How Leslie S. Lost 97 Pounds

iLeslie's BEFORE and AFTER photos -- she lost almost 100 pounds!!

Liz went from an "idea" person to a woman of action when it came to losing weight -- and that made all the difference.

Name: Leslie S.

LIVESTRONG.COM Username: sassyfrasssteele
LIVESTRONG.COM Member since: March 29, 2011

Age: 48
Height: 5‘9“

Before Measurements
Weight: 257 pounds
Dress/Pant Size: 24/26

After Measurements
Weight: 160 pounds
Dress/Pant Size: 8/10

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

Leslie S.: I had been overweight by about 20 pounds my entire life and was very sedentary. In my twenties I began a series of diets in which I would lose and gain weight repeatedly. I went from being a little overweight to being morbidly obese. Though I have always been a very outgoing and positive person, on the inside I was full of pain. I didn't feel like my outward appearance mirrored the Leslie inside, the Leslie who wanted to spread joy and inspiration. I was angry and bitter. I was married in my twenties, and I feel that my struggle with my weight -- and the fact that I was so unhappy on the inside -- was a major factor in the demise of my marriage. My ex-husband was always supportive of me no matter my weight, but I was unhappy and therefore lashed out at him and the world on a regular basis. I never exercised, smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day and ate fast food on an almost daily basis. I had no real goals for my life and basically felt lost and unworthy.

2. LIVESTRONG.COM: What inspired you to make a change?

Leslie S.: My turning point was definitely the birth of my son. Although it was not overnight, becoming a mother definitely flipped a switch inside of me. I became very aware that it was no longer just about me looking good, it was about setting an example of health and fitness for my son and being able to be an active participant in his life. At 3 years old he patted me on the stomach and asked why my tummy was so big. I knew then that I had to put my thoughts into action. I wrote a list of reasons why I wanted to change my life -- not just lose weight -- and I taped it to my computer at work. My son was number one on my list. People would see the list and ask me what it meant, and though I might have been embarrassed to answer at first, now I was happy to share the journey of health and change I was embarking upon with the world.

iLeslie's BEFORE and AFTER photos -- she lost almost 100 pounds!!

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

Leslie S.: I lost the majority of my weight over a year or so. However, it wasn't until a couple of years later when I really began to love working out and going to the gym (as well as learning about clean eating) that it truly became a way of life for me -- one that I have maintained for almost a decade now. I get the LIVESTRONG.COM newsletter, and I love to read the articles and follow others on the community message boards. I think it is vitally important to almost make your health a hobby. That way you naturally want to keep up on the latest advances and nutrition news and hear from experts and others who have faced the same struggles or who just choose to make exercise and healthy eating a priority.

4. LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?

Leslie S.: My journey has been a long one. I actually divorced and moved before I lost my weight, so the majority of my close friends never really knew the "old" me and have a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that I was ever not who I am now. This sometimes makes it hard for them to understand my dedication and strong need to stick to my program 90 percent of the time.

Fortunately, I do have one girlfriend that I've known since childhood who is my biggest champion in the gym and in my clean eating, and she is the first to call me out if she sees me making excuses or getting lax. My mother has also been very supportive, as has my son, who has grown into quite the athlete. I am proud to say that, at 16, he has never really known anything other than an active mom who spends much of her free time in the gym, which is our home away from home. My friends and family were incredibly supportive of my efforts to complete four half marathons and one full one, and I could not have accomplished that without their love and support.

iLeslie's BEFORE and AFTER photos -- she lost almost 100 pounds!!

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

Leslie S.: My favorite workout is the gym. I love lifting weights, and I focus on either upper or lower body every time I'm there. I also do 30 minutes of cardio, which I confess is not my favorite. I generally do my cardio on the stair climber or the treadmill set on a very steep incline. I was very addicted to running at one time, and in addition to running several halves and a full marathon, I ran countless 5Ks and 10Ks. I burned myself out a bit on running and have just now started back up again. I ran a Halloween five-miler, and I did a four-mile race with my son and best friend on Thanksgiving morning. I also am proud to say that I completed Shaun T's INSANITY workout a year ago. My son asked me to buy it, and he only made it through one week! That was the hardest thing I've done next to the marathon, but so rewarding!

6. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your weekly exercise schedule?

Leslie S.: I like to hold myself accountable to at least three days at the gym during the week and one day on the weekend. I generally go after work and spend about an hour and a half there. When my social calendar is packed in the evenings, I try to fit in an abbreviated workout on my lunch break.

I find that I have less energy and am generally not as happy when I skip my workouts, which does happen sometimes. I tell people all the time that working out is my mental-health drug. I find the mental benefits to be every bit as important as the physical. I have also learned that the hardest part is starting or just going. If you tell yourself you only have to do 10 minutes, you will almost always end up deciding to complete your entire workout.

iLeslie's BEFORE and AFTER photos -- she lost almost 100 pounds!!

7. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?

