When Elizabeth Simion, a business analyst and MBA student in Austin, Texas, began looking for a job, she worried her weight would hold her back. Simion was all too aware of the prejudice against certain body types in the workplace, having chosen the subject as a research topic in grad school.
“Overweight people are fairly absent in leadership roles, and I was ‘severely obese,’” she says. “I didn’t want my weight to limit me, because even though it’s unfair, unkind and irrational to think fat women are less competent, people overwhelmingly do.”
On September 24, 2017, Simion decided to do something about her future and downloaded MyFitnessPal to get in shape. In addition to her career worries, the combination of her husband’s high blood pressure and a significant, unexpected death in the family ultimately pushed her to take action. She began her journey at her highest weight: 270 pounds.
“Once I left the Air Force ROTC in college, I stopped exercising constantly and ballooned,” she says. “I was also wrongly put on a medication with significant weight gain-related side effects. I gained 80 pounds in the first year and 50 pounds in the next, about doubling my bodyweight.”
Simion says the medicine made her constantly hungry, and for the six months leading up to September, both Simion and her husband ate out at every meal. A typical lunch for her included six strips of fried chicken with plenty of honey mustard sauce, three sides of fries with ketchup and two large sweet teas.
“Sometimes I would snack on chocolate truffles all day long like they were grapes,” she remembers.
As a result of her weight gain, Simion suffered from sleep apnea and was even scared to walk the length of a mall, for fear people would see her struggling.
“I also love high heels, but I couldn’t wear any because they hurt so bad,” she says. “I actually married my husband at my highest weight, and I couldn’t find a wedding dress in my size.”
When the time came to make a change, she was determined to do it on her terms.
“I didn’t set cheat days, I didn’t make gym goals and I didn’t meal prep,” she says. “I downloaded MyFitnessPal, set the calorie goal to losing 2 pounds a week and just didn’t break my calories.”
In fact, she didn’t go over her assigned calorie limit until a vacation in July 2018, nearly 10 months after starting her journey.
“I didn’t break on Thanksgiving, Christmas, my first wedding anniversary, New Year’s, my husband’s birthday, my birthday or any other day in that time frame,” she says. “It was like as long as I did what the app suggested, the weight would come off as scheduled.”
A data-oriented person, she loved having the numbers at her fingertips and even plotted a forecast in an Excel spreadsheet, noting how accurate the app’s predictions were for her weight-loss milestones.
“I was so resistant to MyFitnessPal for the longest time because I was worried it would lead to an obsessive or unhealthy relationship with food,” she explains. “If anything, I think it has mainly provided me with a ‘food as fuel’ perspective.”
Over the course of 2018, Simion’s hard work paid off. She went on to lose 110 pounds, and this past December, switched to maintenance mode when she realized her current weight — 20 pounds higher than her original goal weight — made her happy enough. She still logs her food daily and keeps an Instagram account where she details her recipes and workouts.
Now she encourages others who want to lose weight to do things their way — not somebody else’s.
“I didn’t say any foods were off-limits when I started tracking [with] MyFitnessPal,” she says. “I didn’t step foot in a gym until I had lost 55 pounds, because it hurt too much to exercise. I started meal prepping once I actually took interest in learning it. It was all on my timeline. To this day, I don’t eat [food] or do any workouts I dislike.”
She acknowledges though that some circumstances can make losing weight particularly difficult, such as the medication she was prescribed. She hopes others will learn to work with their situation.
“It’s unfair, but that’s the hand you were dealt and you have to make the best of it,” she says. “It’s not that there are no excuses. You’ll just feel even more victorious when you beat them.”