Name: James T. (member since 2013)
LIVESTRONG.COM Username: March87
Age: 46 Height: 5 feet 5 inches
BEFORE Weight: 310 pounds Pant Size: 48
AFTER Weight: 160 pounds Pant Size: 34
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
James: My life before committing to LIVESTRONG.COM was far from optimal. Actually, it was just the opposite. Just picture me at 310 pounds, always tired, problems breathing, aches, pains and embarrassment -- all due to my weight.
My diet didn’t help either. I worked a lot, and pulling all-nighters was common. This led to eating a couple of pizzas and chugging down sodas (and sometimes beer).
While I did use my legs, I don’t believe walking to the fridge was what my body had in mind in terms of exercise needs. The occasional family or friend’s event would result in me promising myself I would start exercising after, mainly because of the realization that I was really out of shape after trying to participate. No surprise, I wasn’t very healthy.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
James: It wasn’t really just one thing. It was the events in my life coinciding with the feeling of being so obese that created this monolithic reason. In time, it just started to accumulate. I was so physically and mentally tired that I knew some “thing” had to change. It had finally come to this. Did I change then, though? Nope.
After those moments of motivation I would go back to my old ways and continue to overeat. In the back of my mind I’d think, “Just this one last pizza and for sure tomorrow — yes, tomorrow — I will go on a diet.” And often it worked: I’d go on a diet for a solid two hours!
And that was the vicious cycle I was in. I would overeat, feel bad, promise myself to follow through on making changes — and then not.
My actual turning point came at a time when I felt pretty good about myself. Family and career were good, and I was feeling better about myself. We went on holiday, and I was too fat to safely participate in an activity. My inability to get my health in order caused my kids and me to be denied. The feeling of disappointment created a storm of emotion that to this day has pulled me forward in times when I felt like giving up. It took me two and one-half years to lose the weight.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
James: When I first started I used the LIVESTRONG.COM Calorie Tracker for several months. It was extremely helpful. It helped me to keep track of my food intake and the calories I burned during exercise. The built-in community included with the app was very valuable to me. Many of the community members were very supportive, and I’ve formed several online accountability friends that I still have to this day. We motivate and encourage one another toward our fitness goals, and we also share a few laughs together. Life is wonderful again.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
James: I’ve been blessed with a very supportive family. When they started to see the changes I was making they rallied around me and helped me with cooking and food prep and gave me little encouragements in the form of positive notes about my fat-loss journey.
A few of my friends also noticed my changes and were motivated. Some have even started training with me now. We exchange ideas and training stories with one another. It really is unbelievable — I had an incredible support group I never knew existed!
I’ve made many friends at my gym, and we greet and joke around with each other when we arrive and sometimes even during our workouts. We’re all there to become the best version of ourselves.
But I think the ball was really set in motion before I started all of this change the evening I happened upon LIVESTRONG.COM. I found that members of the LIVESTRONG community were very supportive and friendly. Reading about other people's challenges and successes served as daily motivation for me. I guess you could say that LIVESTRONG.COM helped bring me back!
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your favorite way to work out?
James: When I first started I walked about 250 meters to a park bench near my home. I rested, and then I walked back an hour later. I started simple. These days I run longer distances ranging from five to 50 kilometers. I train with weights and have recently started participating in obstacle course racing (think of it as monkey bars, obstacles and running for adults). It’s complete fun and the euphoria you get when crossing that finish line is something you can only understand when you experience it.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your weekly exercise schedule?
James: I train based on a four-week exercise routine.
Week 1: I do light exercises on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. This includes walking, stretching and lighter running and weights.
Week 2: I train a bit more aggressively and with heavier weights and intensity. I include HIIT cardio and burpees.
Week 3: This is my PR, or personal record, week. I may not train as much this week, but I aim to try something new or break a previous personal record. For example, I am at 88 burpees in five minutes, and my goal is 100. To stay accountable I have one of my friends video my burpees to avoid a miscount. It’s also motivating for me.
Week 4: This is my rest week. I reload or eat a bit more and maybe do some light walking or run a few kilometers over the course of the week. This is a time when I give my body a rest.
An extremely powerful routine I follow each and every day is that I meditate and stretch in the morning. It has become my startup routine much like a computer starts up, loading the programs it needs to use during the day to run optimally. My mind is similar.
Much of what I do is mindfulness meditation. If you know how to worry, then you know how to meditate. Just change the subject.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s a typical day of meals and snacks?
James: I’m always eating throughout the day, but the quantities are different. I don’t stuff myself. I snack on whatever is available — whether it’s a carrot or carrot cake. The amount or portion I eat is commensurate with my daily calories. It might be a surprise to some, but eating is a skill! It’s important to understand that it’s sort of like your bank book or cash flow. Every day I have an amount of “cash” (i.e., calories) I can spend, and over time I’ve learned to spend wisely.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the range of calories you eat per day?
