“Go a mile down the beach to find the best seashells!” called a smiling tour guide, as honeymooners Lexi and Danny Reed arrived by ferry at Florida’s picturesque Shell Island. Giddy since her wedding, Lexi took Danny’s hand, and they headed off on their shell-gathering excursion. Yet no amount of lightness in her heart made it easier to move her 485-pound body.
Walking across the sand, Lexi’s joints began to twinge, then throb, then scream. She slowed, struggling to breathe. They’d barely gone a few hundred yards. “I have to rest,” she said to Danny, embarrassment making her cheeks burn hotter.
Danny helped Lexi sit, settled dutifully next to her, and Lexi felt a new stab of shame. Now my body isn’t just holding me back, it’s holding him back, too, she panicked. She shook her head. “You go on without me, Danny. I’m fine here.” He hesitated. She forced a smile. “Go on! Bring me something pretty!” He seemed unsure but jogged to join the group. Lexi sat alone, listening to waves crash on the shore, a lifetime of frustration and pain washing over her. Her body had been her prison for so long.
Yet her efforts at healthy living — starting with Weight Watchers at age 12 — never worked for long. Now she wondered: Will I be trapped forever?
Finding the Key
Returning to her Indiana home, Lexi was reminded she needed to take control of her health every time she struggled to tie her shoes or climb a few stairs. But the newlyweds slipped into old habits, gorging on Chinese food and pizza — until Lexi’s best friend decided to get into shape.
“For a month, let’s challenge ourselves to eat healthy, cook every meal at home, and exercise 30 minutes a day,” Cheyenne said to Lexi and Danny one night. Lexi glanced at Danny, who also struggled with weight loss. “I’m in if you are,” he said. Lexi liked that there was no program to pay for, no complicated plan to learn. And she had to try something. “Let’s do it!” she said. They’d start January 1, 2016.
Cheyenne mentioned a free food tracking app called MyFitnessPal that could help with calories and portions, so Lexi downloaded it to her cellphone. The MyFitnessPal nutrition app guided her to enter her height, weight, and age, then it calculated a daily calorie goal of 1,800 per day based on her activity levels and BMI. “Isn’t that too many?” Lexi worried. She noticed targets for protein, carb, fat, and sodium intake. “I guess I’ll try it and see how my body reacts,” she said aloud.
Her first meal was instant maple oatmeal with peanut butter — easy, tasty, filling, and about 300 calories. She packed a 400-calorie brown bag lunch (grilled chicken, broccoli, fruit) and left 1,100 calories for snacks (fruit, cheese, nuts) and the dinner she planned to make (salmon, cottage cheese, sweet potato, and veggies).
She also tried to drink a gallon of water, skipping soda. “Compared to other diets with points and exchanges, this was a breeze,” she said to Cheyenne. “I’m just choosing healthy foods that look good to me and logging them in!” On day one, the log was already helping her get a sense of right-size portions and balanced meals.
She was excited — until it was time to meet Danny to workout at the gym.
Lexi put on her size 4X workout clothes and gave herself a pep talk: “You’re going to be the biggest girl here. This is where you’re starting. Chin up!” She went straight to the elliptical trainer, which seemed easiest for achy joints. In minutes, she was drenched in sweat and gasping, but she kept moving very, very slowly. At times, she barely moved at all. But she kept creeping for 30 minutes — and eventually, she did it!
By week’s end, Lexi was down eight pounds. “I guess I can lose weight eating 1,800 calories,” she thought with a smile. Looking ahead, Lexi knew she tended to miss certain foods the longer she was on a diet, so she tried making healthier versions of some favorites. Though her General Tso’s Chicken turned out soggy, a cauliflower-crust pizza was delicious. And when she logged it on her phone app, she realized it was low in calories yet packed with nutrition. Perfect!
Weeks passed and as she kept getting stronger, the scale kept going down: 25 pounds in 30 days, 50 pounds in 74 days, an astonishing 100 pounds in five months. She was shocked by how fast her progress was.
From ‘Fed Up’ to Freedom
After Lexi had dropped 200 pounds, MyFitnessPal reduced her daily calorie goal to 1,400 per day, but Lexi barely noticed. She just stuck with the foods she’d learned held her over best, like chicken and salmon, veggies, healthy fats, and sweet potatoes. Before long, she stepped on the scale and it read “199.” For the first time as an adult, Lexi was under 200 pounds. “I screamed, I laughed, I cried,” recalls Lexi, who shares her journey on the FatGirlFedup Instagram and Facebook page.
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#throwbackthursday to the couple who lost 407lbs together since 2016 and grew stronger. To the couple that celebrate in less than two weeks 3 years ago making the vows to have and to hold, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part & meant every single word. Those vows had no size limit and are stronger than ever. @discoveringdanny never asked me to change and made me feel beautiful at 485lbs the same way he does now that i've lost over 300lbs. He saw my heart, not my size. He knew I was capable of anything I put my mind too and was always my biggest supporter. At only 16 years old, I fell in love with him the first time we met at a coffee shop, and he has made me who I am today. Every single day of my journey he been right there for the blood, sweat, and tears. You deserve someone who loves you no matter your size and supports your goals. Grow together, never apart. This journey is hard enough without a support system. Surround yourself with those who lift you higher & see the greatness in you even when you dont see it yourself! #obesetobeast #dietbet #fatgirlfedup #fedup #sweat #wedding #goals #weightloss #gym #weightlossjourney #diet #extremeweightloss #swolemate #fitcouple #instafit #weightloss #countingcalories #progress #plussize #weddingdress #effyourbeautystands #weightlosstransformation #fatgirlfedupsdietbet #fattofit
Within two years, she’d dropped 312 pounds. “To succeed, you just have to get back up exactly one more time than you fall down,” she says. “My hope is that someone will hear my story and decide to try again!” This year, down a combined 407 pounds, Lexi and Danny took the Shell Tour again. Lexi, 27, still didn’t walk. “I ran down the beach — and it was amazing.”
