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A closer look at the six women who are taking health to heart

Cynthia Tomlin, 63, St. Petersburg

CHURCH: The House of Praise and Blessings

OCCUPATION: Social services counselor with the Pinellas County Health Department

WHAT SHE ACHIEVED: Went from a size 24 to an 18 by changing her diet and walking five days a week at 5:30 a.m.

BONUS: She was diagnosed with diabetes in 2004, and has osteoarthritis, but her new lifestyle is helping both conditions. "Some mornings I start out limping, but I never let it stop me. Walking has helped me not to be limited. I was supposed to have knee surgery, but now I don't feel that I need it.''

QUOTE: "If I could make a career change, it would be to the health field. As I began to educate myself about diabetes, I got hooked. I love to eat, so I learned proper meal preparation and portion control. You just can't cheat very often.''

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Sharita Jones, 35, Safety Harbor

CHURCH: St. Paul AME, Safety Harbor

OCCUPATION: Fiscal department, Pinellas County Public Works operations

WHAT SHE ACHIEVED: Lost 25 pounds in the past year by gradually improving her diet and exercising daily, either walking or dancing.

BONUS: She has more energy, a better complexion, and is sleeping better. She's also teaching healthier habits to son Rico, 16, who is even giving up his beloved ramen noodles.

QUOTE: "If you care about your quality of life, and about being there for your kids, taking care of your health is an important step to take. It's good to be proactive and not reactive. Don't wait until you get a bad diagnosis. And don't make it a diet. It should be a gradual process.''

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Mae Allen, 53, Valrico

CHURCH: Little Rock Church of God by Faith

OCCUPATION: Community health and wellness consultant

WHAT SHE ACHIEVED: Lost 24 pounds since October through healthy diet and exercise. Her blood pressure is down and she's sleeping better.

BONUS: Her personal achievement has strengthened her professionally, too. "Before, I was just getting paid to be a health consultant. It wasn't a passion. Now it's a passion.''

QUOTE: "We as women, especially African-American women, take care of everyone else and not ourselves. My family resented (this new lifestyle) at first, but now they support me entirely. My husband especially — now it's like I'm a new woman to him."

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Deborah L. Williams, 56, Lithia

CHURCH: Rivers of Life Church Ministries

OCCUPATION: Owns Bellafia Chocolate Boutique in Riverview

WHAT SHE ACHIEVED: Lost 14 pounds, cutting way back on coffee and sweeteners (she once used eight Splendas in a single cup of coffee). She works out at Curves four days a week.

BONUS: She sleeps better and has far less back and leg pain, even though she stands at her shop for hours. "It's easy,'' she said when asked how you lose weight in a chocolate shop. "Determination. Willpower. I'm retired military.''

QUOTE: "I was prepared to make a change, not only mentally, but physically and spiritually, too. I'm doing a makeover here, but it's not one of those makeovers like you see on TV. This body is only on loan to me from God, and I need to take care of it. This is God's heart, not mine.''

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Theresa Brown, 60, Lithia

CHURCH: Rivers of Life Church Ministries

OCCUPATION: Fitness instructor and community health adviser

WHAT SHE ACHIEVED: Lost 47 pounds three years ago and keeps her cholesterol under control without medication.

BONUS: Working with others to help them get healthy keeps her motivated. "I'm very hard, very strict, but they love me because I get results. I don't take no for an answer.''

QUOTE: "Doctors tell you to lose weight, but they don't tell you how. Learn your own body. Challenge your doctor. Find out what your alternatives are to medication.''

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Rosalyn Connelly, 57, St. Petersburg

CHURCH: Tenth Street Church of God

OCCUPATION: Child protection specialist at the Department of Children and Families

WHAT SHE ACHIEVED: Got her blood pressure under control, needs to have all her clothes taken in. Walks for 45 minutes daily, and builds her menus around heart-healthy recipes that she has made for classes at her church on healthy dining. She has her husband, Ulysses, enjoying his favorite beans and rice — made with brown rice, smoked turkey and no extra salt.

BONUS: At Thanksgiving, she asked her sisters not to bring over high-fat dishes like macaroni and cheese. At Christmas, she didn't even have to remind them.

QUOTE: "In my health ministry at church, we're introducing children to healthier foods. Children will eat what we feed them . . . We get a little resistance from the men, but in a playful way.''

A closer look at the six women who are taking health to heart 02/26/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 26, 2010 2:30pm]
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