Joanna Schrager: 'My weight used to make me feel like such an outsider'

Joanna Schrager, a 21-year-old college student from Albertson, Joanna Schrager, a 21-year-old college student from Albertson, lost 154 pounds after joining Jenny Craig. Photo Credit: Newsday.com composite

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Who: Joanna Schrager, 21
Town: Albertson
Occupation: Senior at C.W. Post, studying elementary education

Height: 5'7"
Weight before: 318 (Nov. 2006)
Weight after: 164 (April 2009)

Her story: Since she was a little girl, Joanna Schrager has had issues with her weight. As the only overweight member of her family, she said her mom, dad, housekeeper and grandparents would always push her to go on a diet. At 13 years old, her grandparents even paid for a nutritionist. She lost 20 pounds and then promptly gained back. "I just felt like I was being nagged," Schrager said. "I hate doing things when people tell me to."

When shopping with her two older sisters, she was aware they would always buy smaller sizes while she was relegated to shopping at plus-size stores. "My weight used to make me feel like such an outsider," she said. In November 2006, she joined Jenny Craig, too.

What she eats: Before joining Jenny Craig, Schrager's diet was irregular and unbalanced. She'd normally skip breakfast and just have coffee with milk and sugar. Whenever she got hungry she'd grab a turkey sandwich on the run. She'd get home from school around 3 p.m. and nosh on cookies and other processed snack foods until dinner, often take-out Chinese or Italian food, like a large tin of baked ziti.

After joining Jenny Craig, she'd buy enough pre-portioned food for the week all at once -- seven breakfasts, lunches and dinners, plus vitamin bars and snacks. Salads and green vegetables were added at home.

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Schrager dropped seven pounds the first week and between half a pound and three pounds every week after. As she got closer to her goal weight, she slowly added back in normal foods, paying close attention to portion sizes. "I'm not as strict as in the beginning," she said, "but I don't overindulge at all."

Workouts: Before losing weight, "just walking up the steps and I'd be out of breathe," Schrager said. Now she works out on an Elliptical machine at home five or six days a week for 30 minutes. She also has a stationary bike at home, which she rides for 20 minutes on a weight-loss program of varying resistances three to four times a week. She's started adding in light weight lifting.

Final thoughts: "I'm much happier with what I see when I look in the mirror," she said, although she "wouldn't mind losing a little more."

After years of being pushed to make a change when she wasn't ready, she now knows that "no one else can tell you that you need to do it," she said. "You need to decide on your own."

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