Susan Zartman had tried to lose weight in the past, but nothing stuck. In fact, the only result she typically saw from diets was failure and added return on her weight investment.
As it turned out, Susan didn't need a gym to achieve her massive, near 150-pound weight loss — she needed the right coach and the right program. When a friend invited her to the diet program OPTAVIA, she knew she had found the community and structure necessary to change her habits (and how she thought about food) for good. Little did she know, she was about to change her life and find a new passion — helping others go on a healthy weight loss journey of their own.
POPSUGAR: What made you decide to start your weight-loss journey?
Susan Zartman: I don't remember a time when I wasn't struggling with my weight. From the time I was a kid, I was trying another diet or exercise plan. At times I would lose weight, but it would always come back . . . and bring more of its friends with it!
Three years ago, I found myself in my doctor's office weighing over 300 pounds. He wanted me to consider gastric bypass surgery, but I knew that wasn't for me. My sister underwent Roux-en-Y bypass surgery in 2007, and I saw firsthand that if you don't change your lifestyle and the way you think about food, the weight will come back. I knew I needed to make a change.
I saw firsthand that if you don't change your lifestyle and the way you think about food, the weight will come back
PS: What made you choose OPTAVIA? Had you tried other programs before?
SZ: I can't remember everything I tried, but my attempts ran the gamut — diet pills, shakes, cabbage soup, grapefruit, countless diet programs, juicing, working out every day, skipping meals, high-protein/low-carb. I was good at losing weight, but once I stopped the deprivation, I went back to my old habits and gained it back. Everything I tried had one focus – to lose weight.
I knew I needed to undergo a health transformation. One day, my friend invited me to participate in an online health game. There, I was part of a healthy community OPTAVIA, where we were learning healthy habits. I was a part of a community of like-minded, like-hearted individuals! I began my journey on October 31, 2014. Over the next year and a half I lost 137 pounds! But more importantly, I gained a whole new life!
PS: What's your favorite way to work out?
SZ: Water aerobics and walking are my two favorite activities.
PS: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
SZ: I aim to walk 7-10,000 steps each day and do water aerobics one to two times each week.
Susan: Before and After
PS: Do you use a fitness tracker?
SZ: I wear a Fitbit Charge HR. When I first started wearing it, my daily step goal was 3,000 (and I didn't reach that very often). Eventually I moved that daily goal up to 5,000, then 7,000, and now I am aiming for at least 10,000. I find it motivates me to do a little more – to park a little farther out, to walk an extra lap around a store, and it also lets me know when I have been sitting more than I should be.
PS: How do you keep workouts exciting?
SZ: Exercising with others is the best. It's great to meet with friends to walk and talk – the time and the miles both pass quickly. I have found committing to a walking event is motivating. If I know I have a 10K coming up, I know I need to build up the endurance.
PS: What was the first big difference, other than the number on the scale, that really made you feel proud and excited?
SZ: In December 2015, I told my sister Robin that walking a 5K was on my bucket list, and that seemed like a big goal. In January 2016, she signed us up to walk the U.S. Air Force Marathon 10K that took place in September. I didn't know if I could even do a 5K. I ended up walking three 5Ks that summer, and together we made it to the finish line of the 10K.
PS: How do you track your weight loss?
SZ: I have a Fitbit Aria scale and weigh in almost every morning. The scale sends the info to my Fitbit app and tracks it for me. I am far from perfect, but am thankful to be making more healthy choices every day. I am committed to a lifestyle based on incorporating healthy habits into everything I do.
I am far from perfect, but am thankful to be making more healthy choices every day. I am committed to a lifestyle based on incorporating healthy habits into everything I do.
PS: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
SZ: I eat small meals, every two to three hours. For breakfast, I typically make a frozen drink with one cup of coffee, one cup of unsweetened almond milk, an OPTAVIA Creamy Vanilla Shake Fueling, and five ice cubes. Mid-morning I drink an OPTAVIA Essential Frothy Cappuccino Boost. For lunch I may have a salad with grilled chicken. Mid-afternoon I enjoy an OPTAVIA Essential Chocolate Fudge Pudding. Dinner could be salmon and grilled veggies, or perhaps an egg omelet with veggies. And mid-evening I enjoy an OPTAVIA Decadent Double Chocolate Brownie for my dessert.
PS: Do you count calories?
SZ: I have not found counting calories to be necessary. By making healthy choices and being mindful of how my clothes are fitting and the number on the scale, I have the tools to stay in charge of my health. Also, I have a wonderful coach and community with OPTAVIA, which keeps me accountable.
PS: What are the healthy staples that are always in your fridge?
SZ: Unsweetened almond milk, two-percent Fage Greek yogurt, lean ground turkey, a variety of fresh vegetables, eggs and egg beaters, Parmesan and part-skim cheese, frozen vegetables, cauliflower pizza crusts, powdered peanut butter, Torani sugar-free syrups. Also, in my cabinet I keep plenty of OPTAVIA Fuelings!
PS: How do you strategize for meals out?
SZ: Most restaurants post their menus online, so before going out, I will review their menu and have one or two healthy choices in mind. I am looking for options that are primarily lean protein and veggies that are baked, grilled, or fresh. I avoid fried foods and things with lots of sauce. I have learned restaurants are usually pretty good about accommodating any special requests to health-ify their offerings.
Picture yourself at your healthy, optimal weight: What do you look like? How do you feel? What kinds of things are you doing? What do you want in life?
PS: What role did OPTAVIA play in your journey?
SZ: I am so thankful for OPTAVIA. The program taught me so much about healthy habits and helped me become a much healthier and active person. Having an OPTAVIA Coach walk beside me from the very start and being a part of a community of like-minded people supporting me and who are striving to become healthier were key components to my success, and to continuing on in good health. Since beginning my journey, I became an OPTAVIA Coach. I want to help others discover the health and the hope I have found.
Susan lost a lot of pumpkin's worth of weight!
PS: What advice do you have for anyone starting out on a weight-loss journey?
SZ: Picture yourself at your healthy, optimal weight: What do you look like? How do you feel? What kinds of things are you doing? What do you want in life? Then decide to go all in and do it! Just take the first steps. If you are like me and have a history of failure when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, it may feel like you are trying just one more thing, but you are worth it! It is possible. I am living proof that lifelong transformation is possible. And as good as the changes are on the outside, the ones that take place on the inside are just as amazing!