My name is Katy Allen (@kallen_cooks), and I am 23. I currently live in St. Louis, Missouri, where I work as a labor and delivery nurse. I joined WW (formerly Weight Watchers) and learned proper portion control—and I feel like my healthiest, happiest self.
My weight has fluctuated up and down my entire life. As a child and throughout middle school, I was heavier than my close friends and family members, and very aware of it. I was told I was just "big boned" and born "the opposite" of my tall and skinny sister.
My self worth revolved around my body image and how I was perceived by others, even at a young age. I would put myself on cleanses or fad diets, and spend hours exercising in the evening. Then I would binge on anything I could find in the pantry. This was a revolving cycle, and it was just my normal.
Once I began high school, I got into dance and joined the competitive poms team. I was in better shape those years but still had a very poor relationship with my body image. I saw myself as bigger than the other girls, and always felt self conscious in group settings. Throughout this time I had a poor sense of portion control and continued to eat mindlessly.
My senior year of high school through the end of my freshman year of college, I kicked it into high gear with exercise and healthier eating. I lost around 20 pounds. This was the first time I was ever able to lose a significant amount of weight, and I was hooked. I was running more than five miles a day, tracking my calories, and going to the gym before school at 6 a.m.
But gradually this lifestyle became less feasible with nursing classes, an ankle injury, and my first experiences with depression and anxiety. I stopped exercising and returned to an unhealthy diet of fast food, sugar, and whatever was accessible. By the end of college, I had gained around 80 pounds. I graduated college at my heaviest weight ever, 253 pounds at 21 years old.
I attributed my poor quality of life to intense nursing classes and stress. But looking back, I know that my body was crying out for help.
I hardly slept and was chronically fatigued. Walking up a flight of stairs would leave me breathless and my joints would ache. My ankles and knees were in pain to the point that I was taking Aleve most days of the week and wearing a brace.
My blood pressure and blood glucose levels were high as well. My doctor was concerned that I was developing prediabetes and hypertension that would need to be managed with medication. These health problems, in my case, were preventable—and uncommon for someone in their early 20s.
I was 21 when I decided to take my health back into my own hands.
Aside from the physical health problems I had encountered, I was extremely uncomfortable in my own body. My clothes no longer fit, and I was wearing sizes bigger than those I was used to. I was also getting ready to begin my career as a nurse, where I would be constantly on my feet and expected to take care of multiple patients at a time. How could I take great care of others when I wasn't taking care of myself?
I was moving to a new city and starting fresh. I decided that the day I took my nursing boards my journey would begin. I began WW (Wellness Wins, formerly known as Weight Watchers) on June 26, 2018.
I knew that I was going to be in this for the long haul, so a quick cleanse or restrictive diet plan was not going to work for me. I heard of WW from family members and had seen it advertised at work, so I decided to give it a try. What has been the most helpful is adding the foods I eat to a daily tracker. Every food or recipe is assigned a SmartPoint value based on the ingredients and serving size.
With WW, no foods are off limits or considered "bad" foods, regardless of their SmartPoint value. This system has motivated me to measure my foods, rather than mindlessly eating from the bag or dumping a random amount into a recipe.
Here’s what I typically eat in a day now.
- Breakfast: Two eggs over easy on wheat toast, topped with salsa and hot sauce. I will eat a bowl of fat-free Greek yogurt with fruit and granola on the side. Another favorite is Kodiak cake protein pancakes with PB2 peanut butter powder, sugar-free syrup, and fruit.
- Lunch: A low-carb wheat wrap with spinach, turkey, brown mustard, and thinly sliced red onion. On the side I'll have unsweetened applesauce with cinnamon, pretzel thins, and some fruit.
- Snacks: I love Quaker Oats rice cakes! A lightly salted rice cake with laughing cow cheese and everything bagel seasoning on top is amazing. Other favorites are protein bars, saltine crackers with peanut butter, cottage cheese, or veggies and hummus.
- Dinner: I frequently eat spaghetti squash or zoodles with sautéed veggies and marinara, turkey stuffed peppers, or frozen black bean/veggie burgers from Aldi.
- Dessert: I have a major sweet tooth, and throughout my journey with WW I have loved finding point-friendly alternatives to classic desserts. Some of those include Enlightened ice cream bars, Russell Stover sugar-free chocolate, or a frozen banana with PB2 protein peanut butter drizzled on top.
I try to exercise anywhere from two to four times a week.
For the first year of my weight loss journey, I went to a conventional gym and took yoga classes here and there. I took my first Pure Barre class with a friend in June of 2019 and have been going regularly ever since!
I prefer low impact workouts rather than more strenuous activities such as HIIT or running. Pure Barre, combined with regular yoga, has helped improve my muscle tone, endurance, and self confidence.
These three changes helped me see the most noticeable results in my weight loss.
- Change one: I find healthy substitutes for my favorite foods. I buy lower calorie/fat/sugar/carb foods and ingredients. I’ve also made small changes such as switching from ground beef to ground turkey or chicken. This way, I can still eat the foods that I want and just make healthy substitutions, as opposed to cutting them completely out of my diet.
- Change two: I started practicing portion control. I cannot tell you how many times I used to eat chips straight from the bag or dump dressing blindly on my salad. You would be surprised how much food comes in a serving size and how much we overeat.
- Change three: I increased my activity. It is true that a majority of your progress will come from a diet change, but the exercise is important too. There are so many health benefits that come from exercise as well. I have more energy and love to see the changes in my body every day!
Since I took my health back into my own hands in June 2018, I have lost 107 pounds.
I want other women to know that my weight loss and overall wellness journey has not been linear. There have been highs and lows, physically and emotionally, throughout this entire process. And there will continue to be!
Living a healthy lifestyle is a choice, and it is one that I make every single day. There is a small chance that I will stay this weight for the rest of my life, and that is okay. I now know that I have the tools to remain healthy and make the best choices for my body.