We see so many moving weight-loss stories, and each of them are uniquely inspirational and powerful. Yet with every story we come across, it’s not often you get to see weight loss in the 100-plus-pounds club! That’s why we’re so moved by Becca’s story — that kind of transformation takes perseverance, dedication, patience, commitment, and months and months of focus.

Becca: Before

Becca’s secret? A good support system and the right diet. See what brought her to Weight Watchers and how she lost over 100 pounds in these stunning photos.

POPSUGAR: What made you decide to start your weight-loss journey?

Becca R.: I felt as if I didn’t do something about my weight soon, it was going to start affecting my health.

PS: What drew you to Weight Watchers specifically?

BR: I had tried other weight-loss programs before, and I would lose some weight but I would always gain it back. I joined Weight Watchers because the program seemed so easy and it still lets you eat the food you love in moderation.

If you would have told me two years ago that I could run a 5K and half marathons, I’d have laughed! ADVERTISEMENT

PS: What’s your favorite way to work out?

BR: My favorite workout is cardio, such as running and biking. When I first started running, I could barely run for a commercial break on TV. Once I could do that, I added a minute onto my time every day at the gym. I remember being so excited to come home and tell my husband that I could run for 10 minutes straight. If you would have told me two years ago that I could run a 5K and half marathons, I’d have laughed! I started to place at the 5Ks I ran this Summer! I get the biggest sense of accomplishment when I hear them call my name for first place.

Becca: After

PS: What’s your weekly exercise schedule?

BR: I always try to exercise five to six days a week.

PS: How do you keep workouts exciting?

BR: I always use P90X or yoga videos a few times a week. Sometimes I mix it up and go hiking also.

PS: How much weight have you lost?

BR: 106 pounds.

PS: What was the first big difference, other than the number on the scale, that really made you feel proud and excited?

BR: The first big difference I noticed was how much better I felt in my clothes and how much more energy I had! I finally felt as if I could keep up with my friends.

PS: How do you track your weight loss?

BR: I only weigh myself once a week and track it in my Weight Watchers app.

PS: What’s a typical day of meals and snacks?

BR:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal or two hard-boiled eggs and a banana
  • Lunch: Salad with light dressing and 3 ounces of grilled chicken and watermelon
  • Dinner: Chicken with rice and grilled vegetables
  • Snack: 3.5 cups of Smartfood white cheddar popcorn; coffee with 2 tablespoons of sugar-free creamer

PS: Do you count calories? What’s the range of calories you eat per day?

BR: I stay around 1,200-1,500 calories a day. I use my Weight Watchers app every day to keep track of everything I eat and drink; it adds all the points up for you, so you know how many you have left for the day. It makes it really easy for when you eat out! All you need to do is look up the restaurant and it will tell you how many points everything is. I also like to use it when I go grocery shopping — I can scan the food and it will tell me how many points it has in a serving. Connect is a great tool on the Weight Watchers app; members can post things that help them or ask if they need help with something. You can see amazing before and after pictures, recipes, and tips. It really helps to keep me motivated.

I knew it was going to take a lot of hard work, but in just a few weeks we were celebrating our first milestone.

PS: What are the healthy staples that are always in your fridge?

BR: I always keep a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables in the house for snacking.

PS: How do you strategize for meals out?

BR: I always plan for my meals when we eat out by finding the point value or nutritional information of the dishes I want before we leave. It takes little longer, but it’s worth it when you get there.

PS: Do you use a fitness tracker? Which one, and how do you think it helped you?

BR: I use a Fitbit to track how many steps I take. It helps to make sure I get in at least 10,000 steps a day.

PS: What advice do you have for anyone starting out on a weight-loss journey?

BR: I would tell anyone starting a weight-loss journey that the best thing to have is a good support system. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my supportive family and friends; it was my mom who brought up the idea about joining Weight Watchers almost two years ago. At first I thought I would join just to support her, but then I began to realize that I needed the help also. I remember the first meeting that we went to . . . I hadn’t weighed myself in years, and when I got on the scale, I couldn’t believe what it said. I was over 60 pounds heavier than I thought I was. I knew it was going to take a lot of hard work, but in just a few weeks, we were celebrating our first milestone, losing five percent of our body weight. We had many more milestones to celebrate, such as losing 50 or 100 pounds.

Image Source: Becca R.

