HER STORY

The medical diagnosis that Vanessa Rousseau received 14 months ago was the catalyst behind a major lifestyle change that she continues to build on.

Rousseau says she was overweight most of her adult life and was OK with it. She would diet periodically but eventually became comfortable with the extra pounds. Eight months after her daughter was born, Rousseau was diagnosed with alopecia universalis — a likely permanent condition characterized by the complete loss of hair on the scalp and body. “I was devastated. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. I had no hair. No eyelashes, no eyebrows.”

After trying several treatments that didn’t work, she realized that she couldn’t control her alopecia but she could control her weight. She didn’t waste any time acting on it. “I joined Weight Watchers on Jan. 17, 2016, and I haven’t looked back,” says Rousseau, who has lost more than 120 pounds and wants to lose another 10 to 20. “I just decided to do it. I follow the diet and go to a weekly meeting. It felt great and still feels great.”

Never one to exercise, Rousseau says she started stretching, then walking, then running and walking in intervals. She did her first 5k race in September and has done one every month since. “It’s fun to have something to train for.

“It was a huge change to lose my hair,” she says. “But I feel confident and pretty, and I’m grateful to be healthy. When I wear a bandanna, some people think I have cancer. Other than having no hair, I’m healthier than I’ve ever been. I do a lot of self-talking. I tell myself while I’m running that I’m awesome.”

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HER DIET

Breakfast is usually a cup of green tea and a banana. Lunch can be a salad, soup, a sandwich or a Weight Watchers entree. Dinner is always three to four ounces of a lean protein like chicken, pork or beef and “tons of steamed or roasted vegetables” like asparagus, green beans, spinach, or Brussels sprouts. She snacks on fruit.

HER EXERCISE

She runs 45 minutes three days a week and does strength training — pushups, arm exercises, burpees (squat thrusts) and hand weights — two days a week. Rousseau, who doesn’t belong to a gym, usually has her 2-year-old daughter with her, who tries to imitate Mom. “I like showing her healthy behaviors,” says Rousseau.

HER ADVICE

“Don’t just try. Make a confident decision that you will lose weight. You have to decide that you’re really going to do it. It feels amazing to treat your body well. And positive self-talk is very powerful.”