COURTESY OF CAROLE CARSON
Carole Carson had folks in her town form teams in order to help them lose weight.
Teaming up to battle the bulge
Groups of people of all ages come together to achieve weight-loss goals
Carole Carson has a tribal mentality when it comes to weight loss. Finding a buddy is crucial to success, and the more buddies, the better, she says. "We just can't do it alone."
Pro volleyball player and model Gabrielle Reece totally agrees. "For me, the success rate of a challenge or reaching a goal is increased by 75 percent when I do it with somebody, and as a community, it's even greater," Reece said. "It's such a positive thing to do together as a community to try to improve not only your health but support others in achieving better health, and also be a great example for the younger generation."
Carson is partnering with AARP to create a virtual community that will help teams of people of all ages across the country come together achieve weight-loss goals. Reece is among a dozen notable members on the AARP Fat to Fit Community Challenge advisory board.
Carson was just about to turn 60 when she started her weight-loss journey. At the time, she had a torn hamstring and her doctors nagged about her high cholesterol, blood pressure and increasing weight.
She ended up losing 62 pounds, and went from a size 18 to a size 6 in a few months. Before achieving success, her repeated failures demonstrated that "wanting to change" and "changing" are two very different things.
"The media teaches us to be harsh with our bodies," Carson said. "Instead, we need to make friends with our body."
Looking back, she realized her long-standing problem. She had carried around the extra weight, hiding inside. "I finally admitted that I needed help. It's too hard to do alone," she said. Find people to help -- a mentor, trainer or physical therapist."
Carson tracked trials and accomplishments in weekly newspaper articles and eventually wrote a book, "From Fat to Fit" which shows how lifestyle changes may be tackled more easily with the help, support and encouragement of co-workers, friends and neighbors.
"We don't have to look very far to find people. Two thirds of us are overweight," she said.
Carson didn't want to simply go on a diet; she wanted to make permanent lifestyle changes. She did not fall for diet pills that promised to make pounds melt away. Instead, she learned to eat in moderation, and this is the message that she wanted to convey to the community group she gathered. Countless folks would regularly stop her at the grocery store or at a gas station to discuss fitness efforts. Hundreds of people later packed into a gymnasium, seeking advice on weight loss.
"I figured we would be lucky if we got a dozen people or so," Carson said. The community started with 130 teams and ended with 200. The group of 1,000 lost about 4 tons in eight weeks, coming forward to share their struggles with Carson and seeking advice.
"When I responded that I ate everything in moderation and had no forbidden foods, I always saw the person's face fall," she said, adding that the logical approach often means a change in lifestyle.
Ninety percent of the time, healthy food choices should be made, but Carson stresses eating everything in moderation. "I eat a little bit of what I'm craving and move on," she said. "I don't feel like I'm depriving myself."
And, no excuses are allowed, she said. "You don't get a pass because you are 70 ... even nursery school kids need to exercise. And, mothers need to be examples to their children."
How much is 4 tons?
Carole Carson helped a group of 1,000 people lose 7,509 pounds in eight weeks. Her calculations from her book, "From Fat to Fit" showed 7,509 pounds equals:
» 5,631 bags of Oreos
» 10,012 cans of soda
» 60,072 sausage links
To join Carole Carson's AARP Fat to Fit Community Challenge virtual community, visit www.fromfat2fit.com and click on the "Fat to Fit Community Challenge" tab. The Challenge is free and open to all ages.