?

I'm not smoking. Not cigarettes, but I'm ready to smoke crack. JUST KIDDING!

Can you see where I'm coming from? I'm not asking for a complete makeover in 22 days, but I need SOME kind of indication that this is working! And no matter WHAT you say to me, a papaya is not as good as a hot fudge sundae.

I have a confession to make. I have cheated. Twice. Now don't kick me off for that, because it wasn't that much. Last weekend, Joe took me out to dinner, and I ordered all of the right things, lots of vegetables, etc. But I did get a small side order of macaroni-and-cheese. Oh Bob, it was so good. Eating that macaroni-and-cheese was like the second-best feeling in the world. Joe got mad at me because I took so long to eat it. I ate every single elbow macaroni one-at-a-time because I wanted to savor it. Last night, I came home from work late. I am a commission-only salesperson and I thought I had a sale, but it fell through. When I came home, I was upset and I started rummaging through my cupboards and cabinets. Nothing. Nada. Well, I was finally about to give up when I found a jar of strawberry preserves in my refrigerator—way in the back, almost hidden. Well, I got my teaspoon out—you know I am watching my calories—and it said it was 50 calories per teaspoon. Woo hoo!

One problem. As I opened the jar of delicious, sweet, tasty strawberry preserves, I noticed the expiration date. It said, "BEST BY 8-5-05." So now I had a dilemma. Do I eat expired jelly? Well, I looked inside and it smelled okay...and there was no I ate a teaspoon of it. It tasted so good.

You know, on the show, Oprah and you were telling me about how much pain I have. Now I believe you! I have issues to be excited about eating expired jam! So today it is back on the wagon—three meals, one snack, six waters. I know the whole routine by heart.

Help me out, Bob! Although I do feel better, much more energy, sleeping better, I don't feel skinnier by one ounce. Am I normal? I'm thinking that maybe out of 1 million people who do this program, there will be one that it doesn't work for and that would be me. I knew I shouldn't have eaten that macaroni-and-cheese, but I'm only human. And trust me Bob, there were a lot of fat people in that restaurant eating macaroni-and-cheese. But I don't want to be the fat one eating the macaroni and cheese anymore.

It's like when I joined a weight-loss program where you pay to go get weighed every week. I remember being at my first meeting and they said over the microphone, "Clap, everybody. Sally lost one-quarter of a pound this week." And everybody was going crazy clapping for Sally. At that time I thought, Are you kidding? Personally, I think that they all had issues. I can eat a quarter of a pound in a minute. Is this going to take years for me?

Am I trying too hard? Am I not trying hard enough? I'm looking at the calorie count of a piece of sugarless gum I'm chewing! Please give me some encouragement! I want to live my best life and that's not in size 18 pants!

Help, I need Bob Greene 911!

Barbara: before
Hi there. Today is Day 60 of this Best Life Weight Loss Challenge, and I am still here! No, I haven't smoked at all, but let me tell you this last week I could have easily...but I didn't. My son, Brian, and his girlfriend, Esther, are getting married in June. I am the wedding planner, but now come to find out that Esther really doesn't want me to be the wedding planner. So now I am just the financial contributor. I have a bunch of family flying down from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the end of next month and it's going to be hectic. Weddings are stressful and families are stressful. If I would have had a cigarette in the house, I just may have been tempted. But thank God I didn't. I got over that real quick.

Last Monday I walked out of my job. I just had enough of it. I'm in commissioned sales for time-shares. In the last few months my heart just wasn't into it. My bosses were excellent, telling me I can come back whenever I choose to. Because of my ex-husband, I can afford the luxury of not working for a few months, anyhow. But I'm not sitting around doing nothing. I'm trying to live my best life.

I joined the YMCA, and I have started to do classes. You name it, they have it. My first class was a "power-cuts" class. The first thing I noticed was that there were no fat people in there. The next thing I noticed was that there was no one older than about 35 in that class. They all had their weights and jump ropes and steps next to them. So I joined in, and DID IT! I did not like it, nor will I believe I will ever like it, but I did it. My job now is to learn how to exercise. It sounds kind of funny, but I just don't know how to do a crunch correctly. I don't know the right way to squat or lunge. But I promise you I will be finding out.

