I'M A SUCKER for a good weight-loss story.
In the supermarket, I scan the tabloids looking for the secret to the dieter's success: Gastric bypass surgery? A diet pill? Maybe that new Dukan Diet created by French doctor Pierre Dukan that Kate Middleton's mother reportedly used to prepare for the royal wedding?
Even the wacky stuff fascinates me. And, yes, that includes reports about brides who have feeding tubes inserted into their noses to help them lose weight.
So I'll let you know right upfront that Peggy Bradford of Sewell, N.J., dropped 75 pounds over the past three years the old-fashioned way: by eating less and moving more.
Stay with me, though, because it's really an interesting story when you consider that she did it all on her own.
Girfriend didn't join a gym.
Nor did she join a fancy weight-loss program.
Instead, she bought a $10 pedometer from Walmart.
What made her different from all the the others who each year attempt to lose weight and fail miserably is that Bradford stuck with it. The weight came off, and it's stayed off.
More than anything, she used the heck out of that pedometer. "The experts say do 10,000 steps a day to lose weight. I never go a day without my pedometer," Bradford told me last week.
On a typical day, the 47-year-old mother of one takes 30,000 steps. She estimated that it amounts to about five miles.
"I wash dishes, and I jog in place. I iron, and I jog in place," she told me. "Say I'm watching TV and I'm making dinner, I'm jogging in place while I do that."
Bradford, who works as a secretary for her brother's appliance repair shop, also jogs while doing paperwork.
Laugh if you want, but Bradford looks terrific. At 5 feet 10 inches tall, she's 154 pounds and a fit size 13.
Her weight-loss odyssey started after she saw a picture of herself at a family function. "My face was heavy. Everything about me was heavy," Bradford recalled. "It upset me terribly. This just was not me."
She had rationalized her weight gain, tying it to a hysterectomy and menopause. But the logic didn't hold. "I had friends around me in menopause and who had had hysterectomies, and they just didn't have a weight issue.
"I blamed everything but what I really should have been looking at," Bradford recalled. The picture set her straight.
"I walked in my front door - my husband was sitting at the table - I walked in and said, 'I'm going to do this. I'm going to make a lifestyle change.' "
She'd tried diet programs over the years, but nothing had ever worked for the long term. "I wanted to eat everyday food like everybody else," Bradford said.
Her own plan was simply to make better food choices. "I used to eat candy bars. Now, I eat protein bars. I also cut out soda. I used to drink a couple of cans a day."
Previously, "I never looked at labels," she said. Now she pays attention to what goes into her mouth. She has no set diet "plan" and even treats herself to ice cream with whipped cream.
Bradford started small, using that $10 pedometer and commiting to a goal of between 6,000 and 10,000 steps a day. She has since upgraded to a $25 model.
"I hear people all the time saying they are getting this big piece of equipment and they're going to do this . . . What I have is created an everyday lifestyle."
To share her thinking, Bradford has also created a Facebook community called "Steps to Good Health," which has nearly 4,000 members. They share healthy recipes, pedometer reports and, above all, encouragement.
She also leads free monthly walks. During cold weather, they meet at the Deptford Mall. The next one is Jan. 5. Bradford's group will gather at 9 a.m. by the Ruby Tuesday before they set off.
"There's no pressure. Nobody judges anybody.
"We come together as a group of friends and we support each other," Bradford said. "We are all taking this journey together."