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Success Story: Aileen Lost 79 lbs!

Aileen S. Age: 45
Starting Weight: 234
Weight now: 155

What was the turning point that motivated your lifestyle change?

In 2008, I lost about 70 pounds, but I never actually reached my target weight. Over the next few years, I steadily put back on more than half of that weight. I was unhappy with myself and my ability to do things with my children and friends, like jump on a trampoline or go clothes shopping. In the summer of 2012, we went on vacation and I hated seeing myself in pictures. I had a now-or-never moment and decided that if I wanted to be happy, I needed to start doing things for myself and create my own happiness.

People want to know how I did it, and the answer is I believed. I believed in me. If I was going to be happy in my life and with my body, I had to do it myself. Between August 16, 2012 and January 16, 2013, I lost 44 pounds and hit my target weight. I had lost 79 pounds from my all-time, non-pregnant high. Why? Because I started to believe and insist that I could reach my goal.

How did MyFoodDiary help in your weight loss journey?

Writing down what I eat is a critical and non-negotiable part of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight for me. I know some experts say not to write it down because “calories are not all created equally.” There may be some truth in that, but I know that for me, mindless emotional eating is probably my number one cause of weight gain. I also believe that at the end of the day, it is the simple math of “calories in vs. calories out” that rules my body. But I don’t always have a “journal” with me, nor my computer. To have an online journal that is always available and updated with all of the information I need, that is doing the math for me and keeping track of exercise, nutritional values, and water intake, is just essential.

Now that I have been at my goal weight for over two years, I sometimes get away from daily journaling. But as soon as I start to feel myself creeping away from my target weight, the first thing I go back to is MyFoodDiary and daily journaling. It’s not just about being accountable. I like to look at trends and be aware of things like, what average daily calorie intake helps me maintain my weight? Lose weight? And what does my average nutritional profile REALLY look like? MyFoodDiary is my infrastructure for a healthy lifestyle and my security blanket.

Describe your new, healthy lifestyle?

Even though I have maintained my goal weight for over two years, I still need to prove to myself every day that I can do this, that this is real. This is my thought cycle: I believe that I am a strong and healthy person, therefore I behave that way. It has become my reality. I drink water instead of other beverages. I try to incorporate vegetables into my diet wherever I can, especially into smoothies. In general, I try to reduce refined carbohydrates and processed foods and chemicals. I’m also aware that bites, licks and tastes have calories and add up fast! I sometimes get away from daily journaling but MyFoodDiary is always the first thing I come back to if I feel like I have not been paying attention to my nutrition and daily calories. There is no arguing with the numbers in front of me in black and white.

I incorporate some form of movement into every day. Some days I do cardio, strength, and stretching exercise at the gym. Some days I’m exercising on a pole, hammock or hoop in the aerial studio where I teach and train. Some days I just do cartwheels or yoga challenges, or park at the far end of the lot. But every single day I think about moving my body. It is not a chore, it is a privilege.

What has been your biggest challenge along the way, and how have you overcome it?

There are two obstacles that I have always allowed to dictate my level of activity and ability to be healthy: my five children and my bad joints.

It is easy to let my children’s needs and busy schedules come before my own, and for many years I did just that. I was showing them that my needs come last, including my health and happiness. Now they see a mom who moves and enjoys it. I have decided, no matter how busy my day is, I FIT exercise into it. A critical part of raising my kids is showing them that I matter too, as they will when they become adults and parents.

Also, I do not have good joints, most notably my back and knees. I’ve had several knee and back surgeries since I was 12 years old. My last orthopedist, seeing my x-rays for the first time, looked at me warily and said, “You do realize that you have severely advanced osteoarthritis, right?” I assured him I knew that. He explained that there was nothing left to be done for my knee except to wait for things to deteriorate to the point of replacement. What causes me the most joint pain are poor diet, lack of movement, and carrying extra weight, so I am simply done with those things. I respect the limitations of my joints, and train carefully. But I continue to train, move, and dance. Because when I stop moving, I’m done. And I’m not done.

What is one new healthy food, habit, or activity you didn’t expect to like, but once you tried it, you were hooked?

In February of 2013, having just reached my goal weight, I went to a pole fitness class at Vertical Addiction in Stamford CT, thinking I'd spin around looking graceful. Instead, it was hard, as in beyond-my-abilities hard.

