How I’ve Lost 43 Pounds in 6 Months

I know many of you have been waiting for this post with details on how I’ve lost weight over the last six months (about 43 pounds to be exact). It’s likely because I keep talking about it on Instagram that I get questions daily about my weight loss. I’m pretty open about it, BUT I do not think I am anybody special. If I did this, you can do it. Your mom can do it. Your BFF can do it. ANYONE CAN DO THIS.

The picture above shows the difference from April 17 through now.

Before I dive into the Q&A, I wanted to address WHY I’m losing weight, or more precisely, the exact moment something in me clicked and I decided to start this journey.

The Moment I Decided to Lose Weight 

On Friday, April 13 (yup, Friday the 13th!), I went to see a bariatric surgeon. If you have no idea what that means, basically I was seriously considering having gastric bypass or the sleeve. It took me three months of visits with my PCP to even get the appointment, I had done hours upon hours of research, and I was sure this is what needed to happen.

I went to my appointment, I found out I qualified due to my weight at the time, and then the other shoe dropped.

My insurance required I wait a whole year AND do monthly dietician visits to learn healthy eating habits.

I was devastated. I thought I’d be able to see the surgeon, get the surgery a month later and be skinny by 2019. It’d be a miracle!

But no. Seeing that I was visibly upset, the surgeon then told me that people of my weight have a less than 5% chance of losing a significant amount of weight and that basically I was doomed unless I had the surgery.

I left the appointment, got in my car, called my health insurance to see if anything could be done about the one year requirement, and they said no. Of course, right?

I then started reflecting on what the surgeon had told me- I allegedly had a less than 5% likelihood of losing a significant amount of weight.

And that’s the moment I decided I was going to prove the surgeon wrong and join the 5% of people who do lose the weight.

Oddly enough, his office called this week to ask if I was still interested. Well, I’ve lost enough weight to not even qualify anymore (YAY!).

And that is why I started to lose weight. To prove a surgeon wrong, to take back my body and to live a happier, healthier life.

I truly believe everyone has a “moment” in which the sparks will fly and a person will get their butt in gear. I also believe you can create that spark yourself, if you have the fire inside you to change.

Now, I’ll address all the questions I’ve received Q&A style below. Again, I am NOT SPECIAL. Anyone can do this. I’m cheering you on!

If your one and only question is “How do you stay motivated?” that answer is at the very bottom.

Your Weight Loss Questions Answered

Q: What eating plan do you follow?

A: I essentially follow a moderate carb/calorie counting/intermittent fasting approach. Overall, I aim to eat no more than 1800 calories a day. When I first started back in April, I was eating about 2100 calories a day, but since I am now smaller, my calorie needs have decreased. I aim to eat about 80-100 grams of carbs per day. My protein and fat grams vary, and I don’t really look at those nutrients much. I do try to eat about 100-140 grams of protein a day, but some days I do fall short.

My body gets used to stuff really fast, so I switch it up and do intermittent fasting (IF) every third week (two weeks off, one week on, repeat). This means I essentially skip breakfast those weeks and only eat between 11 am and 7 pm (which is an eight hour eating window). This keeps my body guessing.

I also REALLY, REALLY watch my sodium, which helps me lose weight from water retention. I bloat so easily! In September, I was eating within my calories/macros, but eating a lot of take out/fast food and the scale would. not. budge. Once I drastically cut out eating out, the scale was kinder to me. Now we only eat out a few times a week and mostly eat meals I make at home.

Q: What do you eat?

A: Pretty much anything I want…except for bread, tortillas, pasta and sugary baked and processed goods. I’m not saying I will never eat them, but it is very, very rare that I do. I also naturally avoid alcohol due to the empty calories- basically, I don’t drink any calories with the exception of the occasional Starbucks or a Premier Protein shake (seriously, they are delicious). Cheese is another item I moderate because things tend to come to a screeching halt digestion wise, if you get my drift.

I do have potatoes in moderation, usually paired with a veggie and lean protein. I do still have McDonald’s fries with my bunless quarter pounder with cheese. I love salads and do not see them as “punishment” food- my fave are cobb salads because they’re naturally low carb or chicken and strawberry salads with spinach, feta and dried cranberries.

