Winning at losing: How four nurses beat the battle of the bulge


Practicing What She’s Teaching

You’ve heard it, and perhaps lived it, before: Work and kids can make for a hectic life of takeout and no time to take care of yourself. That was certainly the case for Dianna Renée Johnson, 42, whose scale topped 215 pounds when she was in her mid-30s, her knees literally buckling under the stress. She had always been a little on the heavy side, but the nearly impossible balancing act of her day-to-day life had steadily and stealthily added 10 to 15 pounds to her small frame each year. “I felt like a hypocrite teaching nursing students about healthy living when I obviously wasn’t following my own advice,” Johnson says of her job as vocational nursing program training coordinator at Hill College in Cleburne, Texas.

Finally, a wakeup call came during a routine checkup after her third daughter was born (her kids range in age from 4 to 21, and she has a 15-month-old grandchild; everyone lives at home). “With borderline high blood sugar and blood pressure levels, I knew I was in line for diabetes and heart disease,” she says. “How could I not do something?”

Johnson signed up for Jenny Craig, which provides one-on-one counseling and pre-packed meals that not only made dieting doable, but taught her important lessons about proper portion control. She brought the meals to work along with vegetables and other healthy snacks that helped her avoid fat traps. She also ate the meals at home while preparing her family lower-fat versions of their favorite recipes.

That first month, Johnson lost 20 pounds through diet alone. She was on a roll! Then her husband Ben, who had exercised throughout their marriage, introduced her to the gym. “He had always made an effort to get out and exercise, while I was too busy with work and family obligations,” she says. That changed. “He started me on the elliptical trainer because it was easy on my knees. After five minutes I was out of breath, but I promised myself I would do it again the next day.” Johnson was true to her word, working out a little longer each session. She gradually added weight training to her routine and kept dropping 5 to 10 pounds a month.

Today, Johnson is a healthy 120 pounds. “I can wear my 21-year-old daughter’s jeans,” she says proudly. She still struggles with chocolate cravings, although she handles them much better than in the past. But more importantly, her test results are all in the healthy range. “I feel like a better wife and mom because I’m in shape. And as a nurse and health educator, I can stand tall and proud in front of my class of nursing students since I’m living what I’m teaching.”


Pounds Lost


Has Kept Weight Off

One and a half years

The Workout that Worked

Johnson’s routine includes strength training as well as cardio since muscle burns more calories than fat.

• Weight training: 60 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week

• Elliptical training, running and speed walking: 30 minutes, 3 times a week

Snack Tact

• Jenny Craig Dream Bars (favorite flavors: Chocolate Chip, S’mores, Yogurt Dream)

• Hot chocolate mixed with sugar-free hot chocolate

Smart Moves

• Weigh food until you get to know a proper portion—if you don’t have a scale, use your fist as a measure.

• Save eating out for special occasions—and no more than once a week!

• Keep a picture of yourself at your heaviest close by. When a craving hits, take a look at how far you’ve come, then reach for a piece of sugar-free gum or some fruit.


Tajinder Rehal
Tajinder Rehal is a freelance writer in northern California.

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