Their Loss is
From hula-hooping to walking to cutting calories and portion sizes,
each of the following men and women lost weight by
finding the right combination of diet and exercise. No surgery. No fads.
They simply worked hard and ate healthy. All have kept off most or all of the weight.
Here’s how they did it and how you can, too.
By Linda Melone, CSCS
Steve Nicander, 43
Weight loss: 385+ pounds
Lying in a hospital bed with an injured knee wasn’t the worst part for Steve Nicander. At nearly 650 pounds, Nicander’s weight and size made it nearly impossible for him to walk. When he tried, he would often fall. He hurt his knee during such a fall, and it took a rescue crew to upright him. “That very night I had my ‘live-or-die’ moment, realizing if I didn’t do something immediately, I would not be of this world much longer,” Nicander says. Weight loss surgery wasn’t even an option. “My doctor told me I’d need to lose 200 pounds just to qualify for the surgery,” he says. That was June 2009. He decided to do something about it that night.
Nicander, now a weight loss coach, embarked on what he calls a “new nutritional life plan” (“I don’t like the word ‘diet,’ it has the word ‘die,’” he says), a roadmap for life involving whole food nutrition. He controlled his portions and began reading labels. “I eat mostly real food, not processed. I avoid things like ‘bad’ carbs (bread, pasta, rice, etc.) and eat ‘good’ ones (fruits, veggies, whole grains).” He also cut way back on fats, sugar and salt, and began cooking his own meals. Nicander also supplemented his meals with a multivitamin, vitamin D, organic fish oil, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, zinc and B vitamins.
His main exercise: walking. “I was bedridden for a couple of years at 650 pounds,” Nicander recalls. “Now every day is an opportunity to walk around. I live in a place with a lot of hills, so walking around the block is a great way for me to get in activity.” His nutritional and exercise program led to a weight loss of 385 pounds over the past two years, “and counting,” he says. “I eliminated my type 2 diabetes within four months.”
His tips for others who wish to lose weight are simple: Reduce the sugar, salt and fat, drink lots of water, avoid junk food and eat real, unprocessed food. Eat small, frequent meals and find healthy substitutes for your favorite unhealthy prior choices. “You’ll never feel deprived of the things you like and you can live a healthier and happier existence,” Nicander says.
Alana Rockland, 26
New York, New York
Weight loss: 41 pounds
Alana Rockland never worried about her weight in high school. “I weighed 120 pounds and could wear whatever I wanted,” she says. That all changed once she began college, where she loaded up on pizza, fried chicken and “just about every bad food you can imagine.” She quickly surpassed the freshman 15—the weight new students often gain when left to their own dietary devices after leaving home—and ended up 70 pounds heavier. “I hoped one day I’d wake up and all the weight would be gone,” Rockland says. Once she realized that dream would never materialize without effort on her part, she joined Weight Watchers. “I was mortified when I attended my first meeting and my weight clocked in at 195 pounds,” she remembers.
Rockland, a healthcare public relations media specialist, wanted to lose weight but knew she’d never stick with a program that didn’t allow bread or wine, so the program was flexible enough to suit her. “It made me extremely aware of healthy foods versus unhealthy foods,” she says. Her biggest changes included eating more fruits and vegetables, and lean protein such as fish and turkey burgers. She also takes vitamin D supplements for bone health.
“I discovered little tricks like using only balsamic vinegar on my salads and no olive oil. It tastes the same and cuts out unnecessary calories,” says Rockland “Plus, when I go out to dinner, I tell them not to bring bread to the table—out of sight, out of mind.” She allows herself the occasional pizza, just “not every day.”
For exercise Rockland walks, rides her bike, takes the stairs instead of using the elevator and hoists free weights while watching her favorite TV shows. she has lost 41 pounds—that’s three dress sizes—and has kept it off for 10 months.
“Life is all about choices and what you eat is no different,” Rockland says. “Over the past 10 months, I have learned to not let food control my life and I couldn’t be happier.”
Isaac Harris, 39
Weight loss: 160 pounds
Isaac Harris received the most motivating reason to lose weight: His doctor told him if he didn’t, he’d be dead by age 44. “I just pictured my kids standing over my casket and I knew I needed to change my life,” Harris says. “I wanted to set an example for my daughters.”
