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As a professional chef, Beverley Pierce, 62, spent her career surrounded by food. “You’re always tasting, and those tastes add up,” she said. She retired in 2018 to take care of her baby granddaughter, but the weight she had gained during her career stayed with her.
In August 2021, she found the motivation she needed to make a change. She weighed 260 pounds, and she had always tried to get out of having her photo taken. That summer, she couldn’t avoid it. She, her husband and her three adult children were together for the first time in about five years, so they took a photo together. She said, “I saw that photo and thought, how had I let myself get that big?”
She also wanted to keep up with her 4-year-old granddaughter and her grandsons, who are 9 and 6. And she was noticing how out of shape she was. After jet skiing that August, she had to go to the chiropractor. “Jet skiing is pretty physical, and it was getting hard for me to even think about doing stuff like that,” she said. Even everyday activities were a struggle: “There was a lot of me to move around, and with that, my knees hurt.”
She tried lots of diets over the years, but the weight never stayed off for good. “I’ve lost and gained and lost and gained,” she said.
Now, with changes to her diet and activities, she’s on track to lose the weight and keep it off. She’s down to 210 pounds and is aiming for 185, the weight she reported on her driver’s license, and ultimately for 165. “This time, I don’t look at it as I lost 50 pounds. I look at it as I’ve released 50 pounds, and I’m not going to find it,” she said.
Plus, she’s not camera-shy anymore: “I’m tracking my progress by taking selfies, and I’m even asking people to take my picture.”
Here are some of the changes she’s seen in her life
Even though Pierce had dropped 50 pounds, she doesn’t focus on her weight — she only weighs herself once every month or so. She prefers to focus on her measurements, and she’s seen the inches drop from her upper arms, chest, waist, hips and thighs.
Plus, she shared several other non-scale victories. She:
- No longer needs medication for asthma or anxiety or a CPAP machine for sleep apnea. The only medicine she still takes is one to lower her blood pressure.
- Doesn’t get chafed where her arms used to rub against her sides when she walks, and she can more easily pull up her compression socks.
- Can follow the advice you sometimes hear to pull your belly button in to your spine: “I could never do that before. It’s kind of a cool feeling.”
- Was glad she needed to replace her bras and underwear.
- Is donating her size 2Xs clothes to Goodwill: “I’m not keeping them anymore.”
- Feels more comfortable in her own skin.
Here’s how she changed her diet
Pierce’s doctor recommended that she work with a nutritionist, but Pierce had mixed success: “We butted heads a lot.” She felt the nutritionist was pushing her toward gastric bypass surgery, which she didn’t want.
But there were some pluses. The nutritionist taught her that she was binge eating. “There were days where if I wasn’t hungry, I wouldn’t eat at all. Then the next day, I might have breakfast and then eat a whole bag of chips. I could eat a whole row of Oreos. And Girl Scout cookies? The box was a serving. I don’t do that anymore,” she said. Now, she:
- Eats 70% plant-based foods and 30% meat.
- Makes sure she gets enough protein. “I used to get hungry and be ravished. I think protein has a lot to do with preventing that. It keeps you constant and level throughout the day,” she said.
- Chops up a big bowl of greens twice a week and keeps them handy in the fridge for lunches and dinners.
- No longer drinks soda, which used to be a six-servings-a-day habit.
- Only drinks water, and she makes sure she drinks plenty of it: “I used to grab a big glass of milk and some chocolate and not think about it.”
- Doesn’t eat after 7 p.m.
- Lets herself have treats sometimes. “If my friends want to go out for pizza, I’m going to have a piece of pizza, and I’m going to enjoy it,” she said.
Here’s what she eats in a typical day:
- Breakfast: A smoothie made with baby spinach, plain nonfat yogurt, half of an avocado, fruit and almond milk
- Lunch: Grilled chicken breast, the other avocado half and a vegetable
- Dinner: Zucchini spaghetti with artichokes, garlic, olive oil and a boneless skinless chicken breast
Here’s how she added physical activity to her routine
Pierce walks in her Chicago suburb, even when it’s raining or cold. “When I first started, it was frustrating because I was walking and being more physically active, but I wasn’t seeing any changes,” she said. “Now, I get excited about going for a walk. Something in my brain has changed. Walking is so much fun for me now — I can’t believe I could be addicted to it.”
For the past two months, she has been walking five miles every day. “Instead of adding distance, I compete with myself and try to walk a little bit faster than I did the day before,” she said. But she will occasionally mix in longer distances, such as an 8.4-mile walk home from her grandson’s football game. And she sometimes works out on a rowing machine to strengthen her upper body.
Here’s how she connects with support and stays accountable
Pierce joined the Start TODAY Facebook group in April. “I was watching TODAY Show, and Stephanie [Mansour] was on. She said, ‘You just have to do 20 minutes.’ I thought, ‘I have 20 minutes. I could put it in my planner and schedule it,’” she said. Now she participates in the monthly challenges that focus on things like stretching and strength training, modifying exercises like lunges when she needs to.
“Between the other people in the Facebook group and Stephanie’s motivational daily reflection, it’s helpful,” she said. “And I try to give kudos to whoever is struggling. Because it’s not easy. Change doesn’t come overnight. You have to do the work, and the journey isn’t easy. I’m on my way to my goal. Is it attainable within this year? That doesn’t even matter to me anymore. All that matters is what I do today.”