Have you seen the latest "Half Their Size" issue of People magazine? You might have recognized Lessie Alvarado. Known as FlabbyAsian on SparkPeople, Lessie lives in Grand Prairie, Texas, with her husband, Daniel, and her three children, Michael, 21; Leann (her workout buddy), 20; and Christina, 14; and her grandson, 4-year-old Michael, Jr.
Before she lost weight, Lessie routinely binged on fast food, hitting buffets with her sister-in-law and then coming home to eat with her husband. At a petite 5'3", Lessie topped out at 302 pounds. Now, the 41-year-old is a healthy and fit 145 pounds, only 10 pounds from her goal weight.
She talked with the dailySpark about her weight loss, her motivation and her exercise plan.
Q: How long did it take you to lose the weight?
A: "It took me about 2 1/2 years.
"I was up and down. I had a new job, I was working nights and I felt like I was eating 24/7. Next thing I knew, I'd gained 40 pounds. I couldn't get used to the nights, the schedule. I kept trying to get sleep, I was not getting enough sleep, and I was just walking and exercising at home."
Q: What is your biggest temptation food now?
A: "I try to stay close to what I need to be. There are times I'm going to slip up and have pizza or cake. If you deprive yourself, you're always going to want to cheat. You're going to cheat every day.
"I needed to lose weight, and you have to be on a strict diet to lose that much weight. I wanted candy so bad, I'd pick up a handful of candy, smell it and put it back in the bowl. Now, I know portion control. I eat that one Hershey kiss and I'm fine.
"[Losing weight] is a lifetime commitment, something you have to do forever."
Q: What have you learned since joining SparkPeople?
A: "I had 20 pounds to lose and was in a rut. I couldn't get past it. He told me 'Make sure you're eating enough.' On another website, I was trying to figure out how many calories I needed. I saw an ad that said 'Get a free nutrition plan' and found SparkPeople. I wasn't eating enough calories. I wasn't getting enough of what I needed--carbs, protein and fat.
"I quickly lost 10 pounds!"
Q: What do you like most about SparkPeople?
A: "Everything. I tell everyone about it! My sister, my daughter, my sister-in-law, my friends… It gives you a plan, helps you with your fitness, and the teams you can join--it's just so much support! You talk to people, start making friends, talk back and forth and give each other advice. They say, 'Oh, don't worry about it. Eat that if you need to and then get on the bandwagon.' You have so many people that support you.
"[If you're obese], people do judge you. If have people who are in the same situation you are, you just feel more comfortable."
Q: What's your exercise schedule?
A: "Almost every day, I do turbo kickboxing plus yoga.
"Before I went to the gym with my daughter. We were doing the elliptical, the treadmill, light weights, that was kind of boring, but if you go with someone, it's fun.
"One day, we were on the treadmill and we saw people gathering in the gym. I asked my daughter, 'Why are they lining up?'
"We went and got in line, then found out about turbo kickboxing.
"We didn't know what we were doing. We stood in the very back. We were all off beat, and we didn’t know what to do so we stood in back. We got the schedule and started going every day.
"Soon we knew what we were doing. We moved up one row at a time. Next thing you knew, we were in the very front.
"We were the experts. We were doing it once on Monday, twice on Tuesday, once on Wednesday, twice on Thursday, and once on Saturday."
Q: What is a typical day like for you, in terms of food? I saw the before and after breakfast photos in People, but tell me some of your favorite foods now. How did you change your eating habits?
A: "I try to eat 6 small meals a day. I eat when I get up, but what I eat depends on my workout. Often, it's two multigrain Eggo waffles with cantaloupe. I drink water with everything. Three to four hours later, I eat more fruit. My meal when I'm working is a light frozen dinner or turkey on whole wheat with lettuce. I love yogurt. I get the smaller yogurt--I call them baby size yogurts. I'm not a big meat eater, so I substitute a protein drink that I get on the Internet."
Q: What was it like being interviewed by People? Tell me about the makeover!
A: "It was amazing. I was dancing around the whole house [when I found out]. It was wonderful, an experience that makes you feel like a celebrity or like a supermodel.
"They pamper you, they take you here and there, they all treated me like a celebrity.
"Even at work, they're asking me questions about People. They say, 'Here, supermodel, here, superstar.' They were really happy for me, really excited. They asked me, 'Will you just autograph [the magazine], just in case?' It was amazing.
"It was really different for me. When I was heavy, I didn't get a lot of attention. It is different. [Once I started losing weight], people were complimenting me, and it was hard. I never had someone say, 'You look so pretty.' "
Q: What advice do you have for someone who needs to lose a significant amount of weight?
A: "I would tell to them to take it one day at a time. Don’t rush through it. If you fall off the bandwagon, get up and start all over again. Don't stress over it.
"Do it for yourself. You can listen to your family, your friends; you can say it's for your health or for your family. But until you decide, until you say 'This is what I want to do,' it's not worth it.
"You have to be ready to say, 'Today is my day.'"
Q: Did you ever want to give up and revert to your old eating habits?
A: "Of course. It's hard to lose weight. It's not easy. I tell [other people] it's very hard. It's easy to gain weight. It's hard to lose weight, but it's up to you. Once you decide, just take it one day at a time."
Read more about her People story at the SparkGuy blog. You can also leave her a message on her SparkPage.
Did Lessie's story inspire you?
More From SparkPeople