After her nephew’s graduation party in summer 2020, Angelique Diggs saw some pictures from the event and was shocked by her appearance.
“I was just floored because I had gotten off social media and didn’t take selfies,” the 51-year-old special education teacher in Lanham, Maryland, told TODAY. “My nephew looked at the picture of us and said, ‘You really are fat now.’ And I just wanted to crawl inside myself.”
Diggs had recently left a “horrific marriage." Throughout the partnership she fell into sedentary habits and ate a lot of fatty foods. She underwent surgery two years in a row, first for a hysterectomy then a foot surgery.
“Both (surgeries) immobilized me significantly and as a result I just really started to eat a lot,” she said. “My (ex-husband) was really very discouraging whenever I tried to cook things that were healthy, that weren’t fried, and it just really became a battle of wills and I decided to just give in.”
All that contributed to her gaining 60 pounds in two years and her physical and mental health suffered.
“I had just a myriad of health problems that developed as a result. (Everything) from chest pain to knee pain to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety,” she said. “Never before had I ever been in that condition."
After the comment and photos following graduation, though, she vowed to not take another picture until she did something about her health. The next day she saw an ad for Noom, an app-based weight loss program.
“Something inside just said, ‘You need to give it a try,'” she said. “I had already read about the program several weeks before but I just hadn’t had the motivation.”
Diggs started by tracking her food and buying healthier foods. Now, her diet includes fewer carbs, low-fat proteins, such as chicken and fish, and vegetables and fruit. She cut out soda and increased the amount of water she drinks.
“I always have a vegetable because I was never a big eater (of vegetables) but I incorporate a vegetable every day,” she said.
She also started exercising. She set a goal of 10,000 steps per day. After she worked up to that, she tried other workouts.
“I started to incorporate Zumba,” she explained. “I try to do at least 20 minutes and about an hour on the treadmill.”
While exercise helped her lose weight, it also helped her grapple with depression and anxiety.
“I was coming out of a bad marriage, still somewhat depressed, trying to move on and exercise has really helped,” she said. “Not just physically, but it’s also helped me emotionally to move to a place where I feel confident again. I feel excited about the next chapter of my life.”
In about a year, Diggs shed 60 pounds and wants to lose another five pounds to get to her goal weight.
“I also feel that the monitoring of what I eat and still being able to eat the foods I enjoy (is great). I don’t feel that I can’t eat something I like. I don’t feel that judgment anymore,” she said. “The program has allowed me to enjoy my life.”
And, she’s improved her health. She no longer feels chest and joint pains and doesn’t need medication for her blood pressure and cholesterol.
“It’s really been remarkable. I feel like 20, 30 years have been peeled away,” she said. “I’m only 51 and I was feeling like I were 65. I was in much worse shape than my mother who’s 78 due to the excess weight.”
While she appreciates how she now looks and the extra energy she has, she really loves how this process helped her better love herself.
“I’m finding that the options that I’m exploring now are a lot healthier,” she said. “There are much better ways of dealing with sadness (than eating).”
Diggs provides advice for others hoping to adopt some healthy habits.
1. Buy a smaller plate.
Understanding portion sizes can be tough. But Diggs discovered that if she ate off a smaller plate, she was less likely to overeat.
“I don’t weigh my food,” she said. “But I do work on portion size … A lot of times when you have a large plate you put a lot of food on there. Generally you’re going to eat what’s on there.”
2. Find healthy ways to deal with stress.
For most of her life, Diggs turned to food to soothe her emotions. Since starting Noom, she’s recognized this and started developing new behaviors to deal with stressors.
“(Emotional eating) is not practical and it’s not healthy,” she said. “Instead of relying on food as a support to get me through these situations, I started journaling. I have started to read more and I’m writing poetry again.”
And, it’s changed her relationship to food.
“I’ve learned that food basically the purpose of it is to nourish our bodies. It’s not necessarily to nourish our spirit, so to speak, and it doesn’t,” she said.
3. ‘Commit to yourself.’
“Weight loss is a commitment that you’re going to make for life. And it is just one way to help you commit to yourself and commit to being healthier and commit to extending your life,” Diggs said.