James: I am eating at maintenance, which is between 2,400 and 2,600 calories a day.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
James: I will usually keep foods on hand that satisfy my hunger or will increase my satiety. For example, I might sip on coconut juice or maybe have some popcorn. Having a go-to food is important. It’s different for everyone.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
James: In the beginning I prepped food ahead of time, especially if I was leaving the house for a few hours. If you don’t have it prepped you’ll start eating whatever is available. In my case, I have family who love cookies, cakes, chocolates, chips and pizza. So having something healthy ready is important. It also helps to have a supply of good whole foods, so I stock up whenever those go on sale so that I can keep eating foods that are in line with my goals.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the biggest challenge you faced?
James: Initially, it was my obesity. It was very difficult to move a lot, and when I did I would be in pain the next day. Try carrying a 110-pound sack of potatoes on your back and see how you feel at the end of the day. In my case, I hauled it around for more than 20 years. However, in time I started to shed my fat, and it did become easier.
Staying consistent and persistent was also challenging. At any time of the day or week something will just appear out of nowhere and sidetrack plans made to work out or eat healthy. The best way I found to deal with that was to look for ways to surround myself with people who have similar goals and who understand a bit about my struggle.
Finding the time and the energy to expend at the gym was also challenging. I work full-time, and sometimes the last thing I want to do is exercise. However, even if I do a 15-minute workout, it’s still a workout. It still goes toward my goals. I also understand that sometimes I will fall and fail, and I’ve decided that’s OK. As long as I fall forward, I’m still getting some yardage.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
James: I think one of the most important was finding that reason to continue the journey. To lose weight and fat, find or create that monolithic reason or combo of reasons that is larger than the obstacles that will appear from time to time during the journey. That’s what helped to motivate me to avoid the midnight binge or go for that workout.
Being patient and understanding that this stuff takes time is important. The faster the weight loss, the faster it will most likely come back.
I have an understanding that at some point I will fail. Actually, I expect it. Fail and try to get over it as quickly as possible. When I fail I remind myself that tomorrow is a new day to really hit the ground running. Hard.
Not all will agree, but I think it’s OK to have that slice of cake or whatever you’d like as long as it’s only once in a while. I think balance and moderation is very important. The way you eat should be sustainable and fit your lifestyle on the assumption it’s healthy eating. Otherwise, I think the result is binging.
Avoid the fad diets. They are often easy to spot because they promise a massive amount of weight loss in a very short period of time.
If you have constant cravings, find a go-to meal or food. For me, it was coconut water. It’s important to find something that you really like that has a high satiety value for you.
Remember, you have fat — you are not fat. Think fat loss, not weight loss.
And, finally, keep that one special reason or set of reasons close in your mind. It could involve daily meditation, affirmations or whatever it is you need to do so that it becomes a part of you. In my case, I keep a daily journal on Instagram. If I ever feel like I haven’t made any progress, I just look back a few months and am reminded how much I have actually improved. Slow progress is still progress!
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your life like now?
James: My life has done a complete 180 from where it was headed and has started to now climb vertically to new things that I was never able to do before when I was overweight. LIVESTRONG.COM has continued to be a source of inspiration and motivation for me. While the community grows and changes, the important issues are very familiar. Most community members want a healthier, stronger and happier lifestyle and LIVESTRONG.COM has become a daily destination to get valuable information that has changed lives.
Everything is better. Fit feels good! While most people refer it as a diet, I just look at it as a way of eating. The skill to manage my eating habits was also born from the training I received from the LIVESTRONG.COM Calorie Tracker app. It gave me insight into what foods and portions “cost” me calorie-wise and why I was most likely not getting to where I wanted to be.
Today my workout is still my favorite time of the day! After a good session, I’m relaxed, happier and feel like I accomplished something great for me. I think my body feels the same way. I am no longer out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs. I can play with my family more. I sleep better. My mind is sharper. My energy levels are off the charts compared to before. Everything is better.
I thought transforming my body would only provide me with good health, but it became the starting point of so much more. I wake up in the morning thinking life is amazing again. Let’s do this!
Ann Rusnak is LIVESTRONG's Sr. Community Manager. Her quest to lose the baby weight before the baby finished elementary school sparked an interest in health and fitness that continues to be a passion to this day. She loves hiking and yoga, and thinks the best exercise is one you can do with a good friend. Over the years, Ann's desire to fit into a certain size has evolved into what she feels is the more important goal of feeling good and having energy to live life to its fullest.