The city of Boston is a gorgeous sight on a warm, sunny spring day, particularly the area known as the Back Bay. This is where the Boston Public Garden is decked out with colorful flowers and a glittering pond welcomes tourists cruising around on swan-shaped boats.
Charlotte Jensen was soaking in these sights during a 2013 trip to the New England metropolis, wandering around the gardens just before a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Wearing a polyester jersey in preparation for the game, she began to get a little sweaty — then it just kept getting worse.
“I’m in the midst of all these glorious flowers, and all I could think about was how hot and uncomfortable I felt, even though it was only 65 degrees,” she recalls. At the time, Jensen weighed 310 pounds, and the experience was a wake-up call for the 6-foot-1 Virginia resident. The final straw occurred at the airport the next day.
“I got on the plane with my seatbelt extender kind of tucked away because I was always embarrassed to need one,” she says. “I just had a moment where I thought, ‘I’m not doing this anymore. I don’t want to be this person anymore.’ By the time I got back home, I was finally ready to make a huge change.”
Jensen had actually grown up very trim, she says. Her family had always been big on health and nutrition, so meals were all about lean protein and vegetables. After she graduated from college and got married, however, she landed a HR job that required ample time sitting at a desk.
With busy work schedules, she and her husband began relying on restaurant meals much more often than they once had, and the weight began to creep up.
“I was never at a yo-yo point,” she says. “It was more like one big bell curve, where it just steadily increased over a number of years. And the higher it went, the less happy I was with myself. But somehow, I never found the motivation I needed. I knew what I had to do to lose weight, I just didn’t want to do it.”
During a checkup, Jensen discussed the situation with her doctor, particularly because she was on blood pressure medication, and she asked him why he hadn’t given her a hard time about her weight. He told her she had to be emotionally and mentally ready, and she simply didn’t seem to be yet.
“It was only later I realized how true his words were,” she says. “Once I made the decision, it actually became easy.” She did an online search for calorie counters and found MyFitnessPal, then decided to try it for a few days. Fortunately, those few days turned into a habit and she has been consistently tracking her nutrition for 2,297 days (and counting!).
After 16 months, she met her goal of losing 150 pounds. Now, more than three years later, she still tracks every day, calling her daily login a “badge of honor.”
“MyFitnessPal is as much a part of me as my friends and family are, and I have no doubt that I wouldn’t have reached — and maintained — my goal without it,” says Jensen. “I’m on maintenance mode now, so it’s a little easier, but I still use it to stay on track.”
Because she travels for work, has her “cheat days” on weekends and simply loves delicious food, she says MyFitnessPal has helped her balance it all.
“I’ll never be the epitome of healthy food habits; it doesn’t work for me to skip indulgences,” Jensen says. “On the other hand, my body has gotten used to better, healthier food, and I crave it more now. I truly look forward to eating a big bowl of broccoli and chicken.”
Losing the weight has also brought other realizations, she adds, making her more aware of the type of emotional issues that caused her to gain weight in the first place.
“Somewhere along the way, you realize reaching your weight goal isn’t the end, it’s just one milestone in the process,” she says. In terms of advice to others starting where she did, Jensen has a suggestion: Book a vacation.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to see what’s going on with yourself when you’re in the middle of your everyday stresses and habits,” she says. “Once you get away from your daily grind, you might get a little more clarity. And that can make all the difference.”