Slow and Steady Wins the (Weight Loss) Race: My Sister’s Journey

Given that obesity is a major risk factor for atrial fibrillation, heart failure and coronary artery disease, I’m always searching for effective and sustainable methods for my patients to lose weight. By age sixty I find most of my patients are very set in their lifestyle and weight changes are rare but my sister has been successful relatively late in life and I asked her to share her experience.

During a visit to my home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, my brother The Skeptical Cardiologist and I were talking about cooking healthy food and losing weight.  As we talked, I began to explain to him about my weight loss journey and the change that had happened in my life lately. Being the good journalist that he is, he asked me if I would consider writing a guest blog for him. So this blog is me saying yes to my little brother. 

Here is a little background on me. I will be 70 years old in approximately two months; I am almost 5’ tall and weigh 156 lbs. This puts me in the almost overweight or obese category according to a BMI calculator.  However, a year and a half ago, I weighed 180 lbs. (  I weighed 110 pounds when I got married back in 1974.)

So, how did this happen? 

Slow and Insidious Weight Gain

It was a slow, insidious process that started in my 40s after 4 C-sections and menopause. I exercised on and off and thought I ate fairly healthy food, but I was not very serious about it until I reached 172 pounds. At that time, I began doing Weight Watchers. I lost 25 pounds and then quit because I let unexpected stress take over.  Needless to say, I gained all of the weight back! Then I tried it again about 5 years later and quit again because “I didn’t think it worked.”   

In the beginning of 2017, thinking Keto would surely work, I jumped in with great commitment and discipline for seven months. During that time I lost 30-35 pounds, two dress sizes, and had eaten no added sugar. I loved it and truly believed I would make that my lifestyle from now on. 

Surprise!  September of that year, at my niece’s rehearsal dinner, I saw a whole table of delicious desserts and thought to myself, “I’m doing so well, one piece of cheesecake won’t hurt.” Well, what really happened was I ended up eating desserts all weekend.

Sugar Addiction

You see I have always been a sugarholic. Leave me alone with a pan of brownies, and I could easily eat half the pan. If I leave one piece of pumpkin pie for my husband, I am watching it and bugging him to eat it until he finally tells me to just eat it. Obviously, I am not married to a sugarholic.

Once I returned home from the wedding, I told myself I’m going right back on Keto, but it just was not the same. I kept going back on and then falling off again. Don’t misunderstand me, there are many people who stay on the Keto plan and do well, but not me. So ultimately, by February of 2018, I had quit again. By the end of 2018, I had gained back all my weight.

Keto was not sustainable for me. At this point, I realized my weight was 180 pounds!  

(Editor’s note: Although I’m a keto-friendly cardiologist and am delighted when it works long-term for patients, I have found Vickie’s experience with the keto diet  to be common in my patients.)


The New Year came around and I was so desperate for a healthier body, I was always praying about it, reading about it and beating myself up for it. I decided I had to do something, so I joined Weight Watchers (now rebranded as WW) again.  When I told my youngest daughter this, she said the most life changing statement to me, “Mom, what is going to be different this time?” You’ve got to love adult children and their parents. However, I thought about this for a minute, and I said to her, “I am not going to quit.” 

This was the turning point in my journey! I am so happy to tell you that I have stayed with the Blue WW program for a year and a half with no excuses accepted. It has taken me that much time to lose 24 pounds! Eighteen months is a long time to stick with something like this.

I kept on doing everything WW provided such as tracking and now often pre-tracking my food, using my daily and weekly points, focusing on my 200 zero-point foods and going to my workshops where I had accountability.  Obviously I was not perfect, I went over my points, I forgot to drink water, and I didn’t always exercise, but I didn’t quit! 

The weight was very slow to come off and in July of 2019, when I received my charm for losing 10 pounds, I rolled my eyes, and my wonderful coach looked at me and said, “Why did you roll your eyes, Vickie?” I said, “Well because it’s only 10 pounds in seven months!”  She said in front of every one, “Do you want it back?”  Of course we all laughed, but it has stuck with me so much that now I am thankful for every little bit of weight I lose. 

I needed a coach like Shawnte’. As I have continued this journey of health, I am learning how much my mindset, just as much as the food and exercise, has to do with weight loss.  I no longer beat myself up, I just start over at the next meal. Little by little, I am exercising more, and even during this pandemic, where I have been sheltering in place with my husband and 94-year-old father, I have focused even more on health and weight loss. A few weeks ago, I joined an online healthy cooking class and I am growing herbs with my black thumb! 

As I was telling The Skeptical Cardiologist this story and how small an amount I had lost, he said that he tells his patients if they could just lose 20 pounds in a year, it would be tremendous for their health.  He actually told me, “For you at your age to lose 24 pounds in a year and a half is amazing.”  This encouraged his good ole sis a lot!  That was when he asked me to write this guest blog.  

