How Tomi S. Lost 36 Pounds After Quitting Processed Food

See Tomi's transformation!
Tomi lost 35 pounds and dropped three sizes. (Image: Gracie Wilson/LIVESTRONG.COM)

Name: Tomi S.

LIVESTRONG.COM Username: tomi300z (member since May 2009)

Age: 52 Height: 5'4"

BEFORE Weight: 176 pounds Dress/Pant Size: 14/16

AFTER Weight: 140 pounds Dress/Pant Size: 8/10

See Tomi's transformation!
Tomi lost 35 pounds and dropped three sizes. (Image: Gracie Wilson/LIVESTRONG.COM)

LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?

I'm a stress chef. I love to cook and entertain, and when I'm stressed I cook even more — mostly from scratch. I think my stocked pantry was a throwback from living in the country and the times we were "snowed in" as a kid. We always kept plenty of canned goods on hand because you never knew when you might lose power. Little did I know how much sodium was in those cans.

I got married and lost my executive assistant job within a two-week period when I was 40. Looking back now, I realize I was at a low point emotionally after the job loss, worried that I might be a burden to my new husband. I cooked constantly and gained nearly 40 pounds during that period. My husband prefers "a little meat on the bones," and I had read that size 14 is "average" for an American woman, so I wasn't worried.

Eventually I re-entered the land of the employed. I buried myself in my new job and new marriage. I took up biking and was training for the MS 150 (a two-day, approximately 180 mile bike ride organized by the National MS Society). I enjoyed spin classes and yoga. I knew I was "chubby," but wasn't concerned. I scoffed at the office health evaluations telling me that I was "obese." I mean, I didn't get out of bed for less than a 40-mile bike ride. How could I be obese?

Tomi lost her first 10 pounds with little effort after making some healthy diet tweaks.
Tomi lost her first 10 pounds with little effort after making some healthy diet tweaks. (Image: Lynn Lane/LIVESTRONG.COM)

LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?

I've never eaten traditional breakfasts. I love to cook breakfast for others, but do not like pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, cereal or any of the traditional breakfast foods. My typical weekday breakfast was usually half of a turkey deli-meat sandwich with Swiss cheese and light mayo on wheat. At some point I started noticing that I didn't feel great after eating some of my usual food choices.

Tracking on MyPlate helped Tomi realize the effects of portion size and processed carbs on her weight.
Tracking on MyPlate helped Tomi realize the effects of portion size and processed carbs on her weight. (Image: Lynn Lane/LIVESTRONG.COM)

LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?

About the time I realized some foods made me feel worse, I completed the LIVESTRONG charity bike ride in Austin, Texas, and started receiving the LIVESTRONG.COM newsletter. I joined LIVESTRONG.COM and started using the MyPlate Calorie Tracker.

Once I started tracking on the MyPlate Calorie Tracker I became more aware of the preservative content in food. I thought I was doing well because I didn't cook with salt or add it to our food. Tracking my food on MyPlate made me realize just how much sodium was in the canned tomatoes and veggies that were a staple in my pantry.

It also brought portion sizes to light and helped show me the pitfalls of "bad" carbs in my diet (pasta is my weakness). I started eating only fresh food. I wasn't really a fruit lover before, but now I put three pieces of fruit on my desk each morning, and they are usually gone by the time I leave work at the end of the day. As a result of these changes to my diet, I eventually quit feeling so crummy after eating.

I noticed that my clothes were fitting different, so I weighed myself. I'd lost 10 pounds without trying. This motivated me to be even more diligent, so I read more articles on LIVESTRONG.COM, printed healthy recipes and continued tracking my food and exercise on the MyPlate Calorie Tracker.

"If you falter, don't stress over it. Just move on and get back on track."
"If you falter, don't stress over it. Just move on and get back on track." (Image: Lynn Lane/LIVESTRONG.COM)

LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?

