Saturday, January 1, 2011

January 2011 Success Story Feature

Welcome 2011!  Each month I will feature a success story for your inspiration.  We will have a variety of success stories so stay tuned!   

Our first story features CJ aka "Low Carb CJ".  CJ's story is especially inspirational to me because she was able to lose more than 200lbs. without surgery or diet pills.  Just when you think your own journey is insurmountable, I want you to look back on some of these featured stories and take not of some of the  trials, tricks and ideas that helped elevate these people.

Starting Weight 525
Current Weight 276 (with 40 lbs of excess skin)
Final Goal Weight 220
I'm 5'8" and 33 years old.

I started out with a 91" waist and wearing a size 56 woman's when I could find it or just ordering a 6/7x empire waist knit dress that would stretch. I had also ordered 8/9x men's shirts from King Size when I was my biggest. I'm now wearing an 18/20 in most things and after my surgery to remove the 40 lbs of excess skin I'll easily fit into a size 14.

249 lbs lost and 274" lost off all areas of my body that were measured.

Neck = 8" lost
Bust = 31" lost
Band Size = 24" lost
Abs = 46" lost
Waist = 38" lost
Hips = 37" lost
Thighs = 19" lost off each side
Calves = 5.5" lost off each side
Arms = 15" lost off each side
Forearms = 3.5" lost off each side
Wrists = 2" lost off each side

My ring size went from an 11 to a 7 and my shoe size went from a very wide 10 to a 8.5.

I would have to say that the best part for my health was lowering my body fat by 35% and lowering my resting heart rate from 110 to 65 beats per minute. Not to mention going from not being able to walk around the block to being able to walk 10k too.

Questions I asked CJ

1. What was your defining moment of commitment to a weight loss program?

I didn't want to die. I felt horrible, never had any energy, had to wear myself out just to do normal day activities and I was sick all the time. My Grandpa had passed away and we had just gotten done with his funeral arrangements and I didn't want to be next. I saw how much it hurt my Mom and when she looked at me even though she'd smile I could still see the worry in her eyes. She was very supportive and only brought it up when I brought the subject up or if she had heard of something that she thought would help me. She was never mean about my weight. Both of my parents were concerned but didn't force anything on me. They knew better, because it wouldn't have worked.

My Aunt was in her 40's, diabetic and was having a lot of complications and got very sick and ended up in the hospital for a long time and sadly she's no longer with us. She wasn't near as big as I was, she was only about 400 lbs but she was shorter then me too. I felt like if I didn't do something right away while I was still young that I'd end up like her. I was ready to lose the weight, I was sick of feeling so bad all the time, sick of the way people treated me and looked at me. I just wanted to be "normal" sized, be healthy and to be active again.

I'll share a list that I have on my blog of why I got serious about weight loss:
1. I didn't want to die when I was in my 20's.....
2. I was sick of being 525 lbs (and then 430 lbs after I gained weight back from the accident)
3. I was tired of being on soma and hydrocodone from the pain.
4. I didn't want to be stuck riding the granny carts at the stores anymore.
5. I didn't like the doctors telling me I would never recover from my auto accident.
6. I didn't like the idea of giving up and being bed ridden.
7. I didn't want my dogs to become homeless because they outlived me.
8. I wanted to be able to go to the gym and do normal every day activities again.
9. I wanted to be able to touch my hands behind my back to put a normal bra on again.
9. I wanted to be able to bend over and tie my shoes again.
10. I wanted to be able to change my shoes in the car.
11. I wanted to be able to see my lap again instead of a huge belly.
12. I wanted my belly not to rub on my car steering wheel anymore.
13. I wanted to be able to fit into a restaurant booth again.
14. I wanted to fit into an airplane seatbelt and be able to put the tray down.
15. I wanted to fit into a stadium seat
16. I was sick of the stares and rude comments from strangers and sadly a few people who knew me too......
17. I was tired of being treated like less of a human because of my size.
18. I was tired of kids saying, "Look at that big fat lady!"
19. I was tired of being the biggest, fattest person in a public place.
20. I was afraid of being called, "Morbidly Obese"
21. I wanted to be able to comfortably take my dogs for a walk.
22. I wanted to participate in a walk for charity.
23. I was sick of having to mail order all of my clothes in a size 6x/7x (or larger)
24. I didn't want my Parents to have to bury me.
25. Most importantly I did it for me, because I deserved a better quality of life then I had at 525 lbs. and because I'm worth it!

