Stephanie Braunlich is a senior at Montclair State University majoring in television and digital media with a minor in political science. She can be recognized by her sun kissed complexion, dark defined eyebrows, crystalized hazel eyes and thick, caramel highlighted waves that fall gracefully onto her shoulders.
In March of 2019, Braunlich decided that she was going to embark on a journey that would shape the rest of her life. With her robust work ethic and her unwavering passion, she managed to conquer losing 60 pounds in six months.
“It’s something that I have wanted to do for a while,” Braunlich said. “I knew I was getting heavier so my boyfriend and I had a conversation and we both decided we wanted to start losing weight.”
Braunlich and Chris Vadinsky, a senior at Montclair State majoring in athletic training and Braunlich’s boyfriend of two years, recognized their unhealthy lifestyle and took the initiative to make a drastic change.
The comfort of college drove Braunlich to sit at her heaviest weight of 215 pounds. Her unhealthy pattern of overeating and drinking began in the beginning stages of her relationship with Vadinsky. Their honeymoon phase provoked them to lavish date nights where they overindulged on deeply fried and salted foods, followed by late nights out drinking sugar and alcohol infused cocktails.
Following a year of this poisonous lifestyle, Braunlich had a moment of self-realization and began her journey to better health.
“When it first started I was only dieting until I lost 25 pounds and then after I hit my 25 pound mark that’s when I started incorporating exercise,” Braunlich said. “I like working out but it spikes your appetite a lot and my problem was I was basically overeating all the time so I wanted to lose weight first, shrink my stomach and then start working out again.”
Braunlich found success in her change of routine and began altering her usual schedule to incorporate new healthier alternatives. In lieu of pizza she enjoys garlic rubbed pita bread coated with light sauce and cheese. Her refrigerator and pantries have been since wiped clear of processed foods and substituted for snacks such as kale and spinach greek yogurt dip.
Braunlich attends the gym at least three days a week, assuring her body some much needed rest days. Each morning on her way to class she embarks on the never-ending Newman Catholic stairs that attach her residency on Valley Road in Montclair, New Jersey to the Montclair State campus.
When the stress of balancing a demanding class schedule collides with adjusting to her new lifestyle, Braunlich seeks comfort in loved ones.
Kara Marinelli, a senior studying nursing at the University of Delaware, has been a constant form of encouragement for Braunlich. The pair have been inseparable since middle school, supporting each other through the ups-and-downs that are expected from life.
Marinelli has noticed major psychological and physical changes in Braunlich since her journey began.
“Her confidence has skyrocketed,” Marinelli said. “She has become so much more of her own person. She knows what she wants and knows exactly what her goals are and how to get there and with weight loss that was no different.”
Marinelli is not the only person that admires Braunlich for her perseverance and passion. Braunlich’s mother, Susan Braunlich, is her daughters biggest supporter.
“When Stephanie decided to get in shape she began this journey that was life changing,” Susan Braunlich said. “Making better food choices led her to shop for healthier groceries and preparing different recipes with healthier and more flavorful ingredients. I could not be any prouder of her.”
Vadinksy sought inspiration from his girlfriend and credits his recent lifestyle adjustment to her ambition to improve her health.
“Just seeing her exercising and losing weight really changed my attitude about [losing weight] and made me want to get better with her,” Vadinksy said. “I put on weight in the beginning of our relationship and I definitely just wanted to stick with her through this because it is definitely easier to do it with someone.”
Braunlich’s accumulated weight loss so far is an impressive 60 pounds, averaging to 10 pounds per month since she began her journey. Despite her feeling more secure and confident in her own skin than ever before, this is a lifestyle that Braunlich has adopted and has no intentions of reverting back to her old ways.
Braunlich’s advice to other college students ready to change their life is simple: be prepared.
“They say that your 20s is the time that you mold yourself into the lifestyle that you’ll have,” Braunlich said. “The only reason why it was actually successful for me is because I was mentally ready for it.”