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It is never too late to make a change in your lifestyle
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I should be dead.

In my lifetime, I've downed thousands of gallons of cyclamates, consumed 20 semi-truck loads of Frito-Lay products, eaten a million chocolate M&Ms - give or take a handful - and committed a 1,001 other nutritional sins that would make health experts faint.

It gets worse. As a kid, I'd sneak into the kitchen on Saturday mornings and consume not one, not two, but at least four spoonfuls of pure sugar. My mom at one point had a fast food drive-in - aptly named the Squirrel Cage. More often than not lunch or dinner would consist of the stuff heart attacks are made of - hamburgers and French fires

As a teen I could consume an extra large pizza in one setting. My basic food groups? Let's just say it wasn't fresh fruit or vegetables or anything that hadn't been fried.

Calculate what all the experts have been saying over the years I should have died 20 years ago.

So what happened? I didn't do shabby obviously in the DNA sweepstakes.

But the main thing is to realize that you can change your health.

There was a time when I would sweat like a horse - pigs don't sweat - just walking down the street in summer.

I got winded just carrying stuff up stairs. I avoided physical activities like the plague even after I lost weight the first time before I started the eighth grade. I'm also a big-time klutz.

I couldn't go a day without so-called "salty snacks" or sweets.

So, again, what happened?

It's really simple.

I stopped listening to critics - those people who can't help but tell you the obvious in the most cruelest terms such as "you're fat" and "when are you going to start losing weight" - as well as deciding that the only person I had to please was myself.

I didn't like the idea that when I was 13 I weighed 260 pounds.

I lost 70 pounds over the summer but really didn't change my habits too much other than cutting down the intake of food.

It started going back on when I started college, worked full-time, had my own business, was on a school board and involved in a number of non-profits. Then I decided at 29, I was not going to turn 30 weighing what I did - 320 pounds. I then dropped down to 195 in six months. Again, physicians would be jumping up and down saying that was stupid but I'm the type of person who, if I had someone cleaning my house, I'd clean it up before they got there because I'd be so embarrassed. There was no way I was going to let a doctor see me at 320 pounds.

How I kept most of it off the second time was fairly simply. I gave up all meat - chicken, fish or otherwise - as I figured I'd be forced to watch what I ate more carefully to get enough protein. It worked - to a degree. I also started bicycling and doing aerobics, two activities that literally had my former PE teachers shaking their heads. They would of bet the farm that I'd never exercise like I was possessed.

Perhaps 17 years ago I crept up to 205 and stayed there until about two years or so ago.

This time around, I decided nice and easy was much better than drop it all in three to six months.

What did I do different?

I rarely have missed a day of exercise since I turned 30. The non-exercise days in the past 22 years are less than 30 days and much of that had to do with two hernia operations and more than a few rounds with gout. How do I know this? I am anal retentive when it comes to tracking exercise and my weight. Both go on a calendar every day.

So what did it? I started going from processed food - not entirely, but close - to mostly fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

I didn't slash my calorie intake at all. I probably kicked it up slightly.

What I did do was slowly wean myself off empty calories - candy, potato chips and other such empty food. I still have my vices but by slowly changing my food preferences I have lost the taste for a number of not-too-swift-food times such as Cheez-Its. My four box a week habit of just three years ago is history.

I have never asked anyone for advice. Instead, I have taken things I've read that make sense and tried to apply them to myself. What worked, worked. What didn't work, didn't work. And to be honest, nothing would have worked if it hadn't been my idea.

The point of all this is simple.

If you want to change things, you can do it.

Nobody is perfect. You are going to slip up. You are going to hit plateaus. But the thing to remember is you don't have to accept things as they are.

Take my word. The experts said I'm supposed to be dead.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail