“Honoring my heritage made me a healthier eater”
*People following the WW program can expect to lose 1-2 pounds/week. Shannon lost weight on a prior program and is continuing on myWW+™.
As told to Katerina Gkionis
My extended family is super close. And believe me when I tell you we celebrate everything together: birthdays, graduations, first days of school, Labor Day, even Groundhog Day. Classic Mexican dishes are the heart of our celebrations. I have so many fond memories of filling a plate with carne asada, delicious tortas, rice and beans, and pan dulce—a Mexican sweet bread. Mmm.
While I’ve always associated food with love and family, I had been overweight since my teens. By the beginning of 2020, my doctor had flagged this as a health concern, and I wasn’t loving how I looked or felt. After a beautiful vacation to Lake Tahoe with my husband and two kids that February, I deleted almost all the photos that included me.
I decided to join WW as a Digital member in April 2020, when the whole world hit pause on social gatherings. Of course, no one knew the full magnitude of the pandemic that lay ahead. I just wanted an opportunity to reset and find a healthier path forward.
My biggest challenge going in: Following through on goals was a longstanding challenge of mine—and not just in terms of my diet. Over the years I had gotten ideas for small business ventures and various hobbies, but when I didn’t see results quickly enough, or if I saw that somebody else was “better” at something than I was, I’d give up. I had a tendency to be hard on myself and set unrealistic standards.
Not feeling totally confident in my ability to stick with it, I decided to keep my WW experience mostly to myself at first, telling only my husband. I wanted to find my footing before sharing with the rest of my family.
How WW set me up for success: Given that I was starting this journey pretty much on my own, I naturally gravitated to Connect. I began living and breathing the community right away, joining groups like “Got a Sweet Tooth?” and “Air Fryer Fans” to find members with similar goals and tastes. I also really liked that WW encourages you to eat the foods you love, even though that message took a few weeks to sink in. First I had to shake the misguided belief that “healthy eating” meant plain chicken and boiled vegetables. Admittedly, I ate a lot of those in the first week or two.
What Shannon ate then vs. now
|Breakfast||Breakfast burrito with eggs, chorizo, cheese, and potatoes||Chobani with Zero Sugar yogurt topped with fresh blueberries and bran cereal|
|Lunch||Salami sandwich with chips and soda||Tortilla wrap with turkey and spreadable cheese; side of edamame with chili-soy dipping sauce|
|Dinner||Two fast-food chicken sandwiches and two tacos||Homemade taco salad of spring mix, sautéed ground turkey, pinto beans, shredded cheddar cheese, air-fried chips, and Greek yogurt|
|Snacks||Chocolate, muffins, lemon bars||Chocolate-banana frozen yogurt, crackers, watermelon, bananas, berries|
The reality check I needed: By the time Mother’s Day rolled around, I was three weeks into the program and about 8 pounds* down. My whole family did a drive-by celebration for the moms—the first time I was seeing everyone since joining WW. My twin sister noticed my weight loss right away; nothing gets past her.
But when I mentioned some of the bland meals I had been forcing myself to eat, my sister’s reaction was less than enthusiastic. That’s when I realized I needed a bridge between my new habits and my normal lifestyle if I wanted lasting change.
I decided to trust the WW program a little more. In the weeks that followed, I went back to buying the pan dulce I loved, only I started slicing each loaf into single servings so I wouldn’t eat the whole thing absentmindedly. I tried a rice-and-bean dish with cauliflower rice, tons of toppings, and traditional seasonings, which was incredibly delicious. I made smoky steak-and-avocado tacos with sweet peppers and pops of lime, cilantro, and cheese. I was still moving toward my goals, but I was discovering I didn’t have to reinvent my diet to fit some make-believe ideal. That was key.
My biggest moment of truth: I had lost about 35 pounds* when I attended a small graduation party for my brother that August. Honestly, I was nervous about the gathering going in. Cooking all my meals at home for the past four months had afforded me a sense of total control over my food choices. How would this work at the family potlucks?
That’s where my healthy habits really kicked in. Instead of parking myself in front of the spinach-artichoke dip, I scooped just enough onto a plate to enjoy with the air-fried tortilla chips I had brought. I eyeballed portion sizes for the rest of my meal and simply tracked, reminding myself that no foods were off-limits. I focused on enjoying every bite between laughing and talking with everyone. These moments with my family felt especially meaningful—because of the pandemic, and because of health issues within my family. I’m so glad I wasn’t stressing over food. Time is too precious for that.
How my victories build on each other: That first party was a giant flex of my follow-through muscle—the positive habits I had been building were paying off. And this empowered me to build up other aspects of my health, too. I began tracking my water intake and did a 30-day workout challenge involving planks, squats, and pushups. By Thanksgiving 2020, I had lost 50 pounds*—and was working on becoming a coach certified in helping others with their careers! I still have hard days like anyone else, but now I don’t give up on myself. If you never stop, you never have to start over.
The lesson I’ve learned about being true to myself: I once assumed that “healthy living” would mean having to give up part of my identity. Now I’m happy to say the opposite is true. My daily habits and personal health picture may have changed, but the most joyful and authentic aspects of my life—my family, our traditions, our heritage—aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they’re what keep me moving forward.