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When Alana Nappi’s weight hit 190 pounds in 2017, she knew it was time to make some changes. She wasn’t happy with the way she looked physically — or the way she felt.
“I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I would get out of breath from walking and I couldn’t sleep well. My cholesterol levels were bad. I had a lot of heartburn and digestion issues. My anxiety was up. I felt depressed and my self-esteem was low,” she said.
Nappi also struggled with binge eating and didn’t feel supported by her family and friends. “They doubted me. They said I had no willpower,” she said. “I wanted to prove them wrong.”
She made a weight loss plan
She tried Nutrisystem to jump-start her weight loss, and she lost 20 pounds, but she gained it back when she stopped using the program. So, two years ago, she turned to social media and started to fill her feed with nutritionists and people who successfully lost weight. “I learned what to eat, what not to eat, and how other people succeeded,” she said. Now, she shares her own progress on Instagram.
Nappi decided to limit carbs, added sugars and food additives such as colorings. She doesn’t eat “diet” or “sugar-free” foods because she finds that they actually make her cravings more intense. She also increased her protein intake and added fruits and vegetables to every meal. With fewer carbs and more protein, she lost two to three pounds a week at first and dropped a total of 65 pounds.
She has seen a lot of non-scale victories since changing her habits
These are some of the other health benefits Nappi has gained:
- Her energy is higher.
- She’s in better shape.
- She doesn’t get out of breath easily.
- She doesn’t feel as hot or sweat as much.
- Her digestion issues are a lot better — she no longer gets acid reflux frequently.
- Her mental health has improved.
- She feels more confident.
Nappi admits that it wasn’t easy to make the changes she needed to make: “It took an extreme amount of dedication and consistency. I fought, I cried and I pushed myself. There were times I wanted to give up. There were days, even months, when I would struggle, and it’s gotten easier, but I still struggle.”
Here’s how she changed her diet to improve her health
Nappi, 27, admits that before she modified her diet, she was eating “really bad.” She ate a lot of fast food, drank soda and ate a lot of sweets, muffins and chips. Replacing soda with water was one of the first changes she made. Now, she drinks water first thing in the morning every day. Over time she switched to a low-carb, high-protein diet and recently, she became a pescatarian.
She said, “It feels amazing to eat clean. My skin has started to glow. I am so much more positive and energetic—my mood is so much better. What you put into your body is everything!”
Nappi is studying to be a social worker and she’s currently completing a social work internship. “I’m never home much,” she said. So, prepping and packing food helps her make healthy choices. She shops for groceries once a week, on Sundays, and avoids the aisles she knows will tempt her.
After she shops, she’ll cook some salmon or another type of fish and a vegetable for the week, with a sauce like teriyaki. She mixes up her choices weekly, so she’s not always eating the same thing. “People think it’s all chicken and broccoli, but there are a lot of options,” she said.
She’ll often add a little bit of potato because she finds it hard to fill up as a pescatarian. “That little bit of carbs helps me not snack so much,” she said. “I learned that you do need carbs—you shouldn’t cut them out completely—but you should eat more whole grains and healthier carbs. I don’t eat white flour much anymore. If I have a sandwich, I eat whole-wheat bread.
She admits she struggles with cravings: “Cravings are hard for me even now. If I crave sugar, I’ll have fruit or dark chocolate.” But she doesn’t rule out other treats altogether. “I love cake, but now I have it in moderation, like a small slice at a party,” she said.
Here’s what she might eat in a typical day
Nappi aims for protein and a fruit or vegetable with every meal, and a healthy carb with one or two meals per day. She chooses foods like these:
- Breakfast: A protein bar, eggs or a smoothie. Sometimes she has decaf coffee with a pump of mocha and almond milk (While the mocha might have sugar, it replaces the muffins she used to eat, which had even more sugar.)
- Lunch: A vegetable omelet with a salad
- Dinner: Salmon or another type of fish, brown or white rice, a sweet potato or regular potato and a green vegetable like Brussels sprouts
Here’s how walking has helped
A solid workout routine supports Nappi’s health. For exercise, she walks on a treadmill at a high speed and with an incline for at least 30 minutes a day. “I love to walk. I feel like it helps with my mental health,” she said. “And the incline strengthens your muscles more and makes it more challenging.”
She also likes to walk or hike outside near her home in Long Island when the weather is nice. And sometimes, she pushes herself with a Stairmaster workout. Plus, she works strength training into her fitness routine three days a week.
She’s overcoming a health setback
A few months ago, Nappi was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and getting that under control has complicated her weight-loss efforts. At first, she was losing too much weight, but then she gained 15 pounds in two weeks. “I worked so hard to lose the weight, and then a health condition got in the way,” she said. Now that she’s on thyroid medication, she’s back on track and hopes to maintain a weight of 135 to 140 pounds.
The bottom line
Nappi turned to the Start TODAY Facebook group to connect with other people for support and encouragement, and to share her own successes. And she said, “The truth is, you have to want to make the changes. The days I don’t feel motivated are the days I have to push myself the hardest, because that’s when I need to the most.”