The weight is coming off very slowly. The inches are coming off fast. My weight needs to catch up with the inches. Will that happen? I am going to be the only woman that weighs 200 pounds and wearing a size 6.

It's funny. Dr. Phil says that you don't get rid of a habit, you replace it. I believe that now. Instead of drinking soda, I'm drinking water. Instead of smoking, I'm exercising. Instead of overeating, I'm drinking decaf coffee. I am also addicted to almond butter. I never liked peanut butter—I am one of the few in this whole wide world—but I love almond butter.

I am learning how to incorporate living my best life with my real life. This means going to the movies without eating buttery, greasy popcorn or Whoppers or Crunch bars. I go to the movies with my Zone bar, and I pretend it's chocolate. This means going to the county fair without going just for the food. I go and enjoy the rides and people around me. This means going to the mall and parking far away from the entrance to get those couple of steps in. This means going to the grocery store and it taking an hour instead of a few minutes to shop—reading every label.

I have to tell you, to eat right and healthy isn't cheap. It is definitely cheaper to eat the junk, but I'm spending more money on a really good investment—me!

Live your Best Life with me,

Barbara: before
Hi there! I can't write for very long this week because I am on vacation in Hawaii. This has been a struggle. I am smelling all kinds of good food around me and it has tempted me. I have to tell you that I haven't succumbed at all! I really would like a piña colada, but right now I'd better stick with a bottle of water.

I have exercised every single day. There is a very nice gym here. I have an exciting thing to tell you—yesterday I ran on the treadmill for the very first time! It was only for about 30 seconds, but it's a start!

And today Joe and I hiked Diamond Head. It was brutal, but I did it!

Just to let you all know, our family had some bad news last week. My son's fiancée, Esther, lost the baby. I was so excited to be a grandmother, but now I'll have to wait a while. Esther is very sad but doing fine. My son Brian is really upset, but they will be okay, I'm sure. Say a prayer for them if you can.

Okay, well I have to go now. I want you all to know out there that it is doable to do this Best Life Diet while on vacation. I'm just focusing on other things, not eating. My best friend, Bob Greene, told me to do that and it is working so far. Bob Greene is an awesome coach!

Let's live our best lives together!


Barbara: before
It's good to be back home from vacation. I have to tell you, I was really tempted a few times, but I did pretty good. Joe and I decided to go on a luau. I had to remember that this was his vacation, too, and we were in Hawaii. Joe didn't know what he was getting into when he met me! He is so wonderfully supportive. Everybody loves Joe.

I was very nervous about what I was going to eat at the luau. The smells were fantastic, and I have a really good nose. I ended up eating fish anyway, and passing up the roast pig. I wanted the fish! Wow, that was a real lifestyle change! I did have a piece of banana macadamia nut cake, I have to admit. But I had it and got it out of my system. It was so good. Eating that cake was the second best feeling in the world. To compensate, I exercised like a fiend, though. I'm the sweet eater. I would rather have dessert than the main course. My mouth waters just writing about dessert.

Oh! Guess what? I have started to run on the treadmill. I'm really excited about that! I have a bad knee, so I have to be careful. I walk for 30 seconds, then run for 30 seconds. You don't understand how HUGE this is for me! I used to get winded just walking to my mailbox!

Now that the promos have been shown about the new Oprah show, it has been pretty much determined that we will be weighed right on the show, in front of millions. I think it's pretty cool. I am patting myself on the back for this one. What other woman who weighs over 200 pounds would do this? Not many, I'm sure. Poor Joe. I told him I weighed 150 when we met, and he found out on the last show that I was 232. Just a little white lie, huh? Oh come on now, only skinny girls will tell the truth about their weight—you know it and I know it. Anyhow, Joe loves me whatever weight I am. Isn't he adorable? He isn't tiny either, but I love him. He has already lost almost 20 pounds on the Best Life Diet.

I have also started to work out in the morning and the evening. I am doing the main workout in the morning, then I go to the gym in the afternoon, then I do a little more cardio at night. This is now my job! I wish my progress would go a little faster, but I will take whatever I can get!

