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From 'I can't' to 'I can': How this mother and daughter lost 134 pounds together

A family vacation jolted Darlene and Lauren Sears into action. Here are four steps they took to regain their health and their lives.
Darlene and Lauren Sears lean on each other for support, motivation and accountability.
Darlene and Lauren Sears lean on each other for support, motivation and accountability.Courtesy Darlene and Lauren Sears

Darlene Sears, 57, and her daughter Lauren Sears, 28, turned their lives around after a 2019 Florida family vacation. A few weeks before the trip, Darlene Sears had a routine physical where her doctor recommended that she lose some weight. When she got in her car and looked over her paperwork two words jumped out at her: “morbidly obese.”

She weighed 269 pounds and was being treated for high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels. She was on the path toward diabetes. If she fell, she struggled to get up. And she felt terrible.

Looking at herself in photos from that dream vacation in Florida she said, “I didn’t even know who that person was.” A week later she joined WW and within the first week she lost five pounds. That initial success gave her the confidence to believe she could succeed.

Darlene Sears has lost 55 pounds since 2019. Courtesy Darlene and Lauren Sears

Meanwhile, Lauren Sears had the same reaction when she saw the photos from that family vacation. “I was like, ‘That’s not me. Who is that?’” Lauren had been an athlete and a runner, but in 2014 she tripped over a tree root and tore all the ligaments in her ankle.

That injury sidelined her for years, her weight climbed 120 pounds to reach 279 pounds, and she was diagnosed with high blood pressure. “Being a 20-something with high blood pressure — that’s something you hear about in an older person, not someone my age,” Lauren Sears said.

She joined her mom at WW in 2019 and also lost five pounds in her first week. Since then, Darlene Sears has lost 55 pounds and Lauren Sears has lost 79 pounds.

Lauren Sears has lost 79 pounds since 2019. Courtesy Darlene and Lauren Sears

“We’ve been on this healthy journey ever since,” Darlene Sears said. “I’m the healthiest I’ve been in 20 years.” She ticks off some of the things she can do now — go on a hike without having to turn around and go back to the car. Fit in a salon chair so she can have her hair cut and styled. Go to the ocean and walk the whole coastline.

We have down days or things that didn’t go so well. But we pick up and say, ‘Tomorrow’s another day.’

Darlene Sears

Here are four strategies that work for them.

They track their food and portions

Darlene and Lauren use the WW app to track what they eat. To start, Lauren tracked breakfast every day for one week. “If you can track one meal every day for a week, you can build upon that. That’s what really helped me,” she said. “Little steps will add up to the big result you’re looking for.”

Darlene was already a fan of healthy eating, so she eats most of the same foods she had before, but now she keeps a closer eye on her portion sizes.

Lauren, on the other hand, made a lot of changes to her food choices. “I was in a high-stress job when I first started and I worked nights, so my eating habits were all over the place. I ate a lot of junk food because it was easy to grab,” she said.

Now they’re both eating lean proteins like chicken and fish. They have steak and burgers sometimes, but they’re careful about portion sizes. Veggies are a big part of their diet, and Lauren Sears has discovered she loves them. “I never thought I would be substituting zucchini noodles for spaghetti,” she said.

No foods are off limits for them, though. “If I want chips, I’ll get the individually portioned bags,” Lauren Sears said. “I know my points and I work it into my daily routine.”

They support each other

Darlene and Lauren Sears lean on each other for support, motivation and accountability. “Being together has really helped us stay on track,” Lauren Sears said.

And they balance each other’s strengths. Lauren Sears had always been athletic, and now she has her mother asking her to join in on walks and hikes. Darlene Sears has always loved fruits and vegetables, and now her daughter is loving them — and looking up new ways to prepare them.

Not everything goes smoothly, but they have each other to turn to during the ups and downs. “We have down days or things that didn’t go so well. But we pick up and say, ‘Tomorrow’s another day,’” Darlene Sears said.

They maintained their weight during the stress of the pandemic

Once the pandemic hit, tracking what they were eating helped them stay on track despite the stress. “I had to work all through the pandemic. It was a really stressful time,” said Darlene Sears, who provides services for developmentally disabled adults.

And Lauren Sears works in public health, so she was cautious throughout the pandemic to minimize any type of COVID-19 exposure outside of her job.

Now that things are reopening and work isn’t so demanding, they can get back to walking and hiking. “I can get back to that healthy lifestyle again,” Darlene Sears said.

They shift their mindsets toward success

Lauren Sears said one of the biggest changes for her was a mindset shift. Starting with her initial five-pound weight loss, she started to see herself as a person who could accomplish things.

“I went from, ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘I can walk a half-mile’ to ‘I can walk a mile.’ Once it clicked, the mindset has stuck ever since. Now I’m healthy and confident—running and biking and swimming and doing all the active things — I absolutely love that,” Lauren Sears said. “Our confidence and self-esteem levels are great now. I’m not afraid to go out and do stuff because the weight’s no longer holding me back. And I have my healthy, happy, confident mom back.”

And Darlene Sears admires the changes she’s seen in her child, too. “I have my beautiful, outgoing, funny daughter back,” she said. “To see my daughter like this, it’s just a miracle.”