Name: Melissa W.
LIVESTRONG.COM Username: mawoods (member since 2009)
Age: 32 Height: 5 feet 3 inches
Before Weight: 205 pounds Dress/Pant Size: 14
After Weight: 145 pounds Dress/Pant Size: 6
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
Melissa: I’ve dealt with weight issues my whole life. I played soccer as a kid and was on the cheerleading squad in high school. I became more athletic over the years, but my weight remained a problem. After entering college I became less active, and I was eating fast food three times a day. When I turned 21 I was working a sedentary desk job, and my diet consisted of pizza, beer, burgers and anything fried. I had gained 35 pounds since graduating high school in what seemed like overnight.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
Melissa: I was in my early 20s — at a time in my life where I was just coming into my own — and at my heaviest weight. I wanted all the same things every girl at that age wants. I wanted attention from guys and to be able to borrow clothes from my friends. I wanted to feel the confidence I observed in others around me, and I wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin. So one day I made the decision to change all of that.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
Melissa: I joined LIVESTRONG.COM in 2009 after doing a Google search for weight-loss websites. At the start of my weight-loss journey I was using a different calorie-counting app on my smartphone, and then I discovered the MyPlate Calorie Tracker, which is how I lost the majority of my weight in the beginning. MyPlate was more advanced and provided more information than the previous app I was using.
I had tried several other fad diets, but counting calories was the one method that finally made sense to me. Tracking my calories was a huge eye-opener because I learned how much food I was actually consuming. Over the years I continued to visit the website and have learned a ton about fitness and nutrition from the articles and slideshows.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
Melissa: When I first started working out, one of my best friends (who was already in amazing shape) was by my side the entire time. We joined a gym together, and every week we went to different classes together. We held each other accountable on those days when we just felt like going home and curling up on the couch. I know without a doubt that I never would have made it this far without her there with me. My family, friends and co-workers also stood by me.
It was always encouraging to hear people tell me how good I was looking and how proud of me they were. Just hearing positive reinforcement from others is what pushed me to keep going when I wanted to give up.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your favorite way to work out?
Melissa: Throughout my journey I tried everything I had access to. I’ve taken kickboxing, Zumba, hip-hop dance classes, extreme fitness classes, hot yoga and multiple boot camps. After I started seeing some improvement in my conditioning I took my first Spin class and fell in love with it. For so long I remember thinking that was something I’d never be in good enough shape to do, but once I finally tried it I realized how silly my original thinking was. I’d like to one day get my certification to become an instructor.
I’m also a huge fan of weight training. I was one of those people who had a thousand misconceptions about women who lifted weights, but once I began to learn more about fitness and nutrition I realized how important it was for reaching my goals. And, to be honest, there is nothing better than physically seeing yourself get stronger and being able to see those muscles you’re working so hard for!
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your weekly exercise schedule?
Melissa: I work out at least three times a week. My workouts usually consist of 30-minute cardio sessions — either Spin or HIIT workouts on the treadmill and 45 minutes of weight training.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s a typical day of meals and snacks?
Melissa: Sometimes I literally feel like I eat every hour on the hour. For breakfast I typically have a meal-replacement shake (I like ViSalus) or Greek yogurt with fruit and granola. As far as snacks go, I keep my desk stocked with healthy options like popcorn, almonds, mandarin oranges, tuna and carrots with hummus for when cravings hit. Most of my lunches and dinners consist of salad, lean meats (turkey, chicken or fish) and veggies.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the range of calories you eat per day?
Melissa: My calorie intake ranges from 1,300 to 1,500 calories per day. I’ve gotten to a point where I try to eat a mostly clean diet, and it’s no longer as necessary for me to track my calories every day.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
Melissa: You can always count on my kitchen to be stocked with ground turkey, chicken, brown rice, black beans, broccoli, bananas, quinoa, eggs and Greek yogurt. Oh, and salsa. I eat salsa on everything.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
Melissa: I do a lot of my meal prep on Sundays, when my schedule allows for it. I’ll often bake a batch of chicken and roast a pan of mixed veggies to use for different meals throughout the week. Some of my go-to make-ahead meals are tuna patties and turkey ranch meatballs. They’re simple to make and freeze, so they’re readily available for a quick-and-easy meal. Every Monday during my lunch break I go to the grocery store and buy anything I’ll need for snacks or lunch for that week while I’m at work.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the biggest challenge you faced?
Melissa: For me, the biggest challenge was overcoming the thought that “I can’t.” For so long I refused to try so many things because I just didn’t think I could do them. Once I started taking things one day at a time and getting better every day, I realized there’s not a whole lot I couldn’t do. Never in my life did I ever think I could complete a half marathon, but in December 2011 I completed the St. Jude half marathon in a decent time — and now I have one more thing crossed off my bucket list.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
Melissa: As with everything in life, balance is key. Do not deprive yourself of the things you love. If you splurge one day, don’t beat yourself up over it. You haven’t failed. Just pick yourself up and get back on track. Pizza and Mexican food are like my kryptonite. There’s no way I could ever give them up. But now I know on the days I choose to indulge that it’ll be up to me to put in the extra work at the gym the next day.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your life like now?
Melissa: Almost seven years later and the weight is still off. I can climb the five flights of stairs to my office without feeling like I could die! I’m always working toward new goals, and now I have a new sense of confidence and the energy needed to get me there.
Even after seven years, the LIVESTRONG.COM email newsletter is the one where I actually read the articles. I have discovered that I truly enjoy learning about fitness and nutrition. Rather than just trying to lose weight, I’ve developed a passion for the information that gets me there.
For the past several years I have hosted a “Biggest Loser”-type challenge at my work, and I am constantly sharing recipes and articles from LIVESTRONG.COM with the participants. These challenges keep me on track, and I really enjoy watching and motivating people as they work toward their individual fitness and nutrition goals.
Read More: LIVESTRONG.com Members' Before & After Weight Loss Photos
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.