I'm fortunate that my husband likes vegetables, salads and meat flavored with spices instead of heavy gravies or sauces. I like cooking with lots of spices, and he rolls with whatever I concoct. He started biking with me, and he was supportive when I took up jogging, even though it interfered with our time together.

I'm very blessed that he encourages me to make time for myself, because that's not my nature. He's very supportive for what seems like just the right length of time when I get into a rut (as we all sometimes do), and then he encourages me to get back to jogging, which I love.

I also receive the LIVESTRONG.COM newsletter, which inspires me to get back on track or step up my game with recipes or articles on motivation and includes new exercises or workouts to try.

"I love to cook and entertain, and when I'm stressed I cook even more..."
"I love to cook and entertain, and when I'm stressed I cook even more..." (Image: Lynn Lane/LIVESTRONG.COM)

LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your favorite way to work out?

I'm a median athlete. I'm slow, but I finish. I enjoy biking, but these days I spend most of my time jogging. I am signed up for my fourth Houston Marathon in January 2016. I am hoping beat my personal record of 4:25. I work out with a personal trainer once a week, and I also enjoy a weekly spin class.

"I enjoy biking, but these days I spend most of my time jogging."
"I enjoy biking, but these days I spend most of my time jogging." (Image: Lynn Lane/LIVESTRONG.COM)

LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your weekly exercise schedule?

I usually do a long run on Saturdays. One of our hobbies is high-performance driving events, so we are out of town fairly often. As a result, I get in my runs when I can. Ideally, I like to get up early and run at our office running path before my workday starts at 7 a.m. We live in Houston, so it's really too hot to run outside after 9 a.m. I work out with my trainer on Wednesdays. She helps me with balance and stretching, my two weakest areas. I try to hit spin class at least once a week after work.

"Once I started tracking on the MyPlate Calorie Tracker I became more aware of the preservative content in food."
"Once I started tracking on the MyPlate Calorie Tracker I became more aware of the preservative content in food." (Image: Lynn Lane/LIVESTRONG.COM)

LIVESTRONG.COM: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?

I am blessed that I love vegetables. I usually start my day with three egg whites, a generous handful of spinach, a Campari tomato and diced cremini mushrooms on top. I have a banana for a midmorning snack.

I am a protein hound, so I usually lunch on three ounces of chicken or salmon over greens with diced, boiled beets, baked cremini mushrooms, baked Brussels sprouts, a hard-boiled egg white and a quarter-cup of cottage cheese along with a cup of chicken-vegetable soup that I make from scratch each week. I recently discovered a Greek yogurt that I like, so I usually sprinkle it with low-fat granola for a 3 p.m. snack.

Tomi switched to a diet of fresh food only after learning more about nutrition.
Tomi switched to a diet of fresh food only after learning more about nutrition. (Image: Lynn Lane/LIVESTRONG.COM)

Sometimes I keep extra grilled chicken breast or boiled egg whites on hand for when I'm extra hungry. Usually I have a little hummus and multigrain chips for a snack when I get home from work. Then I start preparing our dinner and meals for the next day, eating a small dinner later.

Recently, I started drinking fruit, kale and spinach smoothies for a morning snack and evening meal. I find that they fill me up and are healthier and have fewer calories than my previous traditional light dinners.

"I absolutely could not live without lots of fresh, green veggies, tomatoes and garlic."
"I absolutely could not live without lots of fresh, green veggies, tomatoes and garlic." (Image: Lynn Lane/LIVESTRONG.COM)

LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the range of calories you eat per day?

I could really moderate my calories better. I think I typically eat around 2,000 calories a day. I like a little wine at night, and those liquid calories really sneak up on you! I'm good about logging my calories during the day, but not as diligent at night, when I am preparing my husband's dinner and our meals for the next day.

"Usually I have a little hummus and multigrain chips for a snack when I get home from work."
"Usually I have a little hummus and multigrain chips for a snack when I get home from work." (Image: Lynn Lane/LIVESTRONG.COM)

LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?

