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This week, our Stronger U Member Spotlight is shining down on Margaret Anne Rusczek, who worked with Coach Syndi Acampora.

What’s your name? (First and last names, pretty please)

Margaret Anne Rusczek

Tell us a little about you in 5 sentences or less. Where are you from? Are you a parent? What are your hobbies? Anything unique about your life that you want to share?

I grew up in Colorado, moved to New Hampshire in 1973 when I got married and lived there for 44 years and raised two children. I retired from teaching in 2016 and have been living full time in Maine since 2017. I have four grandchildren and spend a lot of time with my family. My hobbies are reading, gardening, crafts, walking, boating and spending time with my grandchildren. I had my dream job for 25 years as a third-grade teacher, and I am forever grateful and thankful for the opportunity I had to nurture children.

What led you to join Stronger U?

Honestly, it was a total fluke. My daughter – Julie Rusczek – joined SU in January 2017 and she mentioned it to me. I was doing my usual: following my New Year’s Resolution – dieting. I knew I would be sad if Julie lost weight and I didn’t, so in February on a total whim, I emailed Mike. I was so scared and nervous! I was crying as I emailed him because I had convinced myself at 65 years old it was impossible for me to lose weight and this would be another failed attempt. I was at my highest weight – 216 lbs. I had completely given up hope and had stopped getting weighed. I used MFP in the past but had never weighed my food or planned my meals or used a spreadsheet–I was in a panic! Julie told me I could do this–we would do it together, and we were in this for the “long haul”–those words stuck with me.

What dieting experience have you had previous to Stronger U? Was there a reason you were or were not successful? Why did you stop?

I had tried many diets throughout my life–Weight Watchers, South Beach, and too many fad diets to count. Every January my New Year’s Resolution was to lose weight. I might lose a few pounds, gain it back and never stuck to anything I tried. I think I would just get discouraged and stop–thinking I just had too many pounds to lose and it was impossible. I had given up hope and was very unhappy about my weight.

It’s clear Stronger U worked for you. Why do you think Stronger U worked so well when other programs or diets may have not?

I have always thought calories were the key to losing weight, but I ate mostly carbs so I was always hungry. SU taught me how to eat the correct amount of carbs, fat, and protein so that I was satisfied. Planning, weighing my food and completing the spreadsheet was a huge help. However, having a coach –the best coach ever, Syndi Acampora, was really what kept me accountable! No matter how my week was–I faithfully sent my sheet to Sydni without fail. This was sometimes hard to do because I had to admit to myself and her that I was not perfect. But I learned to forgive myself if I did not have a great week. Syndi never made me feel ashamed or guilty for not being perfect, she just helped me figure out how to keep moving forward! To quote Syndi: “You will NEVER be perfect, therefore I will NEVER seek perfection from you, only improvements.” That often played in my mind. I am also lucky to have done this journey with my daughter Julie–together we have lost over 100 pounds! Her encouragement and support also kept me on track. “We can do this Mom!”

Can you give some insight on your eating habits BEFORE joining Stronger U?

I called myself the “carb queen”. My go-to carbs were salty and crunchy, but I also love chocolate. Sugar is a trigger food for me. I had gotten in the habit of drinking beer and wine. I stayed away from fat because of high cholesterol and hardly ate protein. I love yogurt but do not care for meat. And I just ate way too much food and drank too much alcohol.

Now that you’ve joined Stronger U, how have your eating habits changed?

I plan my day, weigh my food and put everything in MFP–my streak is over 600 days! I usually eat an egg for breakfast with protein, veggies, and low-fat cheese. I love smoothies with plain yogurt, protein powder, and berries. Lunch and dinner are often ground turkey or chicken or fish, lots of veggies or salad, cottage cheese, Applegate turkey, Laughing Cow cheese, and Bolthouse blue cheese dressing. A glass of wine or a piece of cake is for special occasions. And I really enjoy those treats! If I have crackers or cheese or ice cream, I weigh it and count it. Dinner out is salad or veggies, grilled chicken or fish. I do not make a lot of complicated recipes, and I do not usually get tired of eating the same thing.

If you exercise or train for a sport, what does a typical week look like? Did Stronger U have any impact in your decision to start exercising or training for a sport?

I enjoy walking, and I have an elliptical, treadmill and bike at home. I am most successful exercising at home. My goal is to exercise five to six days each week and get 10,000 steps each day. I do not always meet that goal. I love Mike’s contests like ”walk a mile a day every day in August”. That really motivates me! I feel SU has made me more aware of getting steps and exercising every day—it makes me feel good!

How much weight did you lose with Stronger U?

I have lost 58 lbs. I like to tell myself that I no longer carry around 11 of those 5 lb bags of sugar! That is a lot of weight!

How did your waist measurements change with Stronger U?

I have lost 13 inches on my waist.

What were 3 major non-scale victories you experienced with Stronger U?

My biggest NSV is: I feel fantastic every day! I have learned to forgive myself for not being perfect, and I am very happy and thankful!

Has your change in body weight or composition improved other areas of your life? If so, explain what areas and how.

The biggest change in my life is how wonderful and happy I feel every day! I have unlimited energy, easily walk up and down stairs, carry my grandkids around, I rarely feel tired, no more aches and pains, and I am thankful and grateful every day that I found SU! I feel like SU has saved my life and added years to my life. At 66 years old, I now have hope that I will live a healthier, happier and more confident life. I literally feel like a new person!

Are there any tips or advice you’d give to new members of Stronger U to help them succeed early on?

Plan your day, weigh everything and record it in MFP. Keep foods simple and repeat meals. Listen to your coach and be honest when you complete your sheet. Send in your sheet every week on time –no matter what happened. If you go off track, do not give up, just keep moving forward. Ignore the scale. Your body will be changing even if the scale is not moving. You will not be perfect. Forgive yourself and kick “guilt” to the curb! Be PATIENT! This is a journey, not a quick fix!

If someone is thinking about joining Stronger U, what would you tell them?

So, I have been with SU for 18 months, and I am getting my wings soon. I understand that losing weight is very difficult but maintaining that weight loss is the real test. I purposely signed up for another six months last April knowing I wanted to lose a few more pounds, but I really wanted to make everything I learned a “forever” habit–like brushing my teeth. I feel like I am ready to go out on my own. I plan to–mostly do everything I do now – plan, weigh, record my food–and be mindful. I also plan to continue reading SU Facebook every day. This is a remarkably helpful and inspiring group of people! I am forever grateful to Syndi for guiding and helping me, Julie for always being there, and Mike for creating SU! Thank you! My advice to someone if they are thinking about signing up…..Just do it! Believe you can succeed because Stronger U works —and yes, you are worth it! Honestly, you will not find a more helpful, supportive, caring and wonderful community!

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