Name: Teresa C.
LIVESTRONG.COM Username: AJ_Palmer
Age: 50 Height: 5'5"
BEFORE Weight: 230 pounds Pant Size: 38 to 40 (men's jeans)
AFTER Weight: 140 pounds Pant Size: 7 (women's clothing)
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
Prior to joining LIVESTRONG.COM I spent most of my time sitting on the couch watching TV and complaining about how sick and sore I was. I'd go to my doctor appointments and expect miracles, but I'd do nothing to help them help me.
I ate junk food like crazy and didn't care about myself or much else. I constantly told people that I was happy being me and that I didn't consider myself obese. I just didn't see myself, and I did my best to avoid looking in mirrors.
My health was bad. I had all kinds of ailments, including fibromyalgia and celiac disease. I didn't follow a healthy diet, which made things much worse. I was waiting to die and almost regularly begged God to let me die.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
One morning, after a year or so of my stepson constantly talking about his diets and what would and would not work for me, I looked into the dreaded mirror and just stared at myself. I saw what I described as a beached whale looking back at me. I realized that I was so unhappy and depressed and that I hated myself so much that I just never took the time to care. I spent the next 24 hours deciding what I was going to do — continue to live this way and die miserable and unhappy, or make a plan.
I chose to make a plan and take action. I found LIVESTRONG.COM and decided to switch to following a pescatarian diet. I boxed up all of my junk food and gave it away, and then I went to the grocery store and spent $200 to restock the cabinets and freezer with healthier options. I signed up for an account on LIVESTRONG.COM and started making a new healthy menu using the MyPlate Calorie Tracker.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
Using the LIVESTRONG.COM Calorie Tracker allowed me to plan my meals in advance as well as keep track of the food I actually ate. I could always make changes, but I found that if I planned in advance 99 percent of the time I stuck to my meal plan, which became very easy for me.
I used the LIVESTRONG.COM community when I had questions or when I just needed an added push to not give up because the scale didn't give me the results I wanted when I wanted them. Other community members were great and made my social anxieties nonexistent because they never judged me — not once. In only one year I lost 90 pounds, and in the 10 months since reaching my initial goal I've followed a higher calorie goal as part of my maintenance plan.
I've decided I'd like to lose 10 additional pounds for a final goal weight of 130 pounds, and I'm just about to kick off my efforts for that. I expect it to be just as challenging and fun as the first 90. It never felt like work, which was great. Even the holidays were pretty easy because I just saved up my cheat days for that month and used them all in one day. It took several days to drop the water weight I'd gained, but I managed to enjoy the holidays without stressing about the calories with that approach.
LIVESTRONG.COM has some awesome articles to help people understand how many calories to eat, what constitutes calories burned (and how to calculate them) and whether or not to "eat back" the calories burned during exercise. In addition, they also have great articles explaining why it's important to give your body a rest and follow maintenance calories for a time too.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
I didn't have any idea what kind of support system I would have, but I was pleased and amazed when I discovered that my partner and her kids were behind me 100 percent of the way. They didn't talk about eating out or bring fast food home to eat in front of me, and if I found myself thinking about cheating they just reminded me of how impressed they were with my results. That usually worked to get me back on track because it got me thinking about how much I had already accomplished and what this one cheat meal could erase. Usually it was easy at that point to switch my attention to something healthier like nuts or carrots.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your favorite way to work out?
At first I swam for 45 minutes to an hour daily for exercise, often with friends and family. That really helped get my weight loss started. Then eventually I added hiking some of Phoenix's smaller mountains (working up to some of the larger ones) as well.
Later I added circuit-training videos into my routine, and they produced the biggest results. I replaced fat with muscle and my heart rate soared. Sometimes I got so into working out that I would do the video first and get very sweaty, and then I'd swim for a cooldown and be burning calories the entire time.
Today I do my strength-training videos three days a week and walk between three and seven miles a day six days a week.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
I have my current detailed schedule stuck to my computer so I can see it daily. My current routine includes starting my exercise video each morning at 6 a.m. and leaving for my daily walk at 7 a.m.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
Being a pescatarian was easy for me. It meant that I ate a vegetarian diet and added fish for the protein. I've strayed from that a bit during maintenance, but I will again be following a pescatarian diet as I lose those last 10 pounds.
For snacks, I'll usually have half a sandwich or a 100-calorie bag of popcorn, which definitely holds me over until dinner. I try to stick to a schedule for eating so that I don't feel hungry. It also helps me avoid cheating, since I don't eat if it isn't a scheduled eating time.
Schedules can be tricky on workdays, so I make sure to follow some simple rules in addition to my schedule. I try to stop eating three hours before bedtime, and I only drink water for the last two hours before bed. I also make sure to eat all of the food I had scheduled for the day (sometimes that means a bigger breakfast or dinner if I didn't have time for lunch). Typically, I eat three meals and two snacks each day.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the range of calories you eat per day?
When I first started I ate 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day and focused on adding exercise to my routine. After the first four months I cut back to eating 1,200 to 1,450 calories a day, and I stayed there until I reached my goal.
During maintenance I have been eating between 2,000 and 2,200 calories a day, but I'll be cutting back again when I tackle those last 10 pounds.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
Veggies and fruits are our friends, and cheese and nuts are also good. Right now you'll always find carrots, celery, peanut butter, string cheese and wheat crackers in my kitchen.
People tend to focus too much on what to cut out of their diets, when instead it's better to focus on what an actual serving looks like and how to balance all your desires with proper serving sizes. Initially I deprived myself to get started, but later I learned to portion correctly and reintroduced healthier options like baked chips and flavored rice cakes. We still had "junk food" treats, but these were healthier options that we ate less of.
It's easier to stick with a program when you aren't depriving yourself. I also don't stock more than I plan to eat, which is part of the reason I used the Calorie Tracker to make a menu so I knew exactly what to buy when I went grocery shopping.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
Strategizing was easy for me. I just entered what I was planning to eat into the LIVESTRONG.COM Calorie Tracker days in advance and then made my shopping list based off of that. I would also buy a few extra healthy options, and then all I had to do was eat according to the schedule. If I wanted to change it up, I had those few extra items to work with for substitutions, and that made it very easy for me to follow.
I shopped once every two weeks, so I wasn't in the grocery store or around restaurants often. The brain and eyes are the weakest parts of the body when it comes to dieting.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the biggest challenge you faced?
My biggest challenge is and was fast food. I work in the fast-food industry as a manager, and so I eat for free. That was very challenging, since I love food and am around it daily. I just tried to focus on the people instead of the food. That actually helped me become nicer and resulted in me liking people more.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
I'm still sick and still struggle with some ailments, but everyone does. My biggest success is just being 85 pounds lighter and being able walk three to seven miles. There are days when I can't feel my legs or my feet are burning, so I push through and then allow myself to rest after my routine.
The important thing is that I still get up every morning and try! I don't always finish, but I try every day. Some days I can only do 10 to 15 minutes of a video, but then other days I do 30 to 45 minutes and walk afterward. I'm just happy that I found LIVESTRONG.COM and got lighter on my feet.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your life like now?
Life hasn't changed much for me. I still wake up early, do my workout and come home after to soak my feet, rest and watch some TV. But the difference now is that I know if I need to do something more my weight isn't going to hold me back. I'm not begging to die anymore, and I love going places rather than sitting home wondering why I got so sick. I just do it. I live life.
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.