Sustaining my slow and sure weight loss is not going to stop this time because I am not quitting.  I still have goals that I haven’t reached and I will not quit!!

Journeying on, 

Vickie Shockley

PS.  Here is a balanced, evidence-based review about WW as a whole.  The only part of their plan that I have never used is their processed foods that they sell at the meeting place. Also, they have not incorporated the new research about whole fat and how satiating it is for a person.

(Editor’s note: And you can read the comments of Obesity researcher Ignatius Brady on WW’s evolution here.)



26 thoughts on “Slow and Steady Wins the (Weight Loss) Race: My Sister’s Journey”

  1. I’m 5’10”, and my heaviest was 220 when I was in my late 60s. I took off about 20lb and kept that off, but otherwise ate far too many processed foods and sweets. Five years ago I was diagnosed with afib, tachycardia, and heart failure. I looked up the stats on heart failure and was shocked into actually taking my cardiologist’s advice, losing 30 pounds and exercising daily. My new diet is probably closest to a Mediterranean one sans alcohol except on rare occasions. I live in a CCRC so get one meal a day from our dining room (delivered to our homes in these pandemic times), making it a challenge to choose wisely -which I do at least most of the time. According to my Fitbit I’ve walked over 5000 miles in the past 3.5 to 4 years and have kept the weight off. I’m 78 and still active both mentally and physically. I enjoy the Great Courses, and they have one by a very engaging professor entitled The Addictive Brain (I’ve watched his other classes on The Aging Brain and The Learning Brain.) I was probably somewhat addicted to sugar, but I have been able to cut way back on it and am still out of the pre-diabetic and diabetic categories though both parents were diabetic. Nothing like the likelihood of disability and premature death to motivate one into establishing better lifestyle habits!

  2. Great post! I concur. I’m 62 now, 5’1″ and 4 years ago I weighed 220 lbs. Now I’m at 170 lbs. 50 lbs in 48 months, only about a pound a month. I had a hip replacement which spurred it on because I could actually walk. In the beginning it seemed pointless, but as your coach said “do I want it back?” No way. Slow and steady wins the race. I’m mostly doing Mediterranean because after trying Weight Watchers and keto and low fat and low carb, Mediterranean is sustainable for me. And yes, I do indulge in treats and cheats but I can now do that without losing my mind and eating it all!

  3. Thank you for sharing Vicki- there are valuable lessons for us older folk who have had a lifelong struggle with our weight. I was a plump baby, and a chubby child, so perhaps I am trying to defy my destiny.

    Thanks also to the others who shared their stories. The story of problems with leafy greens would resonate with many.

    40 years ago I was one of the few males that attended the original WW. The weight came off, but then eventually went back on.

    Tracking programs like MyNetDiary are very helpful, especially those that include exercise and blood glucose, a benefit for diabetics.

    Currently my wife and I are using NOOM, which has an interesting and novel approach.

    There is are many excellent coaching articles that help explain our very complex relationship with food. The concept is that when we can better understand the emotions that drive our eating patterns, we can control our eating. The lessons are often witty, creating some fun.

    NOOM also has a coach who communicates via SMS. Initially a bit dubious as to its worth, I now find myself respecting its value.

    I weigh food that I enter into NOOM, which is an effective learning process. Calories in healthy nuts are a surprise.

    It seems that there is a constant battle raging internally – the internal child wanting its favourite food, with the adult within trying to ignore the child, the cravings, and to intellectualise and control eating.

    Thank you for these posts – they are very interesting and of great practical value.

    • Thanks Chris, I’m glad you liked it! I have also done Noom for two months. I have learned many of the same principles at WW and truly my mindset about food has slowly begun to change! Every one of us is different and at the right time we will find the right tools for us if we want it enough! Good luck in your journey!

  4. Thank you, Cheryl! You have had a lot to deal with and you are succeeding! Congratulations and keep up the good work! Homemade cooking is the best!

  5. First, congratulations on your weight loss and sticking with it for a year and a half. What really helped me was not thinking about what food I could or couldn’t eat but concentrating on improving my health. When I was 61 1/2 years old, I retired. I weighed 230 pounds and I was very sick. I knew I needed to lose weight. I tried Weight Watchers and lost a little weight but I didn’t like the processed food and found myself eating snack bars all the time. I switched to the South Beach Diet and lost a little more weight but hit a plateau. Then I changed my diet to Paleo and managed to get down to 175 pounds. But I found I couldn’t hold my weight at that number. No matter what I did the pounds were slowly coming back on. And I was still sick and getting sicker. I have Hashimoto’s and the inflammation in my body was getting worse. I could barely swallow water much less food and the heartburn was terrible. I’d had surgery on my right knee two years earlier and it still hadn’t healed. Then I discovered a diet called Autoimmune Paleo or AIP. It’s extreme but it worked for me. The pounds just fell off without trying. And all of the inflammation went away, my knee healed and all of the other symptoms that I had were gone. I didn’t find this diet and way of eating until I was 67. I just turned 72. I weigh 147 pounds now and have no trouble keeping the weight off. I eat all kinds of desserts and fabulous foods but I make everything myself. I’m on Facebook in a group of over 20,000 people from around the world that use this diet. It really helps to have people to talk to every day that are going through the same issues you are. My advice is don’t give up. Keep looking and trying different things until you find what works for you. And once again, congratulations of your success!

