'I Couldn't Stand Myself'

After nearly dying of a heart valve defect, Jeanenne Darden knew she had to turn her life around for the better. Now she's down 37 pounds and feeling luckier to be alive than ever in her new body.

May 21, 2014
Jeanenne Darden
Jeanenne Darden

Jeanenne Darden always had a fit body. Her friends always commented on her lean arms and how good she looked in clothes.

“People weren’t saying that any longer,” Darden says. “I couldn’t stand myself. I was fat. I couldn’t see my toes when I looked down because of my belly. I got up to a size 16 in a dress.”


Nobody would fault Darden, who lives in Florida, for her weight gain. She nearly died of a heart valve defect. The open heart surgery to make the repair and a long and difficult recovery left her in a deep depression that she self-medicated with food for months. She lost all motivation to exercise and take care of herself. And her body self-image sank to new lows.

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“I got to the point where I hated myself and I knew that only I could help myself,” she says. She started small: This southern girl who grew up on sweet tea stopped drinking sugared beverages and wine and drank only water.  She embraced the super-hydration “fat bomb” strategy from her husband Ellington Darden’s book The Body Fat Breakthrough, drinking a gallon of ice water a day.

“I have an 18-ounce blue tumbler with a straw that never leaves my side. I’m constantly filling it with ice water.”

With that change alone Jeanenne felt her “fat pants” getting loose. Next, she started cutting calories by using a smaller plate at dinnertime. “I said to myself, ‘Jeanenne, you cannot eat like you’ve been eating.’ So I started on a 1300-calorie diet and then went to 1200 and then to 1100. I was very strict and disciplined.” She kept a food diary and focused on getting 50 to 60 percent of her calories from carbohydrates. “I’m such an anti-Atkins person. Carbs are good for you. I ate normally. I just ate less.”

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Darden also started working out using the 30-30-30 negative-training program in her husband’s book and continued to watch calories. In 20 weeks, she lost 37 pounds and her protruding belly. Plus, she fit into her old skinny jeans. Now she’s back down to 146 pounds with 3 pounds of new muscle and a body fat percentage of just 19. Just five months earlier it was 35 percent.

She's also 60 percent stronger due to the weight training. Most important, Darden’s depression has lifted. “My self-esteem is back; and I feel so lucky to be alive.”

Interested in learning how to turn your life around? Join Rodale's Weight Loss Breakthroughs Facebook community to share your success story, progress pictures, gather tips, and interact with other people looking to lose weight for good.

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