Amy Ruggiero, a 47-year-old accountant and mom of two from Connecticut, found herself jobless after 15 years in February 2017. She turned to Jenny Craig to reduce stress and take control of her health and ended up losing 40 pounds.

By Krystal Hagan
Photo courtesy of Amy Ruggiero

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

In February 2017 I lost my job after 15 years and was very unhappy. I truly did not feel comfortable in my skin. I decided to take control of what I could control: my weight and health. I also needed to find ways to reduce stress, and exercise was a great solution.  

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When did you start trying to lose the weight?

My weight was never an issue until high school. I remember gaining weight and always wanting to lose 20 pounds. As I got older and had children, those 20 pounds became 30 pounds. Working all the time and being a single mother with little time for myself, the 30 pounds became 40 pounds. My own needs were never my priority, and soon I weighed 184 pounds. I started Jenny Craig on Feb. 11, 2017.

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

I lost 40 pounds. With Jenny Craig, I had a menu plan that was easy to follow, nutritionally balanced, and taught me portion control. I learned it was important to drink lots of water and to eat everything on my menu plan to fill up on the right foods and still lose weight. I was also paired with a Jenny Craig consultant that personalized my weight-loss experience.  She has been my partner through this entire transformation, and has become a friend, coach and almost like a therapist, all in one. A weight-loss journey is very private and having a knowledgeable professional to speak with weekly, one-on-one, was critical to my success.

What is your goal weight? Have you reached it?

My goal weight was 145 pounds, which is a loss of 39.2 pounds. I beat my goal in August 2017.

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

I’ve tried other weight-loss programs without success: I counted points, avoided carbohydrates and even used weight-loss pills.

What has been the hardest part of your journey?

The hardest part for me was trying to socialize while on a diet. Everything social to me seemed to involve food and alcohol. Unless you are doing a workout class or a walk with friends, food and drinks are usually involved, which I find hard to resist. My book club should be called food and wine club!

But there are some key strategies I use to stay on track. I try to drink a lot of water or get a sparkling water with lime to have something in my hand. I also drink coffee which helps. For book club, I bring my own appetizers: the healthy snacks I enjoy like tomatoes and cucumbers. This way I have options while the ladies are eating the cheese platter or cookies.

Photo courtesy of Amy Ruggiero

Who or what inspires you to keep going?

My kids. Both of my children are athletic. They love sports. My daughter has been a competitive gymnast since the age of 4. My son plays football and is always on the go. They were both so incredibly proud of my achievements with Jenny Craig. When I won the Jenny Craig Success Story Contest and shared my video with them, both had tears in their eyes and my son said, “You look so beautiful and man you are funny.”  Now that is truly priceless!

The success I have had is what keeps me going. My children are proud of me. I want to be a role model and show them if you want something bad enough, it takes hard work and dedication.

How does your typical day look?

I am a single, working mom. I have a stressful job for a public company with enormous pressure and deadlines.

I wake at 7 a.m., get my daughter off to school at 7:25, followed by son at 8:30. Then I race to work, never forgetting to stop and get my coffee on the way. I arrive at work and get to it, cranking out what I need to do. I try to leave by 6 p.m. and hit the gym three days a week, then home to get kids settled, do homework and then bed. They go to bed late, so hopefully by 10:30 p.m., I finally get some time for myself to do stuff around the house and hang with our dog. I go to bed around 11:30 p.m.

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

My Jenny Craig meal with a side salad, piece of fruit, followed by something sweet but small. My Jenny Craig meal usually includes some chicken. I like to eat, so my salads are huge. I’m Italian!

What are your go-to snacks?

Tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots. I love popcorn. One of my favorite things is sautéed sweet onions in extra-virgin olive oil.

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

Since hitting my goal, I give myself a cheat day. One day a week I try to enjoy my favorite higher-fat foods or have a couple of cocktails and dinner with boyfriend and friends. I think it is critical that if you need a bite of something, take it and don’t let it derail you. Don’t beat yourself up, or at least try not to and get right back on track. My go-to sweet treats are peanut candy or cookies. But Jenny Craig has desserts like chocolate lava cake, so I definitely enjoy those.

Photo courtesy of Amy Ruggiero

Do you have any go-to tools or apps that keep you on track? Why do you like them?

I just got this new smart scale; it measures everything. I figured since I started lifting weights it would be helpful to see effects on BMI, etc. It helps keep me on track and helps motivate me.

I also belong to a gym and I use their gym app. It tracks every time I go, which keeps me honest.

Photo courtesy of Amy Ruggiero

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

Photo courtesy of Amy Ruggiero 

Both. I think it is mostly what you eat that drives how you look, but exercise helps drive how you feel. I would say 70% food and 30% exercise is what will produce the scale results and overall self-image for me.

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

I love the gym and do 30 minutes of cardio (lately the bike) followed by 30 minutes of weights and then abs. That feeling of walking out of the gym feeling like I just kicked some butt and did something for myself is what motivates me.

How has your weight-loss journey affected your family?

Photo courtesy of Amy Ruggiero

My ex-husband had cancer last year and two months ago suffered a brain hemorrhage and had to be airlifted for emergency brain surgery. My children have had to watch their father suffer and have a fear of losing him which is incredibly painful for them.

This puts even more pressure on me. My weight journey has led to a happier, stronger, more confident mom. My kids see that and pick up on that. They support me because they know I need to stay healthy and be strong. We have a lot of fun together and are always moving. So the more energy I have the better.

Feeling like a new me also opened other doors. I started dating a wonderful man about seven months ago. He lost his wife from a heart aneurysm. She was a smoker and not someone who worked out. He is a police officer raising a daughter who is 13, a few months younger than my daughter. Our goals are aligned: be healthy, strong and lead by example for our children!

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

Take time to get yourself to where you want to be. It is OK to put yourself first sometimes because the happier and more confident you are, the better energy you will give off to those around you. Your kids will see you working hard on you and realize that is what it takes to achieve success. Be their role model.

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