Read the inspiring weight loss story of how one young mom lost eighty pounds in two years with a balanced eating philosophy.

It’s hard to know where to begin when writing my weight loss story since in a lot of ways it feels like it’s still “in progress”.

After Photo by Heidi Hope

I did share this process and my emerging food philosophy along the way on Nina Hendrick Home. However, I got a few emails that made me doubt the relevance of what I was sharing on that forum. I ultimately pulled all of the health posts.

After mentioning my weight loss story in passing over time on Instagram, I received many notes of encouragement and people asking to hear more of my story. I realized I may have been wrong to pull the posts altogether, but that maybe they needed more context.

With this post, I wanted to take the opportunity to tell my eighty-pound (so far) weight loss story, the philosophy of 80/20 eating that’s emerged from it, and how it laid the foundation for this new food-focused website.

Disclaimer: It’s important for me to mention that this isn’t a weight loss or health blog. I’m not qualified on either topic. I’m also not giving out medical advice and I’m not saying that what’s worked for me will definitely work for you. I believe everyone has to figure out what will work for them individually.

Where It Began

I’ve never been naturally thin. I’m not overly tall at 5′ 3″ and I have a small frame. Even though I wasn’t overweight as a child, I also wasn’t small. I was more of a book/art kid and not a sports kid, and I really love food. So obviously those were factors.

My earliest conscious thought of disliking my body was when I was eight years old. I noticed that my dance costume fit my thighs differently than my lanky friends. To be completely fair, no one really teased me for this or made me feel “less than”, it was mostly internal.

I can’t even remember when I went on my first “diet”, but I do know it was at way too early of an age. I was completely ignorant about nutrition and fitness, this was the 90s and early 00s and it was the “low fat” and “lots of cardio” era.

Inevitably, I wouldn’t eat sustainable calories for the amount of activity I was forcing myself to do, and then I would binge. Even still, I wasn’t technically overweight going into my teen years. Just unhappy and obsessive about the way my body looked. I was building unhealthy habits that followed me into adulthood. By the time I had my first child in 2008, I was officially obese at over 200 pounds.

The next several years led to yoyo dieting and losing and gaining the same thirty to fifty pounds over and over again between pregnancies and different diets. I had other health complications related to being overweight such as preeclampsia during my pregnancies and hypertension that lasted beyond. I also dealt with depression and anxiety. Overall, I was very unhealthy, mentally and physically.

Before 80 pound weight loss

The Breaking Point

It all came crashing down on me when I hit my lowest point, and my highest weight of 220 pounds, in late 2016. It’s safe to say that I was extremely depressed and it just felt like everything was falling apart.

I also felt like I was setting a terrible example for my children. I know that weight and body image can certainly be an issue for boys and I don’t want to discount that. However, having been a young girl who struggled with body image, I was acutely aware of what my daughter would someday face. She would be watching me specifically for cues in developing her own relationship with her body.

With the help of a therapist, I came to realize that I was actually in a very lucky position in that I could make changes to my health and set a better example for all of my children.

Coincidentally, during this time a friend mentioned that she had signed up for a 12-week weight loss challenge at a gym a few towns over. I overcame the plethora of excuses that were running through my mind and decided to join her.

I’ll stop here and mention that my husband Mack was (and continues to be) extremely supportive of all of this, which was a valuable ingredient in succeeding. Not only were we paying for the gym, but also childcare for Lyla, and then the extra gas for driving an hour round trip 3-4 times each week (and paying for even more childcare to cover the commute). I recognize that I was extremely lucky to be in a position to be able to do that and to have his support. He has always said that he looks at health as a valuable investment and I’m grateful for that.

The Turning Point

Looking back on this time, it’s kind of crazy. I tackled a lot at once. For one, I had never been to a gym. I had a vision in my head of overly muscled guys laughing at me as they curled giant dumbbells. It was so far from reality at this gym!

