Name: Alex L.
LIVESTRONG.COM Username: Philly2016
Age: 37 Height: 6'0"
BEFORE Weight: 254 pounds Dress/Pant Size: 42
AFTER Weight: 200 pounds Dress/Pant Size: 36
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
Alex: Like any parent my life is very hectic. So much running around — life on the go, if you will. Working full-time in sales can be very demanding on one’s time. More often than not I was working 60 to 70 hours each and every week. And this lifestyle made it all too easy to reach for that quick-fix snack or head to the closest drive-thru — fast, easy, cheap and nearly impossible to resist.
I was a notorious snacker. If it was crunchy and salty I loved it. If it was smooth and sweet I loved it. I could never say no to chips or ice cream. I ate way too much junk and probably drank too much beer. I had no real concept of portion control and certainly did not read any nutrition labels.
My pantry honestly looked like some kind of movie-theater concession stand. Looking back on it now, I can’t believe how bad it was.
That being said, I really let things go over the past few years. I would say it was a combination of things that got me to my highest weight.
A painful back injury (a slipped disc) had me on the shelf. I wasn’t able to do much at all, and if you’ve ever had this type of injury you know where I am coming from. During that time I had put on weight. I could feel it in my clothing, but I never went on the scale because I did not want to feel the shame of seeing the number.
Perhaps becoming complacent with parenthood and my marriage were factors as well. I fell into the same old day-to-day routine. Once my daughter was in bed, I would tear open some chips, crack a beer and watch TV with my wife. Day after day, it was the same thing.
It got to a point where I started to have health issues. I would get really bad heartburn and indigestion all the time. I had sleep apnea and sometimes insomnia. And I always felt tired.
The heavier I got, the more of a toll it took on me emotionally and physically. It started to become hard even to look at myself in the mirror. My work clothes weren’t fitting anymore. I was wearing baggy shorts and XXL T-shirts at home to attempt to hide the bulge. I started feeling sorry for myself, and this definitely perpetuated the binge eating. I was in a dark place with myself during this time.
As far as activity and fitness were concerned, it would come in spurts. I would play in a rec basketball or touch football league. I would go to the gym from time to time. But I never really lost weight. As the saying goes, “You can’t out-train a bad diet.”
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
Alex: First and foremost, I wanted to be healthier for my daughter. Heart disease and cancer have taken the lives of many of my loved ones much too early in life, and it was very hard for me to deal with. I did not want my little girl to have to go through the things I had to.
Secondly, my wife. What would I have done if my wife didn’t have the courage to get after me about my health? It started off with subtle hints, and then it became a little more direct. Even though I didn’t want to hear it and it caused us to have some fights, I knew deep down she was right.
Thirdly, I had to do it for myself. I didn’t like looking at myself anymore. I had become so insecure that I didn’t want to go to social events because I was ashamed of how I looked. I would never pose for pictures because I did not want to see how big I really was. I had become such a negative person, and I was a completely different person than I used to be.
The turning point for me was this past New Year. Seeing some family photos from a Christmas party really opened my eyes. I was shocked at what I saw. That’s when I told myself it’s time to make some changes. I decided to make a resolution to get myself down to a healthy weight.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
Alex: MyPlate has by far been the most important factor in helping me lose the weight.
During the month of January, I started doing yoga with my wife and watching what I ate. I lost 10 pounds that month, but I knew that losing the first 10 pounds is always the easiest. In order for me to keep this ball rolling I had to do something else —something more.
I recalled an old friend of mine who was in great shape that kept a nutrition journal to track his food. He always told me “80 percent diet, 20 percent exercise.” So that got me thinking. I knew I would never be able to have the patience to manually write down everything I ate.
And then one month later, I thought to search for a calorie tracker in the app store. I read a bunch of reviews for several different tools and decided to go with MyPlate because of the solid ratings. After playing around with it for a bit and figuring it out, I began tracking my food. I set my goal in the app — to lose two pounds per week — and began tracking everything.