Lexi’s Most Powerful Trick
By the 18-month mark, Lexi’s progress had outpaced that of a typical gastric-bypass patient by about 60 pounds. How’d she get on the fast track? Her food log! Reading Lexi’s story, you may have wondered, “does my fitness pal work?” Well, research shows that using a food journal for weight loss can double the results of any diet. Opt for a free app like MyFitnessPal, or just use pen and paper. Either option “is an incredibly effective tool,” says Today nutrition pro Joy Bauer, RD, founder of Nourish Snacks. Using a food log for weight loss can “help keep you accountable, focused, and motivated,” says Bauer.
Another helpful tip? “Amazon sells scales that go up to 700 pounds. If you’re as big as I was, it’s worth the cost. Seeing the numbers go down is so motivating!” Lexi says.
The Fatgirlfedup Diet
Our nutrition team worked with Lexi to create this special version of her plan for you to try. Our menus serve up 1,700-1,800 calories daily. While using this plan, be sure to drink plenty of water. Lexi aimed for a gallon daily; she also kept her sodium intake to less than 2,500 mg. daily. Add any other zero-cal beverages and ultra-low-cal and low-sodium extras you like, such as coffee, tea, spices, vinegar, and zero-cal sweetener. As always, get a doctor’s okay to try any new plan.
(Choose One Daily)
Option 1: 1 packet lower-sugar maple oatmeal mixed with 1 Tbsp. peanut butter
Option 2: Cheeseburger Scramble: 2 eggs, scrambled, with 1 oz. browned lean ground meat, 1 Tbsp. shredded cheese and diced spinach, tomato and/or onion to taste; serve with optional 1 Tbsp. reduced-sugar ketchup
Lunch & Dinner
(Choose One at Each Sitting)
Option 1: Lexi’s Meal-in-a-Minute: Heat 4 oz. precooked chicken and 1/2 cup ready-to-eat brown rice; enjoy over bagged salad with 100-calorie-pack guacamole, 1 Tbsp. sour cream, and salsa to taste
Option 2: 4 oz. salmon, 6 oz. cod, or 5 oz. large shrimp pan-seared with 1/4 tsp. cajun-style blackened seasoning mix; add 1 tsp. oil to pan for cod/shrimp; enjoy hot or chilled with 1 cup steamed asparagus roasted with 1 tsp. olive oil
Option 3: 4 oz. turkey burger (or any lean burger) with 1 slice cheese on 1 whole-grain Arnold’s Sandwich Thins bun with 1 Tbsp. reduced-sugar ketchup, onion, lettuce and tomato to taste; 1 small sweet potato cut into wedges roasted with 1 tsp. olive oil
Option 4: Lexi’s BBQ Chicken Pizza: Top a ready-made cauliflower pizza crust with 2 Tbsp. sugar-free barbecue sauce, 2 oz. shredded cooked chicken, 1/4 cup mozzarella, and red onion slices to taste; Bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes. Serves 1; 2 cups salad vegetables with 2 Tbsp. vinaigrette
Option 5: 1 serving Meatball-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash (recipe below)
Option 6: Feta Chicken: Mix 1 Tbsp. each light cream cheese and crumbled feta, dash with garlic powder and oregano. Spread mixture in a split 4 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast. Bake at 350°F until done, about 12 to 15 minutes; 2 cups spinach sautéed in 1 tsp. olive oil, spritz lemon; 1/ 2 cup cooked brown rice; 1/2 cup grapes
(Enjoy Two Per Day)
Option 1: 1 250-calorie protein bar, such as Dough Bar Doughnuts Protein Crispy Bar
Option 2: 1 small banana with 1 Tbsp. peanut butter
Option 3: 1 cheese stick; 25 pistachios
FatGirlFedUp Recipes: Lexi’s Meatball-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
“This is a healthy version of food you and your family probably already love,” says Lexi. “It’s so good!”
- 1 spaghetti squash
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 1/2 cups low-sugar marinara sauce
- 8-10 ready-made turkey meatballs, thawed
- Pierce squash several times with fork. Microwave on High 10 minutes, flipping once. Cool; cut in half lengthwise and scoop out and discard seeds.
- Scrape inside of each half with fork so it looks like spaghetti. Season with salt and pepper. Divide cheese, sauce and meatballs between squash halves.
- Bake at 450°F until cheese is melted, 10 to 15 minutes. Makes 2 servings.
FatGirlFedUp Meal Plan: How to Make Your Own
Lexi started tracking food intake using an app which helped her set a daily calorie goal — 1,800 calories per day during most of her weight loss journey — and to hit that goal using healthy food she enjoys. To try it for yourself, just use a free app like MyFitnessPal or SparkPeople (both available on your computer or as a download for your cellphone).
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.