Meet Zulay Santana: Alumni Roundup Healthy Living Columnist

[Spotted on RoundupRussy’s Blog]

In the Fall of 2009 I decided that I wanted to lose at least 12 lbs.; weighed 162 lbs. By Winter of2009/2010 I managed to gain an additional 8 lbs. One of my best friends told me that as long as my jeans still fit that I’d be fine… Well, my jeans (even the “safety/fat pants”) didn’t fit well anymore… something really had to be done. And there was another issue, sometime last year I got the ambitious idea to run the ING marathon in 3 years. Yes, indeed, something really had to be done!

There’s some significant history to this weight gain/loss process of mine. I have a 4-year-old daughter and managed to lose the baby weight by a low-carb diet. At various times in the past 6 years I’ve gained and lost significant amounts of weight. However, I have not been physically fit. When I was younger, I was an athlete so I technically had the foundation but it had been years since I maintained focus on being healthy and strong.

I remember the day I weighed myself and internally screaming “I WEIGH ONE-HUNDRED AND SIXTY-EIGHT POUNDS?!?” I also took a good long look at myself in the mirror wearing nothing but my “pom-poms” (as my daughter calls it) and skivvies. I knew that what I was looking at could be “fixed” but it had been so long since I looked how I *wanted* to look… I didn’t know what the end result might be. I just prayed and said I’d make it happen. It was more than just losing 18 lbs (at the very least)… I wanted to see definition in my arms again, strengthen my abs to what they once were, diminish those “love handles” (Why in the world are they called that anyway?? There’s nothing lovely about them!), and tone my thighs to be giggle-free (this was especially important since I NEVER wear shorts because I’ve never liked my legs since they’re not naturally firm).

I am blessed with the best friends a woman could ever hope for and received a plethora of advice and support. I initially started with some extreme kind of diet which proved to be, well, impossible; I consequently hand-picked the best advice for me and came up with a plan that was both feasible and pleasing. It was a complete lifestyle overhaul which included eliminating unhealthy foods from my everyday life, incorporating exercise and maintaining long-term focus. This was beyond just losing some pounds- it was time to shed weight, build a better body and a better mind.

I’m also a huge foodie and knew that I didn’t want to deprive myself of stimulating my taste buds. Part of my process has been to find/develop new recipes and tweek old ones to suit my new lifestyle. I learned to shop differently at the supermarket and challenge my culinary imagination to include more whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables in to my diet. I haven’t missed anything that I used to eat. Actually, my body has adjusted and now craves healthy foods. The human body is a beautiful thing.

My initial exercise of choice was running. I knew it challenge my entire body and mind. I would lose weight and strengthen. But I also had to find alternatives for the days that I couldn’t make it out and I don’t own a treadmill so I’ve also relied on tried and true exercises. My rule is “If I’m not drenched in sweat, I’m not pushing hard enough.” Every week I try to exceed whatever I achieved the prior week and I’ve been successful!

The Goddess Body Diet wasn’t my initial approach but it turns out that the guidelines were quite similar to my own…
– Abstinence from Alcohol: This was not a major issue. I usually only drink socially and recognized the adverse effects of alcohol on any weight-loss endeavor. Empty calories galore!!

Abstinence from Sex: Well… this was even less of an issue. A relationship and potential intimacy weren’t my focus. I was far more concerned with what I needed to do to better my body than satisfying *ahem* momentary urges.

At least 6 hours of sleep every night: I have always been a 7-8 hour kind of girl but I must say that exercise had helped me to sleep a lot better and my body needs it!

No packaged food unless it is signified as Organic: This was HUGE for me! Early on I started paying attention to the nutrition facts on everything and realized that so many of my usual foods where nutritionally horrific! I focused on incorporating as many natural and organic foods as possible in to my every day life.

Consume a gallon of water every day: I’m close to a gallon… I’m working on that one still. For various reasons, it’s been quite challenging for me to drink a gallon of water but water is absolutely critical especially when you’re working out! Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

No farmed fish or meat: This is still in the works for me but I have essentially cut out red meat.

Dairy products must be cage free, non- homogenized: This is also in the works… but I have switched to 2% organic milk. I must say that it’s far better than the regular 2%, which I really can’t tolerate.

3 days of cardio workout. Can include core workouts for strength training (i.e. Yoga, Pilates, Swimming): I work out 3-4 days per week. My preference is running and I’ve worked up to 1.75 mi.; I can run 1.25 mi. straight. Otherwise, my home work-out currently consists of 200 (20 reps) sit-ups, 160 (20 reps) squats, 30 side leg lifts, 30 push-ups, and 30 ab/leg lifts. When I first started, I ran 0.25 mi (max), and my sets were of 15 reps; I couldn’t do more than 10 push-ups or 15 leg lifts.

It’s been 4 months and through it I have lost 21 lbs., managed to work my way up to running 1.75 mi. (I barely got through 0.25 mi. when I first started), begun to see significant definition in my legs, arms and abs and most of all, I just feel good! I decided to lose 2 more lbs. to give myself “wiggle room” but my journey absolutely continues in building and maintaining a healthy body. I have loads of encouragement around me but my biggest cheerleader is me- there is something remarkably rewarding about feeling myself surpass the extent of my last work-out. And, ING awaits me in 2 years!!

Follow Zulay through her day on TWITTER and on her BLOG

You can also find her on now, providing great, healthy recipes under our Lifestyle Category
Check in with the rest of the participants on the GodBodyDiet Lifestyle:
Jill Person aka JI double L
Julie McShay, ASouthernSocialite
Leilah Reese

0 responses to “Meet Zulay Santana: Alumni Roundup Healthy Living Columnist”

  1. This is a great testimony and very encouraging. It’s good to know that we can change and that there is no secret or magic diet to weight loss. It’s physics and nutrition and the will to do it. Stories like yours inspires me to continue to my goal and not give up. Maintenance is key.

  2. Thank you Billy! I’ve had so much encouragement throughout this process as well as success stories/individuals of inspiration that kept me going.

    I knew that this would be a lot of work and continues to be but I AM an optimist. My perspective/approach was that if at least one person (millions in actuality) did it before me- naturally, by their own sweat and dedication- then there’s no reason why I can’t. And, I think that approach can apply to pretty much anything in life! I continue to pull inspiration from those people and am proud to serve as someone else’s encouragement! Keep on going… I/we will be here along the way. 😉

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