Ask Phyllis Boudreaux, 50, of Marietta, Ga., what she was like in college and she'll describe an entirely different person. Back then, the peppy 5-foot-2, 118-lb. beauty was looking forward to a teaching career and her wedding to Mike Boudreaux, now 57 and a logistics coordinator at a cargo company. But after graduation, Phyllis' life took a surprising turn.
"I was hired as a high school physics teacher and quickly became overwhelmed," she says. "I was working 12-hour days putting up complex lab experiments, grading papers and dealing with demanding parents and school administrators," Phyllis recalls.
Struggling to keep up, she'd work through lunch, quashing hunger with crackers, cookies and other high-fat vending-machine fare. Nights, Phyllis would return home, ravenous and too tired to cook. "I'd order in pizza or Chinese, then eat a whole pint of Ben & Jerrys for dessert consuming about 4,000 calories in a meal," she says.
The feasts took their toll and within five years, Phyllis weighed 200 lbs. For the next two decades, the weight gain continued. By the time she was 40, Phyllis carried 350 lbs. on her small frame. "Moving my massive body anywhere was a challenge. I'd constantly have to stop and rest," she recounts.
Bad Habits Snowball
And then, in 2003, Phyllis hit bottom. An important family wedding was taking place in New Orleans and she simply couldn't get there. "I was too big for an airplane seat and didn't have the vacation time to drive. My size was making my world so small and it scared me," she tearfully recalls.
Inspired to take action, Phyllis approached her friend Heidi, a medical professional. Heidi suggested a plan called Volumetrics, based on the book The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan, by Barbara J. Rolls, Ph.D., a noted nutritionist at Pennsylvania State University. The basic strategy intrigued Phyllis: You keep your appetite at bay by eating large portions of low-cal, high-fiber, water-rich foods like vegetables, fruits and soups.
"These foods have more volume, so they literally take up more room in the stomach and they digest more slowly, which means that dieters feel satisfied longer," Rolls explains.
On Volumetrics, Phyllis cut her daily caloric intake down to 1,600, eating tomato and chicken noodle soup
with slices of grilled fish and chicken, or whole bags of salad with veggies and low-fat dressing for meals. "I was surprised by how full I felt," Phyllis says. When her sweet tooth beckoned, Phyllis remained strong. "At first it was hard not to head for old treats, but I coped by snacking on apple slices and sipping glasses of hot cider or tea."
In just three weeks on the plan, Phyllis lost 15 lbs. Encouraged by her success, she decided to do something she had been avoiding for a decade: see a doctor. "I learned I had lethally high blood pressure and was put on medication," she recalls. Phyllis' doctor also suggested 15 minutes of exercise a day.
"In the beginning, I could only manage a 10-minute walk, so I did that every day," she remembers. "Two weeks later it was 20 and by three months I was up to 45 minutes." Soon, Phyllis felt more energetic and her blood pressure began to improve.
Two years later, Phyllis was a size 6, 150 lbs. and off blood pressure pills. Today, she continues to follow Volumetrics and walks nine hours a week. "Every time I look at Phyllis, I'm filled with pride," says husband Mike. "She's like a new woman." And Mike isn't the only one who feels that way.
"My energy level is finally what it was in college," Phyllis says. "Now when I take walks, people can't keep up with me!"