Most of my childhood I was a competitive gymnast, and most of my life I have been a dancer. What I saw in that class inspired me: women of every age, body shape and background, who looked strong and graceful. I felt completely clumsy and incapable, but the other women seemed genuinely certain that I could do it too. I went back to try again. Today, I am a certified pole fitness and FlyGym instructor and I teach 3 to 6 classes per week. I also compete in regional competitions and have received bronze, silver, and gold medals in my age group in levels 1 and 2. Pole and aerial arts are my trifecta of fitness: a challenging full-body workout of strength and cardio, beautiful and graceful and never the same, and amazing women of every age and ability coming together to support and cheer for each other.

weight loss success

What has been the greatest reward of your weight loss success?

It is so much fun to go shopping, wear fun clothes, and even wear swimsuits with confidence. It feels good every day to move my body and feel strong and healthy. But by far my biggest reward is connecting with other women and helping to show them that they can achieve their health goals too.

For years I told myself “I can’t” and I believed it. I saw other women experience success and I had a list of reasons why she could do it – no kids, under 40, had less to lose, full-time athlete or celebrity – and I could not. I am done with that mentality, and with excuses. Women draw inspiration from me because I don’t have any magic bullet or easy excuses. I decided to do the work, and so can other women. Hearing that I helped inspire someone else’s success, no matter how small, is by far my favorite part of this journey.

What’s next? Any upcoming plans that were influenced by your weight loss?

My big plans are to keep going! I will continue competing, sharing, and teaching pole fitness and dance, and aerial arts. I look forward to summer and spending time in the water and sun with my family and friends. I hope to get busy on my blog and making more entries that will share my trials and successes. I want to get people talking about connecting their health and happiness and achieving their goals. I have one son leaving for college and 4 kids still at home, so the biggest part of my life is raising them and helping them create happy, healthy lives that include finding exercise that they love.

What is your best advice for others trying to lose weight?

I say start NOW. Do at least one thing today that you will be proud of tonight. How often do we fall asleep recounting our failures and bad choices? I know there is a long list of good, even amazing, things you do every day and never think about. Surely there are also habits and behaviors that make you feel badly, but you never really think about them, you just engage in them. So go through the day seeking opportunities to make a choice you will be proud of!

It doesn't matter if these opportunities are small. Because if you are anything like me, it is the accumulation of these small, mindless behaviors that are making you feel defeated. If instead you go to bed reminding yourself how you purposefully made one better choice for yourself, then you are going to bed with a positive thought. That will change everything, because the things you tell yourself are the most powerful things you hear. Feeling badly about yourself is hard work. Making positive changes on a daily basis is hard work. Choose your hard work.

Top Weight Loss Tips from MyFoodDiary Success Stories

weight loss success tips

Surround yourself with cheerleaders who are supportive of your weight loss journey. ~ Liz lost 59 lbs.

Whether it is family, friends, or coworkers, research shows that finding like-minded people who support your weight loss goals will help keep you on track. Research also shows that both in-person meetings and electronic communication (text messages and social media) are effective for motivation. The MyFoodDiary forum is a place where many of our successful members meet to support each other in fitness.

There will be times when you want to throw in the towel and revert back to your old ways. But remember that you are worthy and deserving of being healthy and fit. ~ Sabrina lost 57 lbs.

Body image and self-esteem play a significant role in your weight loss. Believing that you can succeed, and believing that you deserve to succeed, are the first steps to making lasting changes. Make a plan for how you will overcome unwelcomed feelings of discouragement and self-doubt while working to reach your healthy weight.

Splurge on occasion. There are some folks that say you shouldn't reward yourself with food. I think the occasional reward is healthy. ~ Steve lost 125 lbs.

Many nutrition professionals advocate the 80/20 rule when it comes to healthy eating. Enjoy a nutritious diet 80 percent of the time, and 20 percent of the time you can incorporate some of your favorite treats. Do this while also staying near your target calorie goal and exercising regularly. When you allow yourself to enjoy your favorite foods in moderation, you avoid feeling deprived.

Learn to make your favorite recipes with healthier options, and use portion control when it comes to those foods that may not be the best choice. ~ Dave and Laura lost 199 lbs together.

Knowledge is a key component of successful weight loss. Understanding proper portion sizes, how to measure your food, and how to read food labels will help you gain better control of your food intake. Learning to cook your favorite foods and tweaking recipes to make them more nutritious will help reduce cravings for unhealthy alternatives.

Remember, you are not DIETING. You are making a lifestyle change. ~ Kim lost 46 lbs.

