Name: Cindy S.
LIVESTRONG.COM Username: cindysantaana (member since 2015)
Age: 46 Height: 5'5"
Before Weight: 181 pounds Dress/Pant Size: 16
After Weight: 128 pounds Dress/Pant Size: 6
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
Before joining LIVESTRONG.COM, I was more than 50 pounds overweight, and, more than anything else, I just didn't feel good. I had fatigue, high cholesterol, frequent migraines, allergies and an out-of-control thyroid. I looked forward to nap time every day with my kids.
I didn't feel confident and often covered my body. I mostly ate the standard American diet of meat, potatoes, rice, the occasional fast-food meal, packaged foods when on the run — and I loved cereal and Pop-Tarts.
I exercised when I was younger and was even a personal trainer in college, but when I started my career it became less important. And it was simply nonexistent after having children.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
After realizing I couldn't make it through the day without a nap and that I was on four prescription medications at age 40, I knew I had to make a change. My neighbor was a health coach, so I started working with her. I made sustainable lifestyle changes, starting with how I shopped for food. I sourced locally grown food when I could and shopped at the farmers markets as well.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
When I eventually finished working my health coach I used the tools on LIVESTRONG.COM to maintain and even further my weight loss. I love the engaging community message boards on LIVESTRONG.COM, and I constantly read the health and fitness articles. The website is full of resources, helpful information, ideas for healthy meals and more! I also sometimes used the free Stronger workouts during my journey. It took me a full year to lose 50 pounds and heal my health issues. I no longer have to take any prescription medicines!
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
I had support from my immediate family and the support of the LIVESTRONG.COM community members, but I kept my overall journey a secret until I hit my goal. I enrolled in nutrition school to learn as much as I could about food and healing, and my peers there also become part of my support system. I enjoy being the support system for others on a similar journey now.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your favorite way to work out?
I turned my basement into a small home gym with a secondhand bike, weights and a rebounder. I love lifting light weights and using my kettlebells too. When it's nice outside I go for a two-mile walk and do 25 to 40 walking lunges on a hilly section of my route. It's always more fun when a friend can join me too.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
I try to work out at least five days a week. I exercise first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. I vary my weight routine. Some days I'll do a Pilates video. Other days I walk for 30 minutes. I keep it very simple.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
I eat three meals per day and one afternoon snack. I usually have my snack with my kids when they get home from school. I love eggs, grass-fed meat, all veggies, avocado and dark chocolate. I love the concept of cooking once and eating two or three times from that meal. That is one of my favorite healthy-eating food tips!
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the range of calories you eat per day?
I don't count calories, but I typically eat in the range of 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day. I pay more attention to my macronutrients, specifically how much protein and carbs I consume, as well as my sugar intake.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
I always have fresh veggies like kale, collards and lettuce for salads and wraps in my fridge. Since I don't eat bread or make sandwiches, I use Swiss chard or romaine lettuce for my wraps. I always have in my kitchen nut butters, fresh (low-glycemic) fruit and nuts for snacking. And I always have avocados on hand. Sometimes I'll slice one and eat it with a squeeze of lemon juice and sea salt for a snack!
LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
I always keep the same meat staples on hand so I'm able to cook pretty much anything that we desire throughout the week. This means buying a whole chicken, two pounds of ground beef, one pound of sausage, pork chops or pork tenderloin and frozen wild salmon. In addition, I buy a variety of different veggies to change up our repertoire.
When I'm going to be out during lunch I prepare a protein-packed salad ahead of time and take along nuts for my snacks. I shop for groceries once every weekend.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the biggest challenge you faced?
The biggest challenge was finding healthy recipes that our kids liked too. It took a while to get my little one to eat kale, but — with a bit of time and effort — she now loves it!
As a health coach now, I always share with others the advice that worked best for me. I always stress to start by taking baby steps and perhaps looking at one meal to improve upon, such as breakfast. I always stress that if I can do it (a onetime "Pop-Tart Queen"), you can do it too!
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
Start small and build upon your healthy habits. Tackle one thing at a time — like learning how to read food labels and staying away from heavily processed foods. Your health is your wealth, and when you don't have it, all the money in the world can't fix it. When my mother had lung cancer, it was all I thought about: How can we make changes that will improve our health? This is how I live my life now. Take time to be present, breathe and savor every moment together.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your life like now?
After losing 50 pounds and healing my high cholesterol, prediabetes, migraines, fatigue and allergies through lifestyle changes, I feel energetic, alive, happy, confident and full of purpose. I don't have to worry about hiding bulges under heavy clothes. I can go all day without a nap, and I'm just generally a happier person now.
I still use LIVESTRONG.COM as a guiding tool to help me find health information. It's like my Google for healthy inquiries! I'm much more confident and proud of my body, even with the little extra booty I still carry!
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.