“Embracing my Mexican identity made everything possible”
*People following the WW program can expect to lose 1-2 pounds/week. Cassandra lost weight on a prior program and is continuing on myWW+™.
As told to Katerina Gkionis
I didn’t learn Spanish growing up. Although both my parents are from Mexico, my father would always say things like, “In this house, we speak English.” I understood his reasons for wanting our family to “blend in” in our southern California town. Still, I struggled. I felt like I wasn’t Mexican enough—or American enough, either.
That sense of not belonging intensified in my 20s, when I worked in sales at a lumber mill. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, I was overlooked and undervalued. Unhappiness with my job spilled into my personal life. I’d eat mindlessly until I was super full, and sometimes I drank too much. Both these habits led to weight gain.
With my 30th birthday fast approaching in fall of 2018, I felt physically and spiritually exhausted. I had chronic knee and back pain. I asked myself, “How do you want to show up to the world? Who are you, Cassandra?” That’s when I decided to quit my job at the lumber mill and enroll in college to pursue a bachelor’s degree. I also decided to focus on my wellbeing. I started attending WW Workshops in December 2018.
My biggest challenge going in: I knew that embarking on multiple life changes was ambitious. I’d be attending classes full-time with the hope of becoming a speech pathologist, shouldering an intensive course load. Would I be able to balance my studies and my health? Was I ready for all this? I wanted to succeed, but I wasn’t totally confident that my goals were attainable.
How WW set me up for success: The WW program is rooted in self-compassion, which was key for me in those early days. Admittedly, I got off to an inconsistent start and continued to struggle with certain habits, like grabbing fast food when I was under stress. My weekly Workshops were a steady presence that prevented me from getting discouraged and quitting. I learned to say things to myself like, “You’re learning. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s OK if you forget to track every single thing you eat in a given day.” This allowed me to move forward from hard moments and hold onto that belief that I was still heading in the right direction.
What Cassandra ate then vs. now
|Breakfast||N/A||Egg scramble with spinach, tomato, bell pepper, onion, and jalapeño; veggie sausage links; mixed berries|
|Lunch||Cheeseburger with French fries and ranch dip; fountain soda||Takeout salad with grilled chicken, avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro, and salsa; water|
|Dinner||Stuffed-crust pepperoni pizza with buffalo wings and breadsticks||Tofu curry with carrots, potatoes, onions, and bell peppers served on top of brown rice|
|Snacks||Chips, chocolate, cookies||Hummus with multigrain chips; protein shake made with one scoop double-chocolate vegan protein powder and nondairy milk (oat or almond)|
My most useful discovery: A few months in, I was clicking through the WW Shop and ended up ordering a spiral-bound, 52-week meal planner on a whim. Turns out, mapping out my weekly menus on paper was a total game changer.
I’m currently implementing a mostly meat-free lifestyle, and my partner and I have loved planning out vegetarian versions of Mexican-style dishes. Instead of beef tacos, we’ll make jackfruit tacos. And lately we’ve been really into tofu enchiladas. I’ve kept a few non-vegetarian favorites in the mix, too, like chicken mole. And I’ll never stop enjoying my grandmother’s traditional rice and beans recipe. Whatever’s on the menu, I arrange my week so I can meal prep every Sunday. Food is a huge aspect of any culture. It’s been incredible to build a connection with my Mexican heritage through cooking.
Why community became so meaningful: By fall of 2019, I was down 40 pounds*. After so many years neglecting myself, I was finally living in a way that was healthy and true to who I am. I was also being recognized for my academic excellence at school, which was gratifying after those nine thankless years at the lumber mill.
I started thinking about having a family of my own someday—and the lived experiences I’d be passing on to my kids. Partly for that reason, seeking out community became a big part of reclaiming my heritage. As I got more active on Connect, I started using the hashtag #LatinasOfWW—that’s me saying, “I want to exist with you and be your partner in this experience.” It’s my way of empowering others to be open and proud of who they are, too. I think of it like wearing a medal.
The crew that keeps me moving: In 2020, I gradually returned to running, which I had loved in my younger years. A big motivator for me was linking up with a local, female-led, Latinx running group. It’s super fun—our group conversations are bilingual, and everyone translates for everyone else as needed. So when I run with these other women, it’s like getting a workout and a Spanish lesson at the same time. This strengthens my community ties and helps reinforce that my presence matters.
The energy I’m carrying forward: Beyond me reaching my goal of losing 52 pounds*, my journey has made my life so much richer. I have immense gratitude for the positive changes I’ve been able to make for myself and want to bring that same sense of possibility to others. Soon, I’m hoping to participate in tutoring programs for families in East L.A., an area that is predominantly Latino and Hispanic. Anything I can do to give back to my community—that's where I really want to be.