Read on to learn how Adina turned her life around and dropped over 120 pounds!
Adina was very self-conscious of her weight. After getting some motivation from a woman on TV, she decided it was time for a change. Read on to learn how Adina turned her life around and dropped over 120 pounds!
Name: Adina Zanolli
Weight: 256 lbs
Weight: 135 lbs
Why I Got Started
Many things could have motivated me to make a lifestyle change through the years. I could tell you it was the day my son came home from Pre-K and told me his friend said, “Your mom is fat.” I cried, but I wasn’t motivated. I was just sad for my child.
There was the day the attendant for the small Merry-Go-Round at the local mall had to tell me I could not ride. I was too heavy for it. There was the day, as a very young woman, desperate to wear stylish clothing, I had to face that I could not shop in the trendy stores. They did not carry my size.
My blood pressure was climbing. I constantly worried if I was the biggest person in any room I entered. Just being large in itself should be enough to motivate anyone, male or female. It is just no fun being fat. Yet, none of these reasons inspired me to make a change. Sad, yet true.
It was actually a fellow large woman who inspired me to change, and I will never even know her name. You see, I didn’t know her, but I did grab some motivation from her. Which goes to show you: it doesn’t matter where motivation comes from, as long you grab it when it does come!
I was watching one of those thirty minute entertainment news shows one night. Sitting on the couch. And OK, yes, I was eating. Like I did pretty much every Friday night. Let’s face it; men don’t beat down doors to get to 256 pound women.
There I sat, miserably munching junk food, when during the segue to the next commercial, the announcer mentions the upcoming segment would be over Oprah and her dramatic weight loss.
Now, I may have been big, but I watched every weight loss show and read every success story that I could find. If the next segment was on weight loss, I was going to watch it. I hurriedly refilled my junk food supply and waddled back to the comfort of my couch.
I watched with interest as they interviewed Oprah’s chef, trainer, and so forth. I always thought that if I watched enough or read enough, I could figure out how to make a program that would work for me.
Well, the story culminated in the reporter talking to “the average woman on the street.” By that they meant: she was not a star, nor was she rich. But boy was she ever big. And whiny. And miserable.
If anybody needed a personal chef, this woman did. There she sat on national whining about why she couldn’t lose weight. Basically, her thinking boiled down to: if she could afford a personal trainer and a personal chef, she could lose weight too.
I don’t know what it was about that moment that clicked with me, but I was mortified for this woman I did not know. She was the stereotypical fat woman. She was the way I envisioned myself. I mean, let’s face it. At a size 26 I was not thought of as the active woman I knew was buried somewhere underneath all those layers of me. I knew I was thought of as lazy. I didn’t want the world to see me the way I saw this nameless, overweight woman. I wanted to be thought of as healthy, active, and OK, hot!
The random woman’s comments cut me deeply. She saw so simply what I saw so complex. In her mind, it just takes someone doing the thinking for you. I thought to myself, if it were really that simple, then all of those pre-packaged meal plans would work. They take the thinking out of dieting. All you have to be able to do is read and open a box. I could do both of these.
So I got up from the couch, when the show was over of course, and marched straight to my computer. I ordered a month of food. I was thinking, “I’ll show her. There’s no way it’s this simple.”
How I Did It
My weight loss is testament to the fact that you have to consistently change and vary what you do along the way to lose weight. You see, I was the most active fat person you could know. I jogged. I did aerobics. I played basketball with my boys like a woman possessed! Of course, it doesn’t matter how active you are if you take in more calories than you burn.
My journey actually started before I ordered that first box of food. I’ve never been afraid of sweating a little, and I always admired the streamlined bodies of endurance runners. I just knew that if I became a runner, I would eventually look the way a runner looks. Lean. Very little body fat.
So, I strapped on some running shoes. I jogged about 30 minutes, five days a week, for a solid year. At the end of a year of running, I had lost a whopping 27 pounds! You see, I had made no changes to my diet. And like I said earlier, it doesn’t matter how much you exercise. I was not making a big enough calorie deficit to produce the physique changes I wanted to make.
I ordered the pre-packaged meal plan after that year of jogging. I knew I didn’t need the personal trainer the woman on TV had whined about. I had the exercise part down. I just needed help with my diet. I knew I had let my eating get out of control, or better yet, had never had it under control in the first place. However, I had no idea the extent of it. I did not know the extent of my over eating. I had no clue, but I was about to get one!