You will only stick with healthy habits once they become a natural part of your day-to-day life. View that salad at lunch and the cookie you skipped mid-afternoon as part of your healthy lifestyle, not because you are on a diet. Diets are short term. Healthy lifestyle changes set you up for long term success.

It takes only 60 minutes a day to exercise. It is a perfect time to concentrate on yourself and express your love for life. ~ Stacey lost 47 lbs.

Change how you view exercise. Whenever you talk about your workouts, use the phrase, “I get to,” and not the phrase, "I have to." It may feel silly at first, but when you consider exercise a privilege and not a chore, it becomes something that you look forward to.

Be open to giving different exercise options a try and join a fitness facility if you are able. I have found that connecting with individuals at the club keeps me accountable and engaged. Surround yourself with active people! ~ Judy lost 52 lbs.

The only way you will stick with exercise is if it’s activity that you enjoy. Don’t limit yourself to two or three options. Make it a goal to incorporate a new activity every two to three months. Take advantage of the season and train to walk a 5K in the spring, swim in the summer, hike in the fall, or snowshoe in the winter. If you know change is right around the corner, exercise will always feel fresh and new.

Stacey S. - A MyFoodDiary Success Story!

Name: Stacey S.

Age: 31

Starting Weight: 217 lbs

Weight now: 170 lbs

Lost: 47 lbs

What was the turning point that motivated your lifestyle change?

I injured my back in a snowboarding accident. Before doing an x-ray, I decided to check if I was pregnant -- and I was! I have a beautiful son now, but with the injury and a very tough pregnancy, the pounds just kept creeping on. When my son was 1 ½ years old, my back felt better, and I started exercising little by little. I was very concerned about my excess weight, and I was also concerned about possible health problems that might arise from it, such as diabetes or even cancer. So I gave myself a present on my 31st birthday. I started following a healthy eating plan. I wanted to be able to track my food intake better, so I joined MyFoodDiary.

How did MyFoodDiary help in your weight loss journey?

Even when following a healthy diet, it is easy to make poor choices for serving sizes or food groups. MyFoodDiary tells me when I need to take in more iron, more protein, or less saturated fat. It reminds me to exercise as well. It is an interesting and rewarding challenge to track my success and see the results in the graphs and reports, and in the mirror.

Describe your new, healthy lifestyle?

I always eat breakfast now. I stop eating at the moment I feel satisfied, and I rethink my menu if I feel hungry too soon before the next meal. I keep my dessert calories under 300. I watch my saturated fat, salt, calcium, and iron intake much more easily now. I eat mostly high fiber carbs. I make sure to exercise, and if I forget or don’t have the life force for it, I dance with my son around the apartment, I take a long walk, or I use the stationary bike.

What has been your biggest challenge, and how have you overcome it?

When I feel bad, I either lose my appetite, or I turn to the fridge. It is very difficult for me to follow a strict diet. What I found most effective by combining a healthy eating plan and MyFoodDiary is that there is variety and a guideline. Before I open the real fridge, I open my virtual one in my MFD account and there is good stuff in there. When I choose the not-so-good stuff, I can see the result of it in the charts, not on my hips. I have a chance to reconsider, which I usually do. It is sometimes hard to keep the diary, or enter new foods, but it is something that just needs to be part of the routine, like brushing teeth.

What is one new healthy habit you didn't expect to like, but now love?

I didn't expect to like eating fruits for snacks. I never really liked fruits, but seeing how much fiber and vitamins they contain, I started having them for snacks with fat-free cheddar cheese, peanut butter, or a slice of reduced-sodium ham. I started experimenting and found the fruits I actually like.

What has been the greatest reward of your weight loss success?

It is hard to choose the greatest, since weight gain was such a tremendous hinder for me in so many ways. Seeing that I can do something that major, seeing that I can fit back into my clothes, and that I can hike as much as I did before are all rewards.

What is your best advice for others?

Comfort food sometimes seems like a good idea, but remember that it is only for a short term. Food will not solve any of your problems, and unhealthy food will make you feel even worse. If you absolutely need comfort food, think of healthier ideas. For me, it is vegetable chips instead of regular potato chips. I also substitute my favorite 350-calories-per-mug hot chocolate with a homemade one. I mix a tablespoon of cocoa in a cup of boiling water with a teaspoon of maple syrup and a little bit of fat free milk. It is about 60 calories for a cup of a rich chocolate drink instead of the 350 in the pre-made product.

