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Zoe Lost 50lbs By Starting Slow & Prioritizing Mental Health

Zoe lost 50lbs by working physical activity into her day-to-day life, counting calories, and focusing on mental health.

Zoe Before and After Weight Loss
Zoe lost 50lbs over 20 months! Read the full story behind her transformation below.

👀 Behind Zoe’s before and after story:

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 5’5
  • Before: 205lbs
  • After: 155lbs
  • Weight Lost: 50lbs
Zoe lost 50lbs by...

🍪 Learning how to cook, starting with making and decorating royal icing cookies.

📝 Counting calories to ensure she ate less calories than she expended.

Revamping her approach to mental health and tackling a lot of unpleasant truths about herself.

Let’s jump in to her story:


✋ At what moment did you realize you HAD to lose weight?

It was more like a string of events, but the two that stick out most (and compounded) are:

  1. I work as a nanny and I realized that I just wasn’t in good enough shape. I couldn’t carry an 18 month old for a block without huffing and puffing! I was walking with a more fit friend and she (very nicely) offered to help and I was just mortified…though she meant well, and I did appreciate it.
  2. Immediately after, I went on a cruise with my family and while I had a fabulous time, I still don’t like to show off the pictures because there was only one I was happy with.

These two events made me realize that something had to change, and fast, because I was putting my life on hold being miserable.

 

1️⃣ What was the first step you took towards transforming your body?

Funnily enough—I learned how to make and decorate royal icing cookies.

Sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s such a long process that takes a lot of patience and diligence and actually spending time in the kitchen. Learning how to make the cookies made me realize that I actually like cooking, which got me making my own meals rather than getting takeout.

Being in the kitchen and following complicated instructions/recipes became so much less daunting because “if I can figure out by trial and error how thick my icing should be, then I can reduce cream.” Now I cook at least 80% of my meals, and it’s easier to avoid stopping for McDonalds because the food I make is finally more satisfying. (Still love their fries though.)

 

💻 What apps/websites/resources did you use?

Reddit, mostly!

R/loseit has been absolutely essential and I recommend it to anyone anywhere on their weight loss journey, but especially those just getting started. I also live and die by my Fitbit and have recently started using Stridekick for steps challenges.

Q: Which Fitbit do you use? How does it help you?

I use the Fitbit Versa 2.

Honestly, I just love the counting steps and how many floors I’ve done, but the sleep insights are very helpful too. I can basically guarantee that on days when I’ve had less than adequate sleep that I will have a tougher time making healthy decisions.

Plus, the ability to do steps challenges with it is wonderful because the social aspect of all of this is what makes it fun!

 

🍳 What kind of adjustments did you make to your diet?

Counting calories.

People get really concerned when you mention calorie counting, but it’s just the same as making a budget. Ultimately, the only way to lose weight is to eat less calories than you expend, but if you don’t have any idea how many calories are in what you eat and drink, then it’s hard to know where to even begin and what you need to cut back on.

It also gives you a better idea of what is worth it to you. If I’m going to go over my calorie “budget” then it’s going to be for something I enjoy eating, rather than store-bought chocolate cake 🤮

Also: water! It was amazing to me when I realized that half the time when I was “hungry” I was really just dehydrated.

 

🥕 What were your go-to staple foods that helped you achieve your goals?

Veggies Made Great muffins. They’re muffins of various flavors (I particularly like banana chocolate chip) made of carrots and zucchini. They taste so good and I have one for breakfast every morning.

Otherwise, I mostly quit snacking. There weren’t too many snack foods I liked to begin with, and if I feel like eating something crunchy or salty I’ll usually go for popcorn.

 

💊 Did you take any supplements along the way? If yes, how useful were they for you? If not, why not?

When I first started, I used meal replacement shakes—I would not recommend this to most people!

The only reason I went this route was because my idea of a “home cooked meal” was putting chicken breast in rice-a-roni. Hell, my friend still gives me crap for the time I started a fire because I didn’t clean up some milk.

While I had the meal replacement shakes, I would isolate one meal at a time to work on my cooking without getting overwhelmed, and then I slowly added meals back. It worked for me in the short term (max two months) because I had specific goals and a plan in place. Otherwise, no supplements at all.

 

💪 Can you talk a little bit about what you found to work the best in terms of physical exercise? What worked best for you and why?

Starting very slow!

I’ve been actively losing weight for about 20 months now (though COVID-19 did stall me for a while), and I only consistently added intentional exercise about 3 months ago.

