Monday, April 30, 2012

Just Getting Started ... Shannon's 100 Lb Weight Loss!

One of my favorite things to hear are success stories. And by "success," I mean life-changing journeys, regardless of the goal. I want to share one of these success stories with all of you.

Shannon is a friend from college. We've kept in touch in the years since college, and last year, Shannon informed me that she'd begun a new chapter in her life. She was kind enough to do an interview with me about her new lifestyle.

What made you decide to start your weight loss journey?
It was actually something you posted on your Facebook. I wish I could remember the exact link, but it was a blog entry that discussed body fat in terms of what it actually is: stored energy, that carries with it potential for physical activity. I thought about that for awhile, and then one day woke up and decided I would join the gym. And, as we all know, it's mostly diet that affects weight so I began tracking calories as well.

How many months/years has it been since you began your lifestyle change?
I started in June of 2011. Since then, I've lost 107 pounds.

Nearly 100 lb difference! April 2011 to March 2012
Describe a typical day.
I get up and get myself and my son ready for our day. I make breakfast (which I sit and eat at the table! no more leaving the house without eating), get my lunch, pack my gym bag, and we head out. I go to work and every day at noon, instead of sitting in the break room with coworkers, I hit the gym. After work, we get our son fed and into bed, then make dinner. I walk the dog, pack up my food for the next day, then we catch up on TV. I almost always plan my food for the next day by pre-tracking it on MyFitnessPal before I go to bed. My workout routine involves an hour of strength training Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (with a trainer for an hour every other week). On Tuesday, I usually do Tabata and sometimes add Zumba (because it's fun!). Thursday is machine cardio day - sprint intervals and some time on the elliptical. On weekends I usually get in a yoga class, a run, and biking if it's nice.

What is your meal plan like? Do you work with a coach or nutritionist? Do you follow a set plan, use macro guidelines, use caloric guidelines, or follow another method?
Currently I eat around 1,900 calories a day divided into three meals and two snacks (with a treat after dinner most days). One reason I was hesitant to lose weight was that I thought I couldn't eat "real" food and I'd have to give up cooking and trying new recipes, but I've found that this isn't the case at all. I still cook great food, but I plan ahead and work it into my day. I don't really follow macros but have goals I try to hit: protein of at least 130g a day, minimum of 65g fat (primarily monounsaturated), and the remainder is carbs. I don't work with a nutritionist, but I'm really into research so I'm always looking at what experts have to say about ideal diets and macro ratios. My goal was to cut fat while sparing muscle, and my macros are based on that - while keeping it enjoyable for me so it's sustainable. I definitely eat treats.

You use an online program/app to track your food and workouts. How did you make the decision to use that tool? Would you recommend it? Why or why not?
A friend used MyFitnessPal to track his workouts so I signed up. I like it and it's been extremely helpful to me to have the tracking ability and built-in support system (my MFP friends are fantastic!). I think websites like MyFitnessPal and LoseIt (and programs like Weight Watchers) are great for helping people get started losing weight, and it's wonderful to have free tools available. That said, it's not really one-size-fits-all and I think these tools are best used if you customize them to meet your goals. Kari, if you followed MyFitnessPal's default calorie and macro guidelines, you'd never be competition ready. And for me, I'd be eating 1200 calories and 50 grams of protein which wouldn't help me meet my goals either. Straight calorie counting also doesn't encourage people to look at the quality of their food choices. Still, it's awesome to have the iPhone app and always have the ability to look up calorie counts and track on the go.

You have a husband and young son. Do they eat the same foods you do? Was there any conflict when you began to make different food decisions?
We all eat very similar food. My husband was definitely on board with healthier eating, and lost 30 pounds himself last summer. He just eats more than I do - and drinks a lot more beer :) I love that we're setting a good example for our son and teaching him to eat good, mostly unprocessed and homemade, foods.

Shannon and Sullivan, Summer 2010
Have you encountered any challenges or setbacks thus far? How dd you deal with them or overcome them? 
First, sometimes motivation wanes. You go on vacation, enjoy the "free" week and then come back and the gym is the last place you want to go. That's why I'm glad I have a trainer. I schedule a session for the Monday after a vacation or rough weekend, and it gets me in the gym and usually gets me motivated again. I also have friends at the gym and it's nice to have that support system...they will catch me if I'm slipping. Second: injury. Nothing more frustrating than being motivated and goal-oriented and being sidelined by an injury. I've learned though that built-in rest days are good for preventing injury, and rest is REQUIRED after an injury. If I can force myself to stay out of the gym, I can get back in the game earlier and more effectively than if I push myself.

What keeps you motivated?
Results! A smaller number on the scale, smaller clothes, the ability to lift heavier weights and run faster and farther. I'm driven by pushing myself and seeing what I can do.

What is your long-term goal? (Weight/bodyfat percentage/clothing size/athletic accomplishment)
Bodyfat of 23-24%. That matters more to me than scale weight! I also have some goal clothes waiting for me in the closet.

Did you set short-term goals along the way? If so, how did you celebrate achieving those milestones?
Lots! And seriously, I didn't really need an external celebration. Just hitting each goal made me giddy :)

What will you do when you reach your long-term goal?
Besides feeling like a superhero, I will get up the next day and continue with the plan. That's the thing about this...I'm not even sure I have an end-goal because that seems to signify to me that I'll stop something, and I have no plans to stop. I expect maintaining to be a bigger challenge than losing, so I'll keep adding goals. I want to be able to do a pull-up, I want to run a 10k, etc.

How do you manage social situations? Do you bring your own food to functions and gatherings? Do you eat a small portion of the food available at gatherings?
The only place I'll bring my own food is movie theaters and coffee shops (but I still buy the coffee...). Generally, I plan ahead for social situations. My diet plan is flexible enough that "treat meals" can be fit in. For instance, a couple weeks ago I had a fondue party. I ate a proper breakfast and a light lunch, got in a run and long bike ride, and then ate consciously and sanely at the event. I didn't feel deprived, and I didn't delay my goals.

Have you received any negative criticism or questions along your journey? How did you deal with it?
Mostly positive, thankfully, but the worst is when people say I'm "obsessed" or "live at the gym". I spend 6-8 hours a week at the gym...are we really so out of touch with health that that amount is considered obsessive? I just remind myself that lazy people will criticize what they aren't willing to achieve.

What have you learned about yourself in the past year?
That I can do what I set out to do. I've learned that I can plan ahead and set huge goals and achieve them. I've learned that free weights and squat rack aren't just for men. I have so much self-confidence now, and I get incredible satisfaction out of lifting more than I could last week and seeing fat on my body replaced with muscle. It's pretty damn amazing.

Shannon and Sullivan, March 2012
Do you have any advice for people who want to make a lifestyle change?
Your body is an experiment, and what works for me might not work for you; you need patience, but play around with macros, calories, and workouts to see what best helps you accomplish your goals. Change doesn't happen overnight. Just start, and once you've started don't stop.


Thanks so much, Shannon! Congratulations on your weight loss so far and best of luck as you continue your fitness journey!


  1. Wow! Amazing transformation!! Props to Shannon for all her hard work and keep it up!

  2. I love this. What a superstar woman!!! Don't stop. <---YEEEESSSSSS!!!!

  3. Wow, way to go!! Shannon, I'm super duper impressed. Love seeing your progress, etc. You are an inspiration!!

  4. WOW. congrats! that's so great. keep kickin ass girl! and YAY for the self confidence you've developed. You're an inspiration!