The first day I poured the prepackage cereal into my bowl was a sad morning! It was a morning of mourning! It was SO small compared to what I had been consuming. But you know what? There is no real magic to the pre-packaged meal plans. It’s just portion control, not rocket science. Had I looked at the side of the cereal box in my pantry, and really consumed what a serving was, I would have been able to do it on my own.
But I needed the security of the boxes for a while. I committed to two months with no cheating. I chose that amount of time, because Thanksgiving fell at the end of those two months. That seemed like a logical cheat day.
I followed that meal plan to the letter for the next two months. Not one cheat. Not one deviation from the plan. Thanksgiving Day came, and I was beyond excited having made it to my first official cheat day! I loaded that plate with my favorites. I mean, it was a holiday for goodness sakes! Shouldn’t I be allowed to gorge myself? Isn’t that what holidays are about? Sitting around the table in stuffed misery? It’s the American way. If you can leave your pants buttoned after a holiday meal, well then you just didn’t eat your share.
But something had happened during those two months. My body had not only adjusted to the smaller sized-portions, it liked it. I was not able to eat even a third of what I had put on my plate. When it was time for pie, I couldn’t make it beyond two bites! I had gone from two pieces the year before to two bites! And I never ate the old way again.
I had lost 50 pounds on that meal plan by this point. I only ordered a few months of food. Along the way, I learned how to incorporate my own foods. And by this time, I knew it was time for me to join a gym.
I had been looking in the mirror one day. I had lost 77 pounds by this point. I didn’t even recognize my figure. I had read somewhere that after age 30, roughly six pounds of muscle is lost each decade. I knew there was no way that I was dieting and not losing some muscle. So, I knew that I had to join a gym. I didn’t want to look like an empty paper bag when I was through. Remember, I wanted to be hot!
I immediately loved the gym. It was like I found a second home. In fact, I was going so much that I let my diet slip a little. I didn’t gain any. I was exercising far too much for that. But the next ten pounds came off far slower than the other weight had. And I was already a slow loser.
It was at this time that a friend told me he had noticed all my hard work and asked me if I was dieting too. He knew instantly from my expression that I was not. He looked me square in the eyes, and said, “Then why are you here?”
It may sound severe, and it did sting; but it was the kick in the pants I needed. And I did need one. We all do at one point or another. He was a true body builder. He looked great. He knew there was no way for me to end up looking the way I wanted to look without putting the diet and exercise together. He saw me working far too hard to waste my efforts. This was the moment I switched from an avid exerciser to a bodybuilder. My efforts switched from simply losing weight into a concerted effort to build and sculpt some muscle on my much leaner frame.
The transition was not a totally smooth one. I had lost an additional ten pounds focusing on exercise with no real diet. I honestly thought that exercising at the intensity and amounts I was would allow me to eat what I wanted. And to a point I could have. But a statue made of nothing but mashed potatoes would soon fall!
Now it was time for serious business. I tried going back to my original diet of pre-packaged meals, but it was no longer sufficient. By this time I was seriously into the weight lifting, and the protein and calories I consumed on the pre-packaged plan would just not do. So, I modeled my diet after the guys at my gym. I switched over to good old clean eating, and for the first time I added protein powder and bars into my diet.
This new way of eating helped me break past a plateau I had hit. If you want to look like a lifter, you have to eat like a lifter! Supplementing with the right kind of protein fueled the next 25 pound loss.
By this time, the weight loss was starting to slow down. This is where I really had to get out of the pre-packaged mind set. I had to become a willing participant in my own diet. Shudder the thought. I knew that woman on TV wasn’t right! You DO have to do some of the thinking and planning!
This is where I learned my best training secret: ask for help when you need it. I had contacted the makers of Oh Yeah! Bars to tell them how much I liked their products. I ended up striking up a friendship with a guy who works there named Kevin. When I told Kevin that I could not get the last of the weight off, he went over my diet for me. Ends up, I was eating too little! He designed a diet for me based on my weight, age, and level of fitness. I still follow his plan to this day!
* ISS Super Vitamin Pak
* ISS AM/PM Promino Plus
* ISS BCAA’s
o 4 egg whites
o 1 slice Ezekiel Bread
o ½ a banana
o Small can of tuna
o ½ cup rice
o 1 ½ scoops ISS Research Complete Whey Power
o 1 slice Ezekiel Bread
o 3 oz chicken
o ½ cup rice
o 3 oz chicken
o 1 cup asparagus
o 3 egg whites
o 1 whole egg (high Omega-3)
Post Workout Shake:
o 1 ½ scoops ISS Research Complete Whey Power
o 6oz Gatorade
My favorite combination is Vanilla with Mango Gatorade – Consume the post workout shake directly after lifting. Then consume which ever meal is next within 1 hour.