I'm looking forward to seeing my fellow challengers and their progress. They all keep saying that this isn't a competition—I know that—but it's human nature to want to be at least close to what they have lost! Does that make sense? Of course I'm going to be a little jealous if they have lost a lot more than me...if they have. I'm just being REAL. Maybe I'll be the biggest loser. Who knows? I know that I have lost inches more than pounds, but I don't know how much. I'm starting to see definition in my arms, but I'm not Tina Turner, yet. I just wish I could lose my belly! Are there a lot of you women out there in menopause, like me? They call it the middle-age spread. I call it "tummy tuck central."

My youngest son, Randy Luke, is coming to the show. He is the coolest kid ever. He is 22 and is the most like me out of all my kids. We crack each other up. He lives in Philadelphia so I don't get to see him much. He is 6' 4" and gorgeous. He has also quit smoking and is very proud of his crazy mother. Look in the audience for him—he'll be the good looking, tall, dark and handsome one!

Don't miss the show on Tuesday!

You all will be able to see the new and improved me very soon. Please let me know on the message boards if you can see a difference. And be honest! I need some inspiration or even a kick in the butt sometimes! I'm getting toughened up, I can take it!

Live your best life!

Barbara: before
For almost eight weeks now I have been at the same weight. I am still exercising, now even more. I am still drinking my water. I am still on the Best Life Diet. Why is my body not cooperating? Do I need a Bob intervention? Oh I guess not. Patience, Barbara. Patience.

I can think of many excuses. My age, my quitting smoking, my lack of experience in exercise, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I'm sick of this. Why is the scale not moving? I have been 219 to 224 forever, it seems. Every week I weigh myself and say to myself, "This is going to be the week it drops off!" And then it doesn't, and then I cry and have my own little pity party. Then I pick myself up, brush myself off and start all over again. Hey, wasn't that a song a long time ago? Here's the new song—"I hate being on a plateau!"

I'm not going to dwell on it, though...NEXT!

My son Brian is getting married this Saturday. When I bought my dress, I thought, "I wonder if it will be too big on me." Ah, no, it's not. That was over six weeks ago. I am having 17 family members flying in from Pennsylvania. Included in that lot is my mother. I guess I have the normal dysfunctional family. There are going to be air mattresses all over my floors. Trust me, it's going to be a fun week!

My house will be nonsmoking for the first time. That means no smoking on the outside patio either. Whoever needs to smoke can go in their car or walk down the road, because my house is NONSMOKING! All my children smoked, and the only one left smoking is my daughter Rachael. We are all working on her!

I must say I am so proud of my sons Brian, Brodie and Randy Luke for quitting. Children learn what they live, and they all lived in a house where their father and I smoked. I can't go backwards in time—boy, don't we all wish we did!

I also have to say that I was really proud of the show we did last week! We all looked great! I have to say a shout out for my makeup girl at Oprah. Her name is Stella, and she made me look fantastic!

It was great to see Bob and Oprah. Oprah is so nice, really, so nice. So many people ask me, is Oprah really that nice? She is. And I love Bob Greene to pieces. Could you believe he is almost my age? He looks at least 10 years younger. See what living your best life does to you? He has the best personality and so easy to talk to. He understands me more than any of my ex-husbands did. It's like he knows what's on my mind. No, I don't want to marry him. I just want him for my best friend. He is teaching me to stand up for myself and learn to live my best life. How blessed I am to have him in my life.

I got a "talking to" from my producer about behaving on stage, and I think I passed with flying colors. She is just doing her job. It was live TV. I guess my personality is a little too much for some at times. But so what? Who cares? I am learning to like myself more and more every day. I'm awesome! Now if I could just lose a pound or two and get off of this darn plateau!

Live your best life!

Barbara: before
Oh my, I feel like I'm going to confession. Okay, I really cheated for the first time. Now, before this, here and there, I would have a small cheeseburger or a french fry or two. Not often, maybe once in a whole month. But I really screwed up this time. I've really cheated for a couple of days now. I have to confess.

