Name: Robert C.
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LIVESTRONG.COM Username: rlcoward (member since February 2015)
STATS: Age: 29 Height: 6 feet 2 inches
BEFORE Weight: 292 pounds Pant Size: 44
AFTER Weight: 181 pounds Pant Size: 36
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
Robert: My life seemed pretty normal before joining LIVESTRONG.COM. I went to work, came home and watched sports or my favorite shows on TV. I actually felt pretty good about myself. I had been big all my life so I guess I was just use to it. I was aware that I needed to lose weight, though. I carried most of my weight in my stomach and always thought to myself if I could just lose my stomach I would be satisfied with my body. My diet was pretty much all fast food, with a little bit of home cooking mixed in; mainly large meat-lover’s pizzas, Chinese and four or five fast-food dollar-menu sandwiches, and then I would cook spaghetti or pizza rolls at home. The only exercise I got was pickup basketball games, although I am a field representative, so I do a lot of walking at work. My overall health was good far as I knew, but it had been years since I visited a doctor.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
Robert: My inspiration to make a change pretty much came down to two things. First, I realized that it’s normal to put on weight as you get older. I was 28 at the time and weighed 292 pounds. It scared me to think that I could end up weighing 320 to 350 pounds by the time I reached age 35 or 40 at my current rate. Second, I had a co-worker find out he had cancer and die from it really quickly. He didn’t even have a chance to fight it. Not to say that weight loss could for sure prevent me from getting cancer, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I was sitting at a red light one night and just decided that it was finally time to do something about it.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
Robert: Whenever I wanted to know how many calories were in a food or if it was healthy, I would search for it in the LIVESTRONG.COM Calorie Tracker. Literally any food you could think of, they had nutritional info on it. I would also use LIVESTRONG.COM to find different and new healthy meals that I could add to my diet. I read articles to help with issues I was going through, such as how to get rid of salt weight after a cheat day or how a cheat meal could help boost metabolism. Things like what to do and changes to make once you've reached your goal weight, etc. It took me about 11 months to lose 111 pounds. At first the weight was coming off so quickly that it kind of scared me that maybe I was not eating enough calories, but then I realized that previously I was probably eating 3,500 or more calories a day, mainly from fast food. The healthy changes I was making in my diet were why the weight was coming off so quickly.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
Robert: I really didn’t have a support system. I’m single, and I didn’t tell anyone that I was trying to lose weight. I just did it. I didn’t want the added pressure. There came a point where my coworkers and people in my accounts noticed I was losing, and they would tell me to keep up the good work. I don’t live close to home, so my family wasn’t aware that I was losing until I went back for a cousin’s graduation. At that point I had already lost 50 pounds.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your favorite way to work out?
Robert: My favorite way to work out is the elliptical trainer and the stationary bike. I do those at every workout. I always make sure it’s set on a hill setting (for HIIT workouts). I also always include weight training to build muscle, but those two cardio machines are my favorites.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your weekly exercise schedule?
Robert: When I first started working out I exercised four days a week — Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday — for 75 minutes. Once I started to see results I got even more motivated and added a fifth day, Friday. Now that I am at a point where I don’t want to lose any additional weight, I’m back to four days per week. Because I live in a place where I don’t really know anyone, I have a lot of free time, which allows me to easily maintain that schedule.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s a typical day of meals and snacks?
Robert: I normally eat three to four meals and snacks each day — typically lunch and dinner with snacks mixed in. I've never been a consistent breakfast eater (I’d rather have that time for additional sleep). I eat a lot of chicken breast, ground turkey, turkey legs and seafood. I usually snack on plums, bananas, kiwi, peaches, oranges and pretty much any fresh fruit that I can find.
Food tips from me would include remembering that lean meats are your friend. Also, spend time researching alternative recipes to your fatty favorites. That was a major key to success for me. There are so many items in your local grocery store that you can use to make healthy versions of your less-healthy favorites. I love pizza, for instance, so finding ways to make it healthy kept me from craving it to the point that I would binge on it and ruin a week’s worth of progress.
I also recommend researching some healthy available fast food options for those days when something comes up and you can’t get home in time to cook (or you just don’t feel like cooking). This helps keep you from having an excuse to eat something unhealthy. For me, I found a national chicken chain that has a baked chicken option. I would order that with corn and green beans as sides, and the whole meal would come to around 720 calories.
