Weight Loss Journey: How One Woman Lost 80 Pounds

Stay-at-home mom (and piano/violin teacher) Debby Michael, 30, shares how she lost the weight and gained $2,600 in the process.

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What inspired you to get fit?

Debby Michael holding pants

Photo courtesy of Debby Michael

Photo courtesy of Debby Michael

I began my weight loss journey in September 2017. Over the previous four years, I had given birth to three beautiful children—and gained about 100 pounds. When my youngest was about two months old, I was at my highest weight ever, and I was ready for a change. I wanted to have more energy and to be able to walk up the stairs without getting out of breath! I have always been active, but I was tired of my weight holding me back from things I wanted to do.

Related: How One Woman Lost More Than 100 Pounds

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How much weight have you lost and how did you lose it?

Debby Michael sitting on mountain

Photo courtesy of Debby Michael

Photo courtesy of Debby Michael

I lost 80 pounds in 13 months, which was my Healthy Wage bet. For those who are not familiar with Healthy Wage, you basically bet on yourself to reach your weight loss goals. I bet $100 per month for 13 months that I would lose 80 pounds, and I when I succeeded, I got my money back plus an extra $2,600. Having money on the line was definitely great motivation! As for my method for losing weight, I exercised (mostly walking, some jogging and hiking). I love to be active so that was the easy part. The much more difficult and important part was to get my disordered eating under control and overhaul my diet. I followed a low-carb, high-fat diet.

Also see: 30-Minute Workout Get You Fit & Strong Fast

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What’s the hardest part of this process for you?

Debby Michael before and after front

Photo courtesy of Debby Michael

Photo courtesy of Debby Michael

The toughest part of my weight loss journey has been confronting and trying to overcome my disordered eating patterns and sugar addiction. I am still struggling with that, and probably will my whole life, but I’ve learned a lot. I realized that for me, there truly is no such thing as moderation. I have always been told that you should eat everything in moderation and that depriving yourself will just lead to bingeing. That is definitely not true for me. I cannot eat sugary foods in moderation. Sugar is a highly addictive substance and has a drug-like effect on the brain. Although I know this is not true for all people, for me, one taste of sugar will lead to me bingeing. It's like a switch flips in my brain and I can't focus on anything other than finding something else sweet to eat. The only way I have found to deal with this is to completely abstain from all sweeteners and to follow a low-carb, high-fat diet. I won't lie, it is still a battle, but it's one I'm determined to keep fighting.

Related: 5 New Fitness Trackers to Help You Reach Your 2018 Goals

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What is your strategy for maintaining your weight loss?

Debby Michael before and after side

Photo courtesy of Debby Michael

Photo courtesy of Debby Michael

To be perfectly honest, after losing the 80 pounds I gained 15 back. I decided to relax a little and "treat myself" to some sweet foods once my Healthy Wage bet was over. That bad decision led to several months of struggling and failing to get back on track, especially since it coincided with Thanksgiving and Christmas. As of a month ago, I am fully back on track and losing weight again. I intend to lose the weight I put back on and an additional 20 to 30 pounds. My plan is to continue to eat healthfully and to avoid eating food that will trigger my sugar addiction. It's a lifestyle change, not a diet.

Also see: How One Woman Lost 350 Pounds Through Diet and Exercise

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How has your weight loss journey impacted your family?

Debby Michael with kids and husband

Photo courtesy of Debby Michael

Photo courtesy of Debby Michael

I think the biggest impact is that we all eat much healthier! I have always fed my family mostly healthy food, even when I was not doing the same for myself. In confronting my own issues with food, I also started really thinking about how food was affecting my family. I started making sure that we all ate more vegetables, and I eliminated all sweeteners and most grains not only from my own diet, but from my kids’ diets too. It is amazing how quickly children's taste buds will adapt to eating healthy foods. They enjoy eating things like cauliflower, green smoothies and even fermented foods! And my husband says, “I'm in the peak condition of my life. Holy crap, I eat so many vegetables!"

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What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to lose weight?

Debby Michael holding baby

Photo courtesy of Debby Michael

Photo courtesy of Debby Michael

I'm sure that's different for everyone. One big mistake is thinking you can out-exercise bad eating. Running a mile burns about 100 calories. It takes five seconds to eat those calories back if you aren’t careful. I think another big mistake is just focusing on losing weight and ignoring your overall health. Yes, you can lose weight by eating low-calorie, artificially sweetened processed food. However, it's not going to be good for your body, and when you return to eating "normal" food the weight will come back. 

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What advice would you give to other mothers who want to shed pounds?

Debby Michael sitting

Photo courtesy of Debby Michael

Photo courtesy of Debby Michael

First, don't do it unless you want to do it for you. I think women in general feel a lot of undue pressure to look a certain way, and moms in particular are pressured to lose all the pregnancy weight and to do it quickly. That being said, if losing weight is your goal, my biggest piece of advice is to make yourself a priority. There is always more cleaning to do, places to take our kids, appointments to make, etc. We often get so wrapped up in taking care of everyone else that we forget to take care of ourselves. If it is important to you to exercise, then take the time to exercise. If you are trying to improve your diet, then take the time to cook for yourself and actually sit down to eat! Your needs are just as important as the needs of your family. Lastly, be kind to yourself. How much you weigh does not define who you are. Being "overweight" is not a character flaw. It doesn't mean you are lazy, unattractive or unhealthy. Try to focus on overall health—not just a number on the scale.