Real Weight Loss Success Stories: Charlene Loses 91 Pounds And Finds One Size Doesn’t Fit All

NAME : Charlene / BEFORE WEIGHT : 208 / AFTER WEIGHT : 117 / POUNDS LOST : 91
Charlene Lost 91 Pounds

My weight gain, like many women experience , had been gradual: a few pounds in college, a few more in law school, and then after I got married, got pregnant and after I had my first son and hit an OMG number of 208 lbs.

HOW DID YOUR WEIGHT AFFECT ANY ASPECT(S) OF YOUR LIFE?  It occurred to me that I was a spectator. I would watch TV, watch a movie, read a book, go see a sporting event or theatre performance, everything involved watching or reading about other people doing something. Going out to eat had somehow become something to DO. I used to go for bike rides with friends, have a weekly racquetball game, take a dance lesson, all of which, one by one, had just sort of stopped as I got older. I was watching life go by, while I sat on the sidelines. All the while, the image of who I was in my head no longer matched who I saw in the mirror staring back at me.

WHAT WAS THE “TURNING POINT” THAT GOT YOU STARTED ON YOUR WEIGHT LOSS JOURNEY?  I had treated myself to a day of beauty at the spa before my first son’s Christening, and was mortified when I had to return to the desk and ask the receptionist who appeared to weigh 89 lbs. if they had a larger robe, as the one size fits all robe, was lying. That was my “aha moment.”

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?  I began my fitness journey with home workout DVD’s. I tried all kinds of workouts: Zumba, kick boxing, fat burning, abs, weights, cross training, anything I could get my hands on. I would try to progress to more advanced tapes as they became easier to do. To this day, I still do homework out DVD’s and some of my favourite instructors are Cathe Friedrich, Gilad and Holly Perkins. After months of home workouts, I began training with my first personal trainer, Carla Dunlap. This was life changing. I never would have pushed or challenged myself in so many ways without her incredible knowledge, support and encouragement. When Carla moved to Florida, I found another fabulous trainer in Greg Rando. Besides my DVD workouts and weekly visit to my trainer, I try to stay active in many ways throughout the day. In a typical day, I do a ten minute yoga stretch in the morning, followed by ten minutes of ab/core work, and then I do 30 minutes of weight training, doing different muscle groups each day to avoid over training or injury. Later in the day, I try to get 30-45 minutes of cardio in by either using my LifeFitness cycle while watching a favourite program, using the elliptical at the gym, running stadium steps, power walking with my neighbor, or going for a bike ride with my boys. The nutrition component has changed over the years, and now my general rule is to eat foods in their simplest form. I try to eat lean proteins like chicken breast, bison steaks, turkey breast, salmon, and a large portion of vegetables with every meal. I love kale, broccoli, asparagus, and try to avoid to a certain extent peas, corn, or white potatoes. For carbs, I love sweet mashed potatoes, steal cut oats, quinoa, and occasionally brown rice. I work in zoodles (zucchini or summer squash) noodles so I don’t venture into the pasta world. I love Luna bars which I grab for breakfast on the go or alternate with scrambled eggs, an egg white omelette or oatmeal with protein powder. I try to limit my liquid calories to a cran water mixture (100% cranberry juice cut with water, some fresh lime and a smidge of stevia), water, coffee and an occasional wine or martini. I try to limit my alcohol because it lowers my resolve and can cause me to make poorer food choices. I always joke that vodka leads to Oreos, and friends that know me, know I call Golden Oreos the “crack of the cookie world.” I’m not a huge believer in “everything in moderation.” There are some foods that I simply can’t have a little of (pasta, bread, white rice), so I chose not to have any, and now I don’t miss them. I send the waitress away before the bread basket even hits the table! I always say, “Moderation is for maintenance!”

HOW LONG AFTER YOU STARTED DID YOU BEGIN TO SEE RESULTS OF YOUR WEIGHT LOSS EFFORTS?  I tried not to get discouraged by the big numbers I had to lose, and set small mini goals for myself, and had strict rules for buying clothes. As I was losing weight, and every time I went down a size, I would only buy one pair of jeans, one pair of tan pants, and one pair of black pants. I wouldn’t spend a lot, and I would tell myself, “Don’t invest in this size, as you’re not going to be staying here for long.” Success started to breed success as I relished moving down the size rack at the store. I promised myself a new wardrobe when I hit the end of the rack, and wouldn’t let myself get comfortable and think “okay, this is good enough.” I aimed to lose an average of two to three pounds per week.

WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART?  While I couldn’t ignore the sizes on my clothes getting larger, I felt a balance of denial and excuses. I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself, as it seemed like my friends could eat salami sandwiches on white bread with mayonnaise and weigh 108 lbs. I blamed a bad metabolism, my hypoactive thyroid that I had been diagnosed with at age 19, genetics and anything else I could think of. It was a balance of self-pity, self-disgust and just downright disbelief. At first, with some initial small success, everyone was encouraging. As I became more serious about my training and it took a bit of time away from doing everything for every body else, the support started to crumble a bit. Happily this was temporary. Everyone finally realized it wasn’t a fad, and my working out, became the new normal and people realized not to try to stop me from fitting in my workouts. They also came to realize that I now had more energy to handle the rest of my day, and I was able to be more a part of things. I learned to recognize the saboteurs. You’ll need to be able to resist the “just this once,” “just a taste or bite won’t hurt you,” and even the “you’re no fun anymore” from some of the people closest to you.

DID YOU EVER WANT TO GIVE UP? WHAT KEPT YOU GOING?  Any time I was tempted to stray from my goal, I remembered that feeling at the spa. I swore to myself, that despite feeling like I had tried everything from Atkins to Weight Watchers, that this time was different. I like to encourage others by saying “I took a hundred first steps before I found what worked for me.”

DID YOU HIT ANY WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAUS? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?  I find weighing myself keeps me accountable and in touch with the connection of what I eat and what my workouts do to the number on the scale. I know if I eat a lot of salty food or a lot of starchy carbs, the number can jump dramatically. I also know that if I have Chinese food, or God forbid, hit a Mexican restaurant with that dreaded and magically refilling tortilla basket, a four pound jump isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. I’ve also made up my own theory of some reverse gravitational pull that has my weight up two pounds every time there’s a full moon regardless of what I eat. Now it’s important to note here, that these daily increments are typically not a gain of actual fat, as it still takes a surplus of 3500 calories to gain a pound, but most of the weight is most likely a lot of water retention. If you’ve worked really hard to lose two pounds in a week, and then have that salty, starchy dinner on the weekend, and BAM four pounds show up on the scale, it’s no wonder people get discouraged and give up. I tried to

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO LOSE MOST OF THE WEIGHT?  It took about a year to lose all the weight added together, but I did have a child in between.

DID YOU HAVE ANY NON-SCALE VICTORIES?  Every time I would see a chin up bar. I had almost a visceral reaction, a sort of instantaneous flashback to grade school gym class. I remember the fitness tests they would do, and my results were pretty consistent: 100 sit ups, 3 lame pushups, and 0 pull ups. I would just hang there. After discovering weight training and fitness decades later; I remember working out with my trainer, and practically dancing after completing 3 unassisted pull ups. It was a milestone moment. I mean it wasn’t the same as when I was doing dead lifts and noticed light peaking through my thighs, but it was right up there. Some goals just take longer than others!

WHAT DOES YOUR DAILY DIET LOOK LIKE COMPARED TO WHEN YOU WERE HEAVIER?  I try to eat foods in their simplest form (e.g. orange, not orange juice). I tend to try to shop the outside aisles of the supermarket and eat less processed foods. I love Luna Bars, and they have been my on the go breakfast almost every day, and I keep one in my handbag so I’m never somewhere stuck without a healthy option. I tend to eat lots of veggies and lean proteins, whole oatmeal, and am nuts for nuts!! When I was heavier, I often would think I was ordering healthy choices. I would get a chicken Caesar salad, when it had the same fat and calories as a cheeseburger and french fries, or I would get a low fat blueberry muffin, when it had the same calories as 2.5 donuts, or order the Buffalo Wings, as chicken was a good choice, right? I learned I knew nothing about what foods were really better choices, and the stunning amounts of fat and calories that can hide in some favorite choices.

HOW DOES YOUR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY COMPARE TO WHEN YOU WERE HEAVIER?  I found fitness like some people find religion. It has been that life changing to me. I do some sort of physical activity each day, no matter what. I’ve truly made my workouts “like brushing my teeth” something I just do without question. I aim for about 90 minutes of physical activity each day now, that include weight workouts, a walk, biking or some cardio. As I do really believe that “sitting is the new smoking,” I also aim for 10,000 steps a day on my Fitbit in addition to my workouts. I also have a strict rule that I can only watch TV if I’m on a piece of cardio equipement, so I DVR my favorite shows and hop on the bike when I want to watch. Prior to getting in shape, almost every social activity revolved around food: going out to eat, going out for drinks, grabbing an ice-cream with a friend.


  1. Remind yourself, “You’re no busier than a fit person.” We’re all busy.
  2. Always plan: Keep a Luna in your pocketbook for emergencies, check the menus online before heading out to a restaurant, bring a healthy treat you enjoy when attending a party.
  3. Think of food as a choice, and not as a reward or a punishment. You don’t “deserve” a decadent dessert, nor are you “depriving” yourself if you don’t have it.
  4. BLT’s count: bites, licks and tastes add up, and sips too (so try your best not to drink your calories!)
  5. Eat foods in their lowest common denominator: Think orange, not orange juice, and shop the outside aisles of the supermarket; it’s where the least processed foods are.