2. What plan do you follow and how was it introduced to you?

I follow Atkins, and seem to feel best when I stay on induction level carbs. I first paid attention to the low carb way of eating when my sister-inlaw told me that she had lost 50 lbs by cutting out the carbs. She knew that I had PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and I'd been on diabetic medicine for two years even though I wasn't diabetic. The medicine wasn't helping me it was just making me feel worse. She had heard that low carb was helping ladies with PCOS and mentioned it when talking to my Mom so of course right away my Mom called me and told me to call my sister-inlaw.

I was very skeptical at first, afraid that I wouldn't be able to eat anything. But then I found out that I could still have bacon, cheese, meat and eggs so then I was like, OK I can do this! I had so many questions when I first started and my sister-inlaw told me to go buy the book and read it cover to cover before starting. I went and got both the Atkins and South Beach books and after reading them I decided to follow Atkins. It's been the best thing I ever did for my health. I'm truly low carb for life. I'm so thankful to my sister-inlaw for sharing her experience with me. For awhile I didn't want to talk about my weight loss because I was ashamed that I had been so big, but then I realized how many people it could help so I started helping people and participating in an online support group for ladies who needed to lose 100+ lbs. Then I started my blog and Facebook page and the feedback and thank you's have been overwhelming. It feels good to be able to help people who want to help themselves make positive changes for their health. 

3. Have you always struggled with weight issues and if so, what has your basic eating/dieting pattern been?

I was always chunky as a child, but it wasn't bad until I started gaining weight in High School. I'd lose and gain and lose it again but usually stayed between a size 16 to 18 in jeans, which didn't look too bad at 5'8". Then my senior year of High School I started gaining weight and gained 60 lbs during my senior year. I was very active and even went on an 800 calorie a day diet and ate very little fat. I even used metabolism boosting products and expensive meal replacement shakes and nothing was working long term. I would gain 50-60 lbs in just a few months and the doctors didn't know what was wrong with me. I kept gaining weight and they just assumed that I was cheating on my diet, when I wasn't. Come to find out I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) it does a lot of things but one of the big things that it does is cause weight gain. It basically effects your glucose levels which effect your hormone levels and your body doesn't process carbs correctly and you gain weight. The more carbs you eat the more your body craves and you're hungry all the time so you end up eating more. Unfortunately I didn't find out about PCOS until I was already 525 lbs.....

4. During this weight loss process what have your struggles or trials been and how did you over come them?

At first it was people questioning the way of eating, saying it wasn't healthy I needed to do low fat, not low carb. But I was 525 lbs in my 20's, if I didn't do something soon I was afraid that I wouldn't be around much longer! I had been trying the low fat, low calorie for years and it never helped me so I decided to try low carb since I was terrified of weight loss surgery.

Cutting out the carbs was NOT easy for me at first. The PCOS made me crave carbs like an alcoholic craves alcohol. It was very hard the first two weeks but then it got easier and the more I lost the more I realized that this was indeed a lifestyle change and not just some diet that I would only do for a short time. This is truly the way of eating that my body needs. Within the first 4 months I had lost 108 lbs and my doctors were shocked. Then I lost 200 lbs. total, maintained it for over a year, was in a car accident on bed rest for 6 months gained 130 lbs. back.... I lost 40 lbs. of it slowly over a couple years. Then it took me a few years to get serious about it again and now I've lost 249 lbs and feel so much better! I can go back to the gym and do normal activities. I had been told by 3 doctors that I'd never be able to go to the gym again after my accident and that was just pretty hard to swallow at 27 years old.....I didn't want to give up, I decided I just couldn't accept that and I had to try harder, not matter how long it took me I had to keep trying. You can't ever give up on yourself, even if it feels like everyone else has given up on you, YOU have to keep trying because YOU are worth it!