I absolutely could not live without lots of fresh, green veggies, tomatoes and garlic. I also always have salmon and chicken ready to go. For snacks I keep unsalted mixed nuts, boiled egg whites and hummus served with pepper strips, celery or whole-grain chips. I make my dips fresh from scratch (cilantro-avocado and pico de gallo are staples), and we have a small snack of that or hummus when we get home from work. Afterward, I prepare the rest of our meals. When traveling, we take dried apricots, prunes and nuts to snack on, in addition to bananas and apples, which travel well.

LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?

I never cook just one meal at a time. Every night I have veggies baking in the oven (beets, butternut squash and cremini mushrooms this week) or steaming (asparagus, haricots verts, broccoli) and chicken breasts or salmon broiling. Breakfasts are prepared the night before (egg whites and fresh veggies for me, typically an omelet with veggies and lean breakfast meat for my husband) and reheated at work the next day.

I buy in bulk because we eat so many veggies, chicken and salmon. I break down the meat or fish packages into two-meal portions, then label them with the date and freeze. I cook in big batches and freeze in smaller batches when possible.

"I like to get up early and run at our office running path before my workday starts at 7 a.m."
"I like to get up early and run at our office running path before my workday starts at 7 a.m." (Image: Lynn Lane/LIVESTRONG.COM)

LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the biggest challenge you faced?

My biggest challenge was learning that even though something was labeled "low salt," "fat free" or otherwise "healthy" -- it wasn't necessarily the food in its natural form. How foods are grown, packaged and prepared makes a difference.

Fruit was not my thing, so that was also a challenge. Keeping a small fruit plate on my desk is decorative and functional and helped me overcome that challenge. I also now incorporate a lot of antioxidant fruits into my kale and spinach smoothies to help make sure I'm getting plenty of fruit in my diet.

Tomi is currently training for her fourth marathon.
Tomi is currently training for her fourth marathon. (Image: Lynn Lane/LIVESTRONG.COM)

LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?

My biggest secret to success would be utilizing websites like LIVESTRONG.COM. There is so much educational information on there: It's my go-to website!

Keep track of food intake, water and exercise. Logs help keep us accountable and really open our eyes as to what kind of foods we are putting into our bodies, where we need to adjust and how much progress we are making toward our goals.

Reward yourself. My reward is wine. Don't overindulge your reward!

If you falter, don't stress over it. Just move on and get back on track. It will be easier if you make getting right back to it a habit. That in itself is progress, and it feels good.

Join teams or groups with similar interests -- for example, the LIVESTRONG.COM Community or groups for your age and activity level. Those groups and the new friends we meet there help to keep us accountable. Try using Fitbit, UP by Jawbone or other activity trackers.

"I'm a median athlete. I'm slow, but I finish."
"I'm a median athlete. I'm slow, but I finish." (Image: Lynn Lane/LIVESTRONG.COM)

LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your life like now?

Recently, I am getting back on track after being temporarily derailed in my diet and exercise as a result of some personal losses. However, I continued to utilize the LIVESTRONG.COM website for motivation during that time period, which helped keep me close to my food and fitness goals. I'm currently training for a marathon. I can truly say that LIVESTRONG.COM motivates me to try new recipes and exercises and improve my diet, and it keeps me abreast of new tools to keep me on track. I'm eating more fruits and vegetables than ever before and recently learning more about plant versus animal proteins to continue improving my diet.

Tomi went from taking four prescription drugs to only needing two after her healthy changes.
Tomi went from taking four prescription drugs to only needing two after her healthy changes. (Image: Lynn Lane/LIVESTRONG.COM)

I've lost more than 35 pounds overall and am physically healthier both inside and out. My company is pleased to count me in their "health success" numbers because now I meet their "healthy" standard. For me, that translates to fewer prescriptions (only two now, down from four) as well as a reduction in my company's health care plan cost due to "healthy weight and measurement" incentives they offer employees. I'd like to lose another 10 to 20 pounds, and I know I'll achieve that goal with the help of the MyPlate Calorie Tracker and informative content!

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.

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