How Small Goals Kept Alyson From Giving Up on Herself

“Doing one thing” can make all the difference.
Published July 11, 2020

*At 6 months, participants in a clinical trial of the WW weight-loss program lost an average of 9.7 lbs (5% of body weight). And, people who track their food more often lose more weight. When actual WW members track their food at least two times a week for 6 months they lose on average 16.6 lbs. (7.9% body weight). Alyson lost weight on a prior program and is continuing on WeightWatchers.

As told to Katerina Gkionis

My weight started becoming an issue soon after I graduated from college. I went from bouncing around campus with my sorority sisters to working as a counselor in clients’ homes, spending long stretches in my car between appointments. I also started a part-time job working the overnight shift, which threw my schedule out of whack. Exhausted and overbooked, I began hitting the drive-through for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I knew I was gaining weight and didn’t feel good about it. Along with a friend of mine who was in a similar situation, I decided to try my luck on WW. But I had trouble turning the Workshop guidance into healthy habits. My friend and I would attend a session and weigh in, then go out for a huge meal afterward. I’d try to make up for these choices by restricting my diet at other times, which only backfired. After a few weeks I gave up and stopped going to Workshops altogether. I repeated this cycle many times throughout my 20s and 30s.

The more weight I gained, the more my world shrank. I’d agree to hang out with friends just so they’d stop pressuring me, then cancel hours before we were scheduled to meet. I was so ashamed of my appearance that I didn’t want anyone to see me. In many ways, I stopped living.

Something finally shifted for me in February 2018. I was watching the Golden Globes on TV when Oprah Winfrey* was recognized with a lifetime achievement award (*Oprah Winfrey is a WW board member and shareholder). Her rousing acceptance speech, about the #MeToo movement, touched my heart. I don’t know Oprah personally, but I have always felt a connection. Watching her speak, I thought, “I’ll bet Oprah believes in me.” It might seem silly now, but that’s what boosted me to action. I joined WW as a Workshop + Digital member the following day.

RELATED: How Self-Compassion Can Help You Lose Weight

Just a little nudge

My WW Workshops were held at a local church, and the idea of showing up made me really nervous. I live in a small town and was worried I’d run into people I know.

When I arrived for that first Workshop—which wasn’t actually my first, but you get what I mean—I panicked and ducked into a room across the hall. The WW Guide, Carolyn, happened to spot me and immediately offered support. She said, “Let me bring you in,” and we entered the Workshop together.  Looking back on that moment, I credit Carolyn with saving my life.

That first week, I committed to making some simple changes. My first order of business was cutting out sugary coffee drinks. The two large iced caramel macchiatos I was having each morning turned out to be 18 WeightWatchers each! Another change: Using the Restaurant Finder feature in the WW app to better plan for eating out. That week, instead of my usual burgers from a steakhouse chain, I ordered grilled salmon with a grilled shrimp skewer and double order of asparagus. For the first time in a while, I felt like I was doing something good for myself.

That first week, I lost 11.6 pounds*. Of course, I had been through a number of “first weeks” on WW during my other stints as a member. But this time felt different. I actually downloaded the WW app, tracked everything I consumed, and started to find inspiration on Connect. I understood that dramatic weight loss wouldn’t be typical for every week to come, but this early win made me feel hopeful.

What Alyson ate then vs. now


Two fast-food breakfast sandwiches, two orders of hash browns, and two caramel macchiatos

Unsweetened iced coffee with a caramel protein shake and a banana


Fast food chicken fingers or  cheeseburgers with potato salad or French fries

Greek yogurt bowl with unsweetened frozen black cherries, WW Vanilla Protein Booster, peanut butter powder, and granola; turkey luncheon meat with smashed avocado and everything bagel seasoning on a light pita, with baked cheese puffs on the side


Frozen pizza, burgers, pasta, cheese fries, mac ‘n’ cheese

Steamed salmon and asparagus over cauliflower rice; grilled chicken with grilled summer vegetables; a hearty salad of grilled chicken, avocado, hard-boiled egg, nuts, and veggies with a yogurt-based dressing


Cookies, cake, brownies, chips, and candy bars

Avocado toast, cucumber with tzatziki, grapes, banana, hard-boiled egg, protein bar

Things started to click. I even began cooking! Finding recipes in the WW app, in my weekly Workshop, and on Instagram really inspired me. I remember the first recipe I made: a cheesecake recipe I found through @wwpounddropper on Instagram. Once I discovered that cooking could be joyful, my fast-food orders decreased dramatically.

My progress settled into a steady, sustainable pace—after about two months, I was down 25 pounds*. To reward myself, I bought a Fitbit and synced it to the WW app. I had seen on Connect and Instagram how members loved getting active; I wanted to start walking and tracking my steps, too!

I started with a daily goal of hitting 3,000 steps. I was so excited and proud of myself the first time I did it—my first time earning FitPoints!—I posted about the moment on Connect. Some of the members who commented and cheered me on became friends I confide in today.

Setting attainable goals

I wanted to lose a significant amount of weight, but thinking about the “big number” was overwhelming. Instead, I kept my focus on smaller goals to hit along the way. Sometimes the goal was trying one new recipe, or drinking a certain amount of water during the day. My first weight-related goal was to lose 2 pounds a month. That’s what felt manageable at the beginning. Setting a small goal—and then blowing it through the water by losing two pounds per week—made me feel more accomplished, too.

Another goal was to challenge myself in how I was living. I’d say to myself, “Do one thing the old you wouldn’t have done.” One week, for instance, I decided to go to the movies. I had stopped seeing films in theaters years earlier for fear of not fitting into the seats. When I bought that ticket and was able to sit comfortably, I felt a rush of freedom. I also really enjoyed the buttered popcorn.

I was about four months into my journey and down 50 pounds* when I took a trip to Bristol, England, to visit a cousin’s daughter who was studying abroad. This was my first trip overseas—so exciting! Even more thrilling: I was able to keep up with a 20-year-old as we trekked around the city. Experiences like these invigorated my journey. I just felt so good.

Sticking to the plan

Almost a year after I joined WW, in January 2019, I reached my goal of losing 106 pounds*. But about a year later, I had a major setback: Shoulder surgery this past spring left me 15 pounds heavier due to factors such as fluid buildup.

When the scale still hadn’t budged five weeks after my procedure, I nearly gave up on my journey...again. Instead, I took a long look in the mirror and reminded myself, “You are not the person you used to be.” I was stronger now; I had more tools and a deeper understanding of myself. So I dug in: I tracked everything—not just my food, but also my water intake and sleep. I had to take care of my whole self. I also had to be patient with my healing body. Finally, the weight start coming off, and I lost 16 pounds* to reach my present weight.

Since then, I have been successful in sticking to my healthy habits. Eggs and Greek yogurt have become my favorites!

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Sharing my story

Now that I’m training to be a WW Coach, I’m eager to share the ins and outs of my entire journey. It’s not just about how I lost over 100 pounds; I also want to be real about the struggles I went through on maintenance.

I don’t feel I’m special because I lost a lot of weight. Many people don’t realize what they’re capable of accomplishing, and I’m here to tell them they can do it. There’s not a single difference between me and anyone else except for the fact that I didn’t quit.  Everyone needs a cheerleader in their corner. I can’t wait to be that person.

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