Weight Loss Success Stories: Johanna Halosz

posted April 15, 2018 by Gina 210shares

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“77 lbs later, now a size 6/S, with 118/78 blood pressure and vastly improved Cholesterol numbers. Weight loss is 100/100, intake and exercise. I started walking on week 2, one single 18 minute mile at a time. Now a part time Pilates Instructor, I hike, kayak, SUP paddle, and rock climb to cross train and keep my exercise exciting and interesting too!”

Warning: Serious motivation ahead.

Weight Loss Success Stories: Johanna Halosz

Like many women, I have struggled with my weight my whole life. I hovered around a size 16, dipped down to a 12 maybe twice since 1988, and topped out at a size 20, XXL, in 2014. Right around my 40th birthday, my husband and I took a fantasy Christmas vacation to Hawaii. We saved and planned and had an amazing time. Always active, and social, and adventurous, we did quite a bit of swimming and dining, drinking and snorkeling, hiking and golfing. But looking back on day 13 at the 2000 pictures we took as we packed up to head back to reality, I was so horrified by what I saw. It was the first time I was really sickened by my appearance, and sat staring at myself, crying. Wow. How did I let it get to this, and how did I not know?

Around that time, I noticed my “engine” running hot. My BP was hanging around 130/110, and my doc mentioned BP meds. Cardiac disease runs in my family. I didn’t want to be on medication the rest of my life, but my doctor gave me 6 months, and if I didn’t see an improvement, that would be the next course of action.

On January 15. 2016, I walked into Weight Watchers, alone, for the first time, for the last time. I had to take away all of my obstacles. I couldn’t blame a buddy for not coming with me, or falling off track when someone else did. I had to do this for me. I figured I could go to Weight Watchers and lose the same 25 lbs I always lost. That’s really all I set out to do. I had much much more than that to lose, but I thought 25 would be a huge move forward. I was 222.4 lbs that day. I gasped.

The Weight Watchers Weekly shared recipes, as did the app, and I started my journey using them, but found they were sometimes labor and ingredient intensive, heavy on points and didn’t dance on my palate. I tripped on Skinnytaste on Facebook one day, and noticed how simple her recipes looked, and the ingredient lists were friendly and simple. As with most of us, I cook for my husband and myself, and I needed to get him sold on healthy, delicious, foods to make my life easier. I never told him they were Skinnytaste recipes. He fell for each dish hook, line and sinker. I confessed a few weeks later, in May of 2015, that I had been using Gina’s recipes exclusively in my nightly cooking. He was completely impressed that he never noticed he was eating “diet food”, which is such a misnomer. In fact, he came to start requesting Skinny recipes!

Because social events and entertaining were and are still important to me, I needed to have a way to have my own food available, and Skinnytaste recipes fit the crowd pleasing, healthy bill. We also camp about 60 nights a year, so I food prep meals to bring with us and throw over heat.

77 lbs later, now a size 6/S, with 118/78 blood pressure and vastly improved Cholesterol numbers, 2 years at Lifetime, Skinnytaste is still my default recipe search. When I need dinner inspiration, her daily posts tend to call my name. My regular rotation includes Cauliflower Fried ‘Rice’, Chicken Milanese and Arugula Salad, Turkey Taco Spaghetti Squash Boats, Reuben Pork Tenderloin, Tuna Casserole, Unstuffed Cabbage Bowls, Grilled Shrimp and Veggie Bowls, BBQ Chicken Chili, Bang Bang Shrimp, Chicken Fiesta Salad, and Asparagus Egg and Bacon Salad and so many others. I have other favorites like Asparagus Cups, Mashed Cauliflower Potatoes, I have cooked full holiday meals with all of her recipes, especially sides, and have received rave reviews! And I have cooked in her style long enough to know now how to modify any meal into a similar fashion. Fresh ingredients, lots of fresh herbs, full bold flavor and spices, low to no dairy, cut out the carbs where I can. Skinnytaste has been a game changer to keep my food game fresh, exciting and never dull and boring. I can eat and serve confidently. The people in my life also enjoy her recipes, which helps me to stay on track.

Weight loss is 100/100, intake and exercise. I started walking on week 2, one single 18 minute mile at a time. But I went a little bit faster and longer each day, and the dogs were loving it. 2 months in, 12 lbs down, I walked into a Pilates studio, having no idea what it was, but a friend said I should be excited to be getting a Club Pilates in town. I was hooked on day 1. I have since taken 700+ classes, my body has completely changed and morphed, took a comprehensive Teacher Training Class, and am now a part time Pilates Instructor with a loyal following and full classes! I still take 4-5 Pilates classes a week, and I also walk 3-4 days a week. I hike, kayak, SUP paddle, and rock climb to cross train and keep my exercise exciting and interesting too!