I started lurking on the LIVESTRONG.COM community boards for the first couple of weeks to learn as much as I could from people going through the same struggle as me. I read about food ideas, fitness tips and progress posts (my favorite part of the community). I began to get involved and started posting my thoughts and interacting with the community. The positivity was so contagious and motivating. It helped immensely.
I’m also incredibly happy I clicked “yes” to receive the newsletters from LIVESTRONG.COM. I have learned so much from reading them! This is what brought me to the STRONGER videos and challenge. I started doing the videos on my iPad and fell in love with HITT training. It brought me back to my football days.
Nicky (Holender) and his crew are outstanding! I would not be where I am without them.
I am coming up on month six now and have lost 54 pounds so far. I do plan on losing about 10 more pounds before switching to a maintenance diet.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
Alex: I could not have asked for a better support system! My wife and daughter have been amazing throughout all of this. My wife has always been fit and worked out regularly. Having her give me that extra motivation was huge.
My family and friends have been great as well. They’re totally behind me every step of the way.
Finally, I would even say the LIVESTRONG.COM community was a support system for me as well. That’s where I learned that I need to read labels; to weigh and measure everything; and, most importantly, to be honest with myself.
So even if you have a slip-up, it’s OK. Get right back up in that saddle and don’t dwell on it!
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your favorite way to work out?
Alex: As I mentioned earlier, I have fallen in love with HIIT training. I do the STRONGER videos all the time! I recently added two more apps to give myself a little more variety.
And this past Father’s Day my wife and daughter bought me some kettlebells. I’ve quickly fallen in love with kettlebell workouts.
I also recently started running. It’s a great way to get in some “me” time and an awesome calorie burner.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your weekly exercise schedule?
Alex: For the past eight weeks I have been following the STRONGER 8-week challenge. I would receive an email each day with that day’s workout. I would do the video and follow that up with stair running, kettlebell circuits and eight minutes of abs every other day. And every day I take the dog for a 30-minute walk. It’s great low-impact cardio and good for the pup as well.
Now that the challenge is over, I have put together my own workout regimen.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I do HIIT. I will do a couple of workouts from an app. I’ll also run stairs for 10 minutes and do abs for eight to 10 minutes. I always finish with 10 minutes of stretching.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, I focus on strength. I will do a couple of kettlebell complexes. It normally lasts 45 minutes or so. On strength days I will also try to go for a run in the evening. Again, I always finish with 10 minutes of stretching.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s a typical day of meals and snacks?
Alex: Every breakfast is the same: a bowl of raisin bran or Vector cereal with almond milk, a hard-boiled egg and a protein shake made with water. I work out in the mornings and eat this directly afterward.
For a morning snack I will normally have some sort of fruit. I love berries and bananas. From time to time I will mix them in with some Greek yogurt. I will normally have my coffee at this time. I only add a little bit of 1 percent milk with no sweeteners or sugar.
My go-to lunch would be leftover protein with a homemade quinoa salad or a garden salad with tuna and some sort of olive oil dressing. Every now and then I will eat out for lunch. If that is the case, I try to plan ahead and go to a place where I can get the nutritional values from the menu items on the website so I can track my meal.
Dinner always includes lean protein (turkey, chicken, lean cuts of steak, pork tender loin or chops and tilapia). Sides are typically a garden salad and a side of grain —usually brown rice or quinoa salad. We mix it up with asparagus and broccoli from time to time as well.
It might all sound kind of boring, but I find ways to spruce it up. I’m always trying new marinades to help with flavor, and I’ve always had a knack for seasoning meats.
Although I follow this meal plan very closely, I do allow myself to cheat once in awhile. I will go with the family to get some frozen yogurt.
I still have those cravings for chicken wings and pizza and will give in every now and then. However, I’m smarter about it now. I control how much I eat. I opt for whole-wheat thin crust with less cheese. And for the wings, I get them baked with the sauce on the side.
Evening snacks include tabbouleh and crackers (organic, gluten-free or artisan-style) or some Skinny Pop popcorn. My wife and I love cheese, so sometimes we will sub the tabbouleh with it.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the range of calories you eat per day?
