When people question Bonnie Hiner about what kind of diet she has been on to lose 110 pounds in under a year, she explains that it wasn’t a “diet,” it was a lifestyle change.
Her lifestyle before the weight loss was best described as “sedentary.” She says that’s how she grew up and continued as an adult. She went home from school or work, ate dinner, watched television, and snacked. Food was a “comfort.”
Several years ago, she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Early in 2016 she was taking four prescriptions daily for the diabetes and three for the blood pressure problem.
During an office visit to her doctor, Russell Slayton, at Carilion Parkway Physicians early in 2016, he mentioned that she needed to start on insulin.
Hiner was devastated because her father had died in May 2011 from complications of diabetes and heart disease. His Type 2 diabetes was so severe that he had needed insulin injections. She says she watched him suffer and pass away and didn’t want to follow his path. He became her motivation.
Her battles with diabetes and heart disease were a result of both heredity and being overweight. Not only her father, but other family members suffer from both diseases.
She asked Dr. Slayton for a reprieve to give her some time to makes changes before starting her on insulin, some time to “fix things” on her own.
He was skeptical that she could succeed, but he did agree to a few months of doing things her way before adding the insulin to her list of medications.
Even with diabetes meds her blood sugar was “out of control” at a level of 250. Her weight at the beginning of 2016 was 280 pounds.
She says she was always tired and “just wanted to go home and crash after work.” Her desk job with Anthem involved “lots of sitting.”
Once Hiner talked Dr. Slayton into a three-month wait before the insulin, she had to come up with a plan to get her life and health in order. She describes herself as a somewhat obstinate person who doesn’t like to be told she can’t do something. She was determined to find a way out– “her way” with a program she would design for herself and which would fit into her life.
She started out by buying a Garmin Vivofit activity tracker and a free app for her Smartphone called MyFitnessPal. She knew she needed some strategy in which she would be held accountable for her fitness level and the foods she would choose to eat.
Hiner had a one-hour lunch break at work, which she decided to devote to exercise. Starting off slowly by walking half a mile, she progressed to walking three miles in 50 minutes. In inclement weather, she walks up and down the stairs at work for those 50 minutes instead.
She has been accumulating fitness equipment at home as well, including a treadmill and a Simply Fit Board, which she describes as a “lot of fun.”
She also changed what she ate. Food became no longer “comfort” but nutrition. She cut out sugar and adopted a low-fat regimen. Now she eats turkey burgers, turkey hot dogs, turkey tacos— with 95 percent lean ground turkey.
She records what she eats on the MyFitnessPal app and generally consumes about 1,300 calories a day. She says sometimes it is a struggle to eat that much. She finds recipes on the same app.
In the first week of her “lifestyle change,” she lost eight pounds— very motivational. She is currently maintaining a one- or two-pound weight loss per week, only experiencing a couple of plateaus.
For breakfast, she usually eats Cheerios with cashew milk and focuses on protein at lunch and dinner. Besides the turkey, she enjoys pan-seared fish like tilapia, flounder, salmon, and tuna.
Fruit has become her dessert. She tries to eat two apples a day and loves fresh pineapple and oranges. She avoids corn, white potatoes, and pasta. Her bread is now Healthy Life with 35 calories a slice. Her cheese of choice is mozzarella, which is lower in fat than other cheeses.
On her return visit to Dr. Slayton— the one where she was going to start insulin— she had lost 70 pounds and her blood sugar readings no longer indicated Type 2 diabetes. Her blood pressure also showed signs of improvement. Currently, she is no longer prescribed diabetes medications and takes just one pill for her blood pressure.
Dr. Slayton told her that in his years of practice, only a handful of patients have been able to accomplish what she has achieved— and “in the right way.” He says she could be the “Poster Child” for how to turn your life around from Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.
Hiner refuses to compromise the changes she has made in lifestyle. She managed to plan ahead for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with her family. She still goes to cookouts, taking along her own turkey burgers. She and her family enjoy traveling and eating out using the MyFitnessPal app, which helps her locate restaurants and menus ahead of time.
She and husband Joey, who is Vinton’s Public Works Director, are avid Salem Red Sox fans. She is encouraging them to add some turkey alternatives to their concessions.
Hiner says that her husband has been very supportive and while she didn’t ask him to remove all the food temptations from their home or to adopt her diet, he frequently eats what she eats and often does the cooking.
They are traveling more with trips to Charleston, S.C. to visit their daughter, and to Florida to visit their son. She had not told her son of her change in lifestyle and subsequent weight loss and he did not recognize her. She says she enjoys those “startled looks” she gets from people she hasn’t seen for a while.
She has gone from wearing size 26-28 jeans to sizes 12-14. In December, she purchased some dresses, which she has avoided for years.
She regularly meets her goal of 10,000 steps per day and feels “grumpy” if she doesn’t get to exercise. She and her sister recently joined the American Heart Association Walk fundraiser. She did the Drumstick Dash with her husband and daughter last Thanksgiving.
One of her biggest accomplishments with her lifestyle change was gaining the confidence to perform onstage at “No Shame Theatre,” a venue for the creation and performance of original theatre by anyone, about anything”—in a work written by her husband. She says it was “exhilarating.”
She figures she has lengthened her own life, and wants others in similar situations to know they, too, can do the same. Co-workers have noticed the changes. Some have taken up walking programs of their own. Her uncle who had “lost hope” has now lost 100 pounds.
“Bonnie has orchestrated an amazing transformation for herself,” says husband, Joey. “A number of folks have mentioned that she is an inspiration and are trying to make changes in their habits. Not only am I proud to see that she has made these achievements, it is a great feeling to be able to share in her satisfaction of her results. Her determination is off the charts; one of the many reasons I love her.”