“It’s finding a healthy respect for your body and food, keeping food exciting and tasty and easy and fresh.”

I can’t offer only one best piece of advice, because I think true healthy weight loss, and MAINTENANCE, is a multi-pronged approach. It’s finding a healthy respect for your body and food, keeping food exciting and tasty and easy and fresh. It’s moving EVERY SINGLE DAY, and finding exercise and functional activity that excite you. Its drinking, in my case, 100 oz of water a day. Its exposing your weight loss journey so that you have accountability at every turn. And its stepping on the scale each week, and staying for a meeting. Its finding passion in food and activity and sharing. My journey continues as I constantly talk about it, and inspire others to take a single step towards loving themselves and thanking their body! Thank you, Gina, for showing me that food can be beautiful and tasty, healthy and exciting!

Johanna Halosz
WW Lifetime Member since 11/8/15
Club Pilates Certified Instructor
Skinnytaste Advocate
Wellness Leader

Thank you Johanna for sharing your inspiring story with us!! Click here to read more Skinnytaste Weight Loss Success Stories!

Do you have a Skinnytaste Success Story? If so, we want to hear about it! For a chance to get your story published, email me at and use Success Story in the subject line.

posted April 15, 2018 by Gina

Happy Sunday all and a Happy Sunday it was! Today marked my final Simply Filling Weigh in for the month of July and I couldn’t be happier with the results. I have actually been enjoying the change up in the Weight Watchers Points Plus plan by doing the Simply Filling Technique. It has really helped me to focus on the foods I am eating, listening to my body and pondering whether or not it is truly “worth it” to spend my WPA on non-Simply Filling Foods. I have also found it really helps me step away from thinking well how much of this or that I can get for my points+.

It is interesting to see I actually eat less points+ when I am eating Simply Filling, but, I actually have felt even more satisfied. The better I ate, the better I felt and the more it made me want to repeat that all over again each day.

Despite all the challenges the month of July brought….Our Reno/Tahoe Trip, Camping and dining out, I feel like it was a successful month.

I lost another 1.2 lbs today bringing my total to 6.4 lbs lost for the month of July – Success!

I have decided to continue working the Simply Filling Technique because right now, I truly am loving it and feel like I am back in the “Zone” and focused! I will still continue to post the points+ next to each food and mark it with SF + WPA for the Simply Filling items I eat.

On that note, I packed up a few snacks for our mini road trip today that I never ended up eating.

I figure it is always better to be prepared and have 0 points+ (Simply Filling) choices with me at all times. The Husband actually jokes about how I have snacks everywhere ~ the car, my desk, in my back pack or purse…but, you know what ~ they save me every time.

I also whipped up Egg-Wiches with us to take on the road. (SF) – 5 points+

After the meeting, we made a quick stop at Starbuck’s where I got a Grande Iced Nonfat Decaf Latte with Caramel Drizzled on top (SF) – 2 points+

Every month The Husband is like a kid at Christmas because he loves going to the Alameda Antique Faire. Only this time, I was surrounded by a group a friends who love it too!

I totally embraced the day by using it to get in my steps, snap a few pictures and chat it up with my friends ~ it’s amazing how time flies when your chatting away.

We stopped for lunch at one of the local vendors who served Grilled Organic Teriyaki Chicken Bowls with brown rice.

The food vendors are probably one of my favorite things about the faire because you can get just about any type of food.

100% Simply Filling & 110% Delicious! (SF) – 8 points+

I had 2 favorite vendors…..I do not know why, but, I think all the metal painted characters are super cute. I could totally picture a little farm family in someone’s yard

My 2nd favorite vendor ~ The Wine Barrel Guy.

I wanted to buy one of these planters just so I could smell the corked wine and oak all day long. I probably worked in Napa too long lol….

He made wine barrels into pretty much everything, including bar stools!

Quack, quack…..see, you know it makes you smile just seeing it.

After spending the entire day walking the faire, we headed back to Walnut Creek to go to Fleming’s Steakhouse.

We have been looking for a reason to go back ever since we visited last year.

Everyone that works here is so incredibly nice and we were seated almost as soon as we walked in the door.

While we pondered the menu, they delivered Parmesan Bread with Sun Dried Tomato Butter and Chantille Feta Spreads.

