Name: Julie R.
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LIVESTRONG.COM Username: Jul44 (member since 2015)
Age: 45 Height: 5 feet 8 inches
BEFORE Weight: 285 pounds Pant Size: 24
AFTER Weight: 152 pounds Pant Size: 10
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG?
Julie: My life before finding LIVESTRONG.COM was basically a mess! I struggled with liking myself from the time I was young. I felt ashamed when I compared myself to my sister or others and would go to great lengths to hide. I avoided having my picture taken and never wanted to do anything or go anywhere. I couldn’t stand myself and even tried to take my life several times in high school. My eating habits were awful — a lot of unhealthy carbs, fast food and sweets. I rarely wanted to exercise. I would occasionally do it out of guilt or pressure, but I was never the “athletic” type. My overall health needed some serious help.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
Julie: It took me a while to finally come around, but after my husband suffered a heart attack I had a huge eye-opening moment. I knew that I both wanted and needed to be here for him and for my son, but that I was currently headed down a path that would be detrimental for me if I didn’t make changes.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
Julie: When I first decided to make a change in my life I started with a free weight-loss program created by Jorge Cruise. It was simply a way for me to learn to use the right foods in my diet to my advantage. This helped me to take baby steps while learning to restructure how I thought about food and to do it in a slow but steady way. It has taken me two-and-a-half years to lose 133 pounds, and I still have about eight or so more pounds I’d like to lose. LIVESTRONG.COM has helped me a great deal in my journey in the past year through their health and fitness articles and their free workouts, which I love!
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
Julie: My family and friends have been a tremendous support system for me during my journey. They have prayed for me, encouraged me and celebrated both my small and big victories with me. They also supported me by not tempting me with sugary sweets, instead spending time with me talking, giving me hugs, working out with me and giving me gift cards to purchase smaller-size clothes!
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your favorite way to work out?
Julie: My favorite way to work out is to go on walks with my family or friends, and I also enjoy working out at my local gym.
[Read more: 10 Free Workouts to Get You Fitter and Stronger]
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your weekly exercise schedule?
Julie: I usually try to walk about six miles around my local lake every day after work. Then in the evenings I work out at my gym, running on the treadmill or biking for cardio and doing strength training to add muscle.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s a typical day of meals and snacks?
Julie: I eat three meals a day and usually two snacks — one midmorning and one after I get off work. Occasionally, I’ll also have another snack in the evening. I eat a lot more fruits, veggies and proteins than I ever have in my life since making my healthy changes. Blueberries, blackberries, peanuts, almonds and pistachios are all favorites. Spaghetti squash has also become a favorite substitute for pasta. I love cooking with coconut oil, and I’ve been learning to use almond or coconut flour in place of regular flour in my desserts!
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the range of calories you eat per day?
Julie: I typically eat anywhere from 1,500 to 2,300 calories per day, depending on my activity level.
[Read more: The Woman's Meal Plan for Getting Lean]
LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
Julie: These days, we always have coconut oil, nuts, Greek yogurt, stevia, almond flour, fruits and veggies, cheese and some kind of lean meat on hand.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
Julie: I always try to make my lunch for work ahead of time. It helps me stay on track. I do my usual big grocery shopping during the weekend, but sometimes I still end up going during the week as well to fill in gaps. I am fortunate enough that my husband loves to cook, so he usually has something prepared. We always try to have some form of healthy protein with a fruit and/or a vegetable.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the biggest challenge you faced?
Julie: I think the biggest challenge I faced is myself! I am my own worst enemy at times. I think the piece of advice that I could give for making a positive change in health is to take baby steps. That is what worked for me and the way I had to look at things — because the big picture was overwhelming. If I broke it down into smaller pieces, however, it became more attainable and possible to achieve. Give yourself room to make mistakes.
Julie: Get yourself in the right frame of mind to do this. You have to want to make the change and be prepared for what is to come; good and bad, happy and sad. There are lots of those times in a journey such as this. It is as much mental as it is physical. Celebrate your small successes: They are just as important. I love walking with my family and friends, and I also enjoy running on the treadmill. They are my go-to workouts on a daily basis. Find something that you enjoy doing that you can do to be physically active.
[Read more: 11 Essential Yoga Poses Everyone Should Practice]
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your life like now?
Julie: My life is so much better now than it has ever been! My confidence level is back. I feel more energetic and happy! I can do things with my 16-year-old son that I was not able to do two-and-a-half years ago. I have managed to figure out what foods work for my body instead of against it, and I now love working out! I think I was probably about six months into my weight-loss journey (after seeing the weight start to come off) when I realized that this was going to be my new lifestyle. I stopped thinking of it as a “diet” and started thinking of it as my new way of life — and I didn’t want to go back to the way I was before. Never in a million years would I ever have thought I would say that, but it’s true!
I work out seven days a week and thoroughly enjoy it. I use my workouts as a sanity check for myself. When I first started this journey I was on medicine for my cholesterol and high blood pressure. I no longer need to take those medications, and everything with my health is currently under control.
I love using LIVESTRONG.COM as a healthy resource. I am a fan of their recipes, and I really enjoy the workouts because they are challenging for me. I also enjoy the community message boards and blogs. Reading about others and understanding how they have overcome their struggles has been great for me, and I’m thankful for the help it has provided me along my own fitness path!
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.