It took a few years to recover from that accident and I have been going to the gym again since September 2009. I had to start off very slowly and use more of the machines that I could sit on and just went from there, along with stretching and some things at home. Then in September of 2010 I participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure 5k walk/run. I walked of course, but it felt great to be able to do it. Since then I've also participated in a Lung Cancer 5k and a Pancreatic Cancer Walk. I plan to keep praticipating in the future. I'd like to run, but I'm not ready for that yet. I'm pleased with my progress so far and I'm happy to say that I've proved those doctors wrong! :)
5 Have you deviated from your program and gained at all? If so, how long, how much and was it difficult to jump back on plan?

Yes, after my car accident. I still wasn't eating sugar, but the starchy carbs creeped back in made me gain 130 lbs really fast. It was very hard to get that weight back off and I was still on lower carbs, but I'd have maybe 40-50 carbs per day and I wasn't really losing anything. It wasn't until I got serious about it again a few years later that the weight really started coming off again. With my PCOS I have to stay under 20 carbs a day if I want to lose any weight. At this point I'm pretty much in maintenance phase even though I'm very low carb (eating induction level carbs). If I really want something slightly higher in carbs once in awhile I might have it, but I measure my portion size and keep my total daily carb intake between 30-40 carbs for the day on a "bad" day. Then the next day I go back to 20 or less. I'm pretty content with omelets, meat and veggies, bunless bacon cheese burgers wrapped in lettuce so low carb isn't that hard for me to follow and I don't really want things higher in carbs very often. I could probably live on bacon burgers!

6 Do you practice this as a lifestyle?  In other words, do you think you've found a plan that works for you body, mind and long term success?

YES!!!!! Definitely, I'm low carb for life! I've lost 249 lbs, lowered my body fat by 35% and lowered my resting heart rate from 110 to 65 beats per minute. I was always sick and miserable before and now I feel so much better, I have a lot more energy and I'm able to be active again. That experience after my accident was definitely proof to me that low carb is a way of life and no matter how much weight I lose, I still have to do low carb to maintain it. It also taught me to get rid of my big baggy clothes so you notice right away if you're gaining weight back and just trying to avoid the scale.

 7 Did you begin your program with medical issues and if so, how have these improved?

I have PCOS and I'll always have it but I've greatly reduced the issues that it was causing. I won't go into a lot of detail about some of the things but it caused some women's health issues and I was anemic, had no energy, felt horrible, light headed, tummy problems, got sick easily and couldn't get very far away from the facilities.

Since cutting out the carbs my symptoms from PCOS have gone away and only occasionally bother me. At my last exam my doctor said I was completely healthy except for an issue that I'm having with excess skin. Having lost this much weight I have an estimated 40 lbs worth of excess skin that needs to be surgically removed at some point. It's pending insurance approval and they don't want to cover it, but my doctors say that it's medically needed and it really is, so hopefully they'll end up approving it. But I'd much rather have to deal with the excess skin then to be 525 lbs again!

I also had injuries from the auto accident, with my knees being the worst and all of that extra weight was not helping them. I couldn't even walk around the block without stopping at one point. Now my knees don't bother me until I overdo it and then I can feel them telling me to slow down. But there's a big difference in now and then. I feel better now then I did when I was 17/18 years old.

8 Do others in your circle of friends and family support your eating style and continued weight loss efforts?

Some of them didn't think it was healthy at first. Some of them were curious and asked a bunch of questions repeatedly trying to understand it. Some of them thought it was great and always ask how I was doing if they didn't see me in person. The only ones who had negative comments and continued to do so were not really my friends and I just stopped contacting them because I don't need people like that in my life.

A few of them joined me. My friend has lost about 75 lbs and she's low carb now too. She made me cry when she told me that I was her inspiration for losing weight and getting healthy. She was so happy to have lost the weight before her wedding. I have another friend who started doing moderately low carbs because of me and she thanked me for inspiring her as well. She lost about 30 lbs.Then my own Mother started watching her carbs slightly at first and losing weight slowly and then she got excited and lowered them even more and lost weight faster. She's lost 81 lbs now and she's 18 lbs away from her goal, but I think she looks great now! I'm so proud of her and it's really touching when your own parent says that you inspired them to lose weight. She wasn't ever a really big woman, I've lost 249 lbs and I've lost a bit more weight then what she ever weighted at her absolute biggest point. She sent me some of her old clothes and they fit me and I think it kind of hit me when I was able to wear her clothes that while I'm still large, I'm not all THAT big anymore either. It's a nice feeling but kinda odd at the same time.