I managed to keep it to a slice and a bit with both spreads on each half. (SF+3 WPA) – 3 points+

While we were waiting for everyone to arrive, we decided to start with Cocktails since Fleming’s is famous for their Skinnier Cocktails that are all only 99 calories!

I ordered the Russian Prom Queen sans the Sugar-Free Syrup. It was totally refreshing and I LOVE that you can actually taste the blueberry, lime and cucumber in every sip. (SF+ 2 WPA) – 2 points+. By the way, you can find the recipe to make this drink here.

Stoli Blueberi Vodka, fresh lime juice, cucumber, blueberries, Monin sugar-free syrup and soda water

Our table also shared a bottle of wine, but, since I rarely spend my points+ on alcohol (yup, I am a total light weight), I stuck to just a small 4 oz pour (SF + 4 WPA) – 4 points+

I started with the Fleming’s House Salad with Olive Oil & Vinegar on the side. The lettuce was totally crisp and the sweet cranberries and walnuts paired so well with the tangy dressing.

SF + 2 WPA for the nuts/cranberries/croutons, 4 points+

To stick with the plan, I chose one of their small plates ~ Filet Mignon Skewers! The filet was so tender it literally melted in your mouth. (SF) – 5 points+

The skewers came with a small fresh mozzarella and sweet tomato salad. I could eat whole plate of this salad ~ it’s sweet, tangy, cold and totally refreshing. (SF + 2 WPA) – 2 points+

I couldn’t resist having 2 bites of the Table Sides.

FLEMING’S POTATOES
our house specialty with cream, jalapeños and cheddar cheese

CHIPOTLE CHEDDAR MACARONI & CHEESE
smoked cheddar and leeks (the cheddar totally makes it taste like there is bacon in there)

We all shared the desserts that came with their Sunday Prime Rib Special.

CHOCOLATE LAVA CAKE
rich chocolate cake with a molten chocolate center of Belgian chocolate, served with vanilla ice cream and chopped pistachios

WALNUT TURTLE PIE
homemade caramel, walnuts and chocolate baked in a chocolate pie crust

I actually started off thinking that I could just have coffee while everyone had dessert….

Then, decided it was totally worth tasting every single one.

I pretty much decided I am counting the two side bites and dessert bites against my WPA earned for the day and as a Simply Filling Month Success – treat. It was totally earned, worth every bite and I am definitely getting on that treadmill tomorrow morning!

STATS (12 am – 10 pm)

  • 2,819 calories burned
  • 11,877 steps taken
  • 13 WPA used, 36 WPA remaining (35 daily points+) – sans the sides & dessert bites

HERE IS WHAT IS ON THE MENU THIS WEEK:

  • Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
  • Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Salads
  • No Cook Summer Pasta Salad
  • Shrimp with Zucchini & Tomatoes, salad
  • Portabella Mushroom Pizzas
  • Other ideas ~ BBQ Buffalo Chicken Salads (wrap for him), BLTA’s, Ribs with Mac Salad or Stuffed Peppers

Q’s

What is on your menu this week? Are you trying any new recipes, foods or treats?

Night all!

Good Morning! Everyone do the Friday dance with me!

This week went by like a tortoise for me – anyone else?

Today I am posting my review of Weight Watcher’s Simple Filling plan – their alternative to the calculating points plan. Howevever, it is a bit anti-climactic because my diet didn’t really change. I was already eating fruit, veggies, lean protein, and whole grains. I used the same recipes I have always used and substituted power food options when I could.

What did change was my attitude. It was so nice to change things up and not feel the need to calculate the points of everything I was eating, and then add up what I had eaten the entire day.

I have to be honest here and say that I completely stopped calculating points / tracking. Although the SF plan includes doing so for non-power foods, I instead ate those in moderation and ate until I was satisfied.

Let me say that again – I ate in moderation and until I was satisfied. I have been trying to lose weight since I have been breathing and never, ever in my life have I been able to eat in moderation without measuring / calculating points.

I wish I could point to what changed, and the only thing I can think of is that I am getting the nutrients that I need by eating mostly power foods, so my body doesn’t feel the need to overeat or binge.

In the six weeks I have followed SF, I have lost 6 pounds. I know that isn’t ground-breaking to most, but a pound a week is recommended when nursing. Anything more could impact my supply and I don’t know what I would do if Ina’s rolls started disappearing.

Seriously – don’t her arms look like sausage casings?!? They are so cute I could just eat them!

