Lives in Cleveland, OH
Would like to lose 75 pounds
For Terry Halfacre, weight has always been an issue. Now 41, the laboratory metrologist (she deals with the science of measurement), part-time teacher, and former president of her local NOW chapter in Cleveland says, with evident frustration, "This is the only area of my life where I am a failure." She did manage to lose about 75 pounds in her mid-thirties, but when she got pregnant three years ago "the weight came back almost as though I'd turned the faucet on." After having the baby, she tried to slim down again, without success. "I kept saying, 'I'll do it when Emily's 6 months...1 year...2 years.'" But now that her daughter is almost 3, Halfacre realizes, "The simple task of playing with Emily is really hard. I need to get fit to enjoy her." Though 75 pounds is roughly the amount she'd like to lose again—this time for good—the 5-foot-8-inch, 240-pound Halfacre says, "Really my goal is just to be healthy and to be in charge of my weight, rather than having it be in charge of me."
Mentor: Linda Thacker
Lives in Norfolk, VA
Has kept off 120 pounds for over 9 years
Fortunately for Halfacre, Linda Thacker, a computer network engineer at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, understands the kind of transformation some people must undergo to take off weight permanently. Though she had gone on all sorts of diets, Thacker, now 52, says she didn't lose 120 pounds until she was ready to do it for herself—not for her father, not for her first husband, not for some societal ideal. (Seeing a video of herself at a high school reunion wearing a white jumpsuit, weighing 220 at 5 feet 3 inches—"not a pretty sight"—was her moment of reckoning.) Once she made the commitment, a commercial diet program gave her the jump start she needed to shed half her body weight, and she's kept it off for nine years since then. "It really takes three things: desire, determination, and dedication," says Thacker. "But if you don't have the desire to start, it ain't going to happen." Thacker is convinced that the benefits of mentoring are reciprocal. "Whenever I'm helping someone else through challenges, it keeps me on track. And this is really important. I'm never going back to the other way!"
Follow Up with Terry and Linda
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.