A Success Story: What Worked to Transform the Health of an 80-year-old Woman?

Here is a story of how changing one's food choices and other lifestyle habits over a short span of time has a dramatic effect on one's health. It may sound challenging, but it can be something as simple as changing your diet from mostly processed and packaged foods to mostly “real” foods and walking every day for at least 30 minutes. 

My 80-year-old mother-in-law moved in with us years ago. With a little effort and persistence I was able to explain to her the benefits of eating healthy and walking every day, even if it meant in two 15-20 minute increments rather than altogether. Soon enough (though with some challenges!) she adopted most of our healthy eating patterns. I got to witness the amazing change in her health unfold month by month before my very eyes. And evidence of the dramatic changes in her health indicators can be seen below.


HEALTH INDICATORS:

BEFORE MAY 2011:

AFTER NOVEMBER 2011:

(1) 5ft. 9 in. and 190 lb.
(2) BMI: 28 (overweight not obese)

(3) High BP: 230/80 (Hypertension Stage-2)

(1) 5 ft 9 in. and 172 lb.
(2) BMI: 25 (normal range)
(3) Normal BP: 110/70 within 8 weeks of dietary changes; stabilized to 120/80


Dietary Lifestyle before May 2011

Minimal understanding of general serving size versus portion size. Store-bought processed and packaged foods (90% of time):

  • Ham/turkey cold cuts and presliced cheese on white bread;
  • Canned fruits (sweetened);
  • Canned vegetables & soups (highly salted);
  • Packaged mash potatoes/mac & cheese;
  • Packaged potato & macaroni salads;
  • Store-bought cookies, pastries, & milk chocolate;
  • Frozen waffles;
  • Branded pasta sauces with refined-flour pasta or spaghetti;
  • Salted crackers;
  • Ice-cream;
  • Potato chips:
  • Highly sweetened cereals;
  • Frozen foods (breaded fish, french fries);
  • Salted margarine;
  • Sweetened jelly & salted peanut butter. 

Dietary changes after November 2011

Better understanding & appreciation of individual serving size versus portion size. Unprocessed, fresh, and home-cooked meals (90% of time): 

  • Low-salt ham/turkey cold cuts & organic cheese (1-2 oz per serving) on whole grain bread (4+ grams fiber);
  • Fresh fruit (especially berries, organic when possible); 
  • Fresh vegetables (fewer high-starch vegetables) & home-made soups;
  • Home-made bean/chicken curries, lentil soups, & grilled fish/chicken with minimal red meat;
  • Home-made waffles & pancakes;
  • Home-made pasta sauce with whole wheat pasta;
  • Ice-cream and dark chocolate on occasion;
  • Rolled oats with nuts & raw honey;
  • Low-sugar/low-salt/high-fiber/high-protein cereals with minimal additives;
  • Organic unsalted butter and nut butters;
  • Organic (no sugar added) fruit spreads.

*A person may have a high BMI, but to determine if excess weight is a health risk, a healthcare provider would need to perform further assessments (such as skin-fold thickness measurements, evaluations of diet, physical activity, family history) and other appropriate health screenings.