Name: Amanda L.
LIVESTRONG.COM Username: boscogirl (member since: 2015)
Age: 40 Height: 5 feet 5 inches
BEFORE Weight: 356 pounds Dress/Pant Size: 28 (pants) and 5XL (work scrubs)
AFTER Weight: 195 pounds (and still losing!) Dress/Pant Size: 14 (pants) and XL (work scrubs)
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
Amanda: Prior to joining LIVESTRONG.COM, my diet, exercise and self-esteem were nonexistent. Sure, I jumped on every fad diet that came along, but they never lasted — or at least I never remained committed. Exercising lived in my mind, and I thought of it often. But that, too, never lasted and mostly only existed in my head. I am and have always been a very outgoing person.
To most, my self-esteem may almost seem off the charts, but that is only because I learned over many years to put on an act and make others believe I was the most happy and content person there was. I hid behind my humor so others would notice just how funny I was and not the fact that I couldn’t fit in most chairs or that my clothes were so tight that I was uncomfortable. No one could tell by the smile on my face just how miserable and imprisoned I felt in my own skin.
Sugar was my best friend. Or at least that’s what I thought. If I was hungry, I ran right for a candy bar and soda. It was my drug. I felt amazing after I would scarf down the bar in just three or four bites and gulp down the soda like it was my last one ever. I lived for any and all things sweet! Let’s just say it was my Achilles’ heel.
I battled on and off with high blood pressure. I was placed on medication to help control it on more than a few occasions. It would scare me into eating healthier, but that never lasted long, so I would be back in the same boat with high blood pressure and a pill by my side. My health was on its way to diabetes, chronic high blood pressure and anything else that came with being morbidly obese. I was a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
Amanda: I lost my father to a massive heart attack at the age of 56. He battled all his life with weight and played the yo-yo diet game for as long as I could remember. My daddy was my life, and losing my hero caused me to face the facts and reassess my life. I vowed to make a change so my daughter would never have to experience what I did.
I told myself I was going to do this the right way and that a diet was not the answer. I would have to work and fight for a better me each and every day. The gym would become a daily routine, as would my eating more balanced and clean. I would not pick up the newest diet trend, but rather I would create my own new healthy lifestyle change. I was not going to try to do this — I was going to do it no matter how much blood, sweat and tears it took.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
Amanda: I came across LIVESTRONG.COM one night while searching the internet for various workout routines. I clicked on the link and instantly fell in love with the site. It is like a one-stop shop for articles, recipes, workout routines and up-to-date health and fitness info. It is, to me, my fitness bible. I signed up to receive the daily newsletter email so I could stay updated and educated and use LIVESTRONG.COM as another tool in creating my new and healthy lifestyle.
I find I utilize the free Stronger workouts most. I am always looking for a new and more challenging workout routine to push myself, and LIVESTRONG.COM offers me this. I love the health and fitness articles because they contain not only current information, but information I feel is safe and accurate for its audience.
I have also been a huge fan of Fitbit and have now gone through two of them since my journey began. I love their app because it allows me to track my food, exercise, water intake, weight, BMI, body fat and sleep in one place. I have made so many new friends through the app as it has daily, weekly and personal-goal challenges. It offers me the chance to be competitive and healthy all at once.
I have been on this journey now for almost two years. I started at 356 pounds and am currently weighing in at 195 (and nowhere near finished).
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
Amanda: I believe I am blessed with one of the greatest support systems ever! My family and friends are amazing. They are always considerate around me and make sure I am taken care of. My best friend — who weighed roughly 140 pounds when I began in September on this journey — was right there along with me eating healthier, joining me in the gym five days a week and making her own overall lifestyle change. She has lost 20 pounds and continues to live the life of a healthy individual.
My husband loves to cook, so I am a lucky woman. He cooks me a balanced, high-protein meal for dinner with nothing but fresh and healthy ingredients. He ensures there is always extra so I am set for lunch the next day. We enjoy going to dinner as well and find ourselves ordering one meal to split. This offers us a smaller portion and keeps us both accountable for making healthier choices.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your favorite way to work out?
