Lisa-Michelle Kucharz, 49, Valley Stream
Occupation: Communications professor at LIU, Riverhead
Before 238 Oct. 2017; After 138 Feb. 2019
Lisa-Michelle Kucharz says she was active in sports growing up and average in size until her mid-20s, when her weight started changing. When she became a victim of cyberbullying in 2014, she started “stress eating” and turned to food for comfort, she says. “I gained 40 pounds on top of what I already needed to lose.”
In 2017, Kucharz says she promised herself she would build healthy lifestyle habits. Initially, she started with the wrong approach, she says.
“I was eating only when hungry and eating a lot of fruit and fruit smoothies instead of actual meals,” says Kucharz. She lost 25 pounds in five months but was diagnosed with diabetes.
Her doctor referred her to a nutritionist who reviewed her food preferences, eating habits and activity levels and came up with a food plan.
“She also taught me about food combinations, which are really helpful for people focusing on blood sugar. I immediately went food shopping and drastically changed the way I ate,” says Kucharz.
With her eating on track, she started looking into outdoor activities. She heard about the 52 Hike Challenge (52 hikes at least one mile in length completed within 52 weeks). It soon became her passion. “There are so many great places to hike on Long Island. I learned about places I never heard of,” says Kucharz.
Now down 100 pounds and off all medications, Kucharz says “I feel a great sense of accomplishment and that I can tackle anything that comes my way. I’m happy I’m taking care of my health…in a sustainable and healthy way. That’s key.”
Kucharz has three meals and two to three snacks daily, two to three hours apart. Breakfast is usually cereal such as Kashi Go Lean Original or Special K with Protein and skimmed milk. Lunch and dinner are similar. A quarter of the plate is a protein, another quarter is a high-fiber grain and the remaining space is filled with vegetables, steamed, sautéed or raw. Snack examples include plain or light flavored Greek yogurt, Babybel Light cheese, almonds or walnuts, Kind mini bars and blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.
Kucharz says she walks, preferably outdoors, 30 minutes every day and does a two- to six-hour hike once to four times a week. Twice a week she does arm exercises with free weights and follows a David-Dorian Ross Tai Chi beginner’s video.
“Small steps make big differences. Set realistic goals. If you’re stressed or turning to food for comfort, keep it in check. Small portions of comfort food can still be comforting. Consider seeing a nutritionist. Schedule meal prep and activity time on your calendar. Have fun with it. For me, it was finding hiking If you enjoyed a certain sport when you were young, look for an adult league. Celebrate success whether it’s losing one pound or good blood work results or walking up more stairs more often.”