Eleven years ago, Christine Hopaluk was 27 years old, 271 pounds and on blood pressure medication. She remembers crying in her car outside of work wondering why she couldn’t lose the weight that left her feeling trapped in someone else’s body.
“I couldn’t even climb a flight of stairs without getting winded,” the Alberta mom said.
“I would just give money to anyone who would tell me what to do because I didn’t know how to get this weight off,” she said.
The mother of three from Leduc, Alta., ultimately quit her desk job at a firefighter training school to focus on her weight loss. As the pounds fell off, she moved into photography and even became a certified personal trainer.
In an interview with Global News, Hopaluk explains how she lost 100 pounds, what she eats and how she works out to maintain her dramatic weight loss.
Global News: What is your height, and your current weight, lowest weight and highest weight?
CH: I’m 5’9 and my current weight is 159 pounds. I’m about a size six or eight. My lowest weight was 142 pounds before I picked up strength training. My highest weight was 271 pounds after I gave birth to my second child. I’m sure it was higher at some point but I literally didn’t weigh myself for years, I didn’t want to know.
(Hopaluk is a mom of three. After her second baby, she said she had a 24 dress size, but her clothing was tight.)
Within months of starting, I didn’t need my blood pressure medication anymore. I reached my goal weight of 165 pounds after a 1.5 year process.
Global News: How do you think the weight crept on?
CH: In high school, I was always the bigger girl in class than other girls. A moment when I really started struggling with my weight was at 15. I was sexually assaulted. I struggled with my self-worth and turned to food and alienated myself from friends and family.
When I had two kids, I was bogged down with just raising children, I worked at an office job where I sat all day and I didn’t actually realize how much I put into other people and not myself. The weight just crept on slowly.
I never overate in front of people. It was something that, after my kids were in bed, I would do when I was alone. I would not eat breakfast, eat a small lunch and not even a big supper, then when they were asleep, I would just binge eat. I would eat everything.
Global News: How did you feel at your highest weight?
CH: I felt defeated. I remember sitting in the car outside of the fire training school, just crying and crying because I didn’t know how to change anything.
I couldn’t move the way I wanted to, I felt trapped and it was confusing to me: how could I not understand how to lose this weight?
My kids asked to take them swimming and I didn’t want to take them because I didn’t want to go in a bathing suit. I remember feeling terror when it was Parents Day to join in certain sports. I couldn’t run down a field — it affected their lives because I wasn’t physically able to do a lot of things I wanted to do.
Global News: What was your strategy for weight loss?
CH: I set goals. I aimed for 10 pounds at a time. I knew based on the way I was doing it, it wasn’t going to come off easily. There was no magic pill so I stuck to one or two pounds a week. I hit plateaus and had to change my course through doing different exercises.
I started slow with 20-second intervals of running and then I’d walk for five minutes. Gradually, I went to 30 seconds of running and then one minute. I worked out to DVDs in the basement with my kids beside me — there was cardio, strength training, kick boxing. I asked for a treadmill for Mother’s Day because I really wanted one. I got a pedometer and stuck to 10,000 steps a day.
I cut out anything white, like bread, rice and pasta. As far as protein, if it swims, runs, or flies, it’s a leaner source so it became a simple way to pick out my protein sources from fish to chicken and turkey. There was no more fast food and anything deep fried.
I started eating whole grains and fruits, and vegetables, especially leafy greens. I didn’t realize I was addicted to sugar but I was. Once I cut out sugar, my taste buds changed. I used to think apples were disgusting, I had so much refined sugar in my diet I didn’t think they were sweet.
WATCH: Eleven years ago, Christine Hopaluk was 271 pounds and on blood pressure medication. Today she is 159 pounds and off of her meds.
Global News: How do you eat now?
CH: I eat four or five times a day, three of which are bigger meals but I pay attention to portion sizes and balance. Now that I’m in the maintaining world, I follow the 80/20 rule. I am on point with clean eating 80 per cent of the time, and the other 20 per cent I can relax a little on it.
A typical breakfast would be a protein pancake or eggs, avocado, and chicken breast with a slice of multigrain toast. I eat this 30 minutes before I go to the gym.
For lunch, half of my plate is fruits and veggies, and some sort of multigrain wrap with a lean protein. I know I need more carbohydrates for my lunch because of my busy day ahead and I want to have energy. For condiments I use mustard, balsamic vinaigrette, plain Greek yogurt and salsa.
For dinner, I have a lean protein, like chicken, fish or ground turkey, sometimes with cauliflower rice or brown rice. There’s a salad with lots of cut veggies, lean protein and almonds. I cut out cream-based salad dressings.
Snack examples include: almonds, cottage cheese, an apple, banana or veggies, tuna on lettuce wraps, peanut butter on whole grain crackers or a protein shake.
Global News: You’re a certified personal trainer now. How often do you work out, too?
CH: I work out five to six days a week and look forward to it as a great start to my day. I strength train four days a week, splitting it up into muscle groups: back, chest, shoulder and legs. I mostly use free weights and go on Pinterest to find new workouts to break up the monotony.
I run five kilometres twice a week and add interval training to my strength days to get my heart rate up.
My workouts last one hour from the time I walk in to walking out.
This is not about willpower, it’s my life now. It’s now a lifestyle, something I’m going to follow for the rest of my life. I don’t ever force myself. I felt trapped and lonely before and it’s a part of me I’ll never go back to.
Global News: What is your advice for anyone who wants to get started with weight loss?
CH: Write out your goals and read them every day to help you align your choices to these goals. Find your motivation. If you reach someone’s motivator, they will change. Create a support system around you.
Preparation is key: on Sundays, I would cook up a bunch of meals and made it as easy as I could with the slow cooker and oven. I set up a no-fail environment, so I threw out all the candy, chips, junk food from my house. I would go to the store to get fruits and vegetables and prepped everything in little bags so I would always have something and never let my hunger get out of control.
I carry almonds and even a protein shake — something that’s easy to grab.
I learned how to have this instead of that. Instead of pizza, I’d tell myself I’d make a whole grain wrap or a healthier version of a pizza. Don’t deprive yourself but look at options you would’ve chosen before and make it healthier.
If you have one hour of time for Facebook or one hour of time for TV, you have one hour of time to work out. If you understand and give yourself the chance to see the strength of your body, it’s kind of addicting and you can get swept up in feelings of pride.
Read more about Hopaluk’s weight loss journey here.
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