Then my Dad who's diabetic (as is 95% of his family) already watched his sugar of course but he started watching his carbs as well and told me how proud he was of me and what I've accomplished and he went to his doctor and told her about me and that I fussed at him to eat healthier. I was half way joking and half way lecturing him, but he took it seriously. It's not everyday that he gets a lecture from his little girl! His doctor said I was absolutely right and he told her that I was his inspiration to get healthier. So he's telling me all of that on the phone and I'm sitting there trying not to cry and thinking to myself how he was always my inspiration to try harder and always do my best while growing up. Then I started wondering when did he stop being my inspiration and I became his?                         

Luckily at this point I don't hear any negative comments and if I do they're quickly dismissed when I tell them how much I've lost. Mostly I just hear stuff like "You look great!", "You're doing a great job", "You're so pretty!", "You're beautiful", "I love your smile", "You look amazing", "Wow, just WOW", "You've lost how much???", "You've lost a whole person!", "You've lost more then I weigh!", "You're so inspiring!", "You're getting skinny", "If you lose anymore there's not going to be much left of you" (I roll my eyes at that one, but it's still nice to hear after being so big for so long LOL). I also get told "Thank you" a lot by people who are trying to lose weight, struggling or at a point when they wanted to give up or feeling like it was impossible or people who's family was skeptical. The feedback has just been amazing from my blog, the forum, Facebook, pm's and emails too.

My Mom just replaced some old photos of me on her wall with new photos. She said, "I feel like I have my daughter back and that she's not going to die before I do. I love you and I am so happy for you!" That kind of thing right there just hits home even more about how unhealthy I was and how much my parents worried about me. I feel like I have my life back now and I'm not going to waste any second of it anymore.

 9 How has your weight loss affected you emotionally and physically?

I can't even begin to fully describe the difference emotionally, but I'll try to at least describe it physically. Sometimes I can't even believe the difference myself. The energy level is amazing, I don't sleep much (which isn't good but my body just wants to go!). I feel so much better then I did before and I don't have to reply on pain medicines just to function. I do have pain, numbness, rashes and infections caused from the excess skin but I can't do anything about that until my surgery is approved so I just deal with it and move on.

I go to the gym and do normal every day activities again. I can reach behind my back and not only can I touch my fingers together, but I can put my hands around my wrists while my arms are behind my back. I can bend over and tie my shoes, I can see my toes, I can cross my legs, I can change my shoes in the car and also climb from the front seat to the back seat without hurting myself. I can see my lap again and my belly doesn't rub on the steering wheel of the car anymore. I can also sit in a restaurant booth without having to squeeze in and have my tummy pushing on the table. I can comfortably sit in one single airplane seat and fasten the seatbelt and put the tray table down in front of me. I can also fit into a stadium seat and not end up with big bruises on my legs, thighs and hips from the seat pushing into me.

I can safely use a step stool without exceeding the weight limit. I can sit on plastic lawn furniture without fear of it breaking. I don't feel like the whole room is watching me eat when I go to a restaurant, party or an event. I was so sick of the stares and rude comments. Some people really did treat me like less of a person because of my size. Luckily I have a few good friends who were always nice to me and accepted me for who I am instead of judging me by how big I was. Those are the true friends that I keep for life.

I've also had a lot of little kids making comments like, "Mommy, Mommy look at that big fat lady!". It was sad but true from the innocent mouths of children. While the Mom's usually apologized and told their child that wasn't nice to say those things, there were a few Mom's that agreed with the child. One lady said, "Yes she is really big, isn't she" They happen to have a cart full of snack cakes and as I was walking by I said, "Yes hun, if you eat all those twinkies and ding-dongs that your Mommy has in your cart then you'll end up big and fat like me!" and I kept walking. The Mom looked at me with a horrified look on her face, but I was sick of the rude comments and there was no excuse for what she said to me. Another time a child said, "Mommy is that why you don't want me to eat junk food?" The Mom said, "Yes honey, I don't want you to get big and fat like her"

A few months ago I was wearing a new teal blue  top while out running errands and I heard this little girl say, "Mommy, Mommy! Look at that lady!" I cringed thinking that she was going to say something about me being so fat. But I was shocked when she followed up with, "Look at her pretty shirt! That's the color that I want to paint my room." I wanted to go over and hug the little girl but of course I couldn't or else the Mom would have freaked out at some stranger hugging their child for no reason. So I just smiled and kept walking.

