On the second Monday of each month The Blade will feature one of the participants in Lucas County's Million Pound Challenge.
Slow and steady is Jill Falls' recipe for weight-loss success.
And so far, it's working.
Standing 5-foot, 10-inches tall, the former Bowling Green State University basketball player said she used to be "very thin and active" but gradually put on pounds as her level of physical activity decreased.
So, in honor of turning 50 this year, on Jan. 1 she resolved to drop 50 pounds off her 200-pound frame. She set and met an intermediate goal to lose 25 of those pounds for her April 15 birthday.
Now less than five pounds away from her targeted weight, Ms. Falls attributed her success to not trying to do too much at once.
"For the first five months," she said, "I kept it simple. I was only looking at calories. I was only doing moderate exercise."
That meant no more munching on chocolate candies at the office, fewer dinners out with her husband, and water instead of diet pop.
"Diet soda just seemed to make me want some salty snack," she said. "It wasn't working to have a diet pop sitting on my desk all afternoon."
And rather than join a gym or invest in snazzy equipment, she started putting the treadmill in her Sylvania home to work.
Each evening for an hour when she gets home from work, Ms. Falls, a computer programmer at the Eaton Corp., walks for an hour while reading mysteries and thrillers.
"I'm not tired anymore," she said. "Before, I used to want to come home and just eat and read and lay there."
A registered and licensed dietician at the University of Toledo, Michele Lovett, said individuals can derive both physical and mental benefits from walking for an extended period each day.
Furthermore, it is an activity most everyone can easily undertake.
"As long as your neighborhood is safe, everyone can do it," she said.
For Ms. Falls, who is one of the 1,500 participants in the Lucas County Million Pound Challenge and was named August's participant of the month, the majority of the lifestyle changes were easy to make.
She said she feels she had it easier than many others who struggle to lose weight because, since her two stepsons are both in college, she did not have a family to cook for and did not have to have all kinds of tempting foods in the house for them.
And her husband Ken, 55, said he also has slimmed down over the past few months thanks to fewer meals out and his wife's new focus on healthy eating.
"It makes me feel proud as a husband - that she has that self-discipline," he said, standing at Fifth Third Field last week as his wife was recognized as the Million Pound Challenge's participant of the month.
The challenge is part of a county-wide initiative to educate residents about healthy eating and weight-loss strategies. The goal is for participants to cumulatively lose one million pounds by the end of 2009. It was the brainchild of Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop.
The Blade is cosponsoring the competition, and enrollees can track their weight in a private journal on The Blade's Web site at toledoblade.com/challenge.
Among the prizes awarded to the monthly challenge winners are one-year YMCA family memberships, gift certificates to area restaurants - this month to Mancy's Italian - and Mud Hens tickets.
Though she does not currently belong to a gym, Ms. Falls said she is excited about the YMCA membership and will probably utilize the weight machines at the Sylvania YMCA/JCC.
The challenge formally kicked off in early February. Ms. Falls said she had lost 14 pounds between Jan. 1 and the contest's start.
While some people might feel inclined to relax their exercise regimen or indulge in a bit more dessert after reaching their goal weight, Ms. Falls said she has no intention of changing what she is doing when that occurs.
If more weight comes off, and she knows there is a bit more to lose, that would be great, she said. But if not, that is alright by her, too.
To those who are wrestling with their weight, Ms. Falls said if she can do it, so can they.
"Don't try to start too big and don't expect to see huge results," she said. "Expect to see very gradual progress."
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