MOUNT PLEASANT In 2011, a walk down the driveway left Kathy Poplawski short of breath. Last month, she hiked glaciers and mountains, dug for gold and climbed up the face of a cliff while on vacation in Alaska.
Poplawski, 61, of Mount Pleasant, credits her new healthy lifestyle and her more-than-110-pound weight loss for her new energy and strength. Even in my younger years these were things I wouldnt have been able to do, she said. It felt like a miracle. I did things I never dreamed I would be able to do.
Weight loss wasnt new to Poplawski. Her husband, Jay, 62, had started a healthy eating program years ago and encouraged his wife to join him. She lost weight on and off over the years, but wasnt successful at making it stick. Usually, in the end, I gained more than I lost, she said.
In 2008, she joined Weight Watchers at work and lost more than 100 pounds. But then she lost her job, and she let her healthy eating habits slip. She gained all of the weight back and more, and became sedentary.
By 2011 it was difficult for me to do anything. I became extremely short of breath even walking down the driveway, she said. I convinced myself that I was just out of shape, and if I started exercising more I would be fine.
A trip to the ER
But in 2011, she was spurred into action after experiencing chest pains. After a trip to the emergency room, Poplawski was diagnosed with heart failure but that wasnt all. She was also diagnosed with high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, high cholesterol and sleep apnea.
The cardiologist asked me point blank if I wanted to die, she said. Talk about motivation.
Poplawski admits that, as a registered nurse, her diagnoses should not have surprised her. I … know the risk factors, but this always happens to someone else.
Under the guidance and care of her cardiologist, she began taking several medications, eating more healthfully (including a low-sodium diet), exercising and using a CPAP machine to keep her breathing at night.
Remembering her success with Weight Watchers in the past, Poplawski joined again. Her daughter Holly, 30, also of Mount Pleasant, joined with her, and she and Jay became her main support system. Holly has lost more than 50 pounds on her health journey, Poplawski said.
Low-sodium diet a challenge
Poplawski said one of her biggest challenges was sticking to a low-sodium diet. The pre-packaged frozen foods, soup and cold meat she used to depend on for quick, healthy meals were no longer acceptable. The sodium level in that stuff is outrageous, she said. I had to learn how to eat healthy all over again.
For instance, I learned that poultry especially frozen turkey usually has flavor enhancers injected into the meat, she said. The translation of this is salt brine … up to 20 percent. This means up to 500 mg of sodium in a serving of turkey. When you have a daily limit of 1,000 mg, that is not acceptable.
Poplawski also decided to actually use the gym membership I had been paying for and not using. She discovered that she loves aquasize, which gives her a low-impact workout in the water and keeps her muscles toned.
This has become part of my weekly routine and I feel deprived if I cannot get there as I should, she said of aquasize. I was featured as Member of the Month for May at my gym.
But the real pay-off was during her August trip to Alaska. I hiked out on the Matanuska glacier with my grandson, Bace, who is a guide up there, Poplawski said. I really was able to get out there and not just visit Alaska, but live Alaska.
And while she thoroughly enjoyed the trip, she is happy to be back with her familiar food and routine now knowing what helps to keep her on the right path to good health.
Have you improved your health and/or lost weight through tried-and-true healthy eating and exercise? Or has your entire family adopted a more healthy lifestyle recently? If so, wed love to share your story and words of advice and inspiration with other Journal Times readers! Contact Features Editor Ann Walter at email@example.com or call her at (262) 631-1727 for more information. (Racine County residents only, please.)
At a Glance
Name: Kathy Poplawski
Residence: Mount Pleasant
Occupation: Registered nurse, teaching certified nursing assistant classes and CPR at Gateway Technical College. She also owns WellSpring Solutions, training medication administration, fire safety, first aid and CPR to employees of assisted living facilities.
Weight loss: More than 110 pounds
Benefits: Blood pressure is now normal, no longer pre-diabetic, improved cholesterol numbers and no longer needs a CPAP machine for sleeping. Increased energy and endurance; more active.
Tips for success
Mount Pleasant resident Kathy Poplawski, who has lost more than 110 pounds, offers this advice to others for their own weight-loss journeys:
- Just do it: If you want to wait for a better time, you will never get started.
- Start small and read labels: Because of her immediate health issues, Poplawski had to change a lot at one time. For most people, she recommends starting with small changes. Maybe pack a lunch instead of doing fast food (also loaded with salt). Increase fruit and vegetable intake. Eat high-fiber whole-grain products, she said. Read labels. Little changes can make a lot of difference and can be the gateway for bigger changes.
- Find a good support system: I wholeheartedly endorse Weight Watchers. The support system that I have found there has helped me more than I can say, Poplawski said. Working on a healthy lifestyle with others also brings in more ideas and perspectives on eating and exercise. (My daughter) Holly and I attend together every week, she said. Weight Watchers also has the approval of my cardiologist.
- Find an exercise you enjoy in a gym or elsewhere: Or find an exercise you at least dislike less than other choices, she said. Make it a habit. Take advantage of our beautiful lakeshore and go for a walk or a swim. Just do something before you find out you cant do it anymore.
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