 It does feel nice not to always be the biggest person in a store or restaurant anymore. I've actually gotten dirty looks from ladies who are bigger then me now. I felt bad for them and wanted to tell them about low carb, but you can't just walk up to a stranger and tell them they need to cut out the carbs...... That's very rude so I only mention it if the chance comes up and they mention weight loss. It usually just comes up when I'm buying clothes. It's very nice to be able to go into normal stores and buy clothes that fit me, but it's slightly dangerous because I can shop at so many places now. I've had to replace my wardrobe way too many times, so I look for clearance sales and I've been pretty lucky lately, but it does still add up when you've lost this much weight and gone down this many sizes. I'd much rather have to deal with the excess skin and having to buy smaller clothes then to still be so big and feel so awful all the time.

10 Finally, what advice might you offer others who feel like their weight loss journey is insurmountable?
YOU can do it, because YOU are worth it!

Set yourself up for Success not Failure. If you don't have low carb foods handy and all you have is carb loaded stuff then you are probably not going to do very well. The first few weeks are the hardest, don't give up. Drink a lot of water and only eat when you're truly hungry. A lot of times we can feel hungry when we are really just thirsty. Don't skip meals, count your carbs, have carb friendly snacks if needed. Be sensible, don't starve yourself but don't eat an entire pan full of bacon just because you can..... unless you are really, really hungry and even after waiting awhile you still really feel hungry. Keep low carb snacks on hand, prepared and easy to access so you don't go for a bag of chips.

If you live alone or everyone in your house is low carb then it's easy to rid your house of non-carb friendly items. If you have people in your house who eat carbs then just rearrange the cabinets. Give yourself one cabinet or even one single self in the pantry for your items. Move all the junk to another cabinet or shelf so you don't even have to look at it. You can do the same thing with a shelf in the fridge or get a basket and put your snacks in there. If you do "cheat", you are only cheating yourself. So don't go eat a bunch more carbs because you feel bad about cheating, just suck it up, drink a bunch of water and go right back to being strict on your next meal. Then be extra strict for the next few days.

Make good choices and be honest with yourself. Ask yourself would you rather be unhealthy, unhappy and feel bad about eating the carbs or would you rather feel good that you took control over your eating and didn't eat the carbs and feel better in the long run? You control yourself, the food does NOT control you! This is a long term change for your health, you'll probably have some set backs but just keep going, get back on plan and don't ever give up on yourself, EVER!!!

 You can learn more about CJ, her menus and follow the rest of her story at

Stop by and say hello!

If you would like to be featured at the Free Healthy Diet Plans Blog, feel free to contact me!  No matter how much or how little you have lost, your story is always important! 


  1. Wow, CJ's transformation is truly amazing! Good for her. I don't do low carb to lose weight but only because my health has forced me to. Why I am diabetic when I've always been slender and healthy, i don't know, but it is what it is and I try to make the best of it. But it's wonderful to see how it's helped someone like CJ.

  2. are awesome. I really enjoyed reading your story. I am on a lc woe too, but still find it hard not to succumb to the sweets from time to time. I am working on it though. I think I may need to lower my carb intake a little bit more than where I have it. Do you eat yogurt and if so, how do you fit it into your low carb life style?

  3. You look awesome, CJ! Thanks for being such an inspiration!

  4. Well, CJ, you have a new reader and I am very excited to apply your knowledge, experience and fabulous attitude to my own fight to lose 200 lbs. I'm less overwhelmed, which feels really good. Btw, am also diagnosed with PCOS so I share similar problems that you had when at your higher weight. Woo-hoo, let's hear it for taking control of our lives, yeah! :)

    p.s. did you ever have swelling in your lower legs/feet? If so, what helped, besides the obvious of losing weight?