It takes only 60 minutes a day to exercise. Make it a 20 minute walk or a bike ride, and 40 minutes of compound exercises. It jump starts your metabolism, energizes your body, and it makes you feel less stressed out. It is a perfect time to concentrate on yourself and express your love for life.

If you fell off the wagon, don’t get discouraged. Life is not a success or failure, it is a path. Just stand up, dust yourself off, and jump right back on.

Liz D. - A MyFoodDiary Success Story

Weight Loss Success Story

Name: Liz D.
Age: 32
Total lost: 59 lbs.

What was the turning point that motivated your lifestyle change?

Recently married, I was happily in love, starting a successful career and surrounded by great friends and family. Never very insecure or unhappy, it was simply a photograph of myself from a recent wedding that sparked me to action. The very next day, I did a Google search for online food diaries and never looked back.

How did help in your weight loss journey?

I like the precision of My Food Diary: calories in vs. calories out. Nothing is off limits – if I know that I'm going out to dinner, I eat lighter during the day or sneak in a workout. Additionally, when I first signed up I quickly joined a group of women for moral support. It has been over 5 years and we still conduct weekly weigh in's every Friday! We range in age from 30 to 60 and are located all over the US and Canada. Although I've only met a handful of them in real life, I consider these women to be family.

Describe your new, healthy lifestyle?

Growing up as the daughter of a doctor, we always ate healthfully with an emphasis on unprocessed foods, locally grown produce, lean proteins, etc. The difference now is portion control and an increased activity level. Confession: before signing up for My Food Diary, I never exercised regularly in my life. Initially, I joined a small women-only fitness center, which taught me the importance of working out three times a week for at least 30 minutes. Once exercise became a habit, I joined a larger gym and quickly became addicted to group classes.

What has been your biggest challenge along the way, and how have you overcome it?

Life is the biggest challenge. Life is full of holidays, showers, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and other social celebrations. If you treat these events as "days off," you will never reach your weight loss goals. Now, I pick my splurges wisely and only eat food that I think is worth the calories. Personally, I don’t have a sweet tooth so I often pass on birthday cake or dessert at functions. For others, it might be alcohol or bread. I haven't learned to give those up yet.

What is one new healthy habit you didn't expect to like, but now love?

EXERCISE! Growing up, my family was not very active. We aren't full of athletes and we don't watch sporting events. As an overweight child and teenager, the few times I would join a friend at the gym or go on a big hike would leave me out of breath and gasping for air. Now, I work out 5 days a week and try to sneak in a walk on my off days! The key is doing what you love. For me, that means group exercise such as kickboxing, yoga or Zumba. One time, I tried training for a 5K but was so bored on the treadmill that I burnt out and quit. By mixing up my routine with different classes every day, I never get bored. That's what works for me.

What has been the greatest reward of your weight loss success?

Clothes shopping. I know. I know. I should say something like my health or teaching my child how to lead a healthy lifestyle. But what feels the best? Trying on clothes!! As a child, I could never go to the mall with friends because the stores only carried up to size 16. I would have to pretend to be looking around when deep down I knew that I wouldn't be able to try anything on or buy anything. In high school, my cousin took me back-to-school shopping and I had to sneak into the other section of the store to pick out men’s size 42 jeans. So, yeah, clothes shopping has been the biggest reward.

What’s next? Any upcoming plans that were influenced by your weight loss?

In 2010, I started The Lemon Bowl, a food blog focused on delicious, seasonal recipes that just so happen to be healthy. In our house, we rarely eat the same dinner twice because I love creating new recipes and experimenting with flavors from around the world. I believe the key to healthy eating is variety. After all, it doesn't matter how healthy the food is if it doesn't taste fantastic! To help others trying to live a healthy lifestyle, all of my recipes include complete nutritional information.

What is your best advice for others?

Experiment in the kitchen! On the weekends, take a few minutes to search recipes online, browse through a cookbook or explore a local farm stand for inspiration. By eating seasonal ingredients at their peak, very little needs to be done for them to taste delicious. Also, take 10 minutes to plan your week ahead. Cook extra at dinner and take leftovers to work or pop them in the freezer. By taking the time to plan, you won’t be tempted by fast food or end up at the grocery store starving and throwing everything in your cart.

Even if you don’t feel like moving, move. You will never, ever regret exercising. I've never once regretted taking the time to exercise. (Just last week I sprained my foot in kickboxing and I still don't regret going!)

Surround yourself with cheerleaders who are supportive of your weight loss journey. You will always encounter people who knock down your efforts or try to knock you off course. Spend your time with people who will help you reach your goals.