I can’t remember ever being as nervous as I was on the first day. I weighed in at 207 pounds. I’d already lost a bit in water weight over a couple of months, but I certainly wasn’t healthy. We did some basic exercises as they introduced us to proper form and how to do the exercises safely. I was so out of shape that I ended up in tears. The coaches were extremely supportive, calling me later in the day to encourage me. Even still, I’m not going to lie, I considered never going back.

Along with this 12-week challenge, I was also doing a Whole30 at home. I think this was an important thing to do because it taught me how mentally sensitive I am to pasta and bread. It’s like a “gateway” food for me. I still don’t typically eat those things.

Another important thing I focused on was hydration. Before the challenge, days would go by without me drinking plain water. I developed the habit of drinking 3L of water during the challenge.

Additionally, I began to do Couch to 5K. To be clear, I don’t recommend taking on all of these things at once. I tend to go overboard when I commit to things. I just want to give you the full picture when I begin to share how much weight I began to lose during this time span.

Overcoming Obstacles

In the first month of the challenge, I faced a few hurdles. The first one was a stomach bug. It was the perfect excuse to stop going, but I had a friend who was relying on me to go with her. However, a few days later she quit.

Suddenly I had to rely on myself to show up, but I did keep going. I was committed to my goals and I was also seeing great results. By this point, the circuits were becoming more manageable. I would never say they were “easy” since it was always a challenge. However, they were definitely paying off. I weighed in on January 31st at 185 pounds. This was a pretty incredible weight loss, but I still had a lot to lose.

To continue my momentum, I decided to keep going with the Whole30 through the end of the 12-week challenge. I did end up dropping the Couch to 5K because of shin splints that were affecting my ability to do the circuits at the gym. However, the weight loss did (naturally) slow down at this point.

From One Extreme to the Other

I went from one extreme to another during this time period. I went from being completely sedentary and eating huge quantities of whatever I wanted to being extremely active and eating small portions of a very narrow list of foods and drinking a lot of water. Everything was obsessively noted in MyFitnessPal (even though it’s suggested not to do this during a Whole30). Almost my whole life was centered around my health during this time.

I have mixed feelings about this. While I know it wasn’t sustainable, I don’t regret it. I think of those three months as the springboard for the rest. I was undertaking a massive transformation after neglecting my health for too long. Of course, this wouldn’t be the end of the story.

progress photos of weight loss
In retrospect I wish I hasn’t done all of my progress photos when I was sweaty post-workout!

The End of the Challenge

The challenge ended in March and we did our final weigh-in. I was 177 pounds and had lost 10% in body fat. This is going to sound corny, but it’s true: what I lost in weight, I gained in confidence. It was so incredibly empowering to know that I could make changes to my health, that it wasn’t “impossible” to lose weight and that I hadn’t “ruined” my metabolism.

Additionally, I learned about nutrition and how to safely exercise, and these important skills will be with me for my entire life. I owe a huge thank you to Fil and Garrett at TFW Medway for supporting, encouraging and teaching me and helping me begin my weight loss story. If you’re local, you should definitely check them out!

Bumps in the Road

As I mentioned before, I had never really exercised or been a member of a gym. As time went on, I began to notice some strange symptoms after I exercised. If I tried to lift weights or do higher-impact exercise, it would cause cramping and spotting and period-like symptoms, but all month long. I went to my Ob/Gyn and she ordered an ultrasound in the Spring of 2017. There was a mass on my left ovary and indications that I had Endometriosis.

In retrospect, there were some signs all along. My periods were always heavier and longer than what my friends described and were accompanied by debilitating cramps. I had always just kind of assumed I had bad luck and low pain tolerance.

Also, while my first pregnancy was unplanned and happened while we were in college, by the time we tried to plan our second and third children, we found that it wasn’t as easy as we assumed. It took six months of trying with one chemical pregnancy for our second and then two years of trying with one chemical pregnancy with our third. Ovulation tests showed that I didn’t even ovulate every month. It was pretty clear that my fertility was declining.

Weight Loss with Endometriosis

By the time I went in for surgery to remove the ovarian mass in August 2017, I had been officially diagnosed with Endometriosis. However, in a surprise twist, the mass turned out to be a (luckily benign) tumor and not related.