Alex: I will typically eat anywhere from 1,750 to 2,200 net calories per day. I try to keep my meals between 500 to 600 calories and my snacks tend to make up the rest.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
Alex: I always have fresh produce in the fridge. I make a garden salad every couple of days so I have to keep the fridge stocked. I love fresh mixed greens, romaine lettuce, peppers, celery and red onions in my salads. I also usually have fresh quinoa salad in the fridge and ready to go as well.
I always buy eggs in family packs and make hard-boiled eggs every couple of days as well.
And I know cheese isn’t the greatest thing in the world for you, but we always have a brick of cheese on hand. I have learned to have it in moderation so I don’t feel so guilty about eating it.
I stock packs of frozen chicken from Costco in the freezer along with frozen mixed veggies and broccoli.
You can also always find trail mix in my cupboard. My entire family enjoys it; it’s so yummy and helps with satisfying the sweet tooth. A cool little thing we like to do is add it to our salad for some extra flavor and crunch. I also have canned tuna on hand at all times. Organic crackers and brown rice are staples as well.
It’s funny: In the old days I would say my pantry looked like a movie-theater concession stand, but now it’s more like the supermarket produce aisle.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
Alex: Part of the appeal of junk food is that it is so easy. So to combat that I’ve begun to prep my food in advance. If I get hungry or it’s mealtime, the work is already done and I can eat something healthy.
When I grill meat, I always make enough for dinner that night and for some leftovers for lunches the next day. As I mentioned earlier, I always have garden salad and quinoa salad at the ready, and I will normally prep enough to last a few days. And as I make the salads I will chop some extra veggies and keep them in a container in the fridge for quick snacks.
Because I go through so much produce I tend to replenish every week.
LIVESTRONG.COM: Were there any supplements that you took during your journey?
Alex: Since starting my journey I have made protein shakes a part of my daily routine. I always drink one right after my workout. While I am drinking my shake I will also have one fish oil pill and a multi-vitamin.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Alex: My biggest challenge was to break out of old habits and my old mentality. To do this I really had to examine my life as a whole and put a plan together that would help me get to my goals. I had to figure out what my triggers and weaknesses were and strategize a way to avoid them. This was very challenging in the beginning. Walking through the cookie aisle or seeing the ice cream in the frozen section was very hard for me.
But as time passed a new routine began to take shape, and then it became much easier. Now I never think about those things. Enough time has passed, and new, healthier habits have formed.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
Alex: Find some sort of motivation or inspiration that you can turn to when you are feeling weak or down. For me, it was looking at those photos from the Christmas party, or I would just think about being there for my little girl. More than a few times, turning to the community boards on LIVESTRONG.COM helped me as well.
Here’s some more advice:
Start reading labels. Buy a food scale and weigh and measure everything. Track your food every day, and be honest with yourself about it.
Understand that the number can stay the same or even go up — and that is completely normal. Just keep at it! This is a bit controversial, but I weighed myself every day. It helped with motivation. I am numbers guy, so tracking my metrics daily was important to me.
Take your measurements at the beginning and make sure to take before pictures and progress pictures. This can also be a great form of motivation.
Find some sort of activity that you enjoy and that you can do daily — whether it is walking, running, playing sports or doing yoga. It doesn’t really matter; just get up and move. It becomes very addictive, and soon enough you will find yourself craving workouts.
One final thing: Allow yourself to cheat once in a while. Have a slice of pizza or some chicken wings. Just be smart about it and don’t go crazy. Portion control is everything.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your life like now?
Alex: My life has made a complete 180 since joining LIVESTRONG.COM. I am on a much healthier and happier path. I am almost at the same weight I was in high school, and that is crazy for me to say! I feel so much better, and I sleep better. I always have energy to burn!
Sometimes I catch my wife checking me out, and that feels awesome. My outlook on things is so much better now. I am so much happier and much more positive now that I am healthier. It’s amazing how much my life has changed in six short months.
I would like to finish by saying: Start with small steps and work to achieve them. Take pride in the small achievements you accomplish day by day. Think of your weight loss as a marathon and not a sprint. If you are diligent and determined you will get there. It just takes time!