“The biggest weight I lost was the self-blame holding me back”

Darren C. (he/him/his), 45, has lost 100 lbs* since joining WW in December 2019.
Published July 20, 2021 | Updated November 3, 2022

*People following the WeightWatchers program can expect to lose 1-2 pounds/week. Darren lost weight on a prior program and is continuing on WeightWatchers.

As told to Katerina Gkionis

Around the time I came out as gay, at 19 years old, it became evident that the church community I had known my whole life wasn’t going to love me anymore. That was hard. I turned away from my faith for a few years and learned to hide myself. When you believe you have to pretend to be somebody you're not in order for others to love you, it hurts.

I eventually found my way back through an accepting church, where I became senior pastor in 2014. A lot of clergy will tell you: Since our job is to lead and support others, it’s easy to end up taking care of everyone but yourself. Privately, I was struggling: with my weight, my overall sense of belonging in the world. In hopes of taking better care of myself, I joined WeightWatchers.

My biggest challenge going in: I had tried to lose weight over the years through various fad diets, low-carb regimens, Whole30 … Nothing ever stuck. Looking back, it’s clear I had a warped sense of what “healthy” really was. I wouldn’t touch bananas because I was convinced they had too much sugar; I never had bread because, y’know, carbs. I’d cut out entire food groups and feel miserable until I gave up. I needed to develop a better understanding of how to eat in a sustainable way and stop thinking in extremes.

How WeightWatchers set me up for success: I was nervous when I went to my first in-person Workshop. As I said, taking care of myself had never been a priority. What’s more, I had never really thought of eating healthy or getting active as a way to take care of myself. I had a lot to learn.

I spent the first week taking things step by step. The list of ZeroPoint™ foods was helpful; I started planning my days around them. I diversified my meals and even included sandwiches—ah, bread! I was really excited by a Budget-friendly dessert I made with light ice cream, bananas, and semisweet chocolate chips. On a broader level, I was starting to learn that being mindful of my food choices was an investment in my self-worth.

What Darren ate then vs. now

BreakfastExtra-large cup of coffee with half-and-halfCinnamon-cardamom oatmeal with banana; coffee with cashew milk
LunchPastryTurkey sandwich with olive-oil mayo; fresh veggie slices on the side
DinnerFast-food double cheeseburger with large French friesRoasted turkey tenderloin, roasted salt potatoes, and mixed vegetables
SnacksMuffins, cookies, pastriesSpiced popcorn light ice cream with sliced banana and semisweet chocolate chips

The mental shift that surprised me: About a month into my journey, I noticed I was no longer experiencing anxiety and shame about my food choices—a change that first showed up in my sleep! One night when I first joined the program, I dreamed I ate a bunch of donuts, and I woke up with an intense feeling of guilt that stuck with me all day. A few weeks later, I dreamed I ate several slices of pizza. Only this time, I actually tracked the food in my dream, and I woke up with no emotional hangover. It was sinking in: Just track and move on! That’s been key for shifting my mindset.

How I’m making up for lost time: I don’t have many regrets in my life, but I do regret the years I disallowed myself from truly living. So I’ve worked to forgive myself while embracing experiences I used to avoid. Like last year, as I was inching closer to my goal, I saw a deal for an aerial circus class. I went to the studio with my husband and wore animal-print sweats while spinning on silks from the ceiling. It was so invigorating—like, “Is this really me?!” I love sharing these moments with my LGBTQIA+ Connect group. It’s great to feel a sense of belonging while celebrating that part of my life. It’s helped me grow in my self-acceptance.

The conviction that moves me forward: Some people look at the 100 pounds* I’ve lost and say, “You’re so much healthier now.” Actually, my bloodwork was fine before. Don't celebrate me for taking up less space; celebrate me for seeing the value within myself and living my fullest life. I spent so many years blaming myself for not belonging. I needed to build a belief that my mind and body were worth caring for. Every day, I try to show up for myself—and for others who might not believe in themselves just yet. We’re here for each other. We have to be.