I have family in for my son Brian's wedding. It started with the wedding cake. I was going to allow myself one piece of wedding cake. I am a sweet eater. I'm the one who wants the dessert more than the entree. Are you like that, too?

If you have read my past blogs, you know that I have been on this "plateau" for almost 10 weeks now. I'm frustrated! I'm working my butt off, and it seems like nothing is working for me. Well, my hairdresser, Ann Marie, had some advice for me. She told me if I ate some fattening foods for a couple of days, my metabolism may kick up again and then I would lose some weight. I liked her idea. No...I LOVED HER IDEA!

So for a few days, I gave up the Wasa crackers and almond butter. I ate whatever I felt like; fortunately it wasn't too bad for me. I had one hot fudge sundae (it was to die for), and I ate at the Disney show I took my family to. I had a can of soda, something I haven't had for all this time. I didn't drink my water like I was supposed to. I didn't exercise for a few days when I had been exercising like a fiend before. I made up excuses like, "Uh, I have so much company still here from the wedding and I need to spend time with them." Lame excuse, huh?

BUT I DID NOT SMOKE. Trust me, I was so stressed out I could have smoked a whole pack, but I didn't. I did eat more than I was supposed to, though.

Ding ding! Aha! moment. Stressed out = more eating. I thought I just liked food.

I guess I felt guilty, because I had a dream last night that Bob Greene "caught" me red-handed at the ice cream shop. I had hot fudge dripping down the sides of my face. I woke up feeling like I got my hand caught in the cookie jar. Let me tell you something: Since I did my cheating, I have felt like crap. I woke up last night and had to take some heartburn medicine, something I haven't had to do since starting this Best Life Weight Loss Challenge.

Oh, and as far as the scale goes, FORGET that crazy mentality that my metabolism will kick in. Oh, it kicked in all right—I gained a pound. SHAME ON ME! I'm so embarrassed, but unless I tell the truth, I won't feel right.

I'm sorry, Bob. But really, I'm sorry, Barb.

I'm back to living my best life again! Don't fall for the crazy ideas, and...

Live your best life!

Barbara: before
You know, there are many people my age—50—and even younger that go to the doctor regularly. They have all kinds of ailments. I am sad for them. Is this the age that your body starts wearing out? I hope it's not too late for me. Just look at Bob Greene! He looks so young and I'm only a year older.

I have had a taste of going to the doctor many times in the last two weeks and it really sucks. First of all, I fell out of a moving car. It would take too long to explain how, but I managed to crack two ribs and break a toe. Guess what? There is NOTHING you can do for cracked ribs and a broken toe. Every time I would move or breathe it hurt. Not great for exercising! Thank goodness I have a pretty nice stationery bike, because I have been riding it a lot lately. I cannot get my toe into a sneaker yet so I have to ride it barefoot.

Next, I have been walking barefoot on the treadmill. It can be done. I feel like a big, fat cow right now, though. I just want to get off of this plateau. Do I even have a metabolism? Do any of you feel the same way out there? It is so frustrating.

My weight is still the same—219–224. One week it will be 219 and I will get very hopeful. The next week it is 224. The next day it will be 222, etc., etc., etc. It is so amazing how you can look at that number and it can make your day start out good or bad.

Is there a doctor in the house that can explain the plateau to me? Is it the smoking? No matter what, quitting smoking was the best thing I could have done for my health. Thank you Bob Greene for making me understand that!

Okay, next I have been visiting the gastroenterologist. I call him the fart doctor. Can you imagine someone going to school to study that? I recently was diagnosed with diverticulosis. A lot of people over 40 have that. I also found out I have a hiatal hernia. A lot of people have that, too.

Since I have never eaten fiber or anything good for me, I have had some symptoms of excessive gas. Now, isn't that pleasant? So I had to go and get an EGD test, which means I had a scope down my throat looking at my stomach. It came out okay. Next I have a gallbladder sonogram scheduled. And then, finally, the epitome of happiness—the colonoscopy.

If you are reading this and you are in your 20s or 30s or even 40s, start eating healthy now. It makes you feel good and your body will work better. You may not have to go through all these crazy tests.

