Bridget Nieves of Centereach, New York, can point to the exact day she committed to losing weight — June 6, 2020. “I saw on the news that one of the biggest risk factors for passing away from COVID-19 was obesity. And here I was, a mom with a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, and I’m morbidly obese,” she said. She weighed 265 pounds.
“I had the choice to either make myself healthy and be here for my kids or not. It was a real wake-up call — I didn’t want my kids to be without their mom,” the 36-year-old said.
Nieves calls herself a structured, organized person, so she thought using an app to track food and exercise might be a good fit for her.
And she had a couple of friends who were working out with Peloton bikes. “I had been eyeing the Peloton for a while,” she said. She wasn’t exercising, and the bike was expensive. But she thought the financial commitment of buying the bike would help her stick to her weight-loss plan and she decided to order one.
Step 1: She planned what she would eat
Nieves had to wait two months for her bike to be delivered, and during that time, she analyzed her diet. “It was life-changing for me,” she said. Tracking her food showed her how much she was eating, compared to how much she should eat. She used the “plan ahead” feature in Lose It! tracking app to schedule what she would eat two or three days in advance. “I needed that structure. It set me up for success,” she said.
In the app, you can enter your height, weight, gender and weight-loss goal, and the app will recommend a daily calorie count. Nieves started out trying to lose two pounds a week but found the calorie limit was too low — she was hungry all the time. She adjusted her goal to one pound a week, which gave her a more manageable 1,500 calories per day. In the two months before Nieves’ bike arrived, she lost 30 pounds.
Now, she weighs 161.6 pounds and has maintained that weight for four months. She eats between 1,500 and 2,000 calories a day without regaining weight.
“For me, the biggest thing was finding ways to incorporate the foods I love without restricting myself and while still creating a calorie deficit. I’m not a salad person. If I plan out my week with five salads, I’m not going to eat it. I had to find creative ways to tweak the foods I love to make them healthier,” she said. “You can lose weight and still eat the food you love. If I really want a cookie and I don’t have enough calories for it today, I plan my day out for tomorrow, and I’m having that cookie then. You just have to be smart about it and know that you can always have something later.”
Here’s what Bridget eats in a typical day:
Breakfast: Protein coffee (coffee with protein added) and a protein muffin. “I need things that are high in protein to keep me feeling full throughout the day, so I’m not scavenging for something to eat,” she said.
Lunch: Overnight oats. “I’m overnight-oats obsessed, so I’ve come up with a thousand different recipes. I use the same base with different toppings to keep it interesting,” she said.
Snack: A protein bar or pickles.
Dinner: Rotisserie chicken with lots of roasted vegetables. “ I typically plan anything I’m in the mood for into my dinner, including pizza.”
Dessert: Ice cream or cookies. “I save 300 calories every day to have some fun dessert concoction. I like sweets and I like ice cream, and I needed to find a way to incorporate those things into my day while staying within my calories,” she said.
Step 2: She made “me time” her time to exercise
When Nieves’ bike arrived, she was determined to get her money’s worth. “Spending that money really put things in gear,” she said. She rode it every day for the first month but realized she couldn’t sustain that pace.
Nieves works days while her husband works nights, so in the evenings, she cares for her children. “My time to myself to exercise is very limited,” she said. “Once the kids are in bed, from 8 to 9 p.m. is my time, and two to three times a week, I am on the bike. Whatever happens in the workday, whatever happens with my children, that hour I’m on the bike. I’m dedicating that time to myself.”
While the fear of COVID-19 inspired her to make changes, it’s not what drives her now. “I’m not motivated anymore. I’m disciplined. It’s what I have to do for myself. By 8 p.m., I’ve worked all day, I’ve given two baths, I’ve fed my kids and now it’s time for me,” she said.
Nieves exercises because she enjoys it and likes how it makes her feel, not because she feels she needs to “earn” her food. “I feel so good. I’m breathing better. I feel lighter both physically and emotionally,” she said. “I don’t want to be thin. I want to be strong. I want to be healthy.”
Step 3: She built in accountability with social media
Nieves tracks her progress on Instagram, @makingfriendswithfood. When she started her weight-loss journey, she searched for information online and couldn’t find exactly what she wanted. So, she started her page to help others. “It was really out of my comfort zone to create this page. But If I help one person figure out they need to create a calorie deficit and they can still have cookies, I’ll have done my job,” she said.
Instagram also keeps her accountable. “People are watching what I’m eating. My coworkers follow me. My mom’s friends follow me,” she said.
Her health markers improved
Before she lost weight, Nieves was diagnosed with prediabetes and was taking medication following her second pregnancy to control her high blood pressure. By late summer 2021, her blood sugar and blood pressure readings were “perfect.” She’s off the medication now. “My body is much healthier than it was before starting my weight-loss journey,” she said.
And when she was obese, she would need a break from games like tag. “It was heartbreaking,” she said. Now she’s the one chasing her kids. “That’s a joy I would have missed out on. They won’t be little forever.”