A Better Body at 66 Than at 20

As we age, it gets harder to keep weight off and stop once-perky parts from heading south. But sinking into the couch with a big bowl of gelato isn't the solution. Barbara Hogan is one of five women we featured in the July/August 2012 issue who reshaped her body and life—at 66, she traded diet pills for a boat and oars. Now she can help you do the same

by Shelley Levitt
woman couch image
Hogan today (above); Hogan, at 200 pounds, in the photo that drove her to join Weight Watchers (right)
Photograph: by Melanie Acevedo

MY BODY IN MY TWENTIES I was a chubby kid, and when I was 11, my mother took me to a doctor about my weight. He was the first—but not the last—to give me diet pills. They didn’t help, but they had one lasting impact: making me feel like I wasn’t good enough. When I married at 24, I was over 180. After two pregnancies, I topped 200 pounds and stayed there.

THE TURNING POINT In 2001, I saw a vacation photo of myself and was shocked: I looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy. After decades of denial, I decided things had to change.

THE MAKEOVER I joined Weight Watchers immediately. I’d tried lots of weight-loss plans: diet pills that left me so wired, I’d scrub the bathroom walls at 4 am; Overeaters Anonymous; even a previous stint at Weight Watchers. I’d drop 30, 40 pounds—then gain it all back. This time, technology helped. I found a thread on a Weight Watchers online board called Beginning Again. It became a lifeline. There are about 30 women who’ve kept the thread going, and they’ve become my weight-loss sorority. If I gain 10 pounds on vacation, they talk me right down. I’ve learned the value of the support of strong women.

MEETING MY INNER ATHLETE In 2004, I joined a gym. I took Spinning classes and then started riding outdoors. I’d pedal along a lake, see people out on boats and think, I’d like to do that. When I found out there was a learn-to-row class, I signed up. I was 61 years old, 170 pounds and scared to death, but from the beginning I absolutely loved rowing. You go out on the lake at 5:30 in the morning and row, eight of you moving together rhythmically. The first year I didn’t lose any weight, but my body changed. I lost fat and gained muscle. The next year I dropped 10 pounds, and the year after that, another 10. In 2008, I started rowing competitively, and today I’m highly ranked in my age group. At 65, I earned a silver medal at the Indoor Rowing World Championship.

MY BODY TODAY For the first time, I consider myself an athlete. I feel younger than I did in my twenties. Back then I had these huge pillow arms. I’d go to a men’s store, buy a large T-shirt, and it was still too small. Today my arms and legs are toned. At 148 pounds, I am no longer self-conscious about my body—not even in a sleeveless dress or the spandex tops and shorts I wear when I row.

Next: A Better Body at 49 Than at 20

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First published in the July/August 2012 issue

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