I Did A DietBet Challenge And Whitney Simmons Instagram Workouts—And I Lost 54 Lbs.

My name is Jessica Ashwood (@fitnessnfoodwjess). I’m 27 years old, and I am a kindergarten teacher in Virginia. I joined an incentive-based weight-loss challenge to jumpstart my journey and ended up losing 54 pounds to date.

I have struggled with my weight almost as long as I can remember. I spent much of my adolescent and teen years overweight. I remember being at a friend’s house at around 10 years old, and my friend wanted us to weigh ourselves for fun. I weighed significantly more than her. But I didn’t think anything of it until she said, "you weigh a lot."

Throughout my high school years, my weight fluctuated up and down. I felt better about myself when my weight was lower; when it was on the higher end, my self-esteem was gone. I couldn't help but feel that way.

I also never felt in control of my weight. In college, I started trying to work out and eat healthier, but the healthy habits never stuck for long, and I would jump right back into my old ways of eating and being stationary. After getting married in 2016 and starting my first teaching job after college, I started gaining weight at a rapid speed.

When I was my highest weight ever in January 2018, I knew that I was only going to keep gaining if I didn't make a change.

So that January, when I was 25, I decided to take control of my health. My choice to overhaul my lifestyle wasn't just about self-esteem, either. I felt tired all the time. I was depressed and using alcohol and food to soothe myself. I just felt crappy. I avoided looking in the mirror. I avoided having my picture taken.

To motivate myself, I started a six-month DietBet challenge, which is an incentive-based weight-loss app and social network. Basically, you bet a certain amount of money that you can lose a percentage of your body weight in a specific timeframe. If you achieve your goal? You earn money. If you don't? You lose it. I hate wasting or losing money, so this helped me set myself up for success when I first started. The challenge I joined gave me six months to lose 10 percent of my body weight.

When I first started the challenge, I just tried to eat stereotypically healthy—I’m talking salads, chicken, rice, broccoli, carrot sticks, etc. I did lose weight but found that my diet choices felt too restrictive.

I then found out about macro counting, which was a game changer for me.

Macro counting is kind of like a variation on calorie counting, where you track your protein, fat, and carbohydrate grams. When I started tracking macros, I began ensuring that I was giving my body what it needed to thrive. It helped me make sure I got the bang out of each calorie, so to speak, allowing me to stay in a calorie deficit without feeling hungry.

I used iifym.com to find out my macros. I only used the free information and didn’t pay a dime. I also used the MyFitnessPal app to track my food. I weighed my food with an $8 food scale I bought on Amazon to ensure I was getting the correct portion sizes. After macro tracking for three to four months, I no longer need to weigh all of my food, as I could eventually eyeball portions.

Now I focus on eating lots of protein and veggies and have everything else in moderation. And I don’t avoid *any* foods. I love all kinds: pizza, pasta, ice cream, you name it. I do not believe you have to give up the foods you love to lose weight.

Here’s what I typically eat in a day:

  • Breakfast: I have half a chocolate drink by Powerful in my iced coffee while I work out. Then, when I get to school, I usually have egg whites, rotisserie chicken, or turkey meatballs, as well as broccoli and avocado. Or, sometimes I'll have blueberry or chocolate chip Kodiak Cakes and broccoli on the side.
  • Lunch: Pasta bake (whole-wheat rotini, ground turkey, marinara, broccoli, and mozzarella cheese); or rotisserie chicken (Costco’s is my favorite), broccoli, and sweet potato.
  • Snacks: Cheese sticks, Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, cooked veggies, raw veggies (like mini bell peppers, carrots, or celery), any fruit, or protein bars on occasion.
  • Dinner: I have whatever I want for dinner but in a different way than I used to. For example, if my husband and I want to have pizza, I will have one piece of pizza or two small pieces with veggies on the side. Other dinners include a taco bowl with seasoned ground turkey, brown rice, black beans, salsa, shredded cheese, half an avocado, spinach, and a few crushed up tortilla chip; beef stew; orzo cooked in chicken broth with roasted veggies and ground turkey topped with a little mozzarella cheese; or spaghetti and meat sauce made with ground turkey and broccoli.
  • Dessert: I try to keep my desserts to around 200 calories throughout the day. Sometimes I’ll have two small pieces of candy at school and two at home, or I’ll have a nice bowl of ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup.

I first started exercising regularly when I got hooked on group classes at the gym.

I knew if I just showed up and was told what to do during a workout, it would be easier for me. I mainly did Spin class and Body Pump (which is a strength training class with weights). Body Pump gave me the confidence I needed with weights to get on the main floor and work out solo. I worked out around five times a week doing the StairMaster and then weights.

I got pregnant in July 2018 with my son, and after having a baby, I now work out at home. I work out for only 30 minutes, five to seven times a week. I barely do cardio—but when I do, I use my stationary bike. I also do strength training with my dumbbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands.

I have found a lot of success with my 30-minute workouts. I am in better shape now than I was even at my fittest even before having my (now 11-month-old) son. I do strength training workouts I find on Instagram and use free resources from popular fitness Instagrammers. Whitney Simmons and her workouts are my favorite!

Consistency was key for me. I still exercised and ate healthy even if I didn’t feel like it.

I also stopped giving up at the slightest disappointment. When I weighed myself and the scale told me I gained weight, I kept pushing forward. When I went overboard with my food, I went right back to being on track instead of falling into the trap of the all-or-nothing mentality.

Eating finally feels effortless. I used to binge and eat everything in sight and then feel guilty. It was a constant thing for me. Now, I really enjoy what I eat and I give myself permission to have the foods I love in moderation. I still lose weight, but in a sustainable way that isn’t me depriving myself.

I used to hate working out, but now it’s my therapy. I’ve never regretted a workout. I try to do a short workout before my baby wakes up almost every morning. It makes my day so much better! Once you see fitness and health as a lifestyle, you stop rushing the process because you get the whole “this is your whole life” mentality. It's true, this is the only life I get. I want to live a life that makes me feel happy and fulfilled.

Over the years my weight has fluctuated between 156 and 178 pounds. In 11 months, I have lost 54 pounds. But it isn't about the scale number; it's about how I feel, now compared to back when I started.


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