Sonia Smith-Kang, 45, proves that you don't need a fad diet or an expensive gym membership to lose weight. The mom of four—including two teens, a tween, and a 20-something—works out when she can and uses Jenny Craig meals and snacks—in addition to other food—to help keep her on track with her goals.

By Krystal Hagan

What made you decide to finally commit to losing the weight for good?

I wanted to lose weight for several years. With each of my four pregnancies I gained weight and found it more difficult to lose. Anytime I got together with friends or family, the conversation would inevitably get to food and weight. I was tired of complaining about my weight, yet not doing anything about it. January 2017 was the turning point for me. My grandmother was losing her battle with cancer. As my family gathered, I took stock of the love that surrounded her. There were four generations in the room with her. My children had the beautiful honor to know her and I wanted that for myself. If I wanted to have the same thing she did—and get to see my great-grandchildren one day—I needed to get my health in order. Her life ended days later and my new life began.

How much weight have you lost and how did you do it?

I joined Jenny Craig in March 2017. I stepped on the scale at 213 pounds and I am down almost 60 pounds. Along with the program, I exercise 30 to 60 minutes per day, four to five days per week.

What is your goal weight?

At 5’ 6”, my goal weight is 145 pounds and a size 6/8. I am close to goal.

What other diets/routines you've tried in the past?

I want to say I have tried them all! I have tried my share of fad diets over the years.

What has been the hardest part of your journey?

As an entrepreneur in the fashion industry and advocate for equality, many of my workdays are spent on the go, which requires me to plan ahead. Jenny Craig helps alleviate the stress of meal prep, eating out, choosing poorly and/or skipping meals.

Who/what inspires you to keep going?

My family is my life. As a busy mom of four (ages 10, 13, 19, 26), I want to be there for them as long as I can. I also want to be an inspiration to them and show that they can accomplish whatever they set out to do, no matter how difficult. They heard me complain about my weight for years, yet not do anything to change the situation. They saw me have a bad relationship with food and I didn’t like that. I not only want to raise kind, compassionate children, I want to them to have a healthy relationship with food, their bodies and their health. I have to remind myself that they are watching everything I do, and I want them to see their mom be successful and healthier.

Photo courtesy of Jenny Craig

What does your typical day look like?

I am first and foremost a mom and a wife. My family is very important to me, as is my business, my brand and community activism work. This is my usual schedule:

  • 6:30 a.m. Wake; get kids to school.
  • 8 a.m. Shower and breakfast.
  • 9 a.m.-1 p.m. As a female solo founder, I am a one-woman show, so I manage conference calls, meetings, social media, events and networking. Lunch.
  • 3-6 p.m. Pick up kids (or ask for help from others), snack and after-school activities.
  • 6-9 p.m. Dinner, kids’ homework, exercise, kids off to bed.
  • 9-11:30 p.m. Finish leftover work not completed during the day. then lights out.

Could you give us an example of what a typical healthy meal is for you?

Choosing the Jenny Craig program has been one of my best decisions. I knew I needed help losing weight and wanted a program that could easily incorporate into my busy life. Jenny Craig is easy to follow, and I enjoy the variety of food. I really enjoy mealtimes:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with fruit
  • Midday snack: Jenny Craig protein bar or shake
  • Lunch: Jenny Craig grilled chicken sandwich with a small salad and low-calorie dressing
  • Dinner: Jenny Craig’s Southwest Chicken Fajita bowl
  • Dessert: Popcorn
Photo courtesy of Jenny Craig

What are your go-to snacks?

My go-to snacks are fruits, Jenny Craig’s White Cheddar Popcorn, blue corn chips, and salsa.

Photo courtesy of Jenny Craig

Do you have cheat meals/cheat snacks? If so, what are they?

I love sweets, chocolate, doughnuts and fries, and I’ve never met a pizza I didn’t like. But I had to change my mindset around food, or else I knew I would be back to the same unhealthy routine. I try to make sure I am well-hydrated, eat regularly and have healthy snacks on hand so I don’t have to rely on what’s available. If I want a sweet or a snack, I’m at an event or out socially, I give myself permission to eat in moderation.

Do you have a “go-to” tool that keeps you on track?

