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Granny defies odds

Daily Mail
Monday, December 31, 2012

A 72-year-old grandmother who weighed 250lbs has defied age, losing nearly half her body weight through intensive training sessions, and setting the world record for the longest abdominal plank.

Betty Lou Sweeney, who couldn't stand up from a chair on her own, would eat six donuts in under an hour and regularly consumed ice cream bars, fried chicken, and potatoes heavy with butter.

But with the help of a personal trainer, the registered nurse from Wisconsin lost 115lbs. She told the Huffington Post: "I never eat sweets these days because when I did I found I craved them for almost a month... I don't miss them and can be at a party and not even feel tempted anymore.

"I had been on diets my whole life.

"I'd lose weight, and then gain it back, plus more. It had become a vicious cycle for me. I must have tried every diet out there, and they all worked, I just couldn't keep the weight off."

Raised as an orphan, Mrs Sweeney lived in 12 different foster homes before she was adopted at age 15. "In that time, I had been abused many times," she explained. "My friends were animals, and food."

She added that she never felt attractive and was often teased as being a "loser".

"I never liked myself, except for those times when I had gotten down to a size 10 or 12. I could never maintain it, so it did nothing for my self-esteem," she said.

At age 69, in 2009, she was hospitalised for a bladder infection which went to the sac that surrounds the heart. In treatment, her kidneys shut down as a result of the medication, and she put on 30lbs of water weight overnight.

"I became septic and my temperature soared to 106. At first, I reacted to every medicine and got sicker and sicker. Finally a medication kicked in, and I started to get better.

"My doctors told my husband that they almost lost me. I felt my family deserved better than this," she said.

So she asked a dietitian at her work to suggest an eating plan that would usually be given to a newly-diagnosed diabetic.

"I wasn't diabetic yet, but knew I needed to keep my blood sugars stable," she said. "On that day, I changed the foods I ate, the way I cooked them and my portion sizes. I got down to about 210 pounds."

After an Anytime Fitness Center opened near her home, she joined lost another 10lbs. But because the weight was coming off at a slow pace, she decided to enlist the help of a trainer.

"When we started, I couldn't get up from a chair to a standing position on my own. Everything hurt from my arthritic joints. Dave, my trainer, was very patient and encouraging as he slowly helped me get better," she explained.

Now, she is able to do a pull-up for the first time in her life, 20 push-ups and sit-ups, as well as run more than three miles regularly.

In 2011, she set a Guinness World Record for the longest time in an abdominal plank, at 36 minutes and 58 seconds. The previous world record was 33 minutes and 40 seconds

She added: "Shortly after, a man broke my record, but I believe I still hold it for women.

"I feel younger than I have in years. I have pushed through several injuries, including a dislocated shoulder, a fractured left hand, a pulled calf and, most recently, a torn hamstring."

It is thanks to her diet, however, that she credits her ability to maintain the weight loss.

"I eat raw vegetables, fresh fruit, yogurt and protein powder to help me get enough protein in to sustain my workouts. I eat chicken breasts with no skin, fish or very lean pork. All meats are either baked, broiled or fixed in a hot air oven where all the fats drip away.

"I have learned to love the taste of the food itself without all the crap I used to put on top. I have more energy, I'm not sluggish anymore and I now like myself.

'My self-esteem has soared. I can now talk in front of a group and be at ease, as I feel I have a story to tell that could save someone else's life. I have never been happier in my life. My trainer is like a grandson to me, I love him so much. Who knows where my life will take me!"

It is thanks to her diet, however, that she credits her ability to maintain the weight loss.

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