Awhile ago, I went to BookExpo America (BEA) in New York City with some trepidation. I live in a small mountain community in Northern California where customers chat easily and at great length with the checkout clerk at the local grocery store. Sometimes weather is the topic; other times, it’s the Friday night high school football game.
How would I fare in the fast-paced Big Apple? Could I negotiate my way through a pressured urban setting after living with easygoing country folk?
Little did I know the treat that awaited me.
Perhaps my delightful experiences in New York resulted from the focus of my trip. First, I attended a “university” sponsored by PMA, the Independent book Publishers Association. For three days, I was exposed to some of the brightest, most innovative people in the independent book publishing industry, a heady experience in and of itself.
From there, I went to the international book exposition. After wandering around what seemed to be an endless number of booths and exhibits, I ended up volunteering my time at the PMA’s booth. Wearing a badge that gave me at least a smidgeon of respectability, I had the opportunity to talk with interested buyers and other visitors who stopped by the booth to see what we “indies” had produced.
Nothing, however, prepared me for Caridad Pineiro. She bowled me over with her presence and savvy. Spontaneously generous, she took my picture on a computer-camera that she cleverly operated without any of the technical difficulties I would have had! Within minutes, she posted my picture in the Publishers’ Directory in the BookExpo’s computer system.
I discovered that she was a fellow author. Her achievements were impressive: she’d written six novels in the last year while working fulltime and taking care of a family. Even so, she still found time to attend the Book Expo. In those few minutes, we made a profound connection. I knew that she and I would be friends long after BEA ended.
At some point, the conversation turned to my fitness book. Just as Caridad had impressed me, here’s what happened to her:
I went to BookExpo America in May, it was because I was signing
releases of my latest books. Never did I expect that the trip
would help me recommit to becoming healthier and losing the weight I
How did that happen? During a stroll along the many rows of booksellers and authors, I ran into Carole Carson. The conversation originally started with questions about promoting our books, but then we realized we had much more in common than being authors —we both had battled with weight problems over the years.
Carole's enthusiasm and sensible talk about how she lost her weight and her commitment to spreading the word spurred me to consider that I had to get back to a healthier lifestyle because that healthier way of living would not only help me prolong my life but, in the process, maybe help me lose a few pounds.
Inspired by Carole and her words, I started this new quest with the same fervor with which I tackled my next novel. I did some research, and luckily, I had Carole's wonderful book to guide me. I approached this lifestyle change the way I would one of my characters, wondering why I wanted it, why I was conflicted about attaining that goal and how I would accomplish that objective once I committed to it.
Then I dove into the journey. I began to watch what I ate, but made many of the same mistakes I made the last time I lost weight. I realized I could eat salad until the cows came home to eat it with me, but I hate salad and so I was dooming myself to failure because I still viewed what I was doing as a diet and not a lifestyle change.
I acknowledged that I could never be a salad lover but that I was a vegetable lover, especially dark greens like kale, broccoli rabe and spinach. I also loved squash and beans and so I substituted healthy doses of these vegetables with servings of lean meats and found satisfaction instead of frustration.
I also knew, however, that it was about more than the food. The last time I had lost a great deal of weight, nearly 70 pounds (all of which I gained back over five years), I had been a jogging fiend—an hour or more a day—but with a family, a full-time job and writing deadlines, that kind of exercise routine wasn't possible any longer. It was probably a good part of the reason for the return of my weight.
So I embarked on a more reasonable path: a half hour every day, with a slightly longer workout once or twice a week as time allowed. By the end of the first few weeks, I was walking up the long flights of stairs at the railroad station rather than using the escalators. Simple exercise like that counts as well. Even two 15-minute walks a day contribute to keeping you healthier.
What's been the result of these preliminary lifestyle changes? In about three months, I've lost 24 pounds and a dress size. I feel more focused and have way more energy than I used to have. People have noticed that I'm looking trimmer and standing up taller. But more importantly, I feel better and healthier. I feel like I've finally got a sound foundation for continuing with this lifestyle change.
So, I hope this helps all of you who are out there, wondering what you can do and whether it is possible to lose the weight. Know that you are not alone with your struggles and that with the support and inspiration of people like Carole, you can go from fat to fit and stay that way.
Is there any doubt that we influence each other? Caridad renewed my heart’s desire to write, and I rekindled in her the lifelong commitment to lose weight and become fit.
Can friends do more than that?