Name: Janice R.
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LIVESTRONG.COM Username: jmsantos
Age: 26 | Height: 5'1"
BEFORE Weight: 230 pounds Dress/Pant Size: 16–18
AFTER Weight: 125 pounds Dress/Pant Size: 2
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
I was incredibly unhealthy before joining LIVESTRONG.COM. A couple of years ago I suffered a back injury during a CrossFit workout. Working out had been my passion and kept my anxiety in check, so when I was no longer able to work out I fell into a depressive hole and stopped taking care of myself. I was constantly binge eating junk food, and I began to gain a lot of weight. I felt so uncomfortable in my own body since nothing in my closet fit me. I also developed back pain and pain in my legs from carrying around so much extra weight. Although I didn’t have any diagnosed health issues, I generally felt sluggish and upset at myself all the time.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration for making a change?
I wanted to dress up one day because I planned to go out with one of my friends. But when I went to look in my closet, I couldn’t find any clothes I felt pretty in. The only clothes that fit me were old T-shirts and sweatpants!
For a long time I refused to buy larger jeans. When I finally did, I was taken aback because I was a size 16 or 18. From that moment on I decided I needed to make a change for the sake of my own health, to get rid of the pains I had every day and to simply feel beautiful again in my own skin. My husband also proposed to me around that time, and I knew I only had a year to get wedding-ready.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
LIVESTRONG.COM is a great resource with a wealth of information. I began to research a lot about nutrition and exercise, and I found so many great articles on the site. I also signed up for the daily newsletters and utilized the MyPlate app to track my food. Once I felt I was in more control, I stopped tracking and began to rely simply on making healthy choices as well as eating decreased portion sizes.
LIVESTRONG.COM provided me with workout routines and tips and tricks on healthful eating and exercise. As I read other people’s weight-loss success stories, it inspired me to keep pushing because I knew it could be done.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
My two greatest supporters are my husband and older sister, who both encouraged me to push myself and eat healthy. My sister and I often share our nutritional knowledge and creative recipes to keep healthy eating fun — and my husband has been supportive and encouraging since day one.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your favorite way to work out?
I took up running during spring, summer and early fall, and I run an average of 15 to 20 miles a week. In the colder months I go to the gym early in the morning before work and complete HIIT circuits and strength training. I never do the same workout twice, and this has kept my muscles and body guessing. If I happen to miss my alarm or am unable to make it to the gym for whatever reason, I get up and do a home workout like Shaun T’s Insanity in my basement. There’s really no excuse!
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your weekly exercise schedule?
I currently go to the gym before work at 5 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The weekends consist of either gym sessions or a long-distance run, depending on the weather.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s a typical day of meals and snacks?
During my weight-loss process I eliminated processed sugar and focused on eating low carbs with high protein. I also snacked on protein shakes in between meals if I got hungry. Now that I am in a steady healthy state, my diet has changed.
For breakfast, I usually eat a bowl of oatmeal mixed with half a banana, almond milk and some cinnamon. Lunch is usually a bowl of soup or salad. I also like to make quinoa bowls consisting of protein like ground turkey on a bed of quinoa with some leafy greens. Dinner will typically consist of a starch, such as sweet potato or roasted veggies, with some protein. My snacks include a sliced apple with almond butter or a fruit smoothie.
I realized that eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring or repetitive. I found creative ways to make comfort foods. Being Puerto Rican, I love rice and beans, but I make a healthy version of the dish by mixing cauliflower rice with brown rice.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the range of calories you eat per day?
I never stuck to one caloric range during my weight-loss journey or even now that I am in maintenance. Typically, my goal during weight loss was 1,200 calories, but I had days when I ate 1,600 to 1,800 calories and days when I only ate 900 because I didn’t have an appetite. This caloric range allowed my metabolism to fire up because my body did not get used to a specific number.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
I always make sure I am stocked up on eggs, cheddar cheese, quinoa, ground turkey, salmon, leafy greens, apples, bananas, almond milk and avocado. I throw avocado in everything I can, and I eat a side of it with nearly every savory meal.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
When I cook dinner, I make sure I have enough left over to pack for lunch the following day. On days when I don’t cook enough or my husband and I go out to dinner, I have healthy backup options in my freezer to take out for lunch. I usually warm up Amy’s frozen entrees or burritos and add some avocado and greens. Another great option is microwavable food staples, such as cooked chicken and cauliflower rice, that I can put together in a bowl when I don’t have time to cook. I grocery shop weekly to ensure I have all of the fresh produce I need and replace whatever I’ve used up the previous week.
LIVESTRONG.COM: Were there any supplements that you took during your journey?
While I do eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, I take a multivitamin daily as well as biotin to encourage healthy nail and hair growth. I primarily drank Vega protein powder, and I still do because it’s fully vegan and consists of greens, vitamins and minerals.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the biggest challenge you faced?
My biggest challenge was not giving into temptation at work. At my job, employees are constantly treated to pizza, bagels, cake, doughnuts and cookies. It’s ridiculous how much food is being offered. Among all of those treats, there is usually a tray of fresh fruit or veggies. Sometimes I would grab a big bowl of fruit and munch on it when I got together with co-workers. But I knew I had to get used to simply saying no and sticking to my goals — and I did.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
The biggest realization I had during my journey is that weight loss is 100 percent mental. If you have your mind in the right place, your body will follow. One little secret with pizza — one of my favorite foods — is to scrape off all the cheese, sauce and toppings onto your plate and throw away the bread. You get all of the pizza flavor and goodness for a fraction of the calories.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your life like now?
I still read tons of LIVESTRONG.COM articles daily through the email newsletter. The articles continue to educate me about nutritious foods that I can add to daily meals, and I get great workout ideas.
I’m very healthy, I have zero pain and I’ve never felt so free, beautiful and comfortable in my own skin. I completely replaced my entire wardrobe, and I’m so happy to be able to wear anything I want and feel amazing in it.
I am always full of energy, and I live a more fulfilling life. I now work out about four times a week with heavy weights and HIIT circuit training. During running season in the spring, I run about 20 to 30 miles weekly. I am currently preparing for the Broad Street run in May and my first half marathon in June. What’s more, changing my life around allowed me to have a very healthy, happy and fit first pregnancy.