I love being at the gym, but I am never motivated to actually GO to the gym, so I cancelled my gym membership and started doing YouTube exercise videos. Enjoying it is essential for me, so I found a few channels that I love and subscribed to them.

Honestly, just working activity into my every day has probably been even more beneficial:

  • Parking farther away from stores
  • Walking for my errands as much as possible
  • Getting 10k steps in every day
  • Cleaning more (my floors are so clean now for that arm workout!)

Every little bit counts.

Q: You mentioned you follow YouTube workouts now—could you share a couple channels that you like the best and leave a quick note about why you like them?

POPSUGAR Fitness (https://www.youtube.com/user/popsugartvfit) is where I started! There’s such a wide variety of videos and you can get a taste for what kind of exercises you enjoy and what you might want to try out next. I particularly like their kickboxing videos. I’ve enjoyed every single 30 minute one I’ve tried so far.

Emkfit (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-pne1Uv8YkXZ3lbele30aA) is hands down my favorite channel. She is so positive and fun to watch, and she does HIIT videos to different music themes (Broadway, One Direction, Britney Spears, etc. Even a Shrek one, once!). Her mantras are “Fake it til you make it” and “Wrong and strong,” and I don’t think I have ever smiled more while a workout kicked my butt.

 

🧾 What was the best advice you received (or read) along the way?

Something like: “The time is going to pass anyway. Might as well get started now.”

 

🥵 What was the hardest part about your journey? How did you overcome it?

The mental health aspect of it all was really difficult. The basic science of losing weight is easy: eat less and move more. But eating is so deeply psychological and social, and your brain puts up roadblocks left and right!

I honestly don’t think I could have managed to lose this weight if I hadn’t also completely re-hauled my life at the same time. I was a different person two years ago—not because I was bigger, but because I was just so unbelievably unhappy. I was using eating as a way to “turn off” my emotions for a little while. When I no longer had that crutch, I had to realize and tackle a lot of really unpleasant truths about myself.

Therapy and having good friends in my corner was absolutely essential for this, as well as journaling and goal setting. But at some point you have to realize when you’re making your own life miserable, and decide what you’re going to do about that.

Q: Any favorite goal-setting resources or particular inspirations that got you into journaling?

Unfortunately my journaling habits are a bit all over the place. I follow several different bullet journal groups (Bullet Journal Beginners, Minimalist Bullet Journals, Bullet Journaling for Mental Health, etc.) on Facebook (and a few on Instagram) and just pin ideas.

I would highly recommend minimalist pages, though, for people that are just getting started. Making pretty things is so much fun, but if you’re beating yourself up over not having an “Instragram worthy” journal, you’re not getting the actual benefit of the journal—which is getting your ideas out of your head and into something tangible!

 

💡 Was there an ‘aha’ moment where everything began to click?

At first, I didn’t really believe this was possible…

I just thought “this is just how my life is going to be forever,” and that thought depressed me to no end. But I have a lot of artist and actor friends, and I’ve worked with a lot of kid, and one thing I’ve always said in regards to “ambitious” career choices is: “Someone is going to make it, so why can’t it be you?”

When I realized I could turn that on myself, it really re-framed things. Like, I might as well TRY, because why CAN’T it be me?

 

😎 How has your life changed since the day you took your before photo?

I’m a heck of a lot happier. I mean, there’s aesthetic reasons: I’m thrilled when I take selfies, clothes fit me the way I want them to (mostly), etc. I just feel better; I like the food I’m eating and people get excited when I cook for them, I’m more comfortable when I sleep, and I can keep up at work so much better. 

There’s also a lot of general health changes I’ve made unrelated to the weight loss, technically, but I think they feed into each other. I have better sleep habits, I keep my space cleaner, I wake up early and go outside nearly every day, I have new hobbies, I’ve gotten more social and confident, etc. I hardly recognize myself anymore, and I’m so glad.

 

❤ Based on your experience, what advice would you give to our readers who are starting off as the ‘old’ you?

You deserve love and affection and care every step of the way, even (and especially) from yourself. I’m not a “better” person now that I’ve lost weight—I was SO awesome! People were lucky to know me! But I am a happier person now. You deserve a happy life, however that looks for you.

The number on the scale will never give you happiness, though. In fact, a lot of days it might completely blow your confidence away. But deciding that you have the power to change your life whenever you want might. Someone has to do it, so why can’t it be you?

~

Thanks for the interview, Zoe!

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