  6. I have found the pandemic to have helped my weight loss. 14 lbs since March. I attribute this to eating out less ( never) and walking 3-4 miles after dinner. I didn’t realize how often I was too lazy to cook and would go for the far easier “ let’s go out to eat “.

  7. Ah weight loss. I’ve struggled for decades as well but it’s easier to be series after a heart attack. I too crave sugar and a birthday cake is all it takes. Unlike your sister, I’m non-ambulatory with Post Polio Syndrome.

    Solution: count calories with Mediterranean Diet, exercise and vigilance.

    Solution for exercise is a NuStep recumbent stepper (6 years), Apple Watch (4 years) and determination. And gardening May to September.

    My attitude towards joining anything is Groucho Marx. But I have personal dietician who coaches me monthly. I lost 25 lbs in 2 years but flat lined while she is on maternity leave.

    I use my Fitness Pal for calorie counting and The Mediterranean Cookbook for dinner ideas.

    I can’t take statins due to PPS reactions but my cardiologist quit last year. Said I was not in need of his services while handing me back to my GP.

    It takes a plan, help and determination to lose weight.

  8. I lost 75 pounds, and it took me four years to do it. I did not follow a diet that has a name, I just watched everything that I put in my mouth. I did allow myself snacks, but they were almost always fresh fruit. I changed my lunches to Lean Cuisine and Smart Ones plus some fruit. I would have to have a banana every morning and afternoon to make it through the day.

    I also started exercising. I now hike 4 miles per day in wooded, hilly terrain. We have some exercise equipment that I use when the weather is not appropriate.

    I found that one of the hardest things was, believe it or not, figuring out what my diet would be like when is was done.

    I still have to continue watching everything that I put in my mouth. I now find that it’s very easy to quickly gain five pounds by going to a meeting out of town and eating in restaurants.

    I eat a bit more than I did back then, but I have come to realize that I will have to be on a diet for the rest of my life. I am OK with that. I have maintained my weight now for over 10 years.

    The weight loss may have made my experience with surgery for prostate cancer and renal cell carcinoma easier (although it was not that easy).

    The lesson is, like you have learned, to never give up.

    • Michael, also, I think you have a new lifestyle and mindset rather than a diet that you’re living now!

      • I should add that one diet does not fit all. I have irritable bowel syndrome, and one of the things I need to do to control it is to completely avoid raw green leafy vegetables, so the Mediterranean diet, despite its advantages, is out for me.

        If I eat even a little bit of lettuce, I’m miserable for the entire next day.

        As was said, the best diet is the one that works.

      • I have a book for you to read. It’s called Brightline Eating by Susan Pierce Thompson. It’s the best scientific proof and evidence that I have ever been able to relate to. I get the addiction to sugar, she explains why in her book. I had afib for years and have been event free since January. I started last September with no Sugar, no Flour. Moved on to Brightline Eating October. I did the 14 day challenge but not the boot camp. I lost 20 pounds, and feel amazing. The most incredible thing is not having any Afib since January. I hadn’t gone that long in years. I could relate to so much in her writings and I think you could too. Anyone who has struggled with their weight can Benefit from it. Happy reading. Wish I had found it sooner.
        Kathy Keys

        • Thank you Kathy! I have read her information and I was attracted to it, but I knew I would not stick with it just like Keto. I’m glad it has worked for you though! It seems very sound and healthy. I’m really satisfied in the place that I am at.
          Thanks again for sharing with me!

  9. What is the best diet? the one that works! What is the healthiest weight loss diet? Berries, cooked vegetables, vegetable soups and beans. wild caught fish once every 10 days. Now that is a bit tough to take/do, so change it up almost anywhere you want as long as it works. do not forget, there are other diseases besides atrial fibrillation: Cancer of the breast, prostate, uterus, ovaries, pancreas, esophagus, constipation, high cholesterol, high A1c, elevated BP… B V Vs, B is the one size fits all, if it works for the simultaneous prevention of multiple diseases. HRS, MD, FACC


Please leave your comments. The skeptical cardiologist loves feedback. He reads all and replies to all that warrant a reply.