SparkPeople member Autumn Conley has a lot to celebrate. Just this morning, she reached her goal weight of 155, having lost a total of 174 pounds—more than half her body weight, and the equivalent of 17 bags of potatoes.
Autumn's weight loss journey began two years ago, in January of 2014. At 43 years old, she was recently divorced and weighed 329 pounds, the heaviest she'd ever been. When she sat down to write 100 goals for 2014, weight loss topped the list. Not only did Autumn want to be healthy and confident, she knew it was important to set a good example for her teenage daughter, who had been struggling with low self-esteem.
As a freelance book editor, Autumn spends most of her days behind a desk, only exercising sporadically. Given her sedentary lifestyle, paired with her lack of love for cooking—most of her meals came from boxes, bags, pouches and cans—Autumn's ambitious goal seemed like an uphill battle. But when she started using the Nutrition Tracker every day, the weight started coming off.
For Autumn, the biggest surprise wasn't what she had to do to lose the weight, but what she didn't have to do. "I haven't joined a gym, and I don't eat a strict diet with only organic or raw foods. I still like to eat out, and I prefer easy foods. The only thing I have really done is used SparkPeople's Nutrition Tracker and stuck to it—and the pounds have come off."
Sparking Others to Make a Change
Aside from her amazing weight loss, the most gratifying part of Autumn's journey has been inspiring her loved ones to adopt healthier lifestyles.
About six months after she joined SparkPeople, Autumn's sister and 18-year-old daughter, inspired by Autumn's results, started tracking their own food intake. The trio has always battled weight issues, and after Autumn's father died from an obesity-triggered heart attack last year, they were newly motivated to make a change. Together, the women have celebrated triumphs, broken through plateaus and rebounded from setbacks. To date, Autumn's sister has lost 115 pounds and her daughter has lost 76.
"We are thrilled to see these changes in ourselves and in each other," Autumn says. "When they have success, it's the boost I need to keep pushing toward my goal."
Autumn’s Recipe for Smart Dieting
Autumn's weight loss wasn't the result of any crash diets or extreme food restrictions. After starting with the Nutrition Tracker, she identified 1,200 calories as the "magic number" that resulted in weight loss, so she has adhered to that on most days, although she admits it's sometimes a struggle.
Autumn consumes 300 calories for breakfast and lunch, eats 400 calories for dinner and reserves 200 calories for snacks, beverages, condiments and medicines. She's given up some of her unhealthy vices, such as cooking oil, butter, excessive bread, soda, too much fast food and bad-for-you snacks.
Autumn's Weight Loss Success Tips
Autumn has come a long way since the beginning of her two-year journey, the day she sat down to make her list of self-improvement goals. "I am literally less than half the woman I was, but I am starting to feel like a whole person again," she says. Now that her weight loss goal is complete, Autumn is embracing her new mission: To motivate others to start their own journeys toward healthier, happier lives.
- Don't do it alone. Autumn credits her personal support system with propelling her toward her goal. "It really helps to have a weight loss buddy or two, to come along on the journey with you. Whether it's someone in real life or online (like all these wonderful Sparkies I'm getting to know), align yourself with people who are on the same quest. Be accountable to each other, take joy and inspiration from one another's successes and pull each other back up on the wagon when one of you takes a fall. Hear only those voices who support you...and be that voice for someone else."
- Be consistent with food tracking. Monitoring calorie intake is an essential part of the weight loss equation. "Track each and every calorie you eat, even those condiment packets, pieces of chewing gum [or] that Tic Tac," Autumn says.
- Welcome water into your life. Although Autumn isn't a huge fan of water, she knows how important is is to weight loss and overall health, so she makes sure to drink at least 64 ounces a day. See our tips for squeezing in eight cups a day.
- Stay socially motivated. In addition to her sister and daughter, Autumn drew support and encouragement from social media communities. "I post my weekly weigh-ins and photos on Facebook, and I have a lot of buddies at SparkPeople who are very inspiring to me. I'm so thankful for all the support I've received."
- Read. As a writer and editor, Autumn does a lot of reading, which came in handy during her weight loss journey. "Reading is part of our job as weight losers," she says. "Read those nutrition labels, and read the foods you log."
- Stay accountable. Whether she's in weight loss or maintenance mode, accountability has been essential for Autumn. Even after hitting her goal weight, she plans to continue weighing herself every Wednesday. "I post my results publicly, even when they aren't good, because that accountability, in and of itself, is crucial," she says.
- Be willing to sacrifice. "Dieters need to know there will be sacrifices," Autumn says. "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always be where you are. This can be a shock to the system at first, but I believe if someone perseveres until better eating becomes a habit, it gets a whole lot easier."
- Don't forget where you started. Although Autumn doesn't enjoy seeing pictures of herself at her heaviest, they do serve as a powerful inspiration to maintain her new lifestyle. She hung one of those photos on her refrigerator door, with the belief that this visual reminder of where she was before will help her to eat less, and better. "No matter where you are in your journey, even if you're at day one, post these pictures of your bigger self where you are forced to see them before you choose what to eat, because they will remind you to make wiser choices."
- Shrink your dishes. To trick her mind into thinking it's getting more bang for the bite, Autumn uses saucers instead of dinner plates. "We are naturally inclined to want a mile when we're given an inch, so the key may be to give yourself only an inch in the first place."
- Don't deprive yourself. Although sacrifices can't be avoided, Autumn feels that small indulgences are a big part of her dieting success. "On holidays and celebration times, I sometimes let my calorie counts go a bit," she says. "I've learned to accept that this may result in plateaus or small gains, but I know I'll get back on the wagon and counteract them. I wholeheartedly believe a huge part of why diets fail is because people are too strict on themselves, and if your diet begins to steal joy from your life, you will resent it and give up."
- Persevere. For Autumn, the last 10 or 15 pounds were the hardest to lose, but she refused to give up. As she puts it, "Giving up is the only guaranteed way to fail."