Real Life Biggest Loser: This Is My Way of Life Now

Welcome to the Real Life Biggest Loser series, where I interview real people who lose weight and get healthy using good old-fashioned blood, sweat and tears.  At 5’3″ and 230 pounds, Cherie had the audacity to believe that she could RUN.  How did she start? By running for 10 seconds at a time.  That was 2 years ago, now she’s running 20 miles a week.  What did that audacity cost her?  About 85 pounds and counting…


Name:  Cherie Steffen

Age: 34

Occupation: Certified Fitness Trainer

All time high weight: 230 pounds

Current weight and height: 145 pounds, 5’3″

Total weight loss: 85 pounds

How did you gain the weight? Eating too much and being sedentary packed on the majority of the pounds, but some personal life changes added to it in a short time. My mother was diagnosed with cancer in March 2009 and she died soon after on June 8, 2009. I was totally a Mommy’s Girl, so I was DEVASTATED. Two weeks after she passed away, I herniated my lumbar disc and couldn’t move for some time. I was very limited in movement for about two months. During that time, Whole Foods Market fired me because they had no light duty for me and I couldn’t do anything else there. So the mom, the back, and the job sent me into a depressed eating frenzy.

When did you begin your weight loss journey? January 2010

How long have you kept the weight off? Since I began

What motivated you to lose weight?  Did you have an A-HA moment?  I went back to school for a second degree in January 2010. I needed to take a different career path and needed a fresh start. One of my teachers called me Precious {the fat Black girl from the movie of the same name} in front of a bunch of students. Instead of getting angry, I vowed to use those hurtful, embarrassing comments as motivation to lose the weight so no one would ever, ever call me that again. I always knew I needed to lose it–had even promised my mother on her deathbed that I would–but that one name-calling incident sparked a fire in me.

To what extent had your weight affected your physical health? I was very sluggish–easily became out of breath. It was difficult to even bend over to paint my toenails! Any type of physical movement was just that much harder with the extra weight on my frame.

How did you lose the weight?  Tell us about your diet and exercise regimen. First I began walking. I started in small increments. At first, all I could do was run for 10 SECONDS!! But I had to start somewhere, so that was it. I did little intervals: Run 10 secs, walk 50 seconds and I’d repeat that for 30 mins. Then the next week, I’d run 20 secs, walk 40 secs–the next week, run 30secs, walk 30 secs–and so forth until I COULD run for a whole minute. Believe me when I say I really had to take baby steps! Once I could do a full minute, I repeated that same system, but in 10 minute increments. Run 1 min, walk 9. Run 2 mins, walk 8. Run 3 mins, walk 7. Eventually, I got to the point where I could run a full mile without stopping, and then after a while, my endurance built up to where I am now which is running for about 6 miles or so without needing a walk break. It was definitely something I had to train myself to do. I’m not saying everyone has to take baby steps like this, but it certainly helped me get used to running. I used to hate it and now I love it. The hardcore running started in April 2011 because I was training to go into the police academy. I ran too far, too fast, too hard, didn’t listen to my body and got a stress fracture in my right tibia in May 2011. I was not able to try out for the academy, couldn’t run for five months and decided to study personal training while I was benched! The rest is history and I’m not a cop but I can run and the weight kept coming off.  Ha! My diet is to eat clean about 90% of time. If it’s processed or filled with a lot of artificial stuff, I do my best to avoid it.

Who was the most influential person/people to you during the process of losing weight? I suppose it was the name-calling teacher. 😉

Have you ever lost weight and then gained it back?  If so, how was this time different? I had been on a cycle of losing again since grade school. This time was different because I was so very hurt and embarrassed. No one had ever called me out like that.

It’s easy to let your diet drift or slowly stop exercising. What do you find to be the key to STICKING TO IT? I don’t ever want to look like my “before” picture or have someone liken me to Precious. That’s enough motivation right there.

Just starting off, losing weight is hard.  Tell us, did it get easier or harder for you over time? Definitely easier–once the habits formed and I saw weight coming off my body, this just became my way of life.

What is the hardest part for you now? There really isn’t a hard part now. I did most of the uphill, hard work already! Again, it’s just my way of life now and it’s just what I do. I don’t always HAVE time to work out; I MAKE time.

If you could tell your former self anything, knowing what you know now, what would you say? Keep that beautiful turquoise sweater Mommy gave you right before she passed away. You’ll fit it in about two years. I know you don’t believe me, but I promise. Really.

Do you worry about gaining weight back?  How do you prevent yourself from gaining it back? No I don’t. Again, I look at my “before” picture often. Works like a charm.

Can you tell us how your participation in social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs (reading them and writing your own) has impacted your weight loss journey? It’s helped tremendously. I could never have dreamed of the support from people that I’ve never even met. They’re amazing!

What is different (if anything) about your life (and/or health) now that you have lost the weight? My self esteem has improved. I’m more self confident. I love shopping now. I don’t worry if someone has a camera and wants to take pictures of me. I’m still me, but the best version I could ever have imagined. I’ve become an inspiration to people and it humbles me every time someone tells me so. Haha, in fact, it usually makes me cry. So I’m a lot more emotional now too!

If we want to follow you, where do we find you? @cherielianne on Twitter, on my FB blog page, is my blog, @cherierunsthis on Instagram, on Pinterest, on YouTube

Cherie and her unstoppable audacity live in Mebane, North Carolina with her husband, Mark.

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  1. Very good job. I especially like the part with the journal to keep tabs and stay disciplined. That’s what I like to see, hard work, no excuses and at the end of the day results. Congratulations on your program and your new life, you earned it 🙂

  2. Thank you so much Andrew!! I had excuses for way too long. It was time to just put in the work. Took me a while, but it’s been worth it! 😀

  3. Jee says:

    Another success story.. love to hear all this..

  4. Kristen says:

    Well done on your hard work and determination. You are an inspiration.

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