Learn about MyFoodDiary

Sabrina K. – A MyFoodDiary Success Story!

Sabrina K. lost 57 pounds!

Name: Sabrina
Age: 36
Starting Weight: 187
Weight now: 130
Total pounds lost: 57

What was the turning point that motivated your lifestyle change?

I started off as a naturally thin person. I never had issues with my weight until young adulthood. Prior to that, I was a pesco-vegetarian who was also very active. But then, I started eating meat and lots of junk food, quit smoking (which was a good thing!), and WOW did the pounds just pile on. My self-confidence plummeted, and I believed that I would never get the weight off. I started having a series of heart issues that landed me in the hospital about 5 times during 2008 alone. My doctors told me that the sudden weight gain wasn´t helping and that I needed to lose it if I wanted to minimize my chances of having prolonged heart issues.

So, there I was in 2008 weighing about 55-60 pounds more than I had previously. (My absolute heaviest was 188 pounds and I´m 5´4".) It was around this time that I had a dream that changed my life. In the dream, I was looking into a bathroom mirror and a healthier version of me looked back at me. This other version of me told me that I was not living up to my fullest potential and that I was using my weight to hide who I was. I felt this large amount of unconditional love emanating from this healthier version of myself. This other version of me looked vibrant, alive, and full of peace. It was such a remarkable feeling.

I awoke from the dream feeling renewed. The dream moved me emotionally, and I jotted it down in a journal. From that point onward, I became completely driven. I read everything I could get my hands on regarding weight gain, weight loss, heart health and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

How did help in your weight loss journey?

I was committed to maintaining my new healthier lifestyle. In the past, I tried fad low-carb diets and while I lost the weight, eventually I had to eat carbs and gained it all back, and then some. So, I decided to really get serious about changing my lifestyle. I found in January of 2010 and never looked back. It was through counting and recording calories, and tracking my physical activities on MFD that really changed my eating habits. I started paying more attention not only to how many calories were in the food, but other aspects of the food's nutritional value, such as fat content, fiber, protein, etc.

Describe your new, healthy lifestyle.

Prior to using MFD, I rarely ate breakfast, I didn't pay any attention to how many calories were in the food I ate (or the nutritional value of the food), I exercised sporadically, and I didn't have any real plan for losing the weight. Now, I eat 5-6 small meals each day, including breakfast EVERY day. I also exercise 5-6 days a week, which includes 5-6 days of cardio and 2-3 days of strength training.

What has been your biggest challenge, and how have you overcome it?

The biggest challenge has been not falling back into old habits during periods of high stress. I've been in maintenance for over two years now. The second year was easier than the first. During the first year I found that it was harder not to give in to old habits. Now, I focus on the fact that I really do love feeling healthy. I missed this version of myself and I'm not willing to let it go. So, whenever I do experience high levels of stress, I actually focus on exercise as a way to relieve it. In the past, I relied on food. BIG change!

What is one new healthy habit you didn’t expect to like, but now love?

I never thought I would have such a love for mushrooms. As a kid I hated them and now I find they add flavor to so many dishes. I also have developed a taste for cilantro!

What has been the greatest reward of your weight loss success?

The greatest reward of my weight loss success is that I'm able to help others achieve their weight loss goals. Prior to going through this weight loss journey, I owned a personal development and motivational coaching business. Since losing the weight, I have obtained two personal training certifications and I am working on a third. I have added a fitness component to my business and have already helped several people reach their own fitness goals.

What’s next? Any upcoming plans that were influenced by your weight loss?

I'm working on obtaining a Master's degree in Exercise Science, and I would eventually like to get my PhD in the same field. I'm also training for a half marathon!

What is your best advice for others?

Regularly monitor your weight. I have weighed myself every morning for the past 3 years. For some people, this may be too much. Minimally, I would say weigh yourself once a week. It's important to catch weight deviations and notice weight gain trends.

Find healthy alternatives to your favorite foods. In the past I tried diets that required that I completely eliminate certain food groups. For me, it led to failure every time. Now, I find healthy alternatives to the foods I've always enjoyed.

Find a support group. It's important to connect with others during this journey. MFD was wonderful for me in this regard. It was nice being able to learn and share with others as well as offering and receiving support.

Don't give up! Remember that you are your best asset and there is nothing more important than caring for your own health and fitness. There will be times when you want to throw in the towel and revert back to your old ways. But remember that you are worthy and deserving of being healthy and fit.

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