It was difficult returning to the gym post-surgery, as the endometriosis symptoms didn’t dissipate. I continued to spot and have sharp pains pretty continuously. High-impact exercises (ugh, jumping jacks) would lead to an instant period. It finally got to the point where I had only a couple of days without bleeding each month.

Up until that point, I was still doing well and losing weight slowly but steadily. I weighed 151 pounds in the fall of 2017. However, exercise just really wasn’t working with my symptoms and something needed to change.

At that time, I began to see a new Ob/Gyn that I really liked, and we made a game plan. We would try a couple of things to treat the endometriosis. While they did work somewhat, they also came with their own set of challenges.

If you’ve ever had to deal with hormonal birth control, you probably know that it has a lot of side effects. Extreme hunger and weight gain are some of them. While I didn’t have any extreme weight gain, over the next year as I reduced exercise and I also let my nutrition slip with my increased appetite. It was a slow creep back up to 165 pounds by September of 2018. By then, my symptoms were also starting to return.

Weight Loss Take Two

It was time to reevaluate again. I’d come too far to go backward. I knew I couldn’t rely on exercise until I had my Endometriosis figured out. Also, I really had to be careful with nutrition. I began to work with Cate Wall, a fantastic nutrition coach and personal trainer. Being accountable to someone was the perfect thing to get me back on track, and I worked with her primarily on portion control and discussing my mindset about food. We had some really great conversations about how to develop a healthy relationship with food and how to develop a sustainable way of eating. Working with Cate brought all of the pieces together for me.

This was really the birth of my Food Philosophy that I’ve shared on this site. Good nutrition and healthy wholesome eating are important. However, as I learned from Cate: food isn’t “bad” or “good” and we aren’t “bad” or “good” for consuming it. We can enjoy something and then move on. It’s all about balance.

After Weight Loss: 140 Pounds

After 80-pound weight loss
Image taken by Heidi Hope

My Emerging Food Philosophy

It’s with this nutrition philosophy in mind that I’ve continued since September. I eat mostly healthy foods and pay attention to portion sizes. I also enjoy occasional indulgences. It’s about 80/20. Eating this way I’ve consistently but slowly lost 25 pounds since September. I now weigh 140 pounds, although it fluctuates up and down by a couple of pounds. Overall, this was an 80-pound weight loss since November 2016.

While I feel like I really have a good grasp on a nutrition plan that works for me, exercise has continued to be a challenge. I began personal training sessions with Cate in January, but it was pretty obvious that my symptoms weren’t going away. I have been able to use my Peloton on and off throughout the past two years, but that’s the only exercise other than light walking that didn’t usually cause bleeding and pain. Cate and I mostly focused on upper body work and I pushed for more testing from my Ob/Gyn.

Ultimately, my doctor was on the same page that we had exhausted the options and it was time for a hysterectomy. I went in for a laparoscopic hysterectomy in early June 2019, which went really well. I’ll be recovering throughout the summer. My plan is to focus on healing and nutrition. I’m excited to see what exercise will be like after I recover. I think of what’s I’ve accomplished so far as my Weight Loss Story. However, I still have my Fitness Story ahead of me.

The Next Chapter

Do dessert recipes and health updates belong on the same site? Yes, I believe they do. I believe in enjoying food, and mostly I believe in figuring out how indulgent foods fit into the overall story of health. I also really love baking and taking photos of food! For me personally, saying I’m never going to eat another cookie is just unrealistic, but I also don’t want to go overboard. It’s all about finding that balance.

Although most of the recipes I’ve shared in the past have been dessert recipes, they really are a small part of the story of what we eat. Moving forward, I’m going to be sharing more of what we eat on a daily basis, my healthy and easy weeknight meal ideas. A large part of my success can be credited to Meal Planning and Prep, so I’ve also dedicated a whole category to that topic. My goal is to show the overall picture of what and how we eat that’s led to a healthier lifestyle for our entire family.

My biggest goal for this website is simply to share our favorite recipes and hopefully inspire you along the way! If you share my philosophy, I hope you’ll follow along as I continue to write this story.