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How LoriJean R. Lost 70 Pounds and FIVE Dress Sizes!

By Ann Rusnak ; Updated July 18, 2017

Name: LoriJean R. LIVESTRONG Username: jumpinbean (member since 2009)

Age: 40

Height: 5 feet 1 inch

BEFORE Weight: 210 pounds Dress/Pant Size: 18-20

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

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

LoriJean: When I was obese I was physically uncomfortable in subtle ways. I was overweight since I was a child, so it was hard to notice which physical discomforts were caused by the extra weight. When I became even more obese during the stressful student years, the discomforts became more noticeable. I was claustrophobic inside my own skin and my clothing. For instance, I grew to dislike bracelets because they felt constricting.

I also couldn’t get my body out of my own way. Activities that involved movement had become utterly unenjoyable, so I avoided them. Maneuvers that seemed so effortless as a child were exhausting. Even simple activities like walking around the mall, getting up from the floor, and putting on my socks while standing had become a chore. I didn’t have a full realization of my muscle weakness and lack of stamina until after my weight loss.

I also felt changes in my breathing. My breathing was quicker, more shallow and louder. The breathing issues were even worse when lying down. Sometimes, I would wake up startled in the night and need to take a deep breath. I started to prefer to lay at an angle with two or three pillows under my head and torso. The extra weight was adversely affecting my breathing mechanics. In addition, I had terrible heartburn, and my blood pressure was creeping up.

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

LoriJean: I had given into the idea that my genetic predisposition for a larger body size was too strong to overcome. When I was 32 years-old, I was at a routine check-up with my primary care physician. She said to me, “Your life is half over.” She was referring to the fact that my grandmother had died at the age of 64 from obesity-related medical conditions. It was a slap in the face, but I needed to hear it.

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

LoriJean: When I was obese, I honestly thought that I didn’t eat all that much. Sure, we all have that friend that can eat anything and everything, is allergic to exercise and doesn’t gain a pound. You can’t dwell on that. Accept that life isn’t fair and move on. I was overeating and didn’t realize it. I’ve struggled with my weight since (seemingly) birth, so I’ve had an interest in nutrition and exercise since adolescence. Even when I was obese, I was conscientious about what I ate and also exercised regularly.

So, why was I so overweight? I did get tangled up in the good intentioned but flawed “low-fat” advice from health professionals and the low-fat foods industry that resulted. That isn’t the primary reason, though. The number one reason that I was overweight was that I was eating too many calories. I would roll my eyes every time a skinny nutritionist would preach to me “calories in - calories out.” How could that be? I don’t eat that much. Right? It turns out that you only need a small amount of calories to sustain your baseline bodily functions.

This can be estimated with a formula the LIVESTRONG.COM Calorie Tracker uses. It’s surprisingly a very small amount of food! It is common for a restaurant meal, take-out, and even my loving family’s cooking to be double, even triple my daily allotment of calories. The portions that seemed so normal to me because one - I had been eating that amount all my life and, two - everyone around me ate the same portions - were actually way too much. Exercise doesn’t even stand a chance at erasing this magnitude of overeating. 30 minutes of exercise covers only about one fifth of the calories that can be eaten in one restaurant meal.

LIVESTRONG.COM opened my eyes to the cold hard numbers of what I was eating and what I could make up for in exercise. It also opened my eyes to the reality that I couldn’t and wouldn’t starve myself below 1000 calories a day, so that meant that it could literally take three days or more days of strict calorie counting to make up for the calories consumed in one “splurge” meal. Once you start keeping a log of your intake on the LIVESTRONG Calorie Tracker app, you can easily see how easy it is to gain weight and not return to your baseline weight between “splurges.”

The LIVESTRONG Calorie Tracker (formerly known as MyPlate) helped me view my daily calorie balance like a budget. I log everything that I eat and log all the activity and exercise. I try to keep my net calories within the budget that the Calorie Tracker calculates based on my sex, age and weight. If I run out of calories, I can either stop eating or exercise in order to earn more calories. When friends and colleagues ask what is my weight loss secret, I like to answer, “math and hunger.”

LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?

LoriJean: Diet and exercise buddies are helpful. It’s a great motivator to have someone expecting you at the gym. Over the long haul though, I found that diet buddies come and go, and the most important person to make yourself accountable to is you. If you have someone to team up with, take advantage of it during that time, but don’t let their absence derail you.

