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Christine Hall didn’t join an expensive weight-loss program or sign up for a meal-delivery service to help her lose nearly 80 pounds. In fact, she never even goes to the grocery store.
Instead, as she lost the weight over the last few years, almost everything she consumed has come from Starbucks.
A law librarian with two jobs, she gets her meals from the Starbucks right near work, where employees have cheered on the 5-foot, 4-inch Hall as she’s gone from weighing 190 to a trim 114 pounds.
As she tracked her calorie intake online, she started eating almost exclusive at Starbucks two years ago because it’s convenient and the products include calorie information.
“I have a busy schedule, so it just works for me,” says Hall, 66, of Alexandria, Va. “I know exactly what I’m getting. I can plan my day in advance because I’ve memorized the calories in everything.”
And, Hall says she’s eating a healthy variety of foods, with her doctor’s approval. “It’s not like I’m having a bagel every day,” she said. “I’m mixing it up and making sure I get protein, fruits and vegetables.”
Hall said her weight never came up at checkups, though she reached a high of 212 pounds in November, 2009. But it did become an issue when, at 200 pounds, she was rejected as a kidney donor.
“The kidney doctor was the first who had the nerve to say, ‘Let’s talk about your weight,’” Hall said.
She started keeping a written food diary and lost 10 pounds. By May 10, 2010, at 190 pounds, she discovered the MyPlate calorie tracker at livestrong.com and started buying all of her food from Starbucks.
She eventually lost 40 pounds, enough to become an altruistic kidney donor in a 32-person kidney swap in November, 2010.
She kept going, losing about two pounds a week at the beginning, and sometimes eating as little as 876 calories in a day.
A daily menu could consist of oatmeal for breakfast and a 5-calorie cup of coffee, a “bistro box” with fruit and cheese for lunch, and, she said, “I love a panini for dinner because it fills me up.”
Registered dietitian Amy Jamieson-Petonic says there’s no doubt that Hall found weight-loss success. But anyone looking to lose weight should make sure they’re meeting their nutritional requirements, she said.
"It's one thing to choose foods that are low in calories, but it's another thing to choose low-calorie foods that are nutritionally balanced," said Jamieson-Petonic, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Not to mention that constantly dining out -- even if it is just at the local Starbucks -- can be costly. "Eating healthy on a budget is a top priority for most people," Jamieson-Petonic said in an email to TODAY.com. "Making food at home is a better option when you are watching your food dollars closely."
Jamieson-Petonic suggests choosing budget- and waistline-friendly foods like legumes, brown rice, whole grains and frozen fruits and vegetables to "stretch your food dollars." If you're mindful about it, she adds, "Preparing meals at home can cost half the price of dining out."
Hall is still eating at Starbucks, enough calories to maintain her weight, which gives her a body mass index in the normal range of just under 20.
"I want to keep it at 20 or below for the rest of my life, and that's a very healthy place to be," Hall said. It's a stark contrast to when she struggled with obesity. "I has sleep apnea and I was tired all the time," Hall said. "My joints hurt. It hurt to stand up. I was in trouble." Now, she says, she has no medical problems, takes no medication and feels "like I'm 15."
"I'm so blessed with good health," she said. "I sleep like a baby and I have tons of energy. It's great."