How this mother of 3 lost 71 pounds* after years of putting her needs last

After having three children—including two with special needs—in three and a half years, change delivered a much-needed confidence boost.
Published October 25, 2019 | Updated November 1, 2022

*People following the WeightWatchers weight-loss program can expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week.

As told to Lucy Shanker

Less than two years ago, I’d have summed up my approach to personal health in three words: “I don’t care.” I wasn’t thinking about my long-term prosperity; I could only think about making it through the day.

Over the course of three and a half years, my husband and I had three children. One was born with down syndrome while another had been diagnosed with general anxiety and sensory processing disorders. Since I became a mother, it was all I could do to survive: I couldn’t even fathom making the time to take care of myself.

Anytime there was something unhealthy in front of me, I saw no reason to avoid eating it. I was already overweight and stressed out beyond belief, I thought. What’s another family-sized bag of chips? And because I didn’t exactly know how to cook, my family mostly ate out or relied on frozen meals.

In retrospect, it was like I was physically padding myself for protection from the emotional pain of my life. Overwhelmed by raising three kids, I felt numb. Eating made me feel something—something better than the throbbing of my knees, a result of carrying around so much excess weight.

New year, new goals

My kids were three, five, and seven years old when Christmas of 2017 rolled around. We were celebrating at my in-laws’ house when I looked around and realized I drastically outsized my beautiful sister-in-laws. My husband, who’d never struggled with his weight, never dared to comment on my size, but he didn’t have to: I was visibly overweight, embarrassed by appearance, and humiliated for him. Suddenly, I realized, I was sick of loathing my body. I wanted my husband to feel proud of me. And I wanted to make a change before my kids were old enough to realize just how unhealthy I was.

Cleaning house

My first move was to join WeightWatchers the first week of January. Next, I got rid of the all the sugary snacks and high-fat frozen meals in my kitchen. I stopped buying foods I knew I’d overeat—see ya never, corn chips! Instead, I looked for portion-controlled alternatives like WW Sea Salt Popcorn and pretzels that wouldn’t rack up too many Points®.

I also stocked up on ZeroPoint™ foods like grilled chicken breasts and non-fat Greek yogurt, teaching myself how to cook using WW recipes. I went from reheating frozen meals to making homemade pizzas and pasta dishes, going so far as to buy a WW Kitchen Scale to measure ingredients and keep tabs on my portions.

What Jesscia Ate Then vs. Now


Then: Two bowls of sugary cereal

Now: Eggs in a low-carb tortilla with low-fat cheese, or fat-free Greek yogurt with fruit


Then: Peanut butter and pretzels, leftover Chinese food, noodles with ketchup and cheddar cheese, sandwiches with multiple slices of cheese and tons of mayonnaise

Now: Chicken or tuna salad made with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise, or a turkey sandwich made with low-calorie bread


Then: Microwavable lasagna, cheesy frozen pasta meals, fast-food double cheese burgers

Now: Chicken tacos loaded with ZeroPoint beans and corn, or an Asian-inspired chicken stir fry with loads of veggies


Then: Bags of chips, entire sleeves of cookies, candy

Now: Light cheese, an apple, hard boiled eggs, nuts, or a WW Baked Protein Bar

Little by little

Although I had no problem implementing drastic changes to my diet almost immediately, increasing my activity level was an uphill battle. Personally, I never thought I would be able to exercise again—I spent so much of my day getting my family where they needed to be that finding an hour for myself was laughable.

Still, the advice I heard from my WW Coach and other members at my Workshops resonated: They’d always say, “just move a little bit more.” So I started walking outside for 10 minutes here and there until I found the time and stamina to walk for 20: Eventually I realized that letting my kids nap for an extra thirty minutes gave me just enough time to sneak in a workout or stroller walk. The little changes really added up!

Expanding my “why”

While the pounds didn’t exactly fall off, around week 16, I walked up the stairs in my house without getting out of breath and back down without my knees throbbing. At that point, I started to understand that my journey wouldn’t just help me look more attractive: It would make me feel better and hopefully, live longer so I could be there for my kids. Throughout my journey, I kept reminding myself that I needed to be physically fit for my middle daughter; because of her Down syndrome, she'll never stop needing me.

Of course there were days when I was so exhausted or emotionally drained that I ended up blowing through my daily Points and then some. But through it all, I kept tracking. Regardless of how my week went, I never skipped my Saturday morning Workshop. I don’t know if I would have been as successful if it hadn’t been for the guidance of my Coach. I always left Workshops feeling reinvigorated and ready to take on the next week.

Putting myself least sometimes

Over the course of my journey, I’ve learned that taking care of myself is worthwhile. As a mom of three, I know I can’t always be number one on my priority list, but I do need to bring myself to the top sometimes.

Although I’ve lost 71 pounds*, there are still parts of my body that I’m working to accept. At the same time, I finally feel confident standing beside my husband, and I’m beyond proud of both the way I look and how far I’ve come.