Here are some other positives I found about SF:

  • Less calculating. I do know however, as I get closer to my goal weight, I will have to be a little more strict with tracking non power foods
  • So much nutrition! I had no problem meeting all of the good health guidelines everyday.
  • I weirdly rarely craved dessert – I cannot say the same for a glass of wine.
  • SF is truly not a “diet” but a lifestyle. I could eat like this for the rest of my life and be a happy camper.

A few negatives:

  • I jumped off the artificial sweetener train a long time ago – but WW hasn’t yet. Although SF allows things like diet soda or fat free yogurt flavored with artificial sweetener, I chose not to eat those and hardly consider them “power foods.”
  • I love fat free milk, yogurt, and half and half. I can tolerate fat free sour cream. I don’t do fat free cheese, so instead I had low-fat (in moderation) and it worked out just fine.
  • I also don’t think the low-calorie bread options are all that great nutrition-wise. As Dan says, it is just like eating air. So, when I choose to have bread, which isn’t that often, I have a “real” piece of whole wheat.

Some SF resources:

The Weight Watchers Website

Danica’s Daily – a blogger who reports everything she eats and follows SF (and lives close to Nappa Valley – so jealous!)

Carol’s SF Creations – a old-school recipe blog. I love it!

Lastly, I have a disclaimer. Although I am currently happy with the SF plan, I am sure that I will go back to calculating points later on in life. I think calculating points / tracking is a great option for losing weight and would recommend it to anyone. I am going to steal Katie’s term and say this is a weight-loss project, and right now SF is the tool I am using to get it done.

Have a great weekend!

The first time I joined Weight Watchers, I was 16 years old. I attended a meeting in a dusty church basement with my friend and her mom. I remember my cheeks burning with shame, seeing my “number” written in pencil on a card. “You have far to go, like me,” my friend’s mom commented, reading my weight over my shoulder.

Like so many women, my childhood chubbiness turned me into a woman with a fixation on dieting. I tried everything to lose weight, including Slim Fast. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I found a reasonable way of eating and exercising that not only brought me to a healthy weight and a normal BMI range, but best of all, a happy and healthy mindset about my food choices and figure. At that time, I swore off diet plans for good.

Then, in the year leading up to my 40th birthday I set a goal for myself: to start my fourth decade in the best shape of my life. Working with an exercise coach and a nutritionist, I took my fitness to the next level, running sprints and staircases outdoors, giving up diet soda and using measuring cups and spoons to see what I was actually consuming. The result was that I attended my 40th birthday party looking and feeling hot! I was proud that I hadn’t done some short-term fad diet to get there.

But shortly after my birthday, without a trainer and a goal with an end date to hold me accountable, my weight crept up a couple pounds because wine, chocolate and well, life! Now, five years later, I’m starting to notice what I knew would happen once I hit my 40’s — it’s more difficult to maintain my weight. I wanted to feel better in my clothes and look great in my mom-kini at the pool, so I did something I never thought I would do: I signed up for Weight Watchers (since rebranded as WW) to take off the extra 10 pounds.

I know, I can feel my 16-year-old self cringing. But Sofia Rydin-Gray, Ph.D., a psychologist specializing in weight loss and director of behavioral health at Duke Diet & Fitness Center, reminded me that there’s definitely an emotional aspect to weight loss and that it’s not uncommon to feel shamed not just by the number on the scale, but by the messages we’ve heard from other people. And my mental state as a content 40-something is surely in a much more stable place than that of a self-conscious teenager.

“For successful weight loss and maintenance, the psychological health of the person needs to be addressed,” she said. “We all know ‘eat less, move more.’ We can be counting calories and going to the gym but at some point, life happens — we have a bad day, or feel rejected in a relationship or just feel stressed out. We need to learn new coping skills for when this happens.”

Giving WW another shot — 30 years later

I was convinced that I would benefit from a program that would not only hold me accountable, but also give me the needed coping skills to help me stick to my goals when life gets in the way. So one month ago, I put aside those shameful memories and decided to give WW another shot.

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I was definitely reluctant about joining, but after I took the time to explore the new plan, I liked that it put a focus on eating whole foods. All fruits and vegetables and things like chicken breast and salmon and Greek yogurt (0%) were all zero points, meaning that you can eat as much as you want of them for “free” (within reason). I knew that I could do this program, not as a short-term diet, but as a long-term lifestyle.