I eat lots of chicken, lean beef, turkey, and plenty of veggies such as asparagus, spinach, zucchini, green beans, spring mix, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado. 

I don’t use diet salad dressings, low fat cheese/butter, or anything that I consider to be a “diet” food. I eat real stuff, in moderation. Yup, I cook with olive oil, butter, full fat cheese, etc.

Q: Do you focus on NET carbs or carbs?

A: At this point, I simply focus on overall carbs and the fiber is a nice bonus.

Q: Do you weigh/measure your food?

A: YES, absolutely! I even have a food scale in my office to do these things at work. I am dedicated and feel it really makes a difference to weigh and measure your food. I will be honest that I do not worry about measuring veggies, lettuce/spring mix, or things like that. I know I did not get obese by eating too many veggies.

Q: What are your favorite snacks?

A: When I first started, I had 3-4 snacks a day. Now I have two at most. I love fruit, so that’s a great option. My fave non-fruit snacks are Skinny Pop popcorn, almonds, greek yogurt, string cheese and Chilly Cow or Yasso ice cream. 

Q: How much water do you drink?

A: A lot. I aim for a minimum of 64 oz. a day, but usually I end up at about 80-90 oz. 

Q: How much do you exercise?

A: I got really dedicated about exercise the month of July and the scale would not budge. I’m a weird person that cannot exercise AND diet and have the scale go down. Given I still have a good 60 pounds to lose, my focus is on weight loss.

THAT BEING SAID, I do get in a lot of steps each day (I aim for a minimum of 6,000 per day), try to stay active, am not a couch potato as much anymore, so that definitely helps. Walking is free, almost anyone can do it, and it’s a great excuse to get out and get some fresh air.

I use my handy Apple Watch to track my steps and calories burned each day, plus it reminds me to walk around each hour, monitors my heart rate, tracks activity minutes, and even has a My Fitness Pal feature to log calories on the go. 

Q: What made you decide to lose weight?

A: See the top half of this post.

Q: How much more weight do you want to lose?

A: I’d like to lose a minimum of another 60ish, but would love to lose 80 more. Total I know I need to lose about 100 pounds, and I am 43% of the way there!

Q: Did you do keto at all?

A: I did do strict keto for a month of two, and it was just not fun for my digestive system nor was it how I wanted to lose weight long-term. I wanted to lose weight in a way I could sustain after the “diet” or weight loss was done.

I also had bad migraines, which I already suffer from, so I decided to stick with moderate carbs. Somedays I’m simply not in a carb mood and will end up with keto type carb intake, but it’s not the norm and not on purpose.

Q: What foods do you miss?

A: Baked goods, pizza and flour tortillas. I’d love to have a huge slice of cake or pizza and beer or some delicious tacos. I know there are diet options for all those things, but the real stuff is way better.

Q: Do you have cheat days/meals?

A: I joke that I’ve been obese most of my life, so my life’s been one giant cheat meal… but truthfully I did have Saturday/Sunday cheat meals from April-July, but I’d quickly “gain” sodium weight that then took another week to “lose”, so I wasn’t making the progress I wanted to make.

Now, I’ll have a cheat meal on a special occasion or when we travel, but overall I try to stick to my plan. I eat delicious foods, I don’t feel deprived and if I’m really wanting something like pizza I’ll work it in once in awhile. I’ve reached the point where seeing the number go down on the scale is more important to me than a temporary meal indulgence– the food is over pretty quickly, but the weight loss gets me closer to my permanent weight goal.

If I have a cheat meal/day, this means I’ll typically eat at my maintenance calories (the calories needed to maintain, not lose, weight), which is about 2300-2500 calories.

Q: How often do you weigh yourself?

A: Daily. I know people will judge me for that, but I’ve gotten to the point where it doesn’t get me down if it’s up. It helps me learn that broccoli will make me bloated, or that maybe I had too much sodium. It also helps me get back on track after the rare “cheat meal”.

My official weigh-in day is Saturday morning, and this is to discourage me from getting too relaxed with my food choices on Friday.

Q: Are you happier? You seem happier in your IG stories…?