I really want an Apple watch or FitBit, but until then, I use my iPhone. I use the Notes app and there I keep:

  • My motivation (my children)
  • My starting weight (213 pounds), goal weight (145 pounds)
  • Inspirational quotes: “When you feel like quitting, remember why you started.”
  • and “Don’t you want to see what happens if you don’t give up!”
  • My goals and weight each week
  • Any challenges, how I felt about them and what I did to overcome them

It is really just a way for me to chronicle my weight-loss journey.

Do you find yourself focusing more on diet or exercise? Or do you try to find a balance?

I find that being on the Jenny Craig program leaves me one less thing to focus on. It’s easy to just grab and go. With my hectic work/life schedule, the less I have to worry about, the better. Knowing the food part is covered, I am able to focus on exercise because that’s the part that requires time, which is always at a minimum for me. I know that diet is one part of the weight-loss journey and the path to living a healthier lifestyle requires me to be active.

What is your favorite way to work out? How do you motivate yourself on the days you don’t want to exercise?

After over a year of losing weight on Jenny Craig and exercising, you would think that I would love exercising by now, but to keep it real, I don’t always love it. As a mom, I don’t always give myself permission to put my needs first and I could easily get into making any number of excuses as to why I can’t find the time to workout. As hard as it is, I allow myself to be first. I ask myself that if I’m not at my best, how can I be that for others?

Each night I look at the next day’s schedule, and the same way I schedule play dates or conference calls, I schedule workouts. I work with what I have. I don’t have a gym membership, but what I have access to is an elliptical machine that was once used to hold my clothes and collect dust. I open up my Netflix and instead of binge watching, I find a show (right now I’m re-watching “Breaking Bad”) and I watch one episode at a time. I actually look forward to the time on the machine and watching Walt and Jesse get into mischief.

How has your weight-loss journey affected your family?

This is the part where I lose it each time I tell my story. Cue the waterworks. My husband and children tell me they loved me at whatever weight I was, but I’m the one who didn’t like myself. I was ashamed at how big I had gotten and because of that, I withdrew from situations like taking pictures, going in the pool with them and living fully in the moment as a family. I thought about my weight constantly and it affected my self-esteem. I was not the person I wanted or the role model I needed to be for them. If I had to be honest with myself, I felt like a bit of a fraud. I would tell them things that I wasn’t doing for myself. I was raising teenagers and telling them to love themselves yet I didn’t love myself. As a mom of two boys (10 and 19) and two girls (13 and 26), I want to leave them a legacy of empowerment and having a positive body image. In a world that doesn’t always value or show different body types in a positive light, I want them to see that at whatever size you are, if you are healthy and love yourself, that’s great. But when that is no longer the case for you (as it was for me), and you start to put yourself down or not like yourself, you have the power to change the situation. I am making sure this message comes across loud and clear.

Photo courtesy of Jenny Craig

What advice do you have for others, especially moms of teens, who are struggling with weight loss?

I have to say keep it 100 percent honest. You have to be honest with yourself, your situation, your finances and your time. For me, that was finding the right weight-loss program that fits into my life, not the other way around. If it was too difficult, too time-intensive, you lost me.

For instance, after trying so many diets, I knew I needed something easy. I wanted something I could just pop in the microwave or open and eat. As busy as I am, don’t give me one other thing to do. For me, Jenny Craig fit into my life. I didn’t have to change for the program.

Money: We’re a family of six, so finances are always top of mind. I knew I was spending a ton eating on the road for convenience. After calculating the cost of Jenny Craig, the amount I was spending on eating out and my expensive coffees, it worked out to be financially comparable.

Time: Who has any extra time nowadays? Our lives are jam-packed. My tween and teens keep me going with their sports practices, extracurricular activities and games, so I evaluated what I used to do (sit and watch them practice or hop on my phone and catch up on my social media) and switched it up. Now I walk or run around the park while I wait. If I want to wait to exercise, I use the time wisely and make sure I answer emails and return calls during those times so I can dedicate the time later to exercise.

The bottom line for me is I have to be intentional with my time and be very honest with where I am at in life and what I am able to do, which means sometimes saying no to things. (This used to be hard to do.) I utilize Slack and Zoom to manage my time and meetings. The cliché “work smarter not harder” very much applies here.