On New Year’s Eve 2018, someone snapped a picture of Jenny Wagner. When she saw it, she was horrified. She knew she had gained weight, but seeing a photo of herself at 240 pounds was shocking.
“I had gotten to the point where I absolutely loathed seeing my reflection,” the 30-year-old from outside of Jacksonville, Florida, told TODAY. “I still felt like a thin athletic girl. Then I would see a candid picture of me and I saw what I looked like.”
For much of her life, Wagner had been athletic. In her early 20s, she got married and started gaining weight. Doctors diagnosed her with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and gave her medication to treat it. They also suggested she lose weight, but they didn’t say how to do it. Years before, when she struggled to conceive her daughter, she lost 30 pounds and became pregnant. But after giving birth, she never lost the baby weight. She tried diets in the past, but they never lasted.
“After three years of denying my weight I realized this is what I looked like and this isn’t what I wanted to be,” she said.
So she and her husband, Nathan, started the ketogenic diet, a low-carb, high-protein, moderate-fat diet, and they paired it with intermittent fasting, eating all their meals between noon and 8 p.m. For 30 days she only ate 20 net carbs and zero grams of sugar. She lost 15 pounds that first month.
For nine months, Wagner stuck with the keto diet and lost 80 more pounds. While she liked eating fewer carbs, she slowly made changes to her eating habits to make the diet more sustainable, such as adding in some carbs and lower fat foods.
“To lose the last 20 pounds I transitioned to calorie counting,” she said. “I was absolutely terrified that by allowing carbs back into my diet that I was going to gain back so much of that weight I lost.”
But by pairing an expanded diet with calorie counting, she was able to enjoy pasta and bread while still losing weight. She simply ate proper portions and stuck with fasting.
“I transitioned to a way of eating for the rest of my life,” Wagner explained.
With calorie counting she lost another 20 pounds, bringing her total loss to 100 pounds in a year.
After she had shed about 50 pounds, she started adding in about 30 minutes of exercise a day. She enjoys tennis, swimming, walking or running.
“I was doing was mostly just cardio,” she said. “The muscles started popping out."
Today, she sticks with calorie counting to maintain the loss. After dropping 100 pounds, Wagner had loose skin on her stomach. She had the skin removed with a tummy tuck and a diastasis recti repair, when the ab muscles separate from pregnancy and birth.
“I don’t want women to think loose skin is bad," she said. "I just knew it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t even 30 yet. I didn’t want to keep stuffing my loose skin into my clothes.”
Wagner is proud of what’s she accomplished.
“I am surprised how much willpower I had,” she said. "I didn’t know I could be so strict.”
She shares advice for others hoping to lose weight.
1. Use the buddy system.
Having her husband, Nathan, losing weight with her helped her stay dedicated. To date, he’s lost 30 pounds. He also keeps her accountable to her healthy habits.
“We are each other’s best friends and we could be brutally honest,” she said. “He knew if I was overeating. He would say, ‘Why don’t you drink water and see how you feel.’”
2. Drink plenty of water.
Drinking water prevented Wagner from mindlessly eating. And she noticed she felt more energetic when she was hydrated.
“It makes a world of different in how you feel,” she said.
3. Measure your food.
When Wagner first started losing weight, she did not measure what she ate. As she focused on calorie counting, she started measuring it and was stunned by her portion sizes.
“My portions were enough for two to three grown men,” she said. “It was a huge eye opener … Start measuring your food and you will be in shock.”