Name: Gail D.
Age: 58 years old Height: 5 feet 6 inches
BEFORE Weight: 355 pounds Dress/Pant Size: 28
AFTER Weight: 167 pounds Dress/Pant Size: 12
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
Gail: Life before making these changes was very low. I had no self-esteem and no self-worth. My health was failing very fast. I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a hiatal hernia that the doctor did not want to touch because of my health and weight.
I didn't think I would live longer than my parents had at the rate I was going. My mother died at 44 years old. She was overweight and suffocated while sick with a cold. My father died from a massive heart attack on the job at 51 years old.
My diet consisted of fast food, rice, pasta, fried foods, chips and junk snacks. I was raised in Louisiana. Rich and fried foods are a big part of the culture around here, which didn't help.
As far as exercise went, what was that? My doctor told me that I needed to lose weight and find a good stress reliever if I wanted to live long enough to see grandchildren. I never listened.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration for making a change?
Gail: My decision to make changes started one morning when I got up for church and thought I was having a heart attack. I crawled back into bed and didn't tell anyone. I eventually fell asleep. I wasn't feeling very well when I woke up, but I continued on as normal (and kept my secret).
I had a similar attack in the middle of the night about a week later, and this time I told my husband he needed to take me to the hospital. They determined that my attack was stress-related rather than a heart attack and told me I needed to find a diet and exercise to help relieve the stress in my life.
After a lot of praying and talking to God, one day I felt like He came to me and said that I could have the desire of my heart, but that He wasn't going to do all the work. I had to play a part in this transformation. I set out to research what I needed to do as a result, and I've been doing that ever since.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
Gail: Prayer is my strong support. I am also a member of a support group that helps me a lot. I can relate to others that are struggling with my same problem.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your favorite way to work out?
Gail: I love walking, step aerobics, the elliptical machine and bike riding.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
Gail: I work out four or five days a week, working around my schedule as needed. I'm a member of the local YMCA, and I also bowl in a league. I normally go to a support group meeting on Monday and Tuesday after work. Wednesday is bowling night, and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday I go to the gym. I created a workout room at my house for when I don't make it to the gym. Sunday is God's time, but I sometimes work out in my little home gym in the evening.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
Gail: My typical day includes three sensible meals and two snacks (if needed). My meals consist of vegetables, fruit, protein, dairy and grains. I like fish, chicken, turkey and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the range of calories you eat per day?
Gail: When I first started I ate 1,800 calories a day. That gradually decreased as my weight loss progressed, and now I eat between 1,600 and 1,400 calories a day.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
Gail: I keep fruits, vegetables, brown rice, fish, chicken, turkey, nuts, beans and whole-grain starches in my kitchen
LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
Gail: I do my grocery shopping on Saturday and prep my food on Sunday for the following week. I pack my lunches for the workweek each Monday.
I try to be very strict during the week, but I eat out on Thursday's with a co-worker and with my family sometimes during the weekend. When I do eat out I make the healthiest choice possible, which means no fried or fatty foods. I love a good salad, but I pay close attention to what I put in it.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the biggest challenge you faced?
Gail: I was very unhappy and had given up on myself. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. I was mentally, physically and spiritually sick. No amount of willpower could help me before I got started on this healthy path.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
Gail: Learn to love yourself and know that God loves you! You do have a purpose here until the end, so make the best of it.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your life like now?
Gail: I was given a new beginning with my husband, children and friends. I don't have grandchildren yet, but I'm ready when the time comes. I am happy, joyous and free of the bondage of self. Self has always gotten in my way for years. Life is good. I am precious and free.
Today I am off of cholesterol medication, and the doctors fixed my hiatal hernia last year. My doctors are amazed and so proud of me. When I get together with friends and family who haven't seen me in awhile, they are amazed and want to know what happened. I am always ready to share my story. There is not enough time in the day to tell of the miracles that have happened in my 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.