When someone is on a weight-loss journey, it can be surprisingly easy to jump from a healthy, balanced diet to over-restricting and living in deprivation. That’s what Molly Agnew, a 26-year-old from Dublin, Ireland, discovered when she decided to get healthy.
The beginning of Agnew’s story can be traced back to her early college days, as she struggled to adjust to the many challenges of being a new university student. To help cope, she turned to food, often eating nothing throughout the day and then binging later.
“I was struggling with my mental health, and I came home from college every day, took a nap, woke up and then overindulged in food,” she remembers. “I was always so tired and did little-to-no exercise.”
By age 21, she had reached 238 pounds. Then one day, while looking in the mirror, she decided something had to change.
“I knew this was not how I was supposed to look,” she says. “If I kept going the way I was, I knew I would become seriously ill.”
Determined to get healthier, she signed up for a weight-loss clinic where she was immediately put on a very low-calorie diet, while simultaneously ramping up her exercise. The results were shocking — she lost 84 pounds in just nine months.
However, still shy of her ultimate goal, she had reached a frustrating weight-loss plateau. To make matters worse, Agnew wasn’t feeling well. She struggled with maintaining her energy and was constantly getting sick with colds.
One day, a trainer at the gym introduced her to MyFitnessPal. Though Agnew was nervous to try a more diversified approach — she had cut out many foods by that point, including carbs, thinking they would sabotage her progress — she ultimately decided to give the app a shot.
After customizing her settings in the app, MyFitnessPal gave her a much higher calorie allotment than her current plan, and to her astonishment, not only did she not gain weight, but she finally pushed past her long-standing plateau.
“After using it for a few months, the weight started to fall off again, and all I was doing was eating more and fueling my body with the nutrients and energy it needed,” she says. “I felt so much better in terms of my energy levels, my moods and the shape my body was changing into.”
Agnew is now passionate about warning others of the danger of low-calorie diets. She feels social media, especially, pushes people to focus too much on their appearance, which then leads them to quick fixes like crash diets that are unsustainable and, ultimately, damaging to their metabolism.
Agnew credits MyFitnessPal with helping her leave restrictive eating plans behind and reintroducing all nutrients back into her diet.
“Today I still use the app to help me reach a new goal, which is to tone up, be strong and have a healthy relationship with food,” she says. “I love the app because it allows for balance. You can add some ‘treats’ into your daily calories without doing any damage.”
Agnew starts a personal training course this summer and dreams of one day working in schools to promote health and well-being for young children and teenagers. She also tracks her efforts to live healthy on Instagram, where she hopes to inspire others to discover what a balanced lifestyle looks like for them.
Aside from ditching the low-calorie diets, her top advice for those looking to lose weight is to find an exercise you enjoy, which has been a huge turning point for Agnew in managing her mental health.
“Exercise helps me moderate my moods when I feel in need of a boost,” she says. “I absolutely love going for walks and listening to podcasts. I enjoy training in the gym, going for bike rides and swimming occasionally.”
She also encourages others to forget competing with anyone else and instead find an approach that works for them.
“Do it for yourself,” she says. “You have only one life. Take care of it.”