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In the early 1980s, when her daughter, Mary Claire, was an infant, Hope Gilchrist decided to quit her on-and-off smoking habit for good. The stay-at-home mom and grad student succeeded but put on 30 pounds in the process. After dieting on lettuce and sugar-free cookies didn't work, Hope enlisted a therapist who helped her get to the root of her emotional eating. "I stopped labeling food as either good or bad and was finally able to indulge in a single piece of cake instead of eating the entire thing," Hope says. It was as if a switch had been flipped: She not only lost the hang-ups and the weight but also acquired an exercise habit that stuck.
As Mary Claire got older, she watched her mom embrace the latest fitness crazes, first following in the spandexed footsteps of Jane Fonda, then going to step aerobics classes and then taking up Spinning when it hit the gym scene in the mid-1990s. "I was very aware of not imposing over-the-top rules about what Mary Claire ate and just encouraged her to enjoy playing sports not to burn calories but because it was fun," Hope says.
These days Hope runs three mornings a week in her Jonesboro, Arkansas, suburb before work, does Pilates regularly, and works out with a personal trainer twice a week. "If you would have told me when I was younger that at 61 I'd like my body more than I ever have before, I wouldn't have believed you," she says. "I wasted so much time focusing on my weight and the number on the scale instead of the energy that exercise has filled my life with."