Lindy Cellucci, 60, remembers the exact moment she decided it was time to do something about her weight. It was 2014, and the Toronto native and three of her friends took a girls’ trip to Canada’s east coast.
“I was having a hard time keeping up with them,” she told TODAY. “We were doing a lot of walking and I was finding it harder each day. I had dizzy spells, and I was afraid something might happen to me.”
Their trip included a stop at Hopewell Rocks, a natural formation where you can walk on the ocean floor when the tide goes out, surrounded by sandstone structures that look like flowerpots. “One thing I really wanted to do was go to the Rocks. It was on my bucket list,” she said.
But it was a hot day, and reaching the ocean floor meant a steep walk down and back up. “I just knew I couldn’t do it,” she said.
Her friends felt terrible, but Cellucci encouraged them to go on without her. “I watched them go. I could see them way, way down, running around on the ocean floor, taking selfies, laughing and joking. I was up top with the great-grandmothers. I thought, ‘This is stupid. You’re missing out,’” she said.
“I said out loud, ‘It’s time. I’m stopping everything right now and I’m going to fix this.”
Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.
And she did. With five days left in her vacation, she stopped eating junk food and started making healthier food choices.
When she got home she stepped on the scale for the first time in years. “The scale only went to 300,” she said. “I had no idea my weight was starting with a ‘3.’ It was mortifying.”
She changed her diet and started exercising
She joined Weight Watchers (now WW) and followed its healthy eating plan. “Right away I started to lose some weight and feel better,” she said.
“This was the first time in all the weight-loss programs I tried where I realized it was not just a quick fix — this was going to be forever. I wasn’t starving myself or eating just bananas or just potatoes. I was cooking wonderful food and creating wonderful recipes that were healthy and delicious,” she said.
To avoid temptation, she keeps trigger foods out of her house. “I’m a food addict. That hasn’t changed,” she said. “I can say ‘no’ once in the store, or 400 times in the house.”
Exercise was a challenge. “Because I was a very big woman it was hard to start exercising. I didn’t do that for about three months,” she said. For Christmas, her sister bought her a Fitbit and she started walking one block, which was about 1,000 steps. “My back would hurt and my knees would hurt,” she said. But she enjoyed competing with other Fitbit users. “I liked the feeling of getting ahead,” she said.
“As the weight came off, I could add an extra lap, and more weight came off,” she said. “I kept walking, and I started to go to yoga, Zumba, boot camp and swimming. I was feeling so stoked.” She worked her way up to 25,000 to 30,000 steps a day and was halfway to her goal weight by the end of 2015.
A tough diagnosis caused a major setback
Cellucci hit a serious stumbling block — breast cancer. In December 2015 after a cold walk, she tucked her hands up under her arms to warm them. And she felt a lump. From then, everything happened quickly — ultrasound, mammogram, biopsy and surgery. She needed months of chemotherapy and radiation and medication through a port in her chest.
“The worst part of having breast cancer was not losing my hair, not feeling physically ill, not being afraid to die. The worst part for me was I put every last pound back on.”
The steroids she had to take led to weight gain, and chemotherapy made most foods taste lousy, so she said she lived on fried foods and salt. “The worst part of having breast cancer was not losing my hair, not feeling physically ill, not being afraid to die. The worst part for me was I put every last pound back on,” she said.
She found a path back to health
Cellucci still wore her Fitbit, and she rejoined WW around the time of her second all-clear mammogram. Slowly, the pounds came off again. “After 20 months of losing pretty much every single week, in September 2019 I reached my goal — I lost half of me,” she said. “I look better at 60 than I did at 40.” She now weighs 149 pounds and has gone from a size 22 to a size 9.
She was even featured on the cover of People magazine’s Half Their Size issue. “For a whole week I hung out at the grocery store where the magazine was on the rack telling strangers, ‘That’s me!’” she said.
And as for her trip to Hopewell Rocks? She’s planning a visit once the pandemic eases. “As soon as I can travel, I’m going to run up and down those stairs,” she said.