I am trying to eat healthy. Vegetables are trying to fight with me, though. My body is probably in shock, it's used to the junk food. I'm going to fight back though. This is NOT a diet, this is a lifestyle and I'm not giving up the good stuff.

Poor Joe. He has to live with my stomach problems when he comes to visit me. And you know everyone over the age of 50 is supposed to get a colonoscopy. He had one, he says it's really not that bad. I guess the preparing for it is the bad part. Gee, maybe I will lose a pound that way! I'm losing it, aren't I?

I refuse to get old though! I love to do a lot of fun things like dance and sing and root for my favorite football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. I love to spend time with my kids. I love to travel with Joe. I have a lot of things left to do that are fun. Hey, I'm only 50, that number is not going to get the best of me!

Live your best life!

Barbara: before
It's amazing how one person can touch another person and change their life. Then it snowballs. I'm changing other people's lives, and so on and so on. So many people have come up to me and told me that they quit smoking because of me. You have no idea how good that feels!

I was told that I was chosen out of over 5,000 applicants for the Best Life Weight Loss Challenge. When you think about it, that's even better than being chosen Miss America, because Miss America has 50 states and 50 competitors. I got picked out of 5, 000. :)

Why did The Oprah Show choose me? I think it was because of a few factors, not just one. I don't really care why they chose me, I'm just blessed that they have. When I come to the show and the makeup and hair people work on me, I feel like Miss America. If I say it once, I'll say it a million more times: Bob Greene changed my life. I love Bob Greene. Is he nice? He is so nice. One thing that I "got" from Bob Greene is that he really cares. He is interested in my life and why I'm overweight. Bob Greene wants to help all of us to live our best lives. He doesn't care that I'm fat, he just wants me to be healthy inside and out.

I used to go to bed with heartburn almost every night. That has vanished. I used to smoke like a chimney. I was a "slave" to cigarettes like some of you still are. You know what I mean. For instance, you have to make sure you have cigarettes at all times and also a lighter and if you don't you PANIC. I don't smoke anymore. Most of my friends quit, too. My home is non-smoking.

I used to eat around the clock. Sweet, salty, all of you overweight people know what I mean. I'm still addicted to food, but I'm starting to be able to manage my addiction. I do it one day at a time. Some days I am starving. I'm just being honest. But most of the time it's not food that I'm starving for. It's amazing to realize these things. I could eat and eat and eat and eat and still be hungry. Now, obviously it isn't food that I get hungry for. It may be attention, it may be that I'm bored, it may be that I had a fight with a friend or a family member. It may be that I'm just missing my step-daughter. The food makes me feel "comforted." Now I'm finding other ways to feel that comforted feeling. It's not easy, but it is do-able.

I used to breathe so heavily it was hard for me just to walk to my mailbox outside. Now I skip to the mailbox. When I first started this challenge, I couldn't even exercise correctly. Bob told me that I was "all over the place" on the treadmill, and he was right! Bob told me that I needed to work on building my core. I responded that I didn't have one. I think I lost it when I had my fourth child in 1987. Now I have one! My trainer, Beth, and I found it! My core may be a bit flabby, but it's still there. We had to send a search party to find it, but it's still there. I'm so excited to have a core!

I am exercising every day. How cool is that! Now trust me, I'm not in that little size zero spandex thong, but I have my size XL spandex shorts and I'm starting to look really good, really toned. And good for me. Let's face it, I will never be in that size zero thong. And I'm okay with that. I really like my curvy body. God made it just for me. I just want to have a "smaller" version—even a size large is okay. I don't want to be a bone—only dogs like bones. And remember, Marilyn Monroe was a perfect size 14. So I don't care about a certain size. Of course I don't want to be a size 22 anymore, but I'm not really picky about being a certain size. I just want to feel healthy and be able to do things, be active.
The weight is not just falling off of me. This is a long process for me. I work very hard for every pound that comes off. It may take me longer, but I know it will come off if I keep living my best life. Remember, I smoked for 30 years, so I have to pay that price. And also remember I'm not 20 anymore (thank goodness).

