Back in early 2017, Janet Cervantes-Hageman, 55, didn't recognize herself. She used food to cope with the stress of her job as the CFO of a large automotive group. Exercise was pushed aside, while her blood pressure and weight crept up. Meanwhile, she put her family and friends first, leaving little time to take care of herself. At that point she weighed over 300 pounds. "It felt so lonely, like I had a disease that wasn't curable, and I couldn't figure out what to do," says Janet.
On a whim, she applied for the Landcruisers Live Longer & Stronger Challenge and was one of the five women selected to work with Joy Bauer, R.D.N., the nutrition expert for NBC's Today show and a columnist at Landcruisers, to improve her heart health. And that she did. Over the course of the program, Janet brought her blood pressure down to a normal range and shed 83 pounds. She didn't stop there: Since the challenge's conclusion in February, she has started circuit training and continues to lose weight.
The changes Janet made were about switching up the way she ate for the long haul. "I'm not dieting — I'm eating good, healthy food," she says. She found go-to recipes that her daughter and husband enjoy, like slow cooker salsa chicken, and she adds new dishes to the rotation so she doesn't get bored.
Janet has also been focusing on keeping her stress in check. After a busy day at work, she takes her kayak down to the lake by her house and goes for a paddle — to clear her mind and get in a bit of exercise, something she would never have considered before.
But the past few months haven't been without obstacles. Right after the challenge, Janet needed a total hysterectomy. "In the old days, the surgery would have been an excuse to slide back into my previous ways," she says. Instead, she recovered by walking her dogs, eating nourishing meals, and asking friends for help.
Now Janet constantly hears compliments, but that's just a bonus: "The best part is how I feel — stronger, healthier, and happier. That's what really keeps me going."
Janet's Tips for Long-Term Success
1. Remove worry from restaurants.
"A few days before a scheduled dinner, I'll call and explain what I can eat, like grilled chicken and veggies. The chefs have usually been eager to accommodate — they want my business!"
2. Prioritize your zzz's.
"If I notice I'm run-down, I ask myself, Do I need to tell someone no? I don't like disappointing people, but I now realize it's important to do what I need to do in order to rest."
3. Squeeze in exercise.
"Each night I look at my schedule for the next day and think, When is the best time to exercise based on what I have planned Then I'll work out at night or in the morning, depending on what's going on."
This story originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Landcruisers.