Name: Lara S.
LIVESTRONG.COM Username: Laraldr
LIVESTRONG.COM Member since: August 17, 2010
Height: 5 feet 9.5 inches
Weight: 196 pounds
Dress/pant size: 14/12
Weight: 166 pounds
Dress/pant size: 8/6
1. LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
Lara S.: I'm a registered nurse, so I understood and saw all of the bad effects of poor lifestyle choices every day as I dealt with my patients, but I didn't see myself as being "that unhealthy." As I aged, I seemed to gain about 10 pounds a decade. It was insidious. I never exercised, and, frankly, with three kids and eventually school and a full-time job, I didn't feel I had the time.
What I did have were bad habits! I am a comfort-food eater. When I was stressed, the answer was in pastry or ice-cream form. I drank gallons of caffeinated soda -- it was my wake-up beverage. I'd drank it my entire life, and yet as the weight crept up on me I wasn't concerned. After all, there were plenty of people much bigger than me. These were the excuses I lived by.
I was working full time in 2008 as a registered nurse when I remarried. We had four teens in the house, and I started to become more aware of my body. I was 196 pounds and had never weighed more than 200 pounds -- even when pregnant -- so I decided to start making changes. I didn't want my kids to adopt my poor habits. I began to cook Weight Watchers recipes, eliminated second helpings and slowly weaned myself off the soda. I still resisted exercising because I'd never considered myself athletic.
2. LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
Lara S.: In August of 2010 I saw my doctor for a diabetes screening. I was dreading it. I was having some of the signs already, and the disease runs in both sides of my family. When I got the results I was not surprised -- I had Type 2 diabetes. I cried all the way home.
I spent two days in class learning about diabetes from a patient's perspective. I was depressed. I didn't want to do exchanges, so I asked my diabetic educator and doctor for calorie- and carb-intake limits. I began to use LIVESTRONG.COM's MyPlate to track all my food and blood sugar levels.
3. LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
Lara S.: It was a revelation! Thanks to the easy-to-read numbers and charts, I could see how excessive my carbohydrate intake was. I learned how to read labels and loved putting the recipes into the website, which figured out all the nutritional info for me! I am very goal oriented -- because without goals, it's just not going to happen. So I set goals of how much water to drink, percentage of carbs to eat, etc. I was 100 percent accountable to the site; no one else saw the numbers. I could be honest even when I cheated -- and I could see where I needed to fine-tune.
4. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the biggest challenge you faced?
Lara S.: For me, eating out and avoiding all of the junk food at work. I also was addicted to soda. I switched to diet soda and then to water. Now I drink at least 80 ounces of water per day. I read an article on LIVESTRONG.COM that told me to ask the waitstaff to not even bring the bread basket and to ask for salad dressing on the side. I began packing healthy snacks and lunches every day so I would have alternatives to the barrage of doughnuts and candy at work.
5. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your favorite way to work out?
Lara S.: I got a Fitbit Flex in June of last year, and it really has been a great tool to help motivate me -- I try to reach 15,000 steps a day. I walk or run four times a week, three to four miles each time. I do PiYo three times a week and I use my weighted hula hoop daily for at least 10 minutes to work on my abs and core. I use my mini trampoline while I watch TV a few times a week too. I also use weights every other day to work on my upper-body strength. And I look for opportunities to get in more workout-related activity daily: I do push-ups off the counter at work, I always use the stairs (I average 12 flights a day) and I park far away from my destination so that I have to walk farther.
6. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
Lara S.: I eat every two to three hours. When I get up in the morning, I have black coffee with a teaspoon of coconut oil and then a shake with almond milk and green phytonutrients. I drink water all day -- 80 to 100 ounces. Midmorning snack includes a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a handful of sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Lunch is hummus and fresh celery and/or peppers or some cheese and salami. Snack is a 100-calorie Greek yogurt with a teaspoon each of flaxseed, cinnamon and chia seeds. Dinner with the family is a protein like grilled chicken or fish with a fresh salad and veggies. My after-dinner snack is a half of a cup of frozen yogurt with a few marshmallows or fresh fruit sprinkled on top.
7. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the range of calories you eat per day?
Lara S.: I aim for 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day. I adjust when I'm more active. With diabetes, I have to be careful not to bottom out.
8. LIVESTRONG.COM: What healthy staples are always in your kitchen?
Lara S.: Staples in the kitchen: phytonutrients powder, chia seeds, flaxseed, lentils, fresh local produce in the fridge or freezer, farm-fresh eggs, low-fat cheese, olive oil, fresh fish, pork rinds (my no-carb snack for chip cravings), organic peanut butter, avocados, onions, garlic and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. I picked 24 pounds of fresh blueberries this year and bought a bushel of sweet corn. We also bought a quarter of a local farm cow. Our freezer is full of fresh produce. I buy fresh local produce whenever I can, and I have basil, mint, oregano, rosemary and chives growing in containers in the backyard for a quick, fresh taste for recipes.
9. LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
Lara S.: I have been planning meal for years. I do it one to two weeks in advance and shop accordingly. We do Meatless Monday and have fresh fish and poultry as staples. I pack a big bag for work so that I always have something healthy to eat every two to three hours. I grocery shop every two weeks, with stops for fresh produce as needed.
10. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
Tip 2: Prepare for success. I bring healthy food to work and stay away from the candy and doughnuts. If I have a healthy alternative, I'm less likely to grab the junk. And I don't bring junk food into the house!
Tip 3: You've got to start somewhere. For me, I started by walking daily; five kilometers a day. Some people just need to start by walking around the block.
Tip 4: Every day is a new day to begin again. Some days are better than others.
Tip 5: Encourage yourself! And surround yourself with people who will encourage you. Think positive. You can do it!
11. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's you life like now?
Lara S.: I can't believe I am still losing inches. I can't believe I have walked or ran seven half marathons, a 15K race and two 10K races in the past four years. I'm not on any diabetes medicine and my hemoglobin A1C has lowered and stabilized. I still have a daily caloric-intake goal. I eat more veggies than ever and less processed food. I drink water all day. I'm not the same person I was four years ago!
LIVESTRONG.COM has been invaluable. I still use the site for recipes, community, the inspiration and articles -- it keeps me positive and moving forward. I still track everything in MyPlate. As a nurse, I tell my diabetic patients to use LIVESTRONG.COM to track their food and blood sugar levels. The charts can be printed and taken to their appointments. It's one thing to be told what you have to do: LIVESTRONG.COM helps it become real as you see the effects of eating carbs, weight, calories and exercise. My life has forever changed for the better -- and LIVESTRONG.COM was where it started. Thank you so much for helping me be the healthiest me!
(*We first shared Lara’s story in November 2014).
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Written by: Kelly Plowe, MS, RD, CSSD is a nutritionist and food and health communications specialist. As a registered dietitian and certified Sports Dietitian, Kelly helps consumers put health and nutrition research into practice. She believes diet is at the center of a healthy and fulfilling life and is dedicated to helping others be their best. She is an avid runner, weight lifter and CrossFit enthusiast. Kelly spends most of her free time cooking, eating out with friends and going to music concerts. Follow Kelly on Twitter and on Instagram.