My digital subscription gives me the ability to track my points easily on an app on my phone, and the barcode scanner makes it simple to find the points of any food. No awkward meetings in church basements for me! Even better, I loved having access to a WW coach, a feature I used when I was faced with three social engagements in one weekend, all rife with possibilities to eat and drink alcohol and then eat some more when my inhibitions were lowered. The WW coach, who I instant messaged through the app, helped me come up with a strategy for handling these events and my food choices, and I came out of that weekend without gaining an ounce.

“The people who actually succeed are usually the ones who get ongoing support from a dietitian or psychologist,” Rydin-Gray told me. She said that this support could also come from a program like WW. The point is that once you get past what she calls the “honeymoon phase” of a diet when everything is clicking and you’re losing weight, that you’ll know how to cope with inevitable setbacks.

“My patients learn to overcome some of the previous barriers that led to them being sedentary or using food to cope or putting themselves on the back burner,” Rydin-Gray says, adding that it’s crucial for those who want to be successful at losing and keeping the weight off to put their emotional well-being at the forefront of their journey.

“I help people recognize what led to falling off track — is it because you’re a people-pleaser or not planning meals because you’re feeling stressed out? Are you turning to food when you’re feeling lonely? If so, what are some different options? If you’re feeling lonely, it’s a need for connection instead of turning to food.”

The revelation: My self-worth isn’t measured by a scale

I’m in a different place than that chubby teenaged girl in the church basement — I know the parts that I can take and which ones to leave.

I decided I wanted to achieve lifetime status. In order to do this, I had to attend meetings. I stopped into a WW meeting and was greeted by many of the familiar things from back in the day — people, mostly women, lined up to weigh in on scales, a wall of products including everything from nutritional bars to herb shears (!) and the “hello my name is” tag I dreaded wearing. Okay, so maybe I’m just not one of those people who wants to discuss her eating habits in a group setting, but after staying for the meeting, I was surprised to find that the leader was pretty inspiring — I could benefit from having such a cheerleader in my corner. I also realized I’m in a different place than that chubby teenaged girl in the church basement — I know the parts that I can take and which ones to leave. Thankfully, my whole sense of self-worth is not based on the number on that little weigh-in card.

Rydin-Gray also said something that really resonated with me: To succeed, I needed to give up what she calls “all or nothing thinking.”

“If you’re very strict and then you have a slip, you’re going to go down a path of ‘I’ve failed, this is not going to work. People who manage long-term realize it’s all part of life. No one is perfect.”

So far, I’ve lost three pounds, which means I’m on track to steadily make progress towards my 10-pound goal. I know from experience that the real work will be in maintaining the healthy lifestyle I’ve put into action over the past month and not letting those inevitable slip-ups turn into landslides. But I have renewed confidence that with the support and accountability, and the practicality of the diet, this is a lifestyle I can truly do for life.

I’ve got that mom-kini in my sights, and my fridge is stocked with 0% Chobani. That, with a little wiggle room for wine and chocolate, is setting me up for success.

WEIGHT-LOSS SUCCESS STORIES

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Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Brooke Birmingham: How Small Goals Led to Big Success

After a sour ending to a not-so-good relationship and a moment in a dressing room “surrounded by skinny jeans that didn’t fit,” 29-year-old Brooke Birmingham from Quad Cities, IL, realized that she needed to start taking care of herself.

The idea of losing weight wasn’t new to Birmingham. “I had tried a few fad diets and calorie restriction many times throughout my life. The reason nothing ever took off was because I was always trying to eliminate things from my diet.” (Don’t let these 7 Zero-Calorie Factors That Derail Weight Loss get in the way of your goals.) So how’d she do it? Her tips, below.

A New Approach

In 2009, at 327 pounds, Birmingham decided to attack weight loss in an entirely different way. She joined Weight Watchers and took it one day at a time in an effort to keep it simple and focus on manageable goals. “I learned to have a healthy lifestyle,” says Birmingham. “I set small goals for myself starting with my first five pounds, then to get under 300 pounds, and so forth. I also set goals that weren’t scale-related, like trying new recipes and new exercises.” In the process, she ditched fast food and frozen meals and learned how to cook. (Did you know it’s been proven that a slimmer waistline is The Best Reason to Cook Your Own Dinner?)

No Gym Membership Needed

Birmingham’s journey started with healthy eating habits, but exercise quickly followed, where again, she focused on small, manageable accomplishments. She remembers hardly being able to make it around the block on a walk and crying when she ran her first mile. She still doesn’t have a gym membership, but activity is part of her daily life. She relies on workout DVDs: “Jillian Michaels in my favorite! I own almost everything by her.” Walking and bike riding are other go-tos.

