Waist Watchers: A 200-pound journey

Waist Watchers: A 200-pound journey

SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) - Tanee Janusz, 36, has struggled with her weight since high school.

"I was always the chunky one in my family and I was always told by my mom and my grandma that I had such a beautiful face, if only I lost some weight," Janusz says.

Things only got worse as she got older, got married, had children and was diagnosed with post-partum depression.

"I became a real bad closet eater," says Janusz. "I would hide Little Debbies all over the house and my husband wouldn't know. I would stop by Sonic like three times a day."

By 2008, this Slidell mother of three tipped the scale at 360 pounds, was morbidly obese and finally decided she was at her breaking point. She says it was hard for her to walk places and keep up with the kids. In May of that year, she hit the reset button.

Her new way of life began without surgery or magic pills. Instead, she committed to doing regular exercise and eating healthy, balanced meals, using a lot of what she learned from Weight Watchers.

"Originally I lost 200 pounds and I hit my goal in August 2011," Janusz says.

By 2013, Tanee was on the cover of Woman's World magazine, making appearances on national TV talk shows while quietly becoming somewhat of an Internet sensation.

She started her own blog called "From Fat to Fit Chick," where she posts meal plans and recipes for the week, words of motivation, exercise tips and her daily thoughts. Her Facebook fan page now has more than a quarter-million likes, with worldwide followers.

"I just don't know how it happened. I started my Facebook page and everybody was asking me how I was losing weight, so I started my fan page," says Janusz. "I was just putting out little tips that I use myself and I never thought it was going to be like that."

Tanee's followers are so inspired by her success, that when she threw in a little extra motivation, many of them jumped on board. She got involved in Dietbet, an online game that pays players to shed pounds. You pay a fee to enter and everyone, depending on the game, has the same goal: to lose either 4 percent of their body weight in 4 weeks or 10 percent in 6 months. Anyone who reaches their goal splits the pot for that game.

Since its January 2012 launch, Dietbet.com says it has paid out more than $8 million to winners who lose an average of 9 pounds per month.

"Money is motivation. Money is motivation," Janusz says. "So a lot of people get their friends to join along with them."

She has attracted thousands of players, who compete for big bucks. In one of her games last year, the pot was more than $40,000. Janusz says she now hosts about four games per year on Dietbet.com.

It is her ability to inspire others that has kept her going, through the ups and downs. She says it was a gut check when she quickly gained 40 pounds after her mom died last August.

"I really debated whether to let my follower know I gained some weight back. But I've always prided myself on being honest about anything in my life. So I let them know about the struggles," Janusz says.

Seven years into her weight loss transformation, she reminds people that it's okay not to be perfect, that not all victories can be seen on the scale and to stop being your own worst critic.

She says, "Start where you are and do what you can with what you have. Don't think you have to wait for a perfect moment."

Janusz hopes she can continue helping others find joy in their weight loss journey.

The north shore mom is enrolled full-time at the University of New Orleans and works part-time at the Audubon Zoo.

She has already lost 10 of the 40 pounds she recently gained and says she's back on track.

You can keep up with Janusz's journey by following her blog: http://fromfattofitchick.blogspot.com/

Copyright 2015 WVUE. All rights reserved.