As Tonya Talbert neared her 50th birthday, she reflected on the past years. She disliked how she looked and that stopped her from truly enjoying life. When she gained weight during pregnancy years ago, she never lost it and felt that her body held her back.
“My family is super active,” the now 51-year-old middle school teacher from Stoughton, Wisconsin, told TODAY. “I was missing out on a lot of things because I couldn’t keep up with everyone. So, I had skipped a few vacations with my immediate family. My husband would take our kids on ski and backpacking trips and I stayed at home.”
As she was creeping toward the milestone birthday, she realized she wanted to change.
“I had gained close to 60 pounds,” Talbert said. “I had also become very anxious about my appearance and it sounds sad, but I was withdrawing socially. I’m a complete extrovert, in general, so it was very obvious to me that I was just embarrassed by how I had let myself go.”
In June 2019, she joined Noom, an app-based weight loss program that focuses on the mental aspect of weight loss. She thought this might help her.
“I knew that my issues were a little bit deeper than figuring out what to eat and how to eat. So, I was looking for something that was more psychologically-based,” she said. “That’s what appealed to me the most — that maybe I could finally fix the relationship that I had developed with food.”
At 203 pounds, Talbert set a goal of being at a healthy, comfortable weight, which she thought was about 150 pounds. But she really hoped she’d lose enough weight to hike, ski and backpack with her family.
“I wanted to be a part of my teenagers’ lives in an active way,” she said. “I love that we created these people who love the outdoors, skiing, hiking, backpacking and mountain biking. I had been a part of that when they were younger, but I had just gotten away from it.”
Talbert tweaked her diet to consume between 1,700 and 1,900 calories a day and now avoids processed foods and sugar as much as possible. She started moving more and now she walks between 3 and 6 miles a day.
“I still eat everything,” she said. "I don’t really make anything off limits for myself."
Talbert’s sister-in-law also began losing weight and they keep each other motivated.
“I didn’t tell anybody for the longest time except my sister-in-law who joined Noom a couple weeks after I did,” she said. “We journeyed through it together.”
Talbert recently added yoga to her exercise routine and is training for a 17-mile walk. While she’s never run much, she started and hopes to finish a 5K in 2021. More importantly, she’s been able to hike and ski with her family again.
“I was just over the moon because I had looked at the pictures, I had heard their stories, and then I was finally strong enough to do it,” she said. “I’m just proud of the fact that I actually had completed the trip.”
Talbert lost 60 pounds and now weighs 140 pounds. She has been maintaining her loss and finds that the support she receives from NOOM helps her.
“There is so much in this life that we can’t control, but there are a few things that we are very much in control of, like my food choices, my exercise choices,” she said.
Having a routine especially helped her grapple with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen from day-to-day,” she said. “The one thing I was sure of was what I was doing for myself to stay healthy and keep my body strong in the pandemic.”
Here she shares tips to help others interested in losing weight:
1. Find someone to keep you accountable.
Talbert and her sister-in-law planned a hike together as a goal. Having her sister-in-law and Noom’s coaches kept Talbert on track.
“Find an accountability partner. Someone you can move through the journey with who understands what you’re going through and can check in on you from time to time,” she said. “(My sister-in-law and I) fed each other’s spirit as we went along. We were cheering each other on.”
2. Embrace activity.
While healthy eating habits contribute more to weight loss than exercise, Talbert says being active helped her a great deal with maintaining her weight loss.
“I would suggest becoming active,” she said. “It helps with maintenance if you already have those habits in place.”
3. Take it day by day.
“Just take it one day at a time or even one meal at a time,” she said. “Every minute you have a chance to start over. If you feel like you’ve slipped you can always right the course. Just don’t beat yourself up over it.”