A year and a half ago, Angie Estes, 53, weighed 294 pounds and her doctor told her that she needed to make some changes. “He said I would have a lot more health problems in another ten years. My life expectancy wouldn’t be as long, and I would probably have heart issues,” she says. Estes has four children and two grandchildren — so far. “I had to do something. I wouldn’t be able to play with my grandchildren on the floor or even live to see them grow up.”
Estes was already dealing with some health conditions. Her blood pressure had been high since she was in her early 30s, and it kept getting worse. She had heart problems, acid reflux and sleep apnea.
Plus, she was self-conscious about her weight: “I would walk in a room and imagine everyone thought that I was fat. Or if I sat on a bench or a church pew, I would take up a lot of room, and I would think other people were being squished because of me.”
That conversation with her doctor motivated her to turn her life around. She had been on diets since her early 20s, but she would lose weight and gain it back. This time, she made sustainable lifestyle changes and it’s working. She now weighs 178 pounds and is aiming to lose another 15 to 20.
Her health outlook has dramatically improved
Not only has Angie lost weight, she's also had important non-scale victories:
- Her blood pressure is lower and she’s on the lowest dose of medication.
- She doesn’t need medication for reflux or stomach issues. The only medications she takes are vitamins and thyroid medication, since she’s had her thyroid removed.
- She no longer needs a CPAP machine to treat her sleep apnea.
- She says she feels “wonderful.” She hasn’t been sick or needed to see her doctor since she lost a significant amount of weight, other than regular checkups.
- She no longer needs to see a cardiologist every three to four months.
- Her clothing size has dropped from 3X to medium and she can wear her 16-year-old daughter’s clothes.
How she revamped what she ate
Estes knew she was overeating, so she started to pay attention to her portion sizes. “I had probably been eating 3,500 calories a day. I wasn’t concentrating on what I ate," she says. "I just ate whatever I was hungry for, and I ate as much as I wanted. So, I cut down my portion size considerably. I started eating about half of what I had been.”
Cutting calories made her feel hungry at first, but she learned that incorporating more protein into her diet would keep the pangs at bay. She started eating more high protein foods like boiled eggs and chicken. “I think my body just got used to that, and now I don’t get hungry between meals,” she says.
Consistency is what Estes thinks has helped her the most. “I can’t just change my diet until I lose weight. This is for the rest of my life. I knew I had to learn how to eat regular food and eat in the proportions that would help me keep it off,” she says.
She still eats many of the foods she likes — she just eats smaller amounts and less frequently. “I know that if I want something, I could fill myself up with five or six other things, but I’m still going to want that thing I’m craving. So, instead of depriving myself, I just eat a couple of bites of it.”
Estes also recognizes now that one snack or meal that isn’t a “healthy” choice doesn’t need to derail her entire eating plan. “In the past, when I would eat something I thought I shouldn’t eat, I would just give up,” she says. “Now I know I’m not going to gain back everything I lost by eating that one thing.”
She’s swapped some of the foods she and her family often eat for healthier alternatives:
- Cauliflower rice instead of white rice
- Zucchini noodles or whole-wheat noodles instead of pasta
- Low-carb or low-calorie bread instead of white bread
- Spray butter instead of stick butter
Estes also drinks water with meals, since she finds that helps her feel full: “I try to drink at least 64 ounces of water a day, and that’s been a challenge.”
Estes hit a plateau after she lost about 70 pounds, and her doctor suggested she try Weight Watchers. “I had done Weight Watchers many times in the past, and I didn’t stick with it, but this year I kept with it, and I started seeing the pounds come off again.” She uses her Apple Watch and apps to track her food, water, walking and other activities.
Here’s how she added movement to her routine
At first, Estes couldn’t walk for more than 10 or 15 minutes, and she thought that wasn’t enough to make a difference. But she realized walking for 10 or 15 minutes was better than doing nothing. She started walking in the late afternoons in her North Texas neighborhood after she gets home from her job as an adult GED teacher. She often talks to her mother or father on the phone while she walks, which helps the time pass quickly.
Estes slowly added time to her walks, and once she could walk a mile, she started trying to walk faster to increase her heart rate. At first, she was walking a mile in 21 minutes. Now she can cover that distance in less than 16 minutes. She’s also increased her distance to three miles and she’s signed up for a 5k. She got a treadmill so she can walk indoors when the weather is bad. Along with her walks, she likes to work steps in throughout her day for a total of at least 10,000.
How she connects with support
Estes credits the encouragement she gets from her family, her church family, coworkers and people on Facebook with her success. “There’s not a day that goes by when somebody doesn’t say, ‘Wow, you look great,’” she says.
She joined the Start TODAY Facebook group after seeing it mentioned on the TODAY show and loves the support she gets there. When she posted about her success there, more than 3,000 people liked her post and more than 900 commented. Many asked her to keep sharing her progress. She tries to encourage others in the group because she knows it makes a difference for her.
Coming to terms with weight loss
Estes is thrilled with her better health and energy levels. But she still faces physical and emotional struggles. She’s self-conscious about the loose skin she now has, and eventually, she will probably have it removed. And she says her brain hasn’t caught up with her body weight: “I still see myself as being overweight and needing to lose a lot.”
She regrets being so overweight when her children were young, but she’s happy to be healthier for her grandchildren: “I can sit on the floor, and I can run around with them. They can sit on my lap. I didn’t have a lap for my own children because my stomach was so big, but now when I’m holding my grandchildren, I don’t have that issue. That’s exciting for me.”