By Alisha McDarris
JENSEN BEACH -- Every day that Deirdre Henry wakes up and heads out the door her heart beats strongly in her chest. She's lively, she's active, and nothing is holding her back from living the life that she loves.
But that wasn't always the case. Ten years ago the Jensen Beach resident weighed 150 pounds more than she does today and even pulling herself off the couch was a chore. She was 59 and overweight at a time in her life when she was focusing on everyone but herself.
She was taking care of family, eating fast food and generally letting her health go by the wayside. But when her doctor told her if she didn't start managing her weight that gastric bypass surgery might be required, and her health insurance company labeled her as obese, she knew it was time for a change.
"I had come to a head," Ms. Henry said. "I wasn't recognizing my problem."
Her doctors recommended she try a Mediterranean diet low in red meat and white flour and rich in fish and fruits and vegetables and start exercising.
She followed their advice and day by day began noticing the differences it made in her life.
Ms. Henry could only walk for a few minutes in the beginning, but now logs 15 miles almost every day. She remembers fondly the day she could fit comfortably in a seat belt and when her EKG came back normal. Now she swims, participates in fundraising walks and even goes dancing with friends on Thursday nights.
"I enjoy my life," Ms. Henry said.
She's 69 now and enjoys all the amenities her Ocean Breeze community has to offer. She takes exercise classes and volunteers when she can and feels good about herself and her health.
"It changed my whole life," Ms. Henry said. "I'm happy. I have my freedom."
It took a lot of work, but Ms. Henry said it was all worth it. Her cholesterol and blood pressure are at normal levels again and she's managing her diabetes with the diet and exercise that has become a way of life for her.
"It takes exercise and eating right," Ms. Henry said. "You can't do one without the other."
Now that she's a size 10 instead of a size 26, she indulges in the occasional trip to the mall, too, happy to fill her wardrobe with clothes she simply couldn't shop for before.
Her advice to others who need to lose a substantial amount of weight to be healthy: "Don't go it alone."
Ms. Henry recommends finding a doctor that can offer sound medical and nutritional advice and joining an exercise group that you enjoy and will keep you motivated and on track.
"It's all worth it. It's a gift to have good health," Ms. Henry said.