Leslie S.: I try very hard to adhere to a clean eating regimen. I lost the first 30 pounds on Weight Watchers, the second 30 on a low-carb diet and then eight years ago I discovered the gym and clean eating. That is when my journey really clicked. My life totally changed, and I lost the rest of the weight.

A typical day for me would include warm water and lemon with probiotics when I wake, and then coffee at work, followed by a midmorning smoothie of almond milk, flaxseed, brown rice protein powder, Greek yogurt and frozen banana and berries. Lunch is generally a can of tuna with a quarter of an avocado mashed up and mixed with it with a side of cucumber and hummus. For dinner I typically eat some type of fish, and I saute a large skillet of veggies, such as mushrooms, fresh spinach, zucchini, broccoli, etc. I will generally eat a handful of nuts or a piece of Ezekiel bread with all-natural peanut butter for a snack. I drink a lot of water and hot green tea. I typically have a glass of wine with dinner -- it's my favorite treat.

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

Leslie S.: Honestly, I do not usually count calories. I have occasionally, and I tried to stay around the 1,200 to 1,500 range. I know what I can eat and what I like, and I watch portion sizes as well as voraciously read labels.

iLeslie's BEFORE and AFTER photos -- she lost almost 100 pounds!!

9. LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?

Leslie S.: Avocado, all-natural peanut butter, a variety of fresh vegetables (zucchini, squash, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, peppers and cucumbers), fish and hummus are always in my kitchen.

10. LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?

Leslie S.: I eat lunch at work every day, and I think that is very important. (When I was overweight I ate out for lunch every day.) I generally shop on Sunday so I have enough food for the week. I am lucky to have a kitchen at work, so I stock it up on Mondays and fix my lunch every day. I have healthy snacks like nuts there as well. I basically eat the same version of dinner Monday through Friday. I do let myself have a little more freedom on the weekend, and I would say Sunday is definitely my day to have a cheat meal.

iLeslie's BEFORE and AFTER photos -- she lost almost 100 pounds!!

11. LIVESTRONG.COM: What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Leslie S.: I think life itself is the biggest challenge. When I have had to face relationship breakups or other emotional turmoil in my life, I have had to work hard to not let it affect my eating (either by not eating enough or by comforting myself with food). I still work on this. I am single and socialize quite a bit, so making good choices when I am eating out is always a challenge. This past year has been a struggle for me. I turned 48, my son is a junior in high school, I work full-time, I volunteer -- and some days I'm just tired. It seems easier to skip the gym or not prepare my meals, but I realize that every time I take "the easy way out" I pay for it by having even less energy and motivation. I think you just wake up every day and say, "Today I am going to be the best me possible. It's a new day." I think being grateful and positive helps the most.

12. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your biggest secret(s) to success that you want to share with others?

Leslie S.: Everyone must have their own "aha" moment. For me it was the birth of my son. Generally speaking, it isn't as effective if it's to fit into a certain size or for a reunion or because your friend/mother/husband/etc. is hounding you. You have to love yourself and realize that you are worthy and capable of doing anything you set your mind to.

Make a list of the reasons why you want to change your life and believe that you can. I am a firm believer in a positive attitude and challenging myself to do more than I ever thought I could. Find others who believe in you and who eat healthy and exercise. Surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed. I immerse myself in a lot of health magazines and books by runners, athletes and nutritionists. I am always reading up on the latest breakthroughs or advances in nutrition.

Do not follow fads. Discover what works for you. Find the healthy foods that are delicious to you. You will be successful, and it will not be a diet that you dread or a temporary fix. In my opinion, a marriage of exercise and clean eating is required. Both are important and will play a huge role in helping you achieve your goal.

Lastly, I weigh myself every day. I know that may seem excessive to some, but it works for me and helped me take the weight off and maintain it within five to 10 pounds for a decade. If I do not weigh daily I find it too easy for pounds I don't realize are adding up to creep on. The scale will never lie. It will tell you if you aren't eating or exercising as you should.

iLeslie's BEFORE and AFTER photos -- she lost almost 100 pounds!!

13. LIVESTRONG.COM: Can you describe what your life is like now?

Leslie S.: My life now is totally different than it was before I lost the weight. I went from an "idea" person to a woman of action! The old me would stay up late, sleep half the day, eat fast food and smoke incessantly -- all the while dreaming of being able to wear the fashions I so loved and being able to walk with confidence into any room or situation. Since I lost the weight and have kept it off, I know that I am an inspiration to many people around me. I'm a better mother and friend. I have volunteered weekly with Meals on Wheels for the past four years, I sit on the board of a community-leadership program and I am a positive role model for my son, friends and family. I am happy. I am proud. I love me. I would rank losing the weight and keeping it off as a major life accomplishment -- right up there with earning a college degree. Being a mother is the greatest gift that God has given me, and the greatest gift I have given myself and my son is creating a lifestyle for us of healthy eating and exercise and giving back to our community.

Written by: Ann Rusnak