Sherry Adler-Whitford loves clothes.
It's not often this 64-year-old Spring Hill resident dresses down. Even when she works out.
"It makes me feel better. I like to wear nice clothes," Adler-Whitford said in her northeast London accent. "It makes me feel better about myself and I work very hard, so why not look very good?"
She works out five days a week at the YMCA Hernando Branch, aiming to keep off the 70-plus pounds she's lost in seven months.
Adler-Whitford had to change. This time last year, she weighed 208 pounds, and her health suffered, with one ailment piled on top of another. Today, things are different.
"The difference is really night and day," Adler-Whitford said. "I don't even like looking at photos of what I looked like because I like this much better."
Blessing in disguise
Adler-Whitford was diagnosed with asthma in 1997, and the next 11 years were hell.
She couldn't walk to her mailbox without getting winded. She used a wheelchair and sometimes needed to be carried upstairs to bed.
Doctors put her on steroids to battle the asthma. Advair, which added to her weight, and Xolair, a shot that would knock her out for nearly three days. They even wanted her to carry around an oxygen tank.
"She couldn't even walk long distances," husband Richard Whitford, said. "She hated not doing anything for herself."
As her weight went up, things got worse. She battled acid reflux disease and chronic pulmonary ailments Adler-Whitford blames on smoking.
Then last year she was diagnosed with diabetes.
"I was so ashamed that it was like they told me I had AIDS," Sherry said. "There was no history of it in my family so it was just so horrible."
A diet was warranted. So Sherry stopped eating anything white: bread, rice, pasta, potatoes. Then she had to go to diabetes school: three weeks of teaching her how to cope and live with it.
Eventually, the weight started to drop — and she does it all without taking insulin.
"Getting diabetes was a blessing," Adler-Whitford said. "I'm not being sarcastic. I'm sorry because I know for some people it's tougher than this, but it's what got me to change things."
But a new problem arose. Excess skin, which meant sagging arms and belly. Six months ago, she headed to the YMCA.
To reshape her body.
Fits like a glove
Now, she's at the gym more than the employees.
"I loved her no matter how she looked," her husband said. "Though it was difficult having to help her with everything. But now it's nice to see her feeling good about herself. We both know that's from all the working out."
Once at the YMCA, Adler-Whitford had to start a regimen. With the help of Richard and a few trainers, she got rolling. Certain exercises led to others, which led to more reps, which led to longer workouts. Richard goes with her, and she still has an emergency inhaler, just in case.
"She always seems to have a really good attitude toward what she has to go through and then it goes toward exercising as well," Y trainer Maureen Marchand said. "Her whole story is remarkable in itself, considering everything she's had to overcome to get to her current weight."
Once she got down to 138 pounds, Adler-Whitford dragged Richard with her on a shopping spree, trying to replenish a wardrobe of clothes that were now too big.
It's just one of the things she's had to get used to.
"Take the person that I was — basically a cripple," she said, choking back tears. "That's silly because I wasn't really one and didn't want to be one. ... It was 11 years of not feeling good about myself."
It's not over. Adler-Whitford wants to lose more weight. There are, after all, many more stores to hit and more clothes to buy.
"I look in the mirror, and it's just wonderful. It's so nice to fit into clothes and not look like it's two pigs in a sack trying to get out," she said. "One of the nicest things I can do now is cut my own toenails because I can see them!
"I know it sounds silly, but those silly little things make me feel better because now I can do them for myself."
Community Sports Editor Mike Camunas can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 544-1771.