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

LoriJean: My favorite activity is walking my dog. I occasionally jog when the mood strikes. I also like to pick a television series to binge watch while on the elliptical. I only allow myself to watch episodes while working out. It’s a way to keep me coming back. More recently, I’ve added strength training. I am excited about the progress I can feel in my strength and balance. I work with a personal trainer 3 - 4 times per month. Over the last few months, I’ve started using the LIVESTRONG.COM Stronger Workouts with Nicky Holender. They are fun and extremely challenging (I don’t recommend them for beginners). I exercise 4 - 5 days a week.

LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your typical exercise and daily eating schedule, and how do you strategize for both?

LoriJean: I have no schedule. My career is such that I have no predictability to my work hours. Whenever time presents itself to me, I try to take advantage of it to work out or cook. I cope with this by stashing healthy snacks, keeping workout clothes nearby, and stocking non-perishables in my kitchen. I choose 3 or 4 recipes and make a shopping list. Then, I shop for the recipes. I choose recipes that I can substitute frozen ingredients so that my kitchen is ready whenever the chance to cook happens.

I often eat two small meals (200 - 250 calories each) in the morning at 6 am and around 9 - 10:00 am. I also eat lunch and dinner. In the past, I would miss meals at work, but the fasting only led to binging. I try to sneak a protein bar if I don’t have time for a formal lunch. I try to choose foods that offer nutrients and not just empty calories. I also try to get most of my protein and fats from plant sources.

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

LoriJean: My goal is to net 1200 calories per day. My career-woman practical tip is keep your purse stocked with protein bars and your freezer stocked with healthy frozen meals. A frozen entree is quick to cook, has built in portion control, and is quick and easy to log into the LIVESTRONG Calorie Tracker.

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

LoriJean: One of the biggest challenges was maintaining patience for slow weight loss. It was also challenging to keep with it even though there was always a holiday, birthday, vacation, or family gathering around the corner. You can’t change what you did yesterday, so brush off your indiscretions and try to do better next time. Don’t let backwards steps in the short term discourage you.

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

LoriJean: You don't absolutely need to exercise.

Exercise is a great thing, but it’s a very minor part of losing weight. The lion’s share of weight gain is due to overeating. Exercise is a drop in the bucket compared to what we consume. If you have injuries, arthritis or other restrictions, don’t fret. Weight loss can still be accomplished. Also, I found exercise to be awfully uncomfortable when I was bigger. I started with very small goals, and I found that being physically active became more enjoyable as I became smaller. You may find that your willingness to exercise is increased after you lose a few pounds. Exercise can help you stretch your calorie budget, and is a great addition to your health.

Doing SOMETHING is always better than doing NOTHING.

I also have fell into the trap of thinking, “if can’t reach goal X then I won’t even start.” For instance, if I have jogging planned, but I’m feeling bleh about running then I wouldn’t get out there at all. If I tell myself that I only have to walk, it helps me get started. I wouldn’t get out there if I couldn’t complete my whole 3 mile route. Then, I realized that exercise is cumulative and getting out there even for just 1 mile is exponentially better than sitting.

Slow and steady wins the race.

After a few weeks of using the LIVESTRONG Calorie Tracker app you will quickly realize that the most palatable way to diet is to shave off a couple of hundred calories per day. This means less hunger and better mood, but slower weight loss. You’ll more likely to stick with it if you aren’t miserable! I lost about 70 pounds over 7 years. I’ve maintained my weight for two years. Whenever my weight starts to creep up, I always go back to logging at LIVESTRONG.COM to get back on track. The best way to break a plateau is math.

Sleep and alcohol

I also found that getting adequate amounts of sleep makes reaching goals easier. I also learned that alcohol consumption decreases my will power and often leads to overeating.

Don’t live paycheck to paycheck.

I think of cardio work out as quick money to earn me an extra bite or two, but you don’t want to get into a cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. If you rely on running 6 miles a day in order to eat, what happens when life intervenes and you don’t have time to work out that day? Fat storage is what happens. I learned this later in my efforts, but muscle tone is more like putting your money in an investment that will help you later. You burn more calories in-between your workouts when you have more muscle mass.

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

LoriJean: I’m more active and my stamina is better. My balance and strength are improved which makes me feel more in control of my body. I have much more energy. I fit in chairs better. I’m less self-conscious in tight spaces. My cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, heartburn and breathing are better without medication. I even have quite a bracelet collection.

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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