My name is Jenni Gayden (@cupcakesrolls2weightlossgoals), and I'm 33 years old. I live in DeKalb, Illinois, and I'm a marketing coordinator. After struggling with my weight for most of my life, I started a workplace weight-loss challenge with my husband, began counting calories with the MyFitnesPal app, and started cycling daily to lose 140 pounds.


I had been overweight since the end of grade school, but the majority of my excessive weight gain came after I graduated college. I was no longer working out and playing sports every day. This led me to my first weight loss journey that I embarked on in 2011 and 2012. My mom and I decided that we were going to start WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers). Over the course of a few months, I had dropped about 40 pounds. But from 2012 to 2017, I gained back all the weight that I had lost at WW, plus another 50 pounds or so. I was also dealing with PCOS, and my weight topped out at 317 pounds.

On January 4, 2018, my husband mentioned that his work was starting a weight loss challenge and wanted to know if I wanted to join him. I figured, "Weight loss is easier when you do it with a partner, so why not?" That's when I started on my second (and current) weight loss journey.

What started as a work competition for my husband and his co-workers helped me lose 140 pounds in just over 2 years.

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While I couldn’t technically be part of the competition because I didn’t work there, we still did it together. His work only had the competition for a few months, but when I realized that calorie counting was working for me, I just kept going.

For the challenge, we downloaded the MyFitnessPal app and simply counted calories and tracked food, and I've been doing it ever since. It works for me because I realized that I didn’t need to cut anything out of my diet–I just needed to be more aware of how much of something I was eating. The app and counting calories really opened my eyes to my habits. I also think I’ve been successful because I don’t eat the same things over and over–I just find different foods/snacks/treats that fit into my daily calorie allotment.

For the first 11 months of my journey, I lost 70 pounds by just focusing on my nutrition and counting calories.

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Here’s what I eat in a day now.

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    • Snacks: Popcorn, Veggie Straws, Good Thins or Peatos.
    • Dinner: I try to reserve 800-1,000 calories for dinner and an after-dinner treat. Dinner normally includes a protein, a side dish (rice, couscous, pasta, or potato) and a frozen veggie.

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        I started working out in December 2018 after my husband got me a stationary bike for Christmas.

        I try to get up at 4:30 a.m. every weekday so that I can bike at least one hour every morning before work. If my work schedule and the weather allows, I walk around two miles on my lunch breaks. I also play softball one night a week, and my husband and I try to golf as often as possible on the weekends from April-September.

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        I also walk a lot on the weekends (and try to run to the best of my ability). During the pandemic, I also ended up completing 10 virtual 5Ks.

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        These three changes made the biggest difference in my weight-loss results.

        1. I adopted a Wonder Woman mindset. I needed to change my mindset from gloomy Eeyore to bad-ass, can't-be-stopped Wonder Woman. Your mindset is your number one tool in successful weight loss. If you believe that you can do it, you can. And it also goes the other way; if you don't think you can succeed...you won't. Losing weight is a mind game: change your mind, change your body. It all starts there.
        2. I got rid of excuses. I had a stranger contact me on Instagram and ask me how I’ve been so successful with weight loss. I went over a few things, and whatever I mentioned, she had an excuse as to why she couldn’t do that. I finally said to her, “You know, I got to the point where I just said to myself, ‘How bad do you want it?’ and I haven’t let anything get in my way since.” Letting go of the excuses I had for myself was a huge step.
        3. I stopped caring about what other people think. Sometimes I skip the bun on a sandwich because I want cheese. I sometimes skip the booze because I want fries. I skip the free bagels at the office because I know what I’m eating the rest of the day and that will throw off my calories. People can be judgmental about your food choices. One of the things that has kept me going is putting other people’s thoughts behind me when it comes to that stuff. You really don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.

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          I have lost 140 pounds in two years.

          The first 70 pounds of my weight loss came from watching what I was eating, counting calories and actually paying attention to serving sizes. It is completely mind blowing to me how much an actual serving size is compared to how much I would normally eat. I learned that even though I’m counting the calories that I’m eating, it’s really important to make sure you get enough nutrients and protein so you're eating a balanced diet. I learned that 90 calories of carrots is way more filling and satisfying than a 90-calorie Fiber One brownie.

          I also learned that food didn’t have to be my crutch anymore, and that I was stronger than those binge sessions and eating fast food multiple times a week. I learned that I had strength and confidence. I finally learned to take care of myself. I used to worry about everyone else and never give myself the care I needed. And most importantly, I learned to love myself again–something I hadn’t done in years.

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