Mentally, I am getting better. I had a very hard year. My ex-husband, who I loved dearly left me, blind-sided me and cheated on me. But I realized that I cannot control what he does or doesn't do. I can only control how I react. Truthfully, I don't feel hate anymore, just pity. I feel sorry for him. I had to forgive him or he would have the power over me forever. I'm not going to do that. I took myself back. He may have his new girlfriend, but I have something better: I have me!

And you know what? I'm a lot better off than a lot of people are. I count my blessings every night. I have a roof over my head, a nice car to drive and a little money in the bank. I'm dating a nice guy who adores me, and my children are all well. I have great friends and my health is good, even better since I started living my best life.

So the best life is not just about how many push-ups I can do (Did I tell you that I did three sets of 12 push-ups today?). The best life is not about not being able to have fried chicken for dinner (That sounds so greasy to me now.). The best life is about feeling good and feeling alive and being able to help people and pay it forward the best way that I can.

Bob Greene told me about living my best life, and I am forever indebted to him. However, I am teaching myself how to live my best life and I'm getting prouder of myself every day. Sometimes I feel like I just won Miss America!

Live your best life!

Barbara: before
Right now I should be doing my crunches or walking on the treadmill or doing some kind of exercise. I'm on the "injured reserve list." On Monday, Beth (my personal trainer) and I were "rocking and rolling" and I was lifting weights and all of a sudden I felt a big-time sprain in my chest. It was the very last exercise I was going to do for the session. I know I was warmed up, because we were really going at it for at least 55 minutes prior.

I have to take a week off of the exercising. My muscle is really sprained. Honestly, I needed a little rest. I have been exercising seven days a week. On Monday I'll go back at it again.

Since then, I have been keeping myself busy. I decided to get back into the workforce by starting my own business. Years ago, when my children were little, I used to sell lingerie at home parties. The company is still in existence and has added some "bedroom magic" to their line of products. As soon as I mentioned this to some of my friends, they went crazy. They all want to have a girls' night out party to purchase some of these items. So now I am busy booking parties, selling lingerie (and other stuff), and recruiting other people into my business. The company was so happy that I came back that they immediately returned me to "manager" status. So now I am working again, a home business that I truly enjoy.

We also taped a radio show the other day with Bob Greene. Now THAT was what I call FUN! I love doing the radio show and I could do that every day of my life. Bob was in Santa Barbara at home and I was in Orlando at home, and it was all done through the telephone. I made sure that I had makeup on, just in case Bob was going to make another surprise visit to my house. He didn't. Bob and I talked a lot about cheating on the diet. He thinks that I am cheating more than I think I am. (Does that sentence make sense?) I think that I am a food addict, and although I have struggled more than most, I am proud of my accomplishments so far. I am 50 years old, a female, and I quit smoking. I have to believe that my hormones are working against me. In a few weeks, I will be tested to make sure that all of my hormone levels are intact. Menopause is not an excuse, it's real.
Let me say this: Bob Greene really complimented me on quitting smoking and doing the exercise. He thinks that the food part is the one thing that I have to do better. I get so tired of being so good all of the time. But I really am being good to myself. I quit drinking soda—I should have lost 20 pounds just for that alone. I follow every single one of Bob Greene's Best Life Diet rules. I exercise like a fiend. I watch everything that goes into my mouth. I count calories! When I confessed cheating to Bob, it was small cheating, like eating three ounces of real pasta instead of whole wheat for one meal because the restaurant didn't have whole wheat pasta. Or having one bite of something sweet once a week. That is NOT so bad, is it? The amount that I am exercising should compensate for those tiny indiscretions.

So then...

Why is the weight not falling off of me like it is for the others? I know I'm not competing with the other challengers, but darn it, I KNOW I AM working JUST AS HARD if not HARDER than they are. I am not bitching, I am just a little frustrated. No I'm not in a size 12, I'm in a size 16. Believe me, I'm trying to be in a size 12–14. Melissa and Tracy, please save your old size 14s for me!

There has to be a point where you must say to yourself, "I cannot eat any less. I cannot exercise any more. It is what it is."

