Fortunately, a friend, Gregg, spotted her struggling in the over-her-head water and pulled her onto the beach. But her troubles didn't end when she recovered her breath. Back home in Orlando, Florida, she was diagnosed with severe valve regurgitation in her heart. "You are in congestive heart failure," the doctor said. "You must have the wrong person," I told him. "I've always been fit."
Before Body Weight: 184.5 Pounds; After 20 Weeks: 40.22 Pounds of Fat Loss, 7.75 Inches Off Waist, 6.375 Inches Off Hips, 6 Inches Off Thighs, 3.22 Pounds of Muscle Gain, 60% Stronger.
Two days later, Darden had open-heart surgery to repair a mitral valve that wouldn't close. For the second time in a week her life had been saved. But the trauma left severe psychological scars. The recovery was so slow and fraught with complications, like a grapefruit-sized blood clot that required more surgery and caused extreme pain, that she stopped all exercise. She started eating more and gained 40 pounds, making her the heaviest she's ever been at 187 pounds.
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Darden has always been lean and athletic. She had natural childbirths at ages 42 and 45. Even during pregnancy her friends would say, "Gosh, Jeanenne, your arms look amazing." Her husband is renowned exercise researcher Ellington Darden, PhD, author of the book The Body Fat Breakthrough (published by Rodale, which also published Prevention). When they first met, Ellington was attracted to her well-developed forearms. "You have long muscles and the capability to build serious muscular size and strength," he told her admiringly. It was love at first sight.
The Darden's had a full gym in their home, but Jeanenne couldn't bring herself to use it. "I was so depressed thinking I'd never be the same," she says. "I love clothes, but my clothes didn't fit anymore. I started to hate myself."
That's when it clicked. She knew that it was up to her to make a change. So she started small: This southern girl who grew up on sweet tea stopped drinking sugared beverages and wine and drank only water. She embraced the super-hydration "fat bomb" strategy from her husband's research, drinking a gallon of ice water a day.
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"I have an 18-ounce blue tumbler with a straw that never leaves my side. I'm constantly filling it with ice water."
With that change alone Jeanenne felt her "fat pants" getting loose. Next, she started cutting calories by using a smaller plate at dinnertime. "I ate normally, 50 to 60% of calories from carbs; I just ate less of everything." She started keeping a food diary.
"Once I dialed in my discipline and saw the scale, I was unflappable." She added the 30-30-30 negative-training program in her husband's book and continued to watch calories. In 20 weeks, she lost 37 pounds and her protruding belly. Plus, she fit into her old skinny jeans. Now she's back down to 146 pounds with 3 pounds of new muscle and a body fat percentage of just 19. Just 5 months earlier it was 35%.
Most important, Darden's depression has lifted. "My self-esteem is back; and I feel so lucky to be alive."
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Jeanenne embraced the super-hydration "fat bomb" strategy from her husband's research, drinking a gallon of ice water a day. "I have an 18-ounce blue tumbler with a straw that never leaves my side," she says. "I'm constantly filling it with ice water."
Focus on negative training. Jeanenne's husband is a proponent of negative training, a technique that involves doing the lowering part, or "eccentric phase," of a resistance exercise very slowly to result in greater stress being put on your muscles. This really helped her kick her weight loss into high gear.
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