The Power of People

Birmingham relies on the support of both Weight Watchers meetings and social media to keep her going. “I love being able to share my story with others. I inspire people and they cheer me along.” In addition to the mutual inspiration she finds in others who have shared similar struggles, she values what she learns from them, as they understand where she’s coming from.

“Life Is Too Short Not to Eat Cupcakes and Drink Beer”

One hundred and seventy two pounds lighter today, Birmingham now focuses on balance, making room for the occasional luxurious treat. “Moderation is key and I don’t feed every single craving I have. I try to figure out what’s worth it to me. I’ll splurge on a cupcake from a specialty shop, not one from a box mix.” (Curb your sweet tooth and Fight Food Cravings without Going Crazy.)

“This will sound ridiculous,” says Birmingham, “but Fat Free Cool Whip has been one of my staples throughout my entire journey. It’s great mixed with PB2 for a dip for fruit, on top of pancakes, or just eaten straight out of the container. I eat bananas every day as well.”

Looking Ahead

Birmingham would like to get pregnant someday: “That is part of the reason I continued to lose weight. I knew that I wanted to be a mom.” Pregnancy weight gain doesn’t scare her, she knows she can lose the weight, and she already has a strategy in place to keep it under control. “I plan on eating the same way I do now and not letting the excuse of ‘eating for two’ take over.”

To read more about Brooke Birmingham’s amazing weight-loss journey, and find out how her life has changed, pick up the Jan/Feb issue of Shape, on newsstands now.

  • By Shape Editors

(Courtesy Diane Sparks)

Diane Sparks, 50, of Buffalo, New York, lost 155 pounds on Weight Watchers (WW). This is her story in her own words.

Before my weight loss journey began, basic daily activities were very difficult for me to do. Something as simple as tying my own shoes proved impossible. I was winded having to walk from my car or to wherever I was going. Doing laundry, which was in the basement of my two-story home, left me out of breath. I was tired all the time. My clothes didn’t fit.

My turning point came in January 2016. I was about to be 47 years old. I decided I was so tired of being tired. I didn’t like the way I felt about myself, and I didn’t want to live this way anymore. I reclaimed control of my life and joined WW (formerly Weight Watchers). I wasn’t sure it was going to work, but I went to my first workshop and weighed in at 303 pounds. I was embarrassed I had gotten so big, but I felt hopeful because I was ready to do something about it.

Related: 100+ Weight Watchers Recipes With Points

The types of diet changes that worked for me were the ones I made with the WW program. Fad diets didn’t work. I would lose weight and gain the weight back after I would go off the diet. WW has taught me how to live. With WW, I can eat anything I want, but I get to choose. Today, I make better food and lifestyle choices because WW has taught me how to do so.

What I Eat in a Day on WW

Breakfast

2 cups of cashew milk, 2 eggs, toast with spray butter and fresh fruit.

Lunch

Turkey wrap with lettuce and tomato, an apple and a bag of WW barbecue potato chips.

Snack

Light buttered popcorn.

Dinner

Turkey and white bean chili, a slice of Italian bread, salad and yogurt.

I also started exercising. In the beginning, I despised going to the gym, but I always loved the way I felt when I left. Today, I go to the gym 4-5 times a week. When I am there, I do cardio and weight training. I also enjoy riding my bike and taking walks. My next workout adventure: boxing. I think it will be fun!

Related: What Is HIIT? Everything You Need to Know About One of the Hottest Fitness Trends

My top 3 tips for WW success

I use the myWW app and Headspace app.

I scan EVERYTHING I eat, which helps me maintain my goals. I love trying new recipes to offer variety in my diet. Reading other members’ posts reminds me I am not alone on this journey. Meditating with Headspace prevents me from stress eating and keeps me grounded.

I go to workshops.

We celebrate our successes both on the scale and off of the scale. When we struggle, the group is always there to lend support. My workshop group is like family. My WW Coach always has great suggestions and helpful hints.

I prep my meals.

Planning my week of meals and snacks ahead of time ensures I will stay on track. It makes my life easy and means I am less likely to stray from my program.

Related: “I Lost 106 Pounds and Ditched Fad Diets After the Birth of My Son”: A WW Success Story

Making my WW goal

I started my journey on January 3, 2016. On May 25, 2019, I met my goal! I lost 155 pounds. It took me 3 years, 4 months and 22 days, but who’s counting? I have maintained my goal weight for 6 months, and vow to stay on track!

