Crystal Cortez: Making Smart Choices
When Crystal Cortez, age 44, mom of two, from Thibodaux, began her weight loss journey over a year ago, she had no idea where it would eventually lead her. “I felt horrible and hated the way I looked. I hated taking pictures and would always make someone stand in front of me,” says Cortez. On January 4, 2016, she made the first of many changes towards a healthier lifestyle. “I was going to just stop drinking soft drinks and try to make healthier choices, and I didn’t mean drastic changes. I meant switching from fried French fries to baked French fries,” she laughs. Even though her intentions were to make small changes only, she quickly decided to try a no carb diet that was recommended by her cousin. She was aiming for high protein and came up with a menu that could suit her needs: eggs and block cheddar cheese for breakfast, salad with chicken or turkey for lunch and lean meat with cucumbers or broccoli for dinner. “I stay away from pasta, bread, potatoes, rice and packaged foods,” says Cortez.
After three months of the low carb, high protein diet, Cortez had lost 30 pounds, but then hit a plateau. She knew it was time to incorporate more physical activity, and she began walking. “I can remember my first mile like it was yesterday. I thought I was going to die, but it got easier,” says Cortez. By April 2016, she had purchased a treadmill and was walking three miles a day. After a month on the treadmill, she felt she needed more and added in weights. A short time later, she purchased an elliptical and added that to her routine. Cortez is now walking/jogging an average of five miles, also five miles on the elliptical and she puts in about a half hour on the weight bench. “I have come a long way,” she says. “To think back to when I thought I didn’t have time. I have come to realize we all make time for what we want to make time for. Instead of lying in bed and watching TV, I exercise.”
“I Feel Great!”
Cortez has now lost 62 pounds, and she acknowledges that it wasn’t easy, “I do great all week but the weekends are a huge challenge for me,” she says. With family get-togethers every Saturday and gatherings with friends, both of which are always centered around food, it hasn’t been easy to stick to a healthy diet. Cortez also travels for work and says it can be especially difficult to “be good” when you go out of town every day and sometimes stay overnight in hotels. “I have started bringing clothes with me to exercise at the hotel gym,” she says.
When having a tough day, Cortez says she thinks about all the compliments she’s received and how she no longer requires blood pressure medication. “I think about how much better I feel,” she says. Even the simple things, like being able to cross her legs when she sits or tie her shoes without being out of breath are very much appreciated. “I think about a lot of things to keep me going, some are little things that most people don’t think about.” She also now loves going places and dressing up, something that was a dreaded task.
Cortez does occasionally allow herself a cheat meal and if she is craving a hamburger, she eats one, minus the bun. “Life is too short and I live in Southern Louisiana, I want to enjoy life but live a long time as well,” she says.
To maintain her weight, Cortez continues to make healthy choices and tries to exercise four to five days a week on average. She would like to lose another 25 pounds and is working toward that goal.
Cortez says that signing up for a race was never something that she thought she would do, not even when she started exercising, “not in a million years”, but as time went on she started to think that she could do it. In December 2016, she signed up for her first race with encouragement from a friend. She then convinced her husband, brother-in-law and nephew to sign up too. In 2016, she walked three miles a day and in January she increased that to four miles and by February, Cortez was walking/jogging five miles each day that she exercised. “I am not fast by any means, but as long as I cross that finish line on my feet, I will be happy,” she says. Cortez has set a goal to do a half marathon in Disney World one day.
Thinking back on her caloric intake before beginning her weight loss journey, Cortez describes it as “unbelievable”. “I would drink five to six 12 ounce cans of Coke a day and now I drink six to seven 16 ounce bottles of water a day, and I only drink water,” she says. Cortez has used her experiences to encourage coworkers and family to eat healthy and exercise. She loves sharing her accomplishments and hopes to help others. “I was always the person who said that ‘life is too short and I will always be fat anyway’ so I thought why deprive myself from the food I love so much.” She never expected to be able to lose the weight, and now that she has, she hopes others will realize their full potential as well. “When I started my journey, I weighed more than I weighed when I was pregnant. Now I weigh less than I ever remember weighing in my adult life,” says Cortez.
“We can always make excuses for not exercising and not making healthy food choices”, but Cortez says she has learned success comes from discipline and determination.