I'm not giving up losing the weight. I'm just giving up beating myself up for not losing it any faster. If you would see me you would think I've lost a lot of weight. Bob explained to me about all of the exercising and how my muscles are holding water, so that even though I haven't lost a lot of pounds, I am becoming smaller. Whatever! I'm feeling good—actually, great! I have a new business and I got to play a little hooky from all the working out this week because of my injury. I'm eating the Best Life Diet meals. All of my family members are healthy this week. I have lots of friends. Joe adores me.

Life is beautiful.


Barbara: before
My personality is BIG. Everyone who has met me knows this. I joke around a lot and laughter and fun is very important to me. This week I can't joke around; this week I am being very serious when writing my blog. If it doesn't sound like me, it's probably because I don't let many people see this very serious side of me. But here goes:

Just when I thought everything was going really good, something comes up. It's my mother. She is back in the hospital again. After leaving the hospital a few weeks ago, her doctor put her in a nursing home to get her better so that she can go home. It's sad to say that I feel it seems like nursing homes are not places to get people better. Actually, after a conversation I had with one of the nursing home nurses, it may be a place where they send some people to die.

That's kind of harsh, I know. That's how I felt when I first heard it. However, I'm starting to believe it is true. My mother had a few episodes in the nursing home in which she was considered "non-responsive." Now just so you all remember, I live in Florida and my mother lives in Pennsylvania, so it is hard to do or see anything firsthand. Mostly, I have to count on my older sister to let me know what is going on.

After the second episode of my mother being "non-responsive," she was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital and was admitted again. My mother is 76. She has congestive heart failure. She is a diabetic. She was told that she should have been dead five years ago. Her heart works to only 15 percent of its capacity. If she would have heart surgery, she would surely die on the operating table because her heart is so weak. But she's a fighter. I'm lost, guys. I don't have a joke or a funny comeback for this. I don't know what to do, how to help my mom. I want my mother to live her best life, or live the best life that she has left.

My sister is mad at me because she has the brunt of taking care of my mother all by herself. My sister is not in the best of health herself. When she calls me and listens to my answering machine say, "Live your best life," she gets very angry with me. I understand how she feels. My sister is not living her best life, my mother is not living her best life. How dare I try to live my best life? This is not about just being on The Oprah Show or having Bob Greene as my trainer. People, this is real life. I may have to go to Pennsylvania again soon to take the load off of my sister for a while. All the while I'm trying to live my best life. Life still goes on. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Part of me says, "I don't want to be a grown-up and have to deal with this." And another part says, "Grow up, Barbara. You have to take the bad with the good." This has been a real wake-up call to me. I'm so glad—no ecstatic—that I quit smoking. I'm so glad that my diet has changed. I'm so glad that I'm exercising my heart muscle every single day. I sure am looking at the exercise a whole lot differently today. Is that doughnut worth it? Is that pizza worth it? Is all that junk food really worth it?!

When I hear my mother gasping for breath on the telephone, I think to myself, "Could this have been prevented?" My mother grew up in a time when feeding your husband bacon and eggs cooked in bacon grease was the norm. She thought she was a good wife. Did I tell you my father died of a massive coronary heart attack at 37 years of age? My mother always carried a lot of guilt, thinking that her cooking really did kill him. She grew up learning how to cook using a lot of butter and grease and all the things that can clog your arteries. But she didn't know, no one really did. And Dad was a heavy smoker to boot.

I'm glad I'm eating healthier and I'm going to have a talk with all of my children ASAP about their eating and exercise habits. Please go talk to someone you know and tell them, too. If you smoke, please stop. If you don't, someday your kids will be talking about you just like I am talking about my mother. Don't put your children through that.

We all are going to die someday, but how about if we really claim our best life for as long as we can? Please pray for my mother and for me to be able to be strong enough to get through all of this. And also a prayer for my sister would be appreciated, too.

Please—eat healthy, and exercise, and stop smoking if you do, and...


Barbara: before
In the last few weeks of my blog, I made it a point to say that I wasn't going to get weighed when I went back on The Oprah Show. Honestly, I just hate the thought that a number on the scale is going to define this whole experience for me. I wasn't trying to be difficult. It was all my ego and I want to learn to step away from that.

