My name is Amanda Pappas (@amanda_fit_rn), and I am 31 years old. I live in Omaha, Nebraska, and I’m a registered nurse at Nebraska Medicine. When my weight started causing health problems, I decided to change my diet using Noom and counting macros. After I have a better handle on the way I eat, I incorporated cardio and strength training for weight loss.
I developed a bad relationship with food when I was 17 after my mom and I got into a car accident that killed her. The trauma of it all caused me to turn to food for comfort. I continued to emotionally eat after high school when I went to college, where I met my now husband. We got into that typical comfortable relationship. We ate tons of fast food and would snack all evening on all kinds of processed food.
Once the weight really began to pile on, it set off a cycle of yo-yo dieting.
I reached 200 pounds and would attempt to lose weight. My approach each time was basically to attempt to change all my bad habits overnight. I was super strict, exercised every day, stopped drinking soda, etc. However, it only lasted a few days to a week or two before I’d give up.
At my heavier weight, I developed plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the foot that causes heel pain). This made my job as a registered nurse more difficult. I work 12.5-hour nights at the hospital, so by the time I went home from a shift, my feet would hurt so badly that I couldn’t walk normally. I also had low back pain. I struggled to keep up while walking with friends and would try my hardest to hide how hard I was breathing. I also had slightly elevated blood pressure.
By December 2019, I reached my highest weight of 284 pounds at age 29. I’m only 5’4” so that was a lot of weight on my frame. I was also nearing my 30th birthday in August 2020, and I desperately wanted to get healthy to enjoy my 30s. I got somewhat depressed thinking about how I wasted my 20s.
My weight was holding me back from doing things. I just didn’t have the energy to do anything social. I had aspirations to be more fit and active. I realized I needed to change my ways to start enjoying life more.
I talked to my good friend and she suggested I check out Noom because she heard positive things about it.
I went to the website to see what it was all about. It promoted building healthy habits for the long term without major restrictions. I liked the idea of having a goal specialist to talk to in order to stay on track and keep up my motivation. I made an impulse decision that day to sign up. At that time I wasn’t totally convinced that it would work since I had failed every other time I tried to lose weight, but that decision ultimately changed my life.
Noom gave me a guide of which foods to eat a lot of, what to eat a moderate amount of, and what I should eat less of. It was based on calorie density and encourages eating foods with more water content, such as fruits and veggies, a moderate amount of protein, and smaller portions of nuts, oils, sweets, etc.
The major difference with Noom was that no foods were off limits. It was very much about finding balance and moderation. Noom’s guide helped me plan out my meals. I didn’t force myself to eat anything I didn’t like, and I picked things that fit into my calorie budget. I kept my plan very simple. I don’t like to spend a lot of time cooking, so I don’t make any complex meals or recipes. By not over-restricting certain types of food, I found that the diet was much easier to stick to. It felt like something I could get used to doing for life.
After about six months into my journey, I added exercise and found the increase in activity made me hungrier.
Ultimately, I found that Noom gave me too small of a food allowance. So I looked into calorie deficit and calculated my TDEE (total daily energy expenditure), which takes into account the calories I burn from regular exercise, and I increased my calorie allowance.
Another habit I developed was paying more attention to my protein intake.
I started tracking food on MyFitnessPal since it allows you to see macronutrients like protein, carbs, and fat more easily. I started using a food scale to weigh out portions as well. It felt tedious at first, but I found that it helped guide my portions. My husband and I started prepping chicken tenderloins in bulk. It takes a good amount of time to prepare it all at once, but having it done ahead of time made it easier to stay on track.
Here’s what I eat in a day.
- Breakfast: One Dannon Light+Fit Greek yogurt, a breakfast sandwich (bacon, gouda cheese egg on a ciabatta roll), coffee with sugar-free creamer
- Lunch: Four to eight ounces of chicken tenderloins with a serving of frozen vegetable medley
- Snacks: Light cheese stick, apple, two ounces of baby carrots, 50 grams of red grapes, protein shake
- Dinner: A can of tuna with light mayo made into a romaine salad with garlic seasoning
- Dessert: Yasso frozen yogurt bar or Halo Top ice cream
I focused just on changing my eating habits at first. After about six months, I was down about 60 pounds and added an exercise routine.
At this time, I started walking on my treadmill at home and doing short home workouts using my laptop. After a month or so of working out consistently, I got a gym membership. I also was really interested in learning more about strength training and how to do it properly, so I hired a personal trainer at my gym. This was not cheap–it was an investment, but it was worth it for me and my goals.
I worked with my trainer once a week for one-hour sessions and exercised on my own two other times a week. With the trainer, we focused mainly on weight training using dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and cable machines. Each workout was full body with a lot of focus on strengthening my core.
When I went on my own, I would spend around 30 minutes on strength training and 30 minutes doing some kind of cardio (a combination of jogging on the treadmill, Stairmaster, or elliptical). After a year into my journey, I started jogging more often and would go on jogs outside as well.
Right now, I aim to work out three to four days of the week and will spend around 1.5 hours per session. I built a small home gym consisting of a bench, adjustable dumbbells, some kettlebells, and a treadmill that has iFit programs on it. I love following those workouts for my cardio!
These three changes have made my weight loss journey successful.
- I started meal prepping. I started meal prepping my lunches and snacks for the work week. By having food readily available, it made it easier to make the decision to eat what I planned instead of giving in to fast food or other temptations. It also helps me get back on track if I ever stray. Being consistent is easier than being perfect.
- I adjusted my mindset about food and eating. I got rid of the “all or nothing” thinking and stopped thinking of foods as “good” or “bad.” A healthy diet can involve any and all foods, so I found balance with moderation in my food choices. I ate something sweet every day and didn’t make any foods off-limits. I simply ate what I wanted as long as I could fit it into my daily macros. I never felt like I was on a diet and never really felt deprived.
- I surrounded myself with support. I joined Facebook support groups and began sharing my story online. This not only kept my mind in the game and kept me focused on my why for wanting to achieve my weight loss and fitness goals, but it also gave me a chance to give and receive an enormous amount of support from others who are dealing with many of the same struggles I was at the time. Knowing I had so many people to turn to for suggestions or just a pat on the back made a huge difference for my mindset and motivation to stay on track.
I lost 150 pounds total but regained some and found a happy weight to maintain around 140 pounds.
My life is drastically better since losing weight. It's not that I wasn’t beautiful or worthy before I lost weight, but the quality of my life is so much better. I no longer dread going out, fearing I won't fit in seating or keep up with others if I have to walk somewhere. I now love shopping for clothes again, which was something that would ruin my whole day when I was at my heaviest. I am also just so much more optimistic. I'm so proud of what I accomplished, and my self-esteem is much higher.
I will also add that I still struggle sometimes and have found maintenance harder than the original loss. Losing weight doesn’t make all my problems go away. I still have to fight away those binge eating and overeating habits, and do a lot of mental work to avoid the emotional eating. But overall, I learned a lot about my body and mind throughout this process, which has helped me continue to work toward the healthy and active lifestyle that I crave.