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Mineola woman loses weight after airplane incident

Mineola resident Nancy Nowak is pictured in August

Mineola resident Nancy Nowak is pictured in August 2012 weighing approximately 277 pounds, and in a more recent shot showing off her 103-pound weight loss. Photo Credit: Andy Nowak; Alex Horvath

Nancy Nowak

47, Mineola

Occupation advocate at Disability Rights New York

Height 5-foot-4

Before 277 August 2012

Current 174 March 2016


Nowak always struggled with weight. It went up and down, depending on the latest trending diet. She found results with Weight Watchers, which she would use only temporarily to lose weight for an upcoming event and then gain the pounds back.

An airline flight changed everything. “When I had to ask for a seat-belt extender, I was mortified and knew I had to do something,” she says. She came home, joined a workplace weight-loss competition and lost 20 pounds. “The competition was over and I said, ‘I can’t let this go.’ I actually pushed the company to start a Weight Watchers program,” says Nowak, who adds that doing the program at work helped. “People noticed, and I felt accountable,” she says.

Then, Nowak discovered running, or it discovered her. When she was down 40 pounds, a barista at Starbucks noticed her weight loss and said he wanted to turn her into a runner, to which she said, “I’m a fat girl; I don’t run.” He wouldn’t have it. Within two months she was running three miles. She has since turned others onto running, and she and a sister are training for a half marathon. “I can’t live without it. It’s helped me with so many things. Running has become my life.”


Breakfast can be 4 ounces of low-salt turkey breast, cucumber slices, grapes and coffee. For lunch Nowak has homemade vegetable soup or a vegetable-intense salad with grilled chicken or shrimp. Dinner is often roasted chicken or a small piece of steak with lots of vegetables or puréed cauliflower. She snacks on Weight Watchers smoothies but adds Greek yogurt and some rainbow sprinkles “just to make it seem more decadent.”


Nowak gets in 15,000 steps daily by walking to and from the train station, up to her 10th floor office and taking a walk during lunch. She runs three times a week outdoors. Sometimes she runs up and down her stairs at home for 20 minutes, “which is a lot harder than it sounds,” she says.


“You can’t deprive yourself because you’ll start eating everything. I’m not on a diet, it’s my way of life. If I really want that cookie I see at the diner, I’m going to get it. I’ll figure out how to lessen other meals or up my exercise to stay within my points.”

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