Amanda: I love biking and the gym. I am really into free weights and constantly pushing myself every day. I love seeing the results of my muscle definition where before was just skin and fat.
I began attending a weekly support group where I not only learned strength and healing, but also inherited a group of others who I feel have become more like family than friends. I realized how much we enjoyed each other’s company and support in the group, so I thought of ways to get together outside of it that was not geared toward food.
There are currently seven of us, ranging in age from 40 to some in their 60s, who meet up every Saturday at a local park and ride bikes. Some ride six miles. Others like me ride up to 22 miles. I am slowly getting into cycling and hope to be able to purchase a cycling bike and gear in the near future.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your weekly exercise schedule?
Amanda: My workout times vary because I like to add in yoga every now and again. Typically, we arrive at the gym and begin working out at 6 a.m. (5:30 a.m. for yoga). I work out on most days anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour. I warm up with the treadmill or elliptical and then hit the free weights. I alternate arms, legs and core days to allow my muscles the proper rest and repair time.
I have an hour for lunch at work, so the first half hour is spent eating my lunch and reading LIVESTRONG.COM articles, while the second half is spent walking 1.5 miles (give or take) around my building. This is a great way to get in cardio and decompress from the morning so that I am fresh and ready to take on the rest of my day.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s a typical day of meals and snacks?
Amanda: I eat three balanced meals a day with two snacks. I gave up soda almost three years ago and drink only black coffee. I find I am most successful if I prepare my next day’s meals the night before so I have no excuse to go out or grab something quick and easy.
My typical breakfast consists of unflavored organic oatmeal with fresh blueberries and protein powder along with one meatless sausage link.
Lunch is either meatless soy meatballs or chickenless chicken nuggets with fresh veggies and a mango salsa.
Dinner is also high in protein and fresh vegetables.
My snacks consist of a low-fat cheese stick, protein bar, hard-boiled egg or fresh fruit.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the range of calories you eat per day?
Amanda: I get in roughly 1,200 calories a day.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
Amanda: Propel zero-calorie flavored water with electrolytes and vitamins, almond butter, bananas and protein powder are favorites and always in my kitchen.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
Amanda: I prefer to shop for my foods every few days to ensure freshness. I plan meals on Sundays and package my food the night before for the next day. I keep fresh fruit, almond milk and veggies in the refrigerator at work along with protein powder in at my desk, so I always have a backup plan.
LIVESTRONG.COM: Were there any supplements that you took during your journey?
Amanda: I take a daily vitamin and calcium chew. I use a variety of protein powders, but all must be hydrolyzed isolate whey protein. I drink amino acids three times a day to help with the repair of my muscles due to weightlifting.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the biggest challenge you faced?
Amanda: The best advice I can share is to make sure you are making this change for yourself above all. If you are not doing it for you, then you most likely will not be successful.
If you haven’t already, become organized and plan ahead. I pack my gym bag the night before, put my workout clothes in the restroom, socks inside untied shoes at the table and all powders and supplements at the sink inside the cups for when I put my already-packaged lunch in my lunch bag. I set my alarm only once to prevent from falling back asleep and missing the gym. Always eat something like a banana or oatmeal prior to working out, and drink plenty of water.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
Amanda: My biggest success is to remember that this is not a destination, it’s a journey. I am not trying to get to something or someplace, I am simply becoming healthy and, most of all, happy.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your life like now?
Amanda: My life today is nothing like it was a couple of years ago. I have so much energy and desire to be active, unlike my prior years of having to force myself to do pretty much anything. I love to work out, ride bikes, swim, hike and even jog! I look forward to amusement parks, barbecues with friends and family and even going to a restaurant because I know I will fit in the chair or booth.
I smile from the inside out and feel amazing. I still have more to go, but I’m off to a pretty good start! I want to thank LIVESTRONG.COM for being my go-to for workouts and recipes and providing me with the most up-to-date articles on health and fitness. I look forward to my journey each and every day. I can’t wait to see where I am a year from now!
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.