A: I am! But, I will be very, very candid that I have anxiety. I live in constant fear of dying, which I know sounds beyond crazy to “normal” people, but I really have trouble sometimes with simple day to day activities. I really hate driving, and it stresses me out. I avoid driving at all costs. When we travel, I am in a heightened state of anxiety because I feel every car is going to hit us and we’ll die. 

It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t suffer from anxiety. I know I sound insane. I promise I’m mostly a normal, 33 year old woman.

I also have this terrible habit of comparing myself to others, which is why I took an almost three months Instagram hiatus. I wish I could stop making myself miserable, but I did hide the accounts that made me feel bad about myself, true story.

While losing weight has made me happier because I feel prettier or better about myself, I have a lot of issues to work through. I guess the difference is now I feel I deserve to seek help and I put more effort into my well-being. It is my priority.

Q: How long did it take you to lose a pant size?

A: About 20ish pounds! I think it takes longer for a plus size gal, honestly. I think if you’re a misses 18 or under, it’d probably happen within 10 pounds.

Q: Do you set date/special occasion weight goals?

A: I truly try not to! Sometimes the scale won’t budge despite our best efforts, you know? The one goal I did set for myself was to lose 50 pounds by Christmas, and I’m about 7ish pounds away. My next “date” goal is to be in ONEderland (to weigh in the 100’s) by my birthday in March, which truthfully…ugh, it’d really be a stretch. I’m trying to manage my expectations.

Q: Are you still in the plus sizes?

A: Sigh. Yes. But, in tops and dresses I can fit into some XL, so it’ll happen soon. 🙂 I can’t wait to be able to shop in the normal stores- that is something that keeps me motivated.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to lose weight and doesn’t know where to start?

A: DO NOT WAIT FOR A MONDAY. Do not wait for a new year. Do not have a food funeral and then start dieting.

Simply start tracking what you eat, start making smarter choices (broccoli instead of mac and cheese), drink more water, move a little more. If you’re overweight, start eating 2000 calories a day, see what the scale does and adjust from there. Do not jump into 1200 calorie a day nonsense- you will be miserable

Sensible, slow, and steady. 

And if I hear someone say they’re waiting until Monday, I’ll cry. You are living and breathing NOW, so make changes NOW.

Q: Is your husband dieting, too? Is he supportive?

A: My husband is freaking AMAZING. He’s never, not once, made me feel bad about myself at any weight. I’ve always felt loved and cherished by my husband- he’s my biggest cheerleader. 

He’s not dieting per se, but he does eat whatever I make at home, and when we go out he understands that some places are just not “Monica friendly” and doesn’t make a fuss. He makes it known he’s proud of me, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have this man in my life. He’s also said I’m more fun now since my knee pain isn’t as bad, and I am feeling better about myself. 

Q: Why aren’t you on Weight Watchers anymore?

A: Because I got tired of feeling defeated every time I weighed-in if I gained and still had to fork over $15. The meetings locally were simply not motivating- I was new and never was made to feel like part of the group. To me, Weight Watchers is an easy way to fall into the “all or nothing” mentality. You have a set number of points, plus your weekly points, and there’s a bunch of 0 point foods. Every time I went over my dailies, I’d end up quickly running through my weeklies and then I felt like I was failure. I’d try to make it up by eating less the next day, or I’d say the hell with it, I have no points and eat whatever.

Not only that, but some items that are good for you cost an insane amount of points (mostly items that have healthy fats!)

To me, I just couldn’t be healthy about weight loss for the long-term following that program. I know it works for so many, and I am a big fan of finding what works for you. Points are essentially calories, and I can track and do all that for free.

Q: What app do you use to track all your food?

A: I use My Fitness Pal to track my food, water, and weekly weigh-ins. I also use a secondary app called Happy Scale to track my daily weigh-ins- it’s nice to see the ups and downs of weight loss, plus your goal weight is divided into smaller mini goals so it is not as daunting. It also gives you trends and predictions on what you’ll weigh if you keep up the weight loss pace you’re averaging.

Here’s a screenshot of my Happy Scale chart. Notice it’s got hills and valleys because WEIGHT LOSS IS NOT LINEAR. Even though we all wish it was, and it may be for some, but it’s ok if it’s not.

