Name: Evan S.
Age: 42 Height: 5'8"
BEFORE Weight: 210 pounds Pant Size: 38
AFTER Weight: 165 pounds Pant Size: 31
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
Evan: LIVESTRONG.COM has saved my life twice!
I originally discovered the MyPlate Calorie Tracker after a health scare in 2009 led to the discovery that both my blood pressure and cholesterol were far too high. Over the next several years I struggled but failed to lose weight and get my health under control.
Although I was not finding success in my attempt to lose weight, I did notice an ad for LIVESTRONG's MyQuit Coach – Dare to Quit Smoking app. I had been a smoker for 17 years, and I'd tried but failed to quit almost every day of the past 10 years. In January 2011 I used MyQuit Coach to finally kick my nicotine habit! As my way of paying it forward, I am still a very active member of the Quit Smoking community to this day, helping support others in their battle with this addiction.
In December 2013 I visited the same doctor who had encouraged me to quit smoking. My results were the worst they had ever been. I weighed 210 pounds and my BMI was 31.2. My cholesterol was 227, (HDL 30, LDL 149, Triglycerides 240); my fasting blood sugar was borderline diabetic at 108; and my blood pressure was 137/83. I was already taking several medications to try and address these issues, so these were my test results with the aid of those drugs.
I was only 38 years old and mortified and humiliated at how far I had let myself go. That appointment was a wakeup call for me. I knew it was time to take control of my health and make some major changes. I reminded myself that if I could successfully quit smoking after all those years, I could do anything, and I determined that as of January 1st, 2014 I was going to begin living a healthier life.
By the end of three months I had completely turned my health around and no longer needed some of my medications. At a follow-up appointment with my doctor I weighed 169 pounds with a BMI of 25. My cholesterol was 140, (HDL 43, LDL 76, Triglycerides 107); fasting blood sugar was 73; and my blood pressure was 118/71.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How much weight have you lost since we originally shared your story with our readers?
I lost an additional five pounds in the 15 months after my story first appeared. Around that time my focus changed and I started working out at the gym to build muscle. I've gained nearly five pounds of muscle weight since then, and the addition of strength training to my routine has also resulted in an additional three inches lost from my waist.
I also transitioned from walking for fitness to running since my first story was published. I ran my first 5K race (with a time of 30.88 minutes) in January 2015. I was shocked that I succeeded in my goal to run the whole thing without walking!
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did you make the additional progress in your healthy journey?
I still follow pretty much the same diet as I did when I started losing weight. I have a very clean eating style. I have made some minor tweaks. For instance, I added in a few more whole-grain carbs to my diet. I also moved from having one splurge meal a week to two after my doctor informed me that I'd taken my blood numbers a touch too far and went from prediabetic to hypoglycemic. I try to eat as clean as I can 99 percent of the time and choose my healthiest options in all situations. I am not perfect, but I try to be flexible. I feel you still have to enjoy life, and not every opportunity allows you to eat as well as you'd like. Just do the best you can!
In terms of fitness, I just keep trying to push myself since starting my weight-loss journey. I began with simply walking, and when I needed more of a challenge I stepped it up. I was never a runner or a weightlifter in the past, and now I do both. Mostly these days I just stay active and enjoy watching my son try to keep up with me!
LIVESTRONG.COM: Have you had any challenges maintaining your weight loss and new lifestyle?
Maintenance has been easy for me. I wouldn't say it is any easier than the weight-loss portion, though. I only truly struggled in the very beginning when my body was adapting to the new fuel I was feeding it. Thankfully, it is now really out of habit that I eat healthy and remain active. I pass out as if in a food coma now when I have my splurge meals. My son waits to see how long afterward it will take before I fall asleep.
These days I never sit still. There is always something to keep me going and moving. I still track my calories six to seven days a week. I mostly track every bite that passes my lips. The only time I will skip tracking is when I have a splurge meal. I know that I will be slightly higher in weight after eating one of those, and I know exactly where the extra weight is coming from, so I don't let it bother me. I stick with tracking because I feel it keeps me honest with myself and keeps a splurge meal from turning into a splurge week or even a splurge month.
LIVESTRONG.COM: Did you hit any plateaus along the way? If so, how did you push through?
The only major plateau I hit was at the end of the spring 2014 when I developed nasty shin splints from running too much, too fast and too often. I had to take two months off from running to stop the excruciating pain. I thought I would have to walk for exercise forever and that the pain would never go away. But after two months I was able to slowly start by running one mile and then increasing my distance by no more than 10 percent a week so as not to reignite the injury. Now I am back to 3.5 to 6.3 miles each run.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What does your daily diet look like these days?
Recently, due to weight training, I have really upped my protein intake to help build muscle.
Generally I eat four to five egg whites for breakfast along with a whole grapefruit or orange. For lunch I eat a huge vegetable salad with romaine, carrots, celery, cucumber, onion and radish. I add chickpeas or another legume and a grilled chicken breast, and I use my own homemade balsamic dressing.
I have become friends with nuts (like pistachios and almonds) for snacking. I also will sometimes eat cherries, apples or pineapple for afternoon snacks.
Dinner depends on whether or not I have my son. When he is with his mother I eat fish every night — for instance, tuna steak, mahi-mahi, king clip, flounder, mussels or scallops — and those are what I prefer. However, when my son is over I generally eat leaner meats like poultry, chicken burgers with no bun, oven-baked (my healthy sub for fried) pork chops and a steak once every two weeks to kill that red-meat craving. I also eat a ton of vegetables, such as green beans and broccoli, with my dinner. I make pasta from zucchini in my vegetable spiralizer. I make as much food as I can from scratch. I love to cook and really enjoy preparing almost all of my food from salads to dressing. I even make my own spaghetti sauce. I am constantly looking for new recipes, which I tend to modify to make as low-fat and low-sodium and as healthy as possible.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What is your weekly exercise routine now?
Before maintenance, all I did for exercise was walk. Now I run at least five days a week, and I go to the gym at least two nights a week. I am very busy, so that is really all I can dedicate to exercise regularly. I still take my dogs running with me at 4:30 a.m., as it is the coolest temperature of the day here in South Florida. (Sometimes they are done before me, and I have to force them to finish the run.) If I have more time in my busy schedule for exercise, I usually take my bike to a wonderful local park for a long ride.
LIVESTRONG.COM: Do you have any tips or advice you'd like to share with others on a similar journey?
You don't have to live and eat perfectly. All you can do is your best. Some days are better than others, and that is just fine. You must look at the big picture and not focus so much on the minute details. That ability will take you the distance. You may not lose it as fast as you'd like, but you will get there. Start by making small changes and just get moving. If you are moving, you are burning. If you are burning, you are working towards your goal!
The biggest motivator for me is my life motto. It keeps me on track when I want to sleep in and skip my run or eat another splurge meal. It is simply "LIVESTRONG." That motto helps me with everything. I quit smoking using it. I lost weight because of it. I even overcome things I am frightened of just by saying LIVESTRONG to myself. I truly try to live every moment as strong as I can.
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.