Mary L. knew she could lose weight—she’d dropped 100 pounds twice in the past—but she just couldn’t manage to keep it off. “I was heavy in high school and college, lost a bunch of weight, gained it back, lost 100 pounds again, then gained that back,” says the 41-year-old preschool teacher from Iowa Falls, Iowa. “I’ve always had extreme ups and downs—doing really well, then getting tired of watching what I ate and working out every day and going back to my old habits.”
In 2013, Mary had reached 300 pounds—something she only knows because she had to get her gallbladder removed and was weighed before the surgery. “I never even thought about exercise as something I needed to do,” she says. “And I’d eat a lot of everything, stopping for snack cakes on my way home from work and drinking diet soda all day long.”
She might have kept those habits forever, but then something happened in early 2014 that made her realize the track she was on. “My dad got diagnosed with diabetes, which is something that runs in the family,” she says. “I was already on medicine for high blood pressure but seeing what was happening to my dad made it all come together for me. I had two young kids and wanted to see them grow old—I knew that might not happen if I stayed the weight I was.”
That April, Mary’s husband and son were training for a 5K, so she decided to head over to the track with them and start walking. Eager to see how many steps she was actually logging, Mary got a Fitbit Zip and then a Fitbit One. “It was a huge motivator to look down and instantly see the number of steps I’d gotten in that day,” she says. “I realized how much I had to move to actually get to 10,000 steps!” To get there, she started parking further from store entrances and even walking around the house at the end of the day.
Knowing she had to become more mindful of what she was eating, Mary started tracking her calories, too. “Those snack cakes I loved were 400 calories a piece!” she says. “I realized that if I really wanted one, I had to make adjustments with the other food I ate that day or exercise more.” Realizing the impact a single food choice could have, she started reaching for healthier foods like carrot sticks as a snack instead.
With those changes, Mary dropped 130 pounds and now weighs 166. “It took me almost two years to get here,” she says. “But this is my forever lifestyle now. I went ahead and got rid of my fat clothes because I’m not going back to the way I lived before.”
How can she be sure? It’s simple. “The first time I lost weight, I did it because I was single and thought I needed to look good to find a man. The second time I lost weight, I was engaged and wanted to look good for my wedding,” she says. “But this time I did it for me, for my health, and for my kids—it’s about so much more than looking good in a dress.”
Mary’s Advice for Others:
Don’t let weather get in the way. “I live in Iowa and it can get too cold to walk outside in the winter,” she says. “So I took my walking indoors! I follow along to Leslie Sansone’s walking workout videos and get in my steps without leaving my house.”
Go spiral. “I try to eat a lot of vegetables and love using a spiralizer on zucchini,” she says. “I can make the zucchini have an Italian vibe by topping it with pasta sauce or a light alfredo sauce or make it Mexican and combine it with taco meat and salsa.”
Pump up the protein. “I love oatmeal for breakfast—I eat it cold in the summer and warm in the winter with fresh fruit,” she says. “To add more protein to it, I mix in some Greek yogurt—it’s a delicious combination!”
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.