NEW PORT RICHEY — Judi Weisman knows first-hand about the devastating effects of kidney disease.
Her grandfather and an uncle died of kidney failure. In 2007, an older sister, Debi, passed away from kidney failure at 49, despite receiving a transplant from a brother years earlier. But a routine medical check up in 2009 revealed Weisman, whose weight had risen to 237 pounds, had high blood pressure and renal insufficiency, which is the start of kidney failure.
“One of my greatest fears was that I would develop it, like the others in my family,” said Weisman, 54. “I knew I had to do something.”
Like many, Weisman had tried dieting, but the weight always returned. She avoided high-calorie foods, but after reaching her weight goal, she’d return to eating those foods. Another doctor, Connie Mercer, whom she’d known personally, accepted her as a patient.
“Instead of prescribing another diet, Doctor Mercer gave me instructions for a lifestyle change,” said Weisman, a Miami native. “This included new eating habits, such as fruits, vegetables and lean meat. It also included a regular, specific exercise regimen.”
Already a member of the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center, Weisman increased her workouts to four times a week. Each session includes interval training on the treadmill for 37 minutes. Then, she switches to resistance machines that develop her upper and lower body for another 20 minutes.
The program has been a success, as her weight is down to 152 and she plans to lose another 17 pounds by Easter. And Weisman overcame discouragement using self-motivation and the support of family, friends and the other rec center members.
“A lot of credit also goes to God, because I feel he gave me a gift,” said Weisman, a third-grade teacher at nearby Genesis Elementary. “If I go back to my old ways of poor eating habits and not exercising, I will have wasted the second chance he gave me. That’s what keeps me going.”
Recently, Weisman began participating in local 5k events. Last month, she ran in a 5k to support breast cancer. Next month, she plans to run in a 5k to raise funds for Cindy’s Pets at Sims Park. The money raised will be used to provide food for pets in the home of seniors who receive Meals on Wheels.
“The seniors were giving some of the delivered food to their dogs and cats,” said Weisman, a USF graduate. “It makes me feel good to know I’m helping senior citizens and their pets in the community.”
Being a teacher, Weisman has a lesson for those who are considering weight loss.
“You have to reach that point where working out and eating healthy is more important that eating that piece of cake or sitting on the couch all evening,” Weisman said. “This is not a diet, because diets are temporary. This is a lifestyle change. I was given a gift of a second chance and I don’t want to blow it.”