Ego is a tough cookie. No one wants to put themselves in a dark light. No one wants anyone to believe that we are not all what we say we are. But we all need to get over ourselves to get out of our own way to grow and to succeed.

You know, in life, we all have to play by the rules. When I signed up for this challenge way back in January of this year, the rules weren't: You only play by the rules if you lose a certain amount of weight. Rules are rules. And grown-ups with true ethics play by the rules.

I must say once more, losing the weight was not the big accomplishment for me, although I have lost a few pounds. Gaining self-respect, self-esteem and dignity was my triumph.

Let me ask myself some good questions. Did I lose weight? Did I manage not to gain weight after quitting a 35-year smoking habit? Did I learn to love myself? Did I continue and not quit after being on a plateau for six months? Did I learn through this challenge what my passion was? Was I able to get through the pain of my divorce and move on? Am I going to continue eating right and exercising? And mostly, would my mom be proud of me?

The answers to every question is undeniably Yes, Yes and YES!

Listen, I'm just a 50-year-old menopausal, hormonal, emotional, fun-loving, slow-weight-losing, crazy and amazing woman. And I just love that about myself!


Barbara: before
Three months ago, I probably would have freaked out if I thought I gained a pound. Well this week I gained a pound and I'm not freaking out at all. Quite honestly, I think it may have been just a "time of the month" thing. I really don't know because my wonderful gynecologist, Dr. Peppy (yes that is his real name), gave me an endometrial ablation last year. For all of you out there who have no clue what that means, it is when they laser the lining of your uterus so you don't have periods anymore. After Dr. Peppy gave me my ablation, I wanted to marry him.

The only problem is that I don't know when I ovulate, or in my case if I ovulate, so I really don't know what time of the month it is. So I may be holding onto some water weight because it's just that time of the month. Whatever.

I can live with that problem very easily. I do love Dr. Peppy. At my last office visit he asked me if I have been having any menopausal symptoms. I said to Dr. Peppy, "Do you want the whole list or just the top 10?"

Lately I have been doing what Joe calls the "wax on, wax off" in bed. Meaning that one minute I have the covers on, then I have the covers off. Hot flashes, night sweats—they are terrible. Mood swings—one minute I'm singing, one minute I'm crying. The fat in the belly—I must do at least 100 crunches a day, yet I can't seem to get rid of the fat in the belly. If I were a drug addict I could probably hide drugs in that big flap of skin. I want a tummy tuck! Gee I wonder if The Oprah Show has any pull with Extreme Makeover.... Hmm?

It is an odd feeling. It is like I am too old to be young, but too young to be old. Anyway, I did gain a pound. So what!

On a good note: I went shopping for new clothes this past week. My friend Linda accompanied me and I walked straight to the plus-size department just on habit. My size used to be 2X in a shirt or blouse, especially because I happen to be very well endowed, if you get my drift. Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Okay, the bad news is that I'm still pretty well endowed. But the good news is that I don't need the plus-size department anymore because I fit into a size L. So I have actually skipped over the 1X and XL completely.

I went to try my clothes on, a chore I always hated to do. The dressing rooms were never large enough for me and I would always get stuck in my girdle. I would always come out breaking a sweat. Isn't it funny that when you go into the dressing room you can be wearing the nicest outfit, but you just throw it anywhere when you are trying something new on? I found such a cute outfit, but I didn't know if it would fit. It looked on the small side to me.

When I zipped the size 14 slacks on, I let out a scream so loud that the store manager came running. I guess there aren't many customers that scream in the dressing room, but I was basking in my glory. Actually all of the people that were in the dressing room, came out looking, and were all kind of perplexed that a middle-aged size 14 woman was whooping it up.

I was asking them all if they thought I looked hot. I told them all I wasn't even wearing my Spanx! They looked at me like I was ready for the funny farm. All these women were probably a size 0 to size 4. To me they looked like concentration camp victims. My friend Linda was cracking up. I had to make something up fast, so I told them all that I recently weighed 350 pounds because I just gave birth to triplets three weeks ago. I don't think they believed me.

See you all very soon! It's finally Barb time at The Oprah Show!


As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.


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