How I Lost 36 Pounds* And Kept It Off For 12 Years

It’s all about sticking to the tools that build healthy habits.
Published April 19, 2019

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). Nicole, WW Coach, lost weight on a prior program and is continuing on WeightWatchers.

As told to Katerina Gkionis

Minutes before I was scheduled to go on stage before an audience of hundreds, it dawned on me: I had a whole lot to learn about the lessons I was there to teach.

It was January 2006, and I was working as a motivational speaker, traveling from city to city to help people identify their purpose, find their passion, and develop confidence. Although it was my job to inspire others to believe in themselves, at the time, my own self-esteem was falling short. Over the past few years, my hectic travel schedule had caught up with me in the form of 30 excess pounds—weight that left me feeling less empowered every day. I hated the way my clothes felt and constantly compared my body to other women’s. The insecurity felt familiar: Having grown up in a biracial family in Minnesota, I'd felt ashamed of my curly hair texture from a very young age. For years, I'd hid behind a straightener in an attempt to fit in.

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I didn’t own up to the fact that my shifting shape bothered me until my mom sensed something was wrong. “Where’s my Nicole?” she asked me on the phone one day, sensing a change in my tone. “Where’s that light? Where’s that person who’s confident and excited?”

I thought about it before expressing my feelings aloud: I wasn’t reaching my fullest potential—and I knew it, since it’s what I’d been encouraging others to do.

As a long-standing WW member, my mom offered to cover my membership. I willed myself to give it a shot. I wanted to wake up, look in the mirror, and put on my clothes without feeling badly about myself. And I wanted to be the kind of person who finds a solution when there’s a problem. 

A reluctant start

That February, I walked into a nearby WW Studio and joined. After my first Wellness Check-In, I found myself in a WW Workshop looking around. It was plain to see from other members’ success that the program worked. And yet? I worried it would work for everyone except me. In hindsight, my pessimism stemmed from anxiety of feeling out of control: Because I typically felt so in charge at work and on stage, I wasn’t used to asking for help. 

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Still, something piqued my interest: On my way out of that first Workshop, I asked a member who’d met her goal and maintained her weight loss to share her secret to success. “Never stop coming to the Workshops,” she said. “They keep you accountable.”

Clinging to this tip, I returned the following week and asked another member for advice. “Be honest with your tracking,” she told me. Knowing that I could be doing a better job of measuring my food portions, I took her advice to heart. That week, I bought a food scale and began to use measuring cups regularly. Seeing what a real portion looked like was eye-opening. For instance, I learned that one-fourth of a cup of almonds is much smaller than a handful. I began to train my brain so that I could scan meals without measuring and track them accurately, even on the road.

What Nicole ate then vs. now

BreakfastScrambled eggs with shredded cheddar cheese, full-fat bacon or sausage, and buttered toastAn egg-white omelette with sautéed spinach and mushrooms, asparagus, and tomatoes with a side of turkey bacon or sausage and fresh fruit
LunchHamburgers with French fries or turkey sandwiches with mayo and potato chipsA turkey lettuce wrap with extra veggies, no mayo, and half a bag of potato chips
DinnerFried catfish with macaroni and cheese, green beans or collard greens, and cornbread muffinsBaked salmon with caramelized brussels sprouts made in an air fryer, and mashed “potatoes” made from combination of potato and cauliflower plus almond milk
SnacksSugary granola bars, potato chips, or handfuls of almondsFresh fruit, string cheese, apples, almonds, or clementines

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Every time I hit a plateau or gained back a few pounds, I tried not to beat myself up. Thanks to small tweaks like cooking recipes with reasonable WeightWatchers values, planning healthy snacks, and using advice I'd gleamed from members, I reached my weight loss goal in January 2007. Eager to help others on the program succeed, I joined the WW family as a WW Coach the following month. In the more than 10 years that have passed since I met my goal, I’ve learned that self-compassion is the key to maintenance.

Always improving

Now that I’m a WW Coach, my why is to look in the mirror and celebrate “Nicole” with inner peace, put my clothes on with confidence, and present my best self when coaching members in Workshops. Sure, I'm at my goal weight. But I still have wellness goals like making activity a bigger part of my life. I recently embraced the support of a personal trainer and fitness community that I've met at my local gym. I like having the one-on-one guidance, which has helped me reshape my thoughts around my potential for physical fitness. I take time to go walking outside and I plan to pursue Pilates indoors when the temperatures drop.

Over the years, my habits have evolved, but I continue to track my food and practice mindfulness. ​At the end of the day, I’m grateful to finally feel good about myself. 

Just last year, I embraced my natural curls for the first time. Now, I walk down the street and get rave reviews. You can't buy that confidence.

LEFT: Nicole before joining WW and embracing her natural hair; RIGHT: Nicole after reaching her goal weight as a WW member.

Explore more WW member weight loss transformations.


This article was reviewed for accuracy in July 2021 by Stephanie L. Fitzpatrick, PhD, senior manager of multicultural programs at WW. The WW Science Team is a dedicated group of experts who ensure all our solutions are rooted in the best possible research.