My last tip would be to remember that many of the foods that you might normally fry can be baked and taste pretty much the same (with far fewer calories). I bake burgers, French fries, sausages, chicken strips, etc., and greatly reduce fat and calories with that simple change in how the food is prepared.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the range of calories you eat per day?
Robert: I eat around 2,500 calories a day. I struggle to reach that goal sometimes, since I normally don’t eat breakfast. I keep losing weight even though my current goal is to maintain, so I probably need to increase my daily calorie goal even more.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
Robert: I always have a 24-pack of water on hand. I’m a firm believer in “don’t drink your calories.” I actually gave up soda and juice three years before I started my weight-loss journey. I always make sure I have chicken breast and ground turkey, since those two lean proteins always provide a lot of options. There’s always fruit in my kitchen; either fresh or canned. I prefer fresh, but it’s not always an option. Low-sodium spices are also a must-have, and there are always canned or frozen vegetables and brown rice in my pantry. I’m not a great cook, so I keep it simple.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
Robert: I don’t do any prep at all, and I don’t plan a menu. I normally put out some frozen chicken or ground turkey to thaw before I go to the gym and decided what I’ll make once I get back. For the most part, I cook all my meals at home during the week. I cook my lunch for work the night before. I do my major shopping once a week, and normally I’ll stop at the grocery store once during the week to pick up some fruit or special ingredients for a meal that I have a taste for.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the biggest challenge you faced?
Robert: My biggest challenge was actually committing to going to the gym. For the most part, changing my diet was easy for me. I had done the healthy-eating thing many times, but I would never do the working-out part. There were so many times I would come home from work tired and want to skip the gym and just flop down on the couch. Once I started to see results this changed, and then I looked forward to the gym. Getting my love for pizza under control was another big challenge. I know that may seem weird, but I could and would eat pizza five days a week. There were times in the past that I ate it at least once a day for a week (either frozen or carry-out). That was the one food I deprived myself of. I would make a homemade version with flatbreads and stuff, but during my entire journey I never had the real deal from a pizza restaurant (not even frozen).
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
Robert: Make it about a lifestyle change, not a diet. Make it about eating foods that you enjoy — just healthier versions, as I’ve mentioned before. By making it a lifestyle change you set yourself up to be able to maintain your weight loss. If you go about the weight loss by eating nothing but salads, carrots and celery it will be nearly impossible to maintain over a long period of time.
Also, don’t let minor setbacks or giving in to a food craving derail you permanently. There were times when I craved Chinese and decided to have it, despite having just had my cheat meal two days prior. Get back to your routine the next day and keep pushing to meet your goal.
My last tip would be to not weigh yourself every day (or after a cheat meal). I made the mistake of doing this, and seeing my weigh fluctuate would drive me crazy. Keep it to once a week, and if you won’t be able to resist weighing every day with a scale in your house, then keep your scale in a difficult to reach location, if possible.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your life like now?
Robert: My life is pretty much the same, although I’ve become a little bit addicted to shopping now that I don’t have to shop in the big-and-tall section. I definitely have more confidence than before. There are still times that I forget that I’ve lost weight, and I have to remind myself that I’m not the 292-pound guy anymore. I never had a problem dating before, but my dating life has picked up even more now. I like going out to festivals and food-truck events downtown more. I don’t necessarily feel like I have more energy than I did before, but I definitely enjoy getting out and doing things more than I did when I was heavier. I don’t really talk about my weight loss a lot unless someone else brings it up, but I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished.
I’m happy with my body. I never thought I would have a body like this. I look at my before pics and I’m amazed that I could even carry all that weight around. I’m not ripped or anything, but I’ve never wanted to be. I just wanted an average body. Coming from where I started, I can’t really ask for much more.
My diet hasn’t changed much since I reached my goal weight — healthy alternatives of my favorites during the week and a bit more relaxed on the weekends. I do eat a little bit more junk food now than when I was actively trying to lose weight, but I buy the individual sizes instead of the big versions, which I know I could eat in one sitting. I work out four times a week with an occasional fifth day thrown in every once in a while. Since I hadn’t been to the doctor in so long before I started on this journey, I can’t say for sure what overall improvements there have been, but my health has most definitely improved.
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.