I hadn't accounted for getting older and the effect of compounded weight on my heart, combined with hormonal changes. I kept going from doctor to doctor, trying to figure out why I couldn't sleep. I remember waking up many a night, my heart pounding, thinking, "I've done a lot of good work, I have a lot of beautiful things—which means nothing in this moment. I'm building a new house I may never get to see because I have a heart problem."

Then I ran across Dr. Christiane Northrup's book The Wisdom of Menopause, which suggested eliminating refined carbohydrates—sugar and all the white foods that immediately convert to sugar in the body. I cut out white rice, white pasta and white breads. I reduced my salt intake. My blood pressure dropped. My heart stopped racing. I could sleep through the night, so I had more strength to work out. And I lost ten pounds almost immediately. At that point, I wasn't trying to lose weight—I was trying not to die.

I talked with Bob, who suggested I take this special time in my life (approaching the Big M) to "nail it for good. You know that two of the most drastic effects of aging are the loss of muscle and bone—and strength training is one of the best ways to counter both of them."

I'd done weight training with him before, but hadn't been consistent, because I'd never really cared about building or preserving muscle. I just wanted to fit into a size 8.

But in January 2002, I got serious about weight-resistance training, and I've watched my body reshape itself. I alternate upper- and lower-body work at least five times a week. Sometimes I do two back-to-back days of full body, followed by a day off to recuperate, and repeat that cycle for a couple of weeks. I also do about 30 minutes of aerobics each day.

I've learned that you can look to other people and programs for inspiration to jump-start yourself, but you have to develop a plan that will work for your life. There are no shortcuts or secrets, no magic patches or pills. If you're reading this article, you've probably dieted and exercised enough to know the truth.

You've got to love yourself and do the work it takes to sustain your most powerful engine: good health. Without it, nothing else matters.

I've gotten a clean bill of health from my doctors—no cardio problems—but I'm still striving every day toward a healthier me. The side effect: I've now lost 33 pounds. I'm on no particular diet—I just eat smaller portions, and I still watch the refined carbohydrates. I favor fish, chicken, fruit, vegetables and lots of soups. And I don't eat after 7:30 p.m. Not even a grape.

I feel great. I'm sleeping well. I'm loving myself.


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