Fraternal twins Christine and Keisha Ballard, 41, both started gaining weight in junior high school. “In our family, food was an expression of love,” says Christine. “If you didn’t eat what your mom or grandma gave you, if you didn’t eat all of the food on the plate — even if you were full — it was like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ ”
As adults, they struggled with their weight but could never commit to lasting lifestyle changes. As their 40th birthday neared, Christine had a wake-up call. “I had gone to my doctor for a routine physical and she said I was morbidly obese,” says Christine, who was carrying 295 lbs. on her 5’7″ frame. “She basically told me, ‘If you don’t lose the weight, you’re going to die young. That’s it.’ ”
A few months earlier her sister had made another attempt at weight loss after feeling tired all the time. “I noticed I was getting winded from walking up a flight of stairs, and I couldn’t walk a short distance without losing my breath,” says Keisha, who turned to Jenny Craig weighing 276 lbs.
“I had tried a lot of other weight-loss programs in the past but they were too much work. I have a very busy lifestyle and Jenny Craig gave me the structure to be successful,” says Keisha.
Christine says it took her a few months of watching Keisha lose weight to realize she wanted to join as well. “Initially I was a little bit jealous,” she says. “But then I said, if she can do it, it gives me hope to turn my life around and do it, too.”
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Since then, the Mount Vernon, New York-based preschool teachers have lost more than 100 lbs. each. The keys, they say, are moderation and mindfulness — even at family celebrations. “I have learned that I can eat a particular food but just have one serving, and I don’t have to pack my plate,” says Keisha.
Adds Christine: “You can show your family love in other ways besides food. It’s spending time with them. It’s talking to them. The food is an afterthought.”
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And the two of them enjoy the benefits of slimming down every day.
“I feel good mentally and physically,” says Christine. “Today I was able to sit with my kids in circle time, and when it was done I could get up quickly and not be out of breath and not have to worry about my clothes being tight or fretting about what my students would think of me or how to position my body.”
Keisha has also noticed a major increase in her energy level. “For me, it’s about not feeling like you have worked 8 or 9 hours of the workday when it’s only been 2 or 3. Because of my endurance I can do more of the activities I used to be able to enjoy before the weight came on.”
Most importantly, the sisters think they have found a program that will enable them to keep the weight off for good.
“We had to change the way we thought about eating,” says Christine. “Now we get to live.”