Working behind the desk at a health club put Harris in a unique position for learning fitness and weight loss approaches. Some of the trainers at Best Fitness (the club where he’s now employed as a fitness trainer) made suggestions, which he took to heart. He cut portion sizes, eliminated eating after 9 p.m. and started taking a men’s multivitamin, creatine and glutamine supplements.
He took advantage of the gym environment and began working out with a trainer four times a week, incorporating both cardio and weights. To further boost his results, Harris added martial arts four times a week and began competing on weekends.
“Diet made the biggest difference in my weight loss,” says Harris. “I had to take a look at my diet and really try to watch what I was eating.” To other people trying to lose weight naturally, Harris recommends joining your local gym. “Realize it isn’t going to be easy, but be passionate about it and take it seriously,” Harris says. “It won’t happen overnight; it’s a lifestyle change.” Harris dropped 160 pounds and has kept it off for three years. He also credits his support system at Best Fitness. “Find a support system not only at home, but in every aspect of your daily life.”
Look at your priorities and find what makes you tick, Harris adds. Then figure out your trigger point and keep focused on that. “For me, it was my kids.”
Jen Moore, 31
Rochester, New York
Weight loss: 143 pounds
An amusement park ride took a not-so-fun turn for Jen Moore when she was stopped from boarding a Ferris wheel. “After being called a ‘fat cow’ by the teenaged Ferris wheel operator, I decided I’d heard enough,” Moore said. “I pledged to return to the amusement park as a healthier woman who would not be denied a ride on the Ferris wheel because of my weight.” That was September 2009.
Moore, a stay-at-home mom, made major dietary and lifestyle changes. “I did not go on a specific diet, however,” she says. She focused on “volume-izing” her meals with fruits and vegetables and eliminated all “bad” snacks from her diet. “I used to sit in front of a television and eat an entire bag of chips; now I have grapes. I found it’s that hand-to-mouth sensation I crave,” she says. “When the family goes to the movies we eat popcorn but instead of it being an extra large for me and my husband, it’s a small, split among us and our three children.”
As for exercise, Moore was a member of the YMCA but felt “too overweight and could barely move.”
Instead, she picked up a hoola hoop DVD called Hoopnotica and taught herself how to hoop. It took her three weeks before she could even keep the hoop up. “The men playing basketball at the gym would snicker at me, but I was determined to lose weight.”
Moore eventually got the hang of hooping enough to practice five days a week for 15 minutes, eventually working her way up to 30 minutes. After losing 40 pounds in three months, her husband started hooping with her. She’s now a certified Hoopnotica instructor and supplements hooping with traditional cardio machines along with strength training. She lost 143 pounds and has kept it off for over a year.
Her key to success? “My will to want it so badly this time,” Moore says. “I finally said enough is enough and I got rid of the excuses. For me it was harder mentally to start the weight loss than it was to actually physically lose it. I needed to believe in myself.”
Joanie Jacobsen, 59
Stockholm, New Jersey
Weight loss: 60+ pounds
Although Joanie Jacobsen had vowed never to buy clothing with an “X” in its sizing, she found herself in that spot four years ago while searching for an outfit for a family function. “While I was searching for size 18 clothing in the standard ladies department, I noticed the women’s section [where the “X” sizes reside] was within eyeshot and a size away from me, and it made me cringe,” Jacobsen says. She went home, wept in front of the mirror and wore something black from her closet. That’s when Jacobsen decided to alter her mindset.
It took her several months to put her plan into action. “I went pretty much Mediterranean, eating low fat, healthy nuts, whole grains and fish after my doctor told me that my triglycerides were high,” she says. She followed the advice from nutritionist Adelle Davis, who recommends eating “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” “My husband’s mother used to eat like that many years ago, and she was a slender woman,” says Jacobsen, referring to the practice of eating larger meals at the beginning of the day instead of in the evening.
Jacobsen, a customer service rep, also took care to include antioxidants in her diet by drinking green tea and eating dark chocolate. She cut out fast food and junk food and ate “at least one salad each day, as well as fresh fruit.” Exercise consisted of a combination of Wii Fit Nintendo, walking DVDs as well as hula-hooping. “I never joined a gym or took a class, because I didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of others,” she says. She now runs five days a week, totaling up to 15 miles each week, and competes in monthly 5K races. She’s lost 60 pounds and has kept the weight off for two years.
“I started out on a diet just wanting to lose weight and feel good about myself, and I ended up living a new lifestyle and being in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” says Jacobsen. “I am on a perpetual quest to lead a long and healthy life.”