How LIVESTRONG.COM Helped Stephanie C. to Lose 110 Pounds
BY ANN RUSNAK
LIVESTRONG.COM Username: stephanie584
LIVESTRONG.COM Member since: June 2012
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 300 pounds
Dress/Pant Size: 22
Weight: 190 pounds
Dress/Pant Size: 10/12
1. LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
I have always been overweight, but I really gained a lot between 2009 and 2013. In those four years I met, married and divorced my "wasband," broke my tibial plateau playing tennis (one plate, seven screws), had a hysterectomy after a long illness and my cat died -- the makings of a great country song, right? By the time my divorce was final I was completely out of shape and both emotionally and physically unhealthy. I was grieving the breakdown of my marriage and my inability to have children, and I ate junk food because it made me feel good. I ate a lot of it -- mainly cinnamon buns, chocolate and anything else that had sugar. I wasn't concerned about the way I looked or my physical health, beyond rehabbing my knee after surgery. I never really looked at myself beyond a cursory glance to make sure I was presentable in public. I knew I was obese, but I didn't acknowledge it to myself or anyone else.
2. LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
Addressing my emotional issues was really the first step to dealing with my physical issues. As I started getting healthier emotionally and making peace with everything that had happened I started to realize what I was doing to my physical health through my eating habits. I couldn't deny it anymore; I was way too big. Just as I started to come to the realization that I should do something about it, I had a routine doctor's appointment. He stunned me when he told me that I was a candidate for bariatric surgery. "Couldn't I lose weight on my own?" I asked. "No," he replied, just like that.
No. That turned out to be the impetus I needed to start. I was determined to show him and myself that I could lose weight if I wanted, and I didn't need surgery to do it. I set a date to start: July 7, 2014. I had joined LIVESTRONG.COM two years earlier, but I didn't stick with it. This time I would. I weighed 300 pounds.
3. LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
The LIVESTRONG Calorie Tracker (formerly known as MyPlate) has helped me in so many ways. It took me a year to lose 110 pounds. I used the Calorie Tracker almost every day of that year to track my food and exercise. I kept track of the total calories I consumed and burned and also the ratio of my carbs, protein and fat macronutrients. I try to keep my protein intake higher than my carbs (but that doesn't always happen). I haven't been a regular contributor to the community message boards, but I am a daily reader of them. Some of the people who contribute regularly are extremely knowledgeable, and I used a lot of their suggestions during my journey. If I have a question, it has most likely already been asked and answered on a thread, but if not, I ask on the message boards and get great feedback. I like to see the visual display of my progress, so I often visit the progress chart to look at that downward trending graph line.
4. LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
My family was very supportive from day one. They knew I could do it because I had put my mind to it, and I tend to be stubborn that way. My mom even bought me my initial gym membership! Friends and colleagues would constantly remark on how well I was doing and wanted to know how much weight I had lost whenever they saw me. I also posted updates on the LIVESTRONG.COM community message boards. To have complete strangers compliment me and support me gave me motivation to continue. Even the people who work at the gym would ask me about my weight loss, commenting about how well I was doing. At times the attention can be embarrassing.
5. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your favorite way to work out?
Variety is important to me. I mix it up, so I'm rarely bored. Sometimes I like to do cardio on the treadmill or elliptical machines so I can read books on my reader while I work out, and other days I look forward to weight training and core exercises. For me, it is also important to keep challenging myself. When I first started working out I couldn't last longer than five minutes on the elliptical trainer, and I wouldn't even try the group fitness classes. As I got stronger and smaller, though, I attended different classes and tried a variety of cardio machines.
6. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
At first, being so out of shape and overweight, I'd go to Aquafit classes in the swimming pool on Tuesday and Thursday nights for 45 minutes and ride the recumbent bike for 30 minutes two or three days a week, and that was enough to start to see changes. Over the course of the year I have changed it up. Now I go to a group strength-training class on Monday and Thursday for an hour, a stability ball class on Wednesday for 45 minutes and 45 to 60 minutes of cardio (typically divided between the elliptical and treadmill) three or four days a week. I work out for my mental health as much as my physical health now. Too many days off in a row and I get cranky. If I can't get to the gym I use workout videos like LIVESTRONG.COM's free Stronger program or T25 by Beachbody.
7. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
I typically eat three meals and one or two snacks a day. I don't eat beef or pork, so I eat a lot of fish and chicken. I generally stay away from white carbs (bread, pasta, rice and potatoes) and get most of my carbs from veggies. I eat one serving of fruit a day. For me, having a cheat day doesn't work. I tend to get cravings if I indulge in something I don't normally eat. I eat a lot of broccoli, sweet potatoes, Greek yogurt, chicken and salmon.
8. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the range of calories you eat per day?
I eat about 1,200 to 1,400 calories a day, and I always eat back whatever calories I burn working out. Some days that could mean I eat 1,900 calories. I love those days!
9. LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
I always have chicken bacon, Greek yogurt, almonds, broccoli, radishes, tuna, salmon and chicken. I also love spicy food, so I most definitely keep chili flakes on hand.
10. LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
I am a creature of habit and eat the same things every week. When I started eating healthy I had to plan a lot more than I do now. I searched online and on LIVESTRONG.COM for healthy recipes and read what other people were eating on the community message boards. Now I know what works for me, and I eat those foods.
11. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the biggest challenge you faced?
The biggest challenge I faced was just making the decision to change. I was comfortable being overweight because it allowed me to hide. I was afraid of being noticed and letting people in. Finally realizing that I didn't need (or want) to hide from life anymore was a long time coming. Becoming healthier emotionally meant that I could no longer allow myself to treat my body the way I had. Once I had made the decision to truly change my health, it wasn't that hard to put my decision into daily practice.
12. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
You have to want it. Working out and eating healthy food doesn't sound hard, but there are a million excuses why you can't. Too busy, too sore, too tired -- I think I've said them all before, but the truth is that when I really wanted it, I made time and put forth effort regardless of whether I was tired, sore or otherwise. Another thing I did that helped me stay motivated was to identify smaller milestones (I had lots to lose after all) and reward myself with gym outfits when I reached them. I wore T-shirts and very ratty sweatpants when I started, but gradually I built up a nice gym wardrobe.
13. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your life like now?
Today, I am still working on getting to my goal weight of 180 pounds, but I'm not obsessed with the number on the scale. It's more important to me to gain muscle and tone and to stay on the path I have set for myself. I have lots of extra skin hanging about, and it looks a lot better if there is muscle underneath. The skin bothers me, but not as much as the 110 extra pounds did, so I'm living with it. I enjoy going to the gym, eating healthy and wearing size-10 pants. I truly believe that the growth of my self-worth has been illustrated in the shrinking of my body. I am happy, healthy, confident and proud -- things I couldn't say about myself just a few years ago.
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.