Q: How do you stay motivated? 

A: You’re likely not going to like this answer, but it is my truth. 

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MOTIVATION.

Ok, so technically there is, but it is a fleeting, intangible emotion. Do not rely on a fleeting emotion if you want to succeed at anything, period.

YOU NEED TO BE DISCIPLINED.

You know how it’s a non-negotiable that you have to get up to go to work? Or that your kids have to get dropped off/taken to school? Or that you have to pay your rent/mortgage?

That’s how weight loss is. Once you decide it’s something you have to do, period, it becomes a lot easier to just get it done. Truthfully, the first few weeks are the hardest, but eventually it is your new normal. I don’t even really fret about weighing my food or counting calories. I simply do it.

Is it fun everyday? No. Do I have to work at it everyday to succeed? Yes.

Discipline will get you further than motivation. Stop searching for something that is fleeting and get disciplined.

Tough love aside, my “motivation” comes from wanting to shop at the normal clothing stores, hopefully living longer, not being ashamed to visit a doctor and having a better quality of life. I can’t think of anything more motivating than that. 

If you have a question I didn’t answer, drop it in the comments and I’ll add it to the post. I hope this has helped someone out there, and you all know I love to keep it real on here, so everything I said truly comes from a sincere place in my heart. 

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9 Comments

  1. November 16, 2018 / 7:59 am

    Good for you on your weight loss. You are such a talented and beautiful lady, so I am really thrilled that you are taking good care of yourself and feeling better about yourself. Keep up the good work.

  2. SYLVIA LOPEZ
    November 16, 2018 / 12:11 pm

    You look happier! Keep it up. Your words are inspiring!

  3. D
    November 16, 2018 / 2:28 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I know you answered so many of our questions, My weight loss story is so similar to yours and I appreciate your honesty. What scale do you use for your weigh-ins? I have purchased 2 that are crappy and have a 12 pound difference which made me frustrated but I also like the daily weigh in option when focusing on caloric deficit.

    • Monica Benavidez
      Author
      November 16, 2018 / 2:32 pm

      Hi D! I use this scale: https://amzn.to/2K81QeR I can hop on and off 10 times and the number stays the same. My husband also uses it and it’s consistent for him, too. Hope that helps! Best wishes on your health journey. ☺️

  4. Mary
    November 16, 2018 / 9:09 pm

    Thanks for sharing-you look great! Posts like this are very motivating, I recently lost 30 lbs on South Beach but I yo-yo and hope I can keep stress eating from derailing the progress. It helps to read other people’s weight loss struggles and tips.

  5. Tamra
    November 17, 2018 / 12:19 am

    You looking absolutely stunning, but you did before your weight loss as well! I know losing some extra pounds makes me feel much more confident and less negative about myself. Your questions and answers are so honest and detailed which helps a lot. Thank you so much for sharing with us. You are an inspiration!!!

  6. November 17, 2018 / 9:37 am

    Check you out! Very empowering! Few years ago, I had back surgery and was off work for quite a while. Decided to go on a low carb diet and lost 22 pounds in under 3 months. It was easy at home to stay strict on my food choices. Once I got back to work, my old eating habits returned along with the weight. I always felt reprieved and being an emotional eater was my downfall. Your approach sounds so much more logical! “Treat your weight loss goals as non-optional”. That resignated with me!!! Thanks for being so honest and sharing. You must realize…. you are helping just more than yourself, and I am very grateful for that ❤️

  7. Sojourner
    November 17, 2018 / 3:08 pm

    What an honest and generous post. This will help so many people. Just wanted to say that you looked
    lovely in both the before and after pictures. There is such a beautiful change in your energy though!
    Your honesty and kindness are an inspiration to me. Thank you.

  8. CC
    November 17, 2018 / 7:37 pm

    thanks for your honesty!! i love that you did not do the surgery and are losing the weight on your own – awesome!!
    you have inspired me to try harder to get my weight back to where i need to be ……….lose 22 more. thanks and please keep sharing your progress!! are there any special tricks/recipes you have planned for the holidays?

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