What I wish I knew before I started my journey is everything WW has taught me about food and how to make better choices. It’s a staple I can’t live without. Before I started WW, I ate out of boredom. Every meal I ate until I was completely full. Now, I have trained my brain to make better choices. I ask myself what I am feeling before I reach for something to eat: “Am I hungry?” “Am I thirsty?” “Am I bored?” I eat mindfully.

My WW journey has drastically changed the trajectory of my life. Before, I would strain to do everyday things in life, like tying my shoes and doing the laundry. Today, I am able to do that and much, much more. I feel so much better on the inside and out. While I lost 155 pounds, I gained a new lease on life. This new life is one I am very grateful to be living, thanks to WW.

Obsessed with WW 2-ingredient bagel dough? Try one of these 11 recipes.

Basketball helped me stay fit throughout middle and high school, but I gained weight quickly when I stopped playing in college. I gained the “freshman 50” instead of the “freshman 15.” Then, I gained 50 more pounds my sophomore year.

I spent the rest of my twenties yo-yo dieting and trying to lose weight, but nothing worked. At 28, I was the heaviest I had ever been: 302 pounds.

It hit me at my 10-year high school reunion: I was the heaviest girl there, and I felt embarrassed.

I was an athlete and I hadn’t seen many of my classmates for 10 years, so this reunion was a life-changing moment for me. I left the reunion early, which was even more depressing since I helped plan it.

Then and there, I vowed that I’d look and feel better in my thirties than I did in my twenties. I joined WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) shortly after. It was my second time doing the plan: I tried it years before during my yo-yo dieting phase, but I didn’t stick with it. The first time I tried WW, I approached it as a diet. This time, I approached it as a full-on lifestyle change.

For me, the best thing about WW is that nothing is off-limits.

At first, I simply limited the amount of food I was eating. I realized through WW that I was eating far more food than one person needs. I made the switch easier on myself by using smaller plates, packing less food for lunch, and immediately putting half an entree in a takeaway box at restaurants.

I also started cooking. I expanded my palette to learn to love fresh, unprocessed foods—veggies, in particular. I hated most vegetables for most of my life, but I realized that food preparation was a big part of that. The moment someone introduced me to grilled zucchini, I realized that I needed to do some exploring! Now, I regularly roast Brussels sprouts and butternut squash, and zucchini noodles and cauliflower rice are regular dinner menu items.

Here’s what I typically eat in a day:

  • Breakfast: A piece of sourdough wheat toast with guacamole, two eggs, and some Trader Joe’s ‘Everything But The Bagel’ seasoning.
  • Lunch: Homemade salad with spring mix, cucumbers, pepperoncinis, kalamata olives, reduced fat feta cheese, artichoke hearts, protein (either grilled shrimp or chicken breast), and light balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • Snacks: Strawberries and bananas, dip made from lentils, bruschetta, or fat-free feta cheese with rosemary basil flatbread crackers
  • Dinner: Shredded chicken enchilada casserole with fat-free refried beans, corn on the cob, roasted cauliflower, and salsa.
  • Dessert: A scoop of mint chip ice cream or a mochi ice cream (just a few nights a week).

WW also taught me that I didn’t have to go crazy with exercise to lose weight.

In the past, when I would decide to diet and exercise, I would try to go all out with my exercise routine. I felt like I had to work out three to five times a week in order to see results.

Thanks to my WW workshops though, I learned that I shouldn’t dread activity, and I didn’t even need to go to the gym! I found friends who also wanted to be more active, and we’d walk together at first.

Soon, walking became running. Then, running became a 5K, a 10K and a half marathon race. I’ve also started to explore other types of activity, including kickboxing, barre, and weight lifting. Exercise is part of my life now that I found activities I love.

I’ve lost 102 pounds, and I can see myself following this program for the rest of my life.

My weight loss journey has not been quick. It’s been 10 years since my 10-year high school reunion—and it took that amount of time to lose the 102 pounds.

Now that I’m at a more comfortable weight, my focus has become less about weight loss and more about being healthy and strong, especially now that I’ve incorporated strength training into my routine.

I also want other women to know that weight loss isn’t an end-all, be-all for being happy. I used to think that losing the weight would make me happy and make me love myself, but that’s not the case—learning to love yourself comes from within, not an external change.

But I am so ready for my next reunion.

Weight watcher success story

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