As Jenni Buckingham grew up, she didn’t think much about her weight or health. As a normal kid who ate what she wanted and lived a pretty content life, she expected that’s how her next few decades would go, too.
Then, at age 20, her whole world was turned upside down.
Her father passed away unexpectedly, and Buckingham spiraled into depression and started having panic attacks. The grief felt suffocating and, before long, she realized food seemed to be the only thing that lifted the heaviness.
“When I was eating, I felt happy,” she recalls. “Food was a comfort, a crutch, and I just went for it with fast food and junk food. I started bingeing hard.”
Within two years, the New Jersey native had gained 80 pounds, reaching her heaviest weight of 200 pounds. And at just 5 feet tall, that extra weight was especially notable on her small frame. Buckingham knew it wasn’t healthy to continue on that track, but she accepted it was her new normal. Even seeing photos of herself from her wedding didn’t seem like a wake-up call, she remembers.
Then, she went on a Disney vacation in the fall of 2017 with her husband and their friends. Wearing a tank top and shorts, she posed with all kinds of Disney characters and couldn’t wait to see the photos later.
“When I looked at them, my heart sank,” she says. “I barely even recognized myself anymore. I really was blind to how much weight I’d actually gained. So I decided, right at that moment, to make a change.”
Although she had downloaded the MyFitnessPal app in the past, she’d used it only sporadically. This time was different for Buckingham. With her newly established mindset, she dove back into the app and made a commitment to log every bite of food, every day. The shift was a radical departure from her once-normal eating habits — she quit buying junk food, stopped drinking soda and alcohol, skipped the drive-thru and even switched her usual coffee order after she saw how sugary her regular mocha was.
“As soon as I made the decision, it was like a switch got turned on,” says Buckingham. “I could see that what I was eating was toxic, and not just to my body. It was toxic to my emotional health, as well. Food turned into fuel instead of a source of comfort, and that was a big turning point.”
With MyFitnessPal, she tracked calories as well as macronutrient and sugar intake. When a new gym opened close to her home, Buckingham saw it as a way to boost her progress and began going five days a week with her husband.
The key to her eating habits and exercise, she says, is good old consistency. The app helped to keep her accountable and on track, she notes, and she still uses it every single day as a way to be focused.
“My advice to other people is not to give up hope,” she says. “When I was heavy, I felt so hopeless in my body. I would look at weight-loss photos on Instagram and think I’d never be able to do that. It felt unattainable. But consistency is the secret to all of it. Just keep going, and if you mess up, get right back to your plan. Progress will come.”
Now at 27 years old, and 82 pounds down in just a year and a half, Buckingham has done far more than get back to her starting weight. She recently went snowboarding for the first time and ran her first 5K race, which led to training for a 15K. Those activities never would have been possible at her previous weight and health level, she believes.
“I am truly living and enjoying my life again, and I thank MyFitnessPal for giving me the opportunity to lose the weight and get back in control,” she says.