I always keep an Oh Yeah! or Oh Yeah! Protein Wafer Bar in my purse. If I am not in a convenient place to have a meal, I eat a bar in its place. This has saved me from cheating many times over.
I tend to do 3 sets of 15 for each exercise. When 15 reps get too easy, I go to the next weight, and do it to failure. I am constantly building to sets of 15. I change my routine every 2 or 3 months.
Day 1: Shoulders & Abs
o Arnold Dumbbell Press: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o Plate Twist: 3 sets of 25 reps
o Barbell Rear Delt Row: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o Seated Barbell Twist: 3 sets of 25 reps
o Bradford/Rocky Presses: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o Dumbbell Side Bend: 3 sets of 25 reps
Day 2: Biceps & Triceps
o Alternate Hammer Curl: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o Triceps Pushdown – Rope Attachment: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o Close-Grip EZ Bar Curl: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o Seated Triceps Press: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o Machine Preacher Curl: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o Dips – Triceps Version: to failure
Day 3: Quads
o Hack Squat: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o Barbell Deadlift: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o Leg Press: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o One Leg Barbell Squat: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o Freehand Jump Squat: 2 sets of 20 reps
Day 4: Back & Chest
o Stiff Leg Barbell Good Morning: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o Pushups: 3 sets to failure
o Middle Back Shrug: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o Wide-Grip Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o One-Arm Dumbbell Row: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
o Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
Day 5: Glutes & Calves
o Rocking Standing Calf Raise: 3 sets of 30 reps
o Butt Lift (Bridge): 3 sets of 30 reps
o Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise: 3 sets of 30 reps
o Glute Kickback: 3 sets of 30 wearing 5 pound ankle weights
o Seated Calf Raise: 3 sets of 30 reps
o Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift: 3 sets of 15 reps
Day 6: Rest
I like to do what I call extreme cardio on Sunday. I either do something completely new and different, or I head to the track for lunges, sprints, and bleacher running. I do not stop until the sweat at the top of my shirt meets the sweat at the bottom of my shirt!
I work my abs between sets every lifting day. I do them during my minute rest between sets. I don’t count them, I watch the clock. The most effective ab exercises for me have been the plank and using an exercise ball to do pikes. I keep a running list of ab exercises to do between sets. I consistently and constantly change my ab routine.
Suggestions For Others
I think the most important tip I could give anyone starting out on a new diet or fitness plan is to tell them that there are days it will be hard. Don’t go into it thinking you are going to cut a thousand calories or more out of your day, and will never experience a pang of hunger. Be realistic. Be prepared for it. Am I hungry now? Very, very rarely.
Was I during the first few weeks of my diet? You bet I was. I would have ripped the last thing of cheese doodles from a two year old during those first few weeks, and not even felt guilty about it! Now, I wouldn’t put a cheese doodle in my mouth to save my life!
Surrounding yourself with success is also extremely important. Surround yourself with people who look the way you want to look and live the lifestyle you want to live. Go out with people who will not balk at you for ordering grilled chicken no matter where you go. But for heaven’s sakes, stay away from the people who will drag you down and only be too happy for you to stay overweight and out of shape.
It’s also essential to listen to others. If someone sees you struggling through an exercise at the gym and wants to help you tweak your form, let them. When I was heavy, I thought that if I walked in the gym, all the buff looking body builders would wonder what I was doing there.
Do you know what they’re really wondering? What took you so long to get here? We’ve been waiting! Just like the forum shows on this very website, bodybuilders are a community. They are ready and willing to help you. They want to share what they know. If you see a machine at your gym and don’t know how it works, ask!
The most important tip I could offer though is to look at the changes you make as a lifestyle change. Not a diet. Making this mind-body connection was instrumental for me. When I weighed 256 pounds, I looked at my attempts at dieting as just that. Dieting. I thought I was temporarily cutting back, so that I could go back to double cheeseburgers with fries.
It never crossed my mind that if I were to go back to eating like that, I would go back to looking like that. I failed to make the connection. Now, I’ve made it. I understand that if I go back to the way I was, I will go back to the person I was. And I like the person I have become far too much to do that! Just like I learned that I was, learn that you are worth the effort it takes!
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