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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy name is Valerie Okleshen.  I am thirty-five years old.  I live in Palatine, Illinois, with my husband and two dogs, Maggie and Milton.  I graduated from the University of Michigan with a writing-oriented major, went to law school, and today I write plans for the government.  My hobbies are my animals, writing, and – detailed in chapter 4 of my book – going to the gym.  Two Hundred to Grapes is my first novel.  I am working on a sequel and have plans for a third on an unrelated topic.  The goal of my writing is to give practical advice in story form.

Inspirational and informative, Two Hundred to Grapes tells the story of my battle to lose weight.  Inside this book I share my experience losing 70 pounds, and the strength and hope I received from making changes and beating the odds.  I wrote Two Hundred to Grapes because I hoped that by sharing my story it might help other women dealing with the same weight problems that I have.  My intent was to provide motivation, inspiration, and useful ideas that any woman can incorporate into her life.

cover_art At my heaviest I weighed over 205 pounds; and so did my husband, Brian.  Like so many American couples we got married, started a life together, and then got fat together.  But that didn’t last long.  After enduring enough sad times as an overweight person, I was ready for action. Thus, over the next 12 months, with my husband at my side, I embarked on an incredible weight-loss journey.  I faced fears, changed lifelong habits, and in the end transformed from a fast-food-junkie-couch-potato into a healthy, active-and-loving-it beautiful woman. Today I am still that woman.  The fact of the matter is I could never go back to the way things were.  And this book covers all of what I did so I won’t ever have to.

I started writing Two Hundred to Grapes when at the tail end of my weight-loss journey loads of people in my life began asking questions about how I lost the weight.  My friends, people on the train ride to work, neighbors, even the men at work wanted to know the “secret.”  That got me thinking that maybe I should write my experience down.  And so I did.

Two Hundred to Grapes began on a rickety old computer after work at night and on the weekends.  Then, when I had completed one hundred pages I bought a small laptop so I could write on the train ride to my job and during my lunch hour.  That was when my writing really took off.  I began waking up at three-thirty in the morning to get three hours in before work, using my vacation time to write, and so on.  It was definitely a huge effort taking on a book while maintaining a full-time job but well worth it.  What’s more I discovered a passion for writing that I never knew I had.

I am very excited about Two Hundred to Grapes Part II which is about weight-loss maintenance.  Here I talk about what it was like finding a healthy way of living that I could continue for the rest of my life, a difficult task to be sure.  I definitely explore more about my emotions and my relationship with food in this second half, and I hope that my readers can relate and find what I have to say useful. This book will be available in September 2015.