Dietary changes, walking helped Lisa Houston drop 90 pounds

JON C. LAKEY / SALISBURY POST Lisa Houston lost 90 pounds by changing her diet and walking 5 miles a day.
JON C. LAKEY / SALISBURY POST Lisa Houston lost 90 pounds by changing her diet and walking 5 miles a day.

Lisa Houston ditched sugar and flour from her diet without giving it a second thought.

“I was probably the unhealthiest eater ever,” she said. “I’d come home, lay on the couch and eat everything that wasn’t healthy.

“It didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what I needed to cut out, that was easy.”

When the China Grove resident woke up one morning and decided she wanted to lose weight, there was no turning back.

She had tried fad diets and meal plans without much success.

“I’m not a good dieter, I never have been,” she said. “I’ve lost weight, I’ve gained weight.”

This time around she took a more practical approach.

“My main focus was trying to come up with something I could live with,” she said. “I’ve just tried to find things that have a good taste that I don’t mind eating.

“Lean Cuisines and things like that, I’ve never found one that I really like.”

Dietary changes

Houston found it was easier than she expected to switch to healthier options.

She now bakes chicken or fish almost nightly using a bit of olive oil and a hint of salt and pepper for seasoning. Sometimes she’ll squeeze some lime juice on top of the fish for an extra punch of flavor. Red meat makes an appearance at her dinner table only once a week.

Side dishes include things like okra baked in coconut oil and sprinkled with sea salt, roasted sweet potatoes and avocado mashed up with a splash of lime juice and banana pepper rings mixed in.

“I like the avocado with the chicken because it gives it a little punch,” she said. “It’s easy, it’s simple, it’s delicious.

“I’m a food junkie, I love good food.”

Snacks for Houston include raspberries, grapes, bananas, apples, celery and olives.

“I like potato chips and salty snacks, so I’ll have a couple of olives to offset my taste for salt,” she said.

Houston said she rarely eats out anymore, but when she does she’s much more conscious of her decisions.

“I typically don’t order potatoes or anything like that,” she said.

Instead of eating out, Houston will pack a lunch that includes a lean protein or a salad flavored with her homemade dressing.

Houston now drinks water the majority of the time, but if she wants something warm she goes for tea.

“Tea has a lot of health benefits with all the antioxidants,” she said. “I cut out a lot of coffee and before the diet I was drinking who knows how many soft drinks a day.”

Instead of depriving herself of foods she still enjoys, Houston has a cheat day every Saturday.

“I don’t go completely off my diet, but I might have pasta or a dessert,” she said.

During the holidays, Houston allowed herself to eat whatever she wanted as long as she maintained her weight by exercising.

“I didn’t want to be miserable watching other people eat,” she said. “I knew I would fail if I didn’t allow myself to indulge.”

Immediately after Christmas, Houston was back on her diet.

“I heard on the radio there’s no amount of exercise that can cover up bad diet,” she said. “I think that is completely true.

“Once you stop eating poorly, it’s just amazing how quickly you lose weight.”

Houston said she looks at food in a whole different way now.

“I see things that maybe I loved and probably would have loaded my plate up with before, but I don’t do it anymore,” she said. “I’m drawn to the healthy foods.”

Getting moving

Houston’s diet changes along with her newfound habit of walking at least 5 miles five days a week have helped her drop 90 pounds since last May.

“At first, the hardest part was getting up and walking every morning before I went to work,” she said. “Waking up that extra 30 to 45 minutes to get up and get on the treadmill was tough.”

Houston’s new poodle has been a good motivator to get her out the door for a walk.

“On nice days, I prefer walking outdoors,” she said. “She can make it about two times around the neighborhood before she’s wiped out.”

The perks

When she started making lifestyle changes, Houston was the manager of Salisbury’s main branch of First Bank, which is set to close in March.

Dropping the weight has helped her deal with losing her job.

“This catastrophic event would have been much harder to deal with a year ago,” she said. “I feel so much more confident now.”

Houston said she used to shun the spotlight, staying toward the back of the room at parties and events.

“I didn’t want anyone to focus on me,” she said. “I was always trying to dress to hide my hips and stomach, really just about my entire body from top to bottom.

“I’ve still got a ways, but at least I don’t feel self-conscience or feel like people are looking at me.”

Houston plans to drop another 20 pounds this year.

“For my build, losing 110 pounds puts me in a healthy percentile,” she said. “I realize I’m never going to be the size I was in high school, but at least it’s not frustrating going shopping anymore because I can shop in the regular departments instead of plus size.”

Houston’s energy has increased and she’s sleeping better at night.

“I feel completely different,” she said.

Another benefit of the diet has been a significant improvement in her allergies.

“I haven’t had the issues I used to have,” she said. “I used to take over-the-counter allergy medicine every day and I haven’t had to this year.”

Houston isn’t sure if her allergies have subsided due to her decision to eat clean and ditched processed foods.

“I just think being overweight leads to a lot of health issues,” she said.

Family support

Houston’s children have taken up the diet with her, eating whatever she cooks when they are around.

“My family and friends have been very supportive,” she said.

Back in September when her son stopped by the bank to visit her, she had an “aha” moment.

“He was on his way out and he turned around and said ‘Hey mom, you look really good,’” she said. “It made me feel great.

“I want to be an example for my kids and I want to be somebody they don’t mind being seen with.”

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories that will feature local